Four Wisconsin couples share what made their weddings special.
Robin Palm and Karen Kersting
Karen and Robin met on OKCupid in 2010 while grad students at Virginia Commonwealth University. Robin held up a sign that read “Will You Marry Me?” at the 2017 Women’s March in Chicago, communicating with Karen’s sisters via cell phone to pinpoint their location.
“I was 100 percent surprised,” says Karen. “I thought he was in Ohio.” Robin is an urban planner in the Village of Mount Pleasant and Karen a psychologist at the Medical College of Wisconsin. The couple lives in Riverwest.
“We decided to make a whole weekend out of it,” Robin says of their May 4, 2018, wedding.
This included taking 35 guests – many visiting from Virginia, where Robin is from – to a Brewers game the day after they swapped “I do’s” at South Shore Park’s pavilion in Bay View. Robin’s desire to show off Lake Michigan’s beauty drew them to that venue. They decked out the pavilion with decorations they made themselves.
“My sisters and I held a craft night once a week for several months,” says Robin. The result was felt flowers folded into the bridal party’s boutonnières and fascinators.
And, because they were a little older (she was 39, he was 37), “there was a little bit of a reunion vibe” with college friends, says Karen.
While Karen did her own makeup, she turned to Kara Brown at The Establishment Salon for her hair.
The Establishment Salon
4503 N. Oakland Ave.
Not huge fans of cake, the couple ordered 12 pies from Troubadour Bakery in three flavors (apple cranberry, peanut butter chocolate, and pecan oatmeal).
2301 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
The ’80s band SuperFly attracted Karen and Robin, who performed karaoke solos for guests. (Karen blew the doors off with Madonna’s “Like A Prayer,” and Robin sang “White Wedding” by Billy Idol.) The band also learned “Africa” by Toto, “one of our favorite songs,” says Karen.
An Etsy shop owner designed invitations for $100, and they were printed through Vistaprint for $200. Because the couple loves puns, “Watch Robin and Karen seal the deal” was on the invite, alongside pictures of seals.
The couple booked the upstairs level of Pizza Man’s East Side location, not far from their Riverwest home.
2597 N. Downer Ave.
Dane Gagnon and Joel Contor
“We hit it off,” says Gagnon, who convinced Contor to join him in Milwaukee for “Friendsgiving.” Not long after, Contor scored the assistant director of sales job at the Kimpton Journeyman Hotel and moved into Gagnon’s condo.
Three years later, the couple were snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef with Contor’s family and chatting about getting a bigger Milwaukee condo. Contor suddenly got emotional. “He was like, ‘Would you like to do this forever?’” recalls Gagnon, who said “yes.”
For their modern-day elopement in late September of 2017, “we picked a weekend and didn’t even tell friends until the morning of,” says Gagnon. “We wanted it to be the two of us.”
They hopped an Amtrak train to Chicago and were married at the courthouse by “this sweet older man,” he says. Dinner that night was at Tango Sur (a steakhouse that served as one of their first dates when they were dating long-distance), and they checked into the sleek, contemporary Kimpton Gray Hotel in the Loop.
The men shopped their own closets for wedding-day outfits, opting for previously bought (and loved) clothing from Zara and Topman (sold at Nordstrom).
Because the couple’s elopement plan did not include a photographer, they hosted an engagement shoot at the Kimpton Journeyman Hotel’s Outsider rooftop lounge.
Kimpton Journeyman Hotel
310 E. Chicago St.
Picking a honeymoon destination was a no-brainer. This winter, they’ll take advantage of Australia’s warmer weather and return to the country where they got engaged, where Contor still has family.
The couple’s elegant, timeless wedding bands are from David Yurman.
Yanire Acra-Guth and Jordan Guth
When a Wisconsin guy convinces a Florida girl to move up north, you know he’s a catch.
In 2015, Wisconsin native Jordan Guth was playing baseball in the Clearwater, Florida, area and – through mutual friends – met Yanire, living in Orlando. He invited her to visit Milwaukee (during the summer, of course). She was so smitten that she moved up that November.
They recently bought an East Side condo and enjoy walking to the beach and to Lake Park, where Jordan proposed in 2015 with a scavenger hunt that ended with him at the park’s waterfall. At first, she thought Jordan was just trying to cheer her up after a bad week, says Yanire. “Once I saw my mom, I knew it was happening.”
“Milwaukee has blown me away,” says Yanire.
She decided to wed in her adopted hometown in part because local vendors’ fast replies – most within 24 hours – convinced her that Wisconsin would be a better fit for their June 22, 2018, wedding than Florida.
“I wanted to show all my Florida and Puerto Rico friends and family what Wisconsin’s all about.” The couple didn’t scrimp on clothing. Instead of wearing a robe while getting her hair and make-up done, Yanire slipped into a lacy dress. “It’s the only day you can be that ‘extra,’” says Yanire.
The Pritzlaff Building’s Cream City brick interior was the perfect historic setting to welcome Yanire’s friends and family to Milwaukee for the first time.
315 N. Plankinton Ave.
“We made sure everybody tried [New Glarus] Spotted Cow,” says Yanire, “and our guests can’t stop talking about the steak. Just today I got another text about it.” Gouda Girls food truck (mac and cheese, curds and grilled cheese sandwiches) rolled in later.
Chef Jack’s Catering
Eleven bundt cake flavors – from red velvet to lemon – joined a traditional wedding cake and mini cupcakes (coconut lime, champagne, s’mores and snickerdoodle). “Within half an hour, all the desserts were gone,” says Yanire.
Nothing Bundt Cakes
18000 W. Bluemound Rd., Brookfield
“Rev. Chris Davis is super popular and always books up. He wanted to say my name the way my parents named me. He was able to roll his Rs,” says Yanire.
Jordan custom-designed Yanire’s engagement ring to be both vintage and modern. “I went in knowing what I wanted to get her,” he says.
Powers Jewelry Designers
301 E. Wisconsin Ave.
Abundant greenery from Bloom included a green wall with branches behind the couple’s table. “She had a lot of décor so it was kind of a one-stop shop,” says Yanire.
Bloom Floral & Event Design
2877 N. 76th St.
Tiffany and Peter Henningsen
Five years ago, walking down Madison’s State Street with a friend, Tiffany hit upon a fraternity bake sale staffed by Peter, four weeks away from his UW-Madison graduation (she was a junior). “I didn’t have any cash and he asked for my phone number instead,” says Tiffany.
In December of 2016 she tagged along on his Vegas business trip, where he proposed on their hotel room’s balcony. The couple live in Madison; she’s a nurse at UW Health University Hospital and he’s a CUNA Mutual actuary.
The events incorporated “as many original ideas as possible,” says Tiffany, “and as much DIY as possible.”
For example, inspired by a Pinterest post, she used tiered glass cake stands found at Goodwill as centerpieces, with flowers on the top tier and cupcakes and favors below.
Because they got engaged in Vegas, blackjack and roulette tables were part of the décor. In lieu of a guestbook, Tiffany’s father – who was a cartoonist in college – drew the couple’s profile onto a canvas for guests to sign. “We have it hanging in our condo,” says Tiffany, who wore a beaded ivory gown by Cristiano Lucci on her wedding day. “I’ve looked at it every day since.”
Tiffany knew she’d found the venue when she saw the Swarovski chandeliers in the Grand Ballroom at Milwaukee Athletic Club. 758 N. Broadway, 414-273- 5080, macwi.org.
A two-tier Simma’s cake (one tier preserved for their one-year anniversary) was joined by four Gigi’s cupcake flavors (wedding cake, red velvet, chocolate-chip cookie dough and Midnight Magic). Simma’s, 817 N. 68th St., Wauwatosa, 414-257-0998, simmasbakery.com; Gigi’s Cupcakes, 2751 N. Mayfair Rd., Wauwatosa. 414-777-7465, gigiscupcakesusa.com.
Tiffany requested lots of greenery be added to the arrangements made by Jaimer’s Floral. Ivory and pink roses – in not only her bouquet but those of her bridesmaids – amped up their blush-pink wedding color. 414-243-0197, jaimersfloral.com.
Matt Collins, of A Personal Touch DJ, was “extremely personable and took the time to get to know us, our backstory and how we met” says Tiffany, who requested the UW-Madison U-rah-rah song “Varsity” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” one of Peter’s favorites. (He jumped up on a table and sang into the mic when it came on.) 262-510-5061, apersonaltouchdj.net.
To save money, the couple snapped up an affordable package on Vistaprint. “We felt that wasn’t an important part of our budget,” says Tiffany. vistaprint.com.
Tiffany admits buying an engagement ring “sight unseen” was a risk, but she’d been following New York City-based Lauren B religiously on Instagram and knew it was her style. 212-869-4731, laurenbjewelry.com.
A month after swapping “I dos,” Tiffany and Peter sailed on a Carnival Cruise Line ship to Belize, Mexico and Honduras. carnival.com.