Love Grew Fonder

Long distance relationships (LDR) happen to a lot of people. Some relationships may fail and there are others that prevail. I strongly believe that LDR’s are just trials that some couples go through. It helps the relationship grow, builds trust, and shows respect. Besides that will also test how strong you are as a couple and you know what they say, absence make the heart grow fonder.  Yes, it’s not easy that’s why I commend and salute those couples who stay faithful in times like that. Our featured couple, Mike and Ellen, got through their four-year trial (I KNOW!), now they are married.

They have the coolest wedding photos. They went to the city and had a photo sessions at a bridge together with their entourage and even stopped, eat, and played Apples to Apples at a Diner! And at their wedding they had a plate of donuts as centerpieces that got me hungry while looking at. Also one little thing they even had mason jars at the tables where the bridesmaids are seated. It was for their bouquet! Now that is clever. Kudos you two, thank you for making us believe that LDR’s can work if you truly love each other.

What is your story as a couple? {How you met, how you got engaged or anything that is important to you.}

Mike and I met in high school and started dating when we were 16. When we graduated, Mike went to college at the University of Minnesota, and Ellen moved to East Lansing to attend Michigan State University. It was tough to date long distance for those four years, but we emailed and texted each other every day, and made sure we had the chance to talk each night. Which helped us to build a strong foundation in communication and has made our relationship that much stronger. – Ellen (The Bride)

After college, Ellen came home to the University of Minnesota for graduate school, and it was great to be living in the same city again! Mike and Ellen enjoyed spending time with friends and family, making breakfast, and watching baseball together. When they finished graduate school, Ellen was offered a job in Michigan and moved there again while Mike stayed at Minneapolis to continue working. While this was not the ideal situation, Mike and Ellen made it work again with consistent communication, and a lot of driving between Minneapolis and Kalamazoo. Mike and Ellen were engaged in November 2013, and Mike joined Ellen in Kalamazoo in June 2014.

Mike and Ellen dated for 9 1/2 years prior to their engagement, so Mike knew that he wanted to do something special and most importantly try to make the proposal a surprise (After that many years, it gets tricky to plan a surprise of this magnitude). He knew that he wanted it to do it in a place that had special meaning for the both of them, and he knew exactly where he wanted to do it.

When they were in high school, whenever a group of their friends would get together, it was common for everyone to go on a walk. A walk to the park. A walk to get ice cream. They would walk everywhere. So when Mike and Ellen started dating, they would often walk down to a small pond by Ellen’s house that had a dock on it. The dock would serve as a place where the two of them got to know each other from the many, many stories that they told each other while sitting at the end of the dock. Years before Mike proposed, he knew that this was going to be the place that he would ask Ellen to marry him.

When the time came, Mike began to devise the plan of how he was going to propose. He knew that he wanted to use the dock, but knew he needed something special. Luckily, his cousin Jeremy gave him the idea to make some “ice lanterns” using balloons and a deep freezer. He could use them to light the dock up at dusk. The day before the proposal, Mike and Jeremy filled up dozens of balloons and froze them overnight. The next morning, Jeremy drilled a hole in each of the “ice lanterns” and placed a small candle inside.

The plan was set, Ellen was flying into town on Friday for a whole week to celebrate Thanksgiving, and Mike knew that this was the perfect time for the surprise! He enlisted both his family and Ellen’s family to help out. The plan was that on Saturday morning, he and Ellen would go on a run around Lake Calhoun, go bowling with his brother Steve, and then meet up at Ellen’s house where Mike would very casually suggest going for a walk that evening when the sun began to set. While they were out doing all of these activities, Ellen’s mom and brother Adam would be getting all of the lanterns from Jeremy’s freezer and getting them set up down at the dock.

Well like most great plans, this one did not go off without a few hitches. The morning of the proposal, the temperature was a balmy 5 degrees with 20 mph wind gusts. Not the best running weather around a lake, but Mike talked it up like it was a great idea. They finished the frozen run and got some hot cocoa afterward before going bowling with Mike’s brother. While this was taking place, Ellen’s mom and brother had picked up the lanterns and brought them to the house. Ellen and Mike went bowling and grabbed some lunch at the restaurant where they had their first date, then the plan was to go back to Ellen’s house for a little while before the big moment.

They got to Mike’s car and just before they left, Mike felt another alarm go off in his head. Usually when Ellen is in town, Saturday nights are spent with her dad at his house, so going back to her mom’s was a little unusual for her. Luckily Mike had reached out to Ellen’s dad beforehand and they made up a plan to trick Ellen into thinking that her Dad was going to be at work until later that night so we couldn’t come over yet. Fool proof! What could go wrong?

Ellen called her dad and asked if they could come over, he said that he was at work so they should come over later that night. Perfect! Mike thought he was home free. Until Ellen scared him by saying, “Well, we’ll just come over and wait for you to come home.” Mike almost jumped through the roof of his car. Luckily Mr. Hystead, without missing a beat, told Ellen that all of the windows in his house were being replaced and that it would be freezing if we went there. And thankfully, she bought it.

They went back to Ellen’s mom’s house where Mike waited until dusk. At that time, Ellen’s mom and brother said that they were going to go to the store for groceries, but they were going to go down to the dock and get the lanterns lit. When they were ready, they texted Ellen about needing anything from the store, which was code for Mike to let him know that it’s go time.

After dinner, with the temperatures still in the single digits, Mike convinced Ellen that his legs were a little stiff from the run that morning and that they should go for a walk to loosen them up. Luckily, Ellen agreed, so they made their way down to the pond. They got to the trail where the dock was visible and Ellen at first didn’t know what all those lights were. They kept making their way down to the end of the dock, and that is when Ellen said that she finally realized what was happening.

Mike got down on one knee and popped the question, and she said yes!

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What made you chose your venue{s}?

Mike and Ellen regularly attended church services at Mount Olivet with Ellen’s dad, and could not imagine any other place in which to be married. After getting engaged, the first call they made was to the church to pick the date, and everything else was planned around it :) Mount Olivet is such a beautiful church, and provided a sense of community for the two of them.

The Minneapolis Golf Club provided such a beautiful location for the reception as well, and the staff there were great to work with! It was so fun to have a location close to the city, but also somewhere that felt very private, where we could focus on celebrating with our friends and family.

Mike and Ellen are not big fans of wedding cake, so they knew they wanted to feature something unique as their wedding dessert. They ended up selecting the most delicious donuts from Angel Food Bakery. Katy (the baker) was absolutely great to work with, and ended up making twelve (!) different flavors of donuts for the wedding, including maple bacon, pumpkin, and a strawberry filled donut with strawberry filling made in-house. The donuts served as the centerpieces for the night, and guests had such a great time having donuts as appetizers, bites in between courses, and some bites left over for dessert – they were a huge hit!

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What inspired your wedding day outfits? What inspired your wedding decor? Why did you choose the things that you did?

The words we used over and over to try to describe our intent for the day were simple, and classic, with some unique features. Because they both now live in Michigan, Ellen and Mike wanted the focus of the day to be the chance to catch up with family and friends, which are so important for both of them. They hoped that selecting relatively simple and affordable outfits and decorations would eliminate as much stress for the wedding party and the guests as possible, and allow everyone to focus on celebrating!

What was your favorite part of the day?

Everything! Every visit home to Minnesota is such a treat, and this time was an extra special treat of course! We had such a blast getting ready in the morning, taking pictures with family ahead of the ceremony, participating in the ceremony itself – Pastor Kalland was so fun, and such a blessing on our day!-time with the wedding party in between the ceremony and the reception was such a treat; again, just a great time to catch up with our close friends we do not see very often.

Do you have advice for engaged couples still in the planning process?

We ended up making a lot of our arrangements long distance (from Kalamazoo, MI for our Minneapolis wedding), and scheduling a trip home about every 6-8 weeks to take care of some items in person (menu tasting, hair and makeup trial, etc.) as needed. Although this felt stressful at the beginning, we worked to plan as much as possible as far ahead of the day as possible, and near the end, we were happy to have a lot of things crossed off our list.

Classic advice as well – we set a budget first, then wrote our guest list, then very, very conservatively estimated the cost of our reception, and worked backward from there in terms of how much of our budget we had left for other items. We worked very hard to be realistic with each other on what we could and could not afford, and what items were the most important to us. For example, we wanted to keep photography as an important item, so we secured a vendor for that before looking at desserts, and programs were the least important to us, so we made them ourselves and had them printed at a copy shop for about thirty dollars. The good news was, we truly stayed in our budget!

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Did you have any Do it Yourself {DIY} projects? If so, can you describe them in detail?

Our biggest DIY project was definitely our flowers. We worked with Market flowers at the Minneapolis Farmer’s Matket and found that they offered a diverse selection of flowers at a pricepoint that allowed us to have a ‘trial run’ at a bridesmaid’s bouquet, in addition to arranging all of the flowers for the wedding day (five bridesmaid’s bouquets, 18 boutinnieres, and two arrangements for the front of the sanctuary) for nearly one tenth of the cost of some of the local florists. We kept the flowers really simple and elegant, and used pre-arranged boquets for the front of the sanctuary, and everything turned out beautifully. The quality of the flowers from Market Flowers was great too! Our flowers still looked great when we got home from our honeymoon a week later.

We also made our programs ourselves. Ellen found some program designs she liked online, and worked to recreate them using Microsoft Publisher. They were very simple, and text only, but by playing with different fonts, Ellen was able to develop a very contemporary but classic design. Once she was finished, Ellen and Mike had the design printed on cardstock at a local copy shop, punched a hole in one corner, and tied a coordinating ribbon to each. They were so simple, but many of our guests commented on how impressive they were.

Our final DIY item was our centerpieces. We knew we didn’t want to assign anyone from our family the duty of picking up all of our centerpieces at the end of the night, and, because we lived far away from home, we didn’t want to drive home with 20 centerpieces we would never use again. Instead, we set our donuts, which also served as our dessert for our guests on disposable plastic trays at the center of each table. Again, this was very simple, but our guests commented several times on how fun it was to share donuts with other people at their table, and how much they liked having donuts instead of cake.


Photographer:  Erin Johnson Photography
Jewelry: Aldo
Bakery: Angel Food Bakery
Hair Stylist: Blast Blow Dry Bar
Shoes: Cole Haan
Dress Store: David’s Bridal
DJ: Instant Request DJ
Invitation Designer: Invitations by David’s Bridal
Tuxedo and Men’s Attire: Men’s Wearhouse
Reception Venue: Minneapolis Golf Club
Ceremony Location: Mount Olivet Lutheran Church
Transportation: Valley Limo & Coach

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