Kelsey & Kris' retro Tiki in the north wedding

December 8 |
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Photos by Benjamin Aho Photography

The offbeat bride: Kelsey, Motel help extraordinaire

Her offbeat partner: Kris, Motel odd-job dude

Date and location of wedding: The Waterfront in Marquette, Michigan — Da UP, eh! — August 20, 2011

What made our wedding offbeat: Though we live in the frigid and snowy Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we love everything Tiki! It's a passion we share together, so it had to be a part of our wedding day. Our wedding wasn't strictly Tiki-themed however — we went a little retro, a little lounge, a little "whatever-floats-our-boat."

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The groomsmen got to pick out their own retro style bowling shirts, and the bridesmaids were simply given a color and set free to pick any dress of their liking — something in their budget, they feel comfortable and beautiful in, and they will wear again. We don't follow a religion in our everyday lives together, so we chose not to incorporate it into our wedding.

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We held the ceremony and reception at a gorgeous venue overlooking beautiful Lake Superior and an iron ore dock that is a staple of local history and beauty I've admired since I was a little girl. We saved a bundle on decorations since we had so much natural and architectural beauty around us.

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Though we loved the idea of a pig roast on the beach or Polynesian cuisine to feed our guests, it just wasn't practical or possible given our location and budget. We did the next best thing we could think of: beef and chicken sliders and fish 'n' chips!

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A hula-hoop war also ensued on our dance floor. My mother-in-law and sister-in-laws had been practicing their hula hoop skills to show off at the wedding, and after a few drinks, guests got in on the action!

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A few hours before the wedding, the wedding party headed over to our local nano-brewery and our favorite weekend hangout. It's where Kris and I go to celebrate, and since our wedding was the biggest celebration in our lives, it only seemed right we stop by for a pre-wedding brew!

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Tell us about the ceremony: As an only child, I am extremely close with both my mother and father, so I asked them both to walk me down the aisle. Kris also had his mother walk with him as they are very close. Our ceremony was short but sweet and included the reading of personally written vows, asking the guests to support us in our marriage, and a unity sand ceremony (which tied into the Tiki theme quite well!). Our wedding was officiated by a judge who let us take the reins. We included only the things that were truly meaningful in our hearts and no "fluff."

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Our biggest challenge: When Kris and I got engaged, I was still attending college seven hours away from him (and our wedding location!). It was challenging to plan our wedding with such a distance between us, but since we never attended the same college and have had many years of overcoming distance, we exercised a lot of the same tactics for staying sane while planning our wedding. Patience and understanding were key when communicating with vendors and each other, as well as the support and wonderful help of our families. It was difficult to be a planning bride and have my maid of honor so far away, but through the wonders of webcams, we could sit and chat about the wedding and plan together as if the distance didn't exist.

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My favorite moment: We decided to write and read our own vows to one another. Kris is a man of few words in public, so to hear him proudly utter words from his heart with a quivering voice was one of the most meaningful moments of my life.

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Kris and I DIYed a lot of aspects of our wedding. The time we spent working together on projects for the big day will always be cherished. The fact that we both put a lot of hard work in to make our wedding reflect the BOTH of us means the world to us. Instead of a guestbook, we had a well-wish picture board that featured pictures throughout our eight years together. We asked guests to write us a wish or advice on the back of a picture and post it to the board. The morning after the wedding, we read each of them together while snuggled up on the couch. I will always remember that feeling.

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I was so worried about having the ceremony and reception not only at the same venue, but in the very same room. I just couldn't imagine how we would get the room switched over from ceremony mode into reception mode. We were at maximum capacity for the venue (around 120 people), so where was everyone supposed to go while we hauled chairs out and tables in? Who was going to put out the center pieces and light the candles? I was sure it was going to all fall apart and I would be the one dragging banquet tables in my little red heels, running over guests. But things managed to go off without a hitch.

Kris and I went to sign our marriage license immediately after the ceremony, and when we came back not five minutes later, the room was already beautifully and smoothly switched over, while guests milled around sipping their drinks and chatting excitedly over near the bar and out on the patio. Our friends and family just jumped right in and got everything set for the reception while the guests didn't miss a beat and headed to other areas of the venue. It was a splendid treat!

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My advice for offbeat brides: Remember to enjoy the whole process of planning your wedding, right from the moment you get engaged to the moment you drive away from your reception. If your partner wants to be a part of it, let them! Even if you're a control freak like me, even if they have an idea that isn't exactly what you had in mind, remember that it's just as much their day as it is yours.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? The most important lesson I learned from our wedding was that the only people you need to please are you and your partner. Our wedding was a celebration of us as a couple and sharing what brings us together with our families and friends.

Along the way I was tempted to do something more cookie-cutter, more traditional, because it honestly would have been a lot easier for everyone involved. But in the end, Kris and I are proud of our wedding and really have no regrets. We did things our way and loved every minute of it. In the end, that's what I'll look back on and smile about.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. Yay UP!!!! (I'm from Houghton). I raise your Blackrocks one KBC. ;) (Also, insanely jealous that you can go to Target easily)

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  2. Love the well-wish picture board for the guest book. That is a really cool idea I've never seen before. Congratulations!

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  3. Gorgeous wedding! The natural setting is great – simple and striking. I love the backless dress on the dancing bridesmaid – anyone know where it came from / if I can get one?

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    • She got her dress somewhere in Maui while on vacation, probably some little boutique. Sorry!

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  4. It's so cool to see another Marquette, MI Offbeat Bride! Best to you and yours.

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  5. Were there any other venues you checked out? We're trying to plan a wedding (Sault MI here) and are thinking about an outdoor wedding over in Grand Marais. Everything looks so beautiful! Best wishes in your marriage. :)

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    • We checked out the Upfront, which is right across the street, as well as a new little venue they built on Presque Isle that is known as "the Pavilion" here in town . They were both beautiful, but the Upfront seemed too big and the venue on Presque Isle seemed too small. The Waterfront was just right :) The Pavilion was nice because there is an indoor area with a little fire-place, as well as a nice outdoor space (with a roof in case of rain!) with a big grill and hood and log furniture. The whole building is like a little quaint log cabin feel, and it is steps away from Lake Superior.

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  6. I looooove the look of this wedding (we are planning a Luau wedding here in FL in April)- any chance you can tell me where to score some of the Tiki-tastic accessories you had?
    ps- the UP is the most beautiful place to vacation- spent many summer weeks in Escanaba as a kiddo:)

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    • We got our favor mugs at Retro Planet they have lots of fun tiki stuff. The tea light center pieces and cake toppers came from ebay, Bamboo reeds and floor vases came from Target, the boys shirts came from various bowling shirt websites, the paper for our card box and invitations came from Michaels craft store (and has been discontinued. We had to go on quite a hunt to get the amount we needed!)… It took a lot of searching to find the accessories, good luck! I hope this helps!

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  7. Ahhh, I love that you guys stopped by a microbrewery pre-reception! Fiance and I are planning to do that down here under the bridge ;)

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  8. I haven't seen other offbeat brides stopping by bars between ceremony and reception but I am also from Michigan and every real life bride I know stopped at at least one bar (often several) and used a party bus. I don't plan on doing this at my wedding and for where I've from this fact ALONE is enough to make me "offbeat"… but I plan to do lots more to earn my "offbeat" badge of honor! So… do any of the out-of-Michigan brides also visit bars?

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  9. We're trying to plan a wedding in Marquette as well, and I absolutely LOVE the venue you picked. I can't find any contact info for it, though. Is there a website or an e-mail you could toss my way? Thanks!

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