I don’t think Saturday’s can begin any better than this folks! We are joined today by WWW readers Lauren and John who were hitched on the 18th August 2018 at On Twin Lakes in Winconsin. Their day was a true and authentic representation of them as a couple and I just have to start with their fantastic advice at the very end of the feature; “Anyone can throw a wedding, but only you can throw your wedding.”. I think that really sums up our ethos at Whimsical Wonderland Weddings too, so I am just overjoyed to be sharing their unique and fantastical wedding day.
They went all out with a magical enchanted forest vibe, with an outdoor ceremony framed by a stunning flower arch. It really did look so dreamy and romantic. They then celebrated in the barns which were decorated with touches from Dungeons & Dragons, Game of Thrones, Star Trek and Steven Universe to name a few. You totally have to look out for their custom muppets too, which are just amazing. I also have to rave about the outfits as they are just wonderfully gorgeous, I adore Lauren’s gown and crown, John’s kilt and the bridesmaids’ burgundy and plum dresses.
All in all, a super awesome day filled with love and joy, which was all captured so perfectly by Eric Lundgren Photography and Ladd Films, we are just so thankful to be sharing these incredible captures and film with you.
John proposed to me during a trip to my family’s cabin on a lake near New Auburn, WI. We had come up for the weekend with a large group of friends (a yearly tradition for us) and it was in the morning of our first day, before my parents had left for a vacation of their own. We had just made breakfast together for the whole group, and I had taken some time afterward to finish up a few last things for work before I let loose, so I was exhausted, still in my pajamas, and hadn’t even had time to brush my teeth! When I shut my laptop to go get ready for the day and shake off my morning grumps, he asked me to come down to the dock with him. I had a strange feeling when he asked me that, and somehow I already knew what was going to happen. And although he had told nobody, everyone else seemed to pick up on it too—so unbeknownst to both of us, my parents were watching the whole thing from the windows of the cabin, and our friends watched on from the porch. He proposed with my mom’s engagement ring (she gave it to him off of her own hand and got a new one for herself!) that had belonged to my grandma before her. Needless to say, it definitely snapped me out my bad mood! And the whole festive weekend served as an ad hoc engagement party.
Our vision was to have the kind of magical gathering one might run into in a clearing of an enchanted forest. We wanted it to feel warm and glowy but also completely over the top. Most of all, we wanted it to be a ton of fun!
It was massively important to both of us to have our wedding really speak to who we are. We’re both giant nerds (we’ve played Dungeons & Dragons together basically every week since the day before our first date seven years ago) and we really wanted to let that aspect of ourselves come through in our planning and execution.
Our hashtag was #criticalhitch, which is a play on the term “critical hit” from D&D, (when you roll a 20 on your 20-sided die and automatically succeed spectacularly at whatever you were trying to do).
Our planner, the inimitable (and aptly named) Jessica Wonders, did an amazing job of helping us find chic ways to mix together the different aspects of our vision. We knew we didn’t want to sacrifice aesthetics for the sake of nerdery, and she was integral to helping us find the right balance.
On Twin Lakes, Birchwood, WI
Onsite Muse Agency
Your Outfits & Accessories
My dress is the Hayley Gown by Hayley Paige, which I got from Bella Bianca. I found it the very first day I tried on dresses. I had already picked out a few of her dresses to try on, and the moment that I saw this one I actually started laughing with joy because I thought it was the most extravagant thing I had ever seen, and I was like, “Is this dress for an actual queen?!” It was out of my price range, but after I tried it on there was just no going back to other dresses so I decided to make room in the budget.
I knew I wanted an over-the-top fantasy crown, and it took literally dozens of hours of searching to find the right one (from Foxy Studio on Etsy). I actually bought a gorgeous cathedral-length veil to go with it, and then just forgot to wear it the day of! I saw it hung up in my dressing room at the end of the reception and had a great laugh. I kept my jewelry simple since I had a lot going on visually and got some sparkly studs from Local Eclectic, which is also where I got my wedding band.
I was nervous about picking out footwear since I was recovering from both an ankle surgery and a broken foot, and was having extreme difficulty walking in the months before the wedding. I had to be ready for anything—we prepared ourselves to bling out some crutches if need be, and joked about having me carried down the aisle in a palanquin (which I maintain would have been amazing). With a lot of help from my doctor, I was able to walk for the wedding, but I had to choose some practical footwear. I ended up finding a fabulous pair of bejeweled black velvet boots on clearance at my local DSW, and changed into sparkly silver combat boots for the reception.
I also wanted a second dress for the reception that would be easier to dance in, and I found the most fantastically magical creation from Chotronette. Literally the first thing John decided when we started wedding planning was that he wanted to wear a kilt. He loves his Scottish heritage, and our new combined last name is the most Scottish sounding name I’ve ever heard, so it was a total no-brainer. We tried for ages to find a version of his family tartan that would look good with the rest of the colors in our wedding and just couldn’t make it work, so we decided to go with a classic blackwatch tartan instead. We got the kilt from The Celtic Croft in Minneapolis, along with a rabbit fur sporan, a sgian dubh (a knife tucked into the tall socks), and traditional footwear. We bought a Prince Charlie jacket from USA Kilts and we had it tailored locally for a more slim fit. We wanted to get John’s bow tie in the same blackwatch plaid as the groomsmen’s ties, so we ordered them all from The Black Tux.
Eric Lundgren Photography
Our photographer Eric was a pure magic-maker. He had taken the most epic and dreamy engagement photos for us in front of a frozen waterfall in mid-winter on the border between Wisconsin (where I’m from) and Minnesota (where my husband is from). And during the wedding, he and his assistant photographer did an amazing job capturing our wedding aesthetic. The shots they set up in the woods near the lake were absolutely breathtaking! And they were willing to get playful and artistic with us when we snuck away with our bridal party after the ceremony to an old cabin on our venue’s grounds, taking old fashioned romantic portraits of us in the charmingly antiquated setting.
Our filmmakers were a married duo, Jake and Lizzie, who were so radiant and fun that we were legitimately sad when they left at the end of the night. Not only did their presence make the day feel even more fun and magical than it already was, but the video they took reduces me to tears every time I watch it. We chose them because they made wedding videos that seemed meaningfully different than the other ones we were seeing out there—they were artistic but also felt very real, like they really saw the bride and groom for who they were, and were able to express that in a beautiful and unique way. And they didn’t disappoint! They also sent us all of our raw footage broken down into sections of the day, which is a fantastic service.
The Readings & Music
Our bridal party processional was a gorgeous orchestral rendering of “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (performed by The Orchestral Academy of Los Angeles).
The bridal processional was to “The Book of Love” by the Magnetic Fields, which has been one of my favorite songs since I was a teenager. I knew it was the right one when I realized that even imagining it was putting me in tears!
We wanted something fun and cheeky for the recessional, so we chose “You Sexy Thing (I Believe In Miracles)” by Hot Chocolate.
For our readings, we had two excerpts from novels. My dear friend sam (an honorary bridesmaid) read an excerpt from Tom Robbins’ “Still Life With Woodpecker”, which I love so much I have part of it tattooed on my arm. My sister read an excerpt from “The Amber Spyglass” by Philip Pullman, which is part of a book series that John and I both adore.
Aster Wonders Floral Design
Our floral designer just got us! We wanted to do a contrast between soft florals and dramatic dark accents with a ton of greenery, and she was able to find the most stunning flowers to make everything come together perfectly. My favorite touch was John’s boutonniere: a thistle, a nod to the national emblem of Scotland.
My maid of honor was my older sister Courtney, who was six months pregnant during the wedding and looked like an absolute goddess. I had my whole girl crew by my side: my childhood bestie, my new sister-in-law, and the wonderful women who have shaped my adult life.
Our bridesmaid dresses were mostly custom orders from Renz on Etsy. I picked two colors from their swatch book and picked out a bunch of styles I liked, and let my bridesmaids pick which color and style they wanted to wear. My sister picked her dress out locally so she knew it would work with the baby bump, and everything ended up matching perfectly.
John is lucky to have a wonderful group of guy friends in his life who made up his bachelor party. His best man, Alex, has been a tried-and-true friend of his since high school. For his bachelor party, they played three booze-filled nights of D&D.
All groomsmen wore their own gray suits. In order to keep their looks cohesive, we rented blackwatch plaid ties from The Black Tux.
The Details & Décor
Apres Party & Tent Rental
Our decor was an opportunity for us to let some of our nerdiness shine through. I bought terrariums that were shaped like different dice you use for D&D and used a Silhouette cutting machine to create vinyl stickers of numbers for the sides of the dice. I filled each one with gemstones, fairy or tea lights, and fun miniatures from around our apartment (dragons, Star Trek figurines, Steven Universe minis, etc) to make nerdily romantic lanterns. I also found a custom giant d20 from Etsy seller 0InsideOut for folks to play with at the reception.
The hands-down star of our decor was the pair of custom muppets of ourselves we had made by the insanely talented Chris Chappell. When we were first planning our budget I told John that the only non-negotiable budget item was muppets, and he thank god he agreed. We even bought baby clothes from Amazon to make them match our wedding outfits.
At every seat, we put handmade gift boxes made from small black chinese food containers decorated with our metallic gold vinyl stickers of our wedding logo/hashtag that I also made with my Silhouette. I do not recommend trying this unless you have a ton of time on your hands—getting those tiny stickers cut out properly and adhered to the boxes was by far the most time-consuming crafting we did (just ask our family members who got roped into helping us—thanks fam, and sorry!). Inside, we had custom dice we had made by Chessex with our wedding logo on the “six” side, along with custom fortune cookies from Good Fortune Cookies that contained messages we wrote for the occasion.
Our tablecloths and dinnerware we rented from Apres, and they totally transformed the room (I can’t stress enough how much I recommend getting tablecloths you like, because they are a huge part of the room’s initial impression). I went for a sumptuous femme look because the textiles were too gorgeous to rein myself in!
We rented some elegant antique furniture from Sweet Legacy to create a “vignette” area that would serve as a sort of photo booth during the reception.
Our venue only had porta potties, although they were very large and deluxe ones. But we wanted to spruce them up a bit to make them seem more fun for our guests, so I practically emptied out the floral section of my local craft store and bought a bunch of electric tea lights and fairy lights, which our bridal party graciously set up for us after the rehearsal dinner. We included some other fun touches in there, like framed portraits of our muppets and baskets of toiletries.
Our cake designer worked with us to do a fantastical cake with a dragon scale bottom layer and a crackled gold top. Very Game-of-Thrones-esque! We weren’t sure if we wanted to do a cake until mere weeks before the wedding when my mother convinced me to do it, and I can’t believe what a phenomenal job Heather did on such a short schedule (it would have impressed me even on a long one!). I’m so glad we decided to go for it! Because of our timeline I didn’t get to do a tasting in advance, and I was delighted to find during our reception that it was also legitimately the most delicious cake I’ve ever eaten.
We’re still saving up for our big honeymoon, which we decided we were okay with putting off for awhile so we could recover from the rush (and financial stress!) of wedding planning.We did, however, want a few days of something special after the wedding before going back to our Chicago apartment, so we broke up the drive home with a “mini-moon” in Lake Geneva, WI, which is the birthplace of Dungeons of Dragons. We found a fantastically quirky hotel run out of a historic mansion called Baker House, which has gorgeous decor and a personal butler on staff at all times! And at the end of the trip we visited Safari Lake Geneva, where we rounded off our mini-moon by hugging goats and being relentlessly nuzzled by tiny antelopes. Eleven out of ten, would nuzzle again.
About ten minutes into our ceremony, I realized that in all of my excitement I hadn’t brought a copy of my vows with me! I leaned over to our friend Emily who was officiating for us and asked her if she had a copy, and she gave me the biggest smile as she shook her head no. I didn’t want to make the crowd nervous by anxiously whispering with my bridesmaids, so I had to bite the bullet and awkwardly announce to everyone that I had, in fact, forgotten my vows! Luckily, I had sent them to my sister for review, so she ran off faster than I’d ever seen a pregnant woman run to go grab her phone for me to read them off of. I was mortified at the time, but it actually brought a ton of levity to the ceremony and made the whole thing even more memorable. A lot of people even asked me if it was staged!
During the reception, our photographers and filmmakers came up to us and let us know that the owner of the venue had offered to let us come down and meet her horses at sunset for some pictures. We snuck off and when she let us into their pen they all gathered around us and started nuzzling us. My dress got filthy but I couldn’t have cared less! When we walked off into the field to take photos, they all followed behind us in a line. It was completely unexpected and utterly magical—we couldn’t stop laughing in disbelief at how beautiful it all was!
Advice For Other Couples
- Get a planner, even if just for the day of! One of the best parts about our day was that I didn’t have to keep all of the logistics in my head because Jessica was miraculously taking care of all of it. I’m a total scatterbrain, and going through the day without logistical help would have been a nightmare. And her help during the planning phase was the only thing that kept me sane. If you splurge on one thing, splurge on this.
- Don’t worry if things go wrong, because those imperfections can end up being some of your favorite memories of the day. And there were details I agonized over during planning that I didn’t even notice (regardless of whether they went wrong or right). When it’s all over, the biggest thing you’re going to remember is the experience.
- Don’t get bogged down in what a wedding “should” be. Take this as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to create an experience that is uniquely you. Anyone can throw a wedding, but only you can throw your wedding.
Credit Where Credit Is Due
Eric Lundgren Photography
Jessica Wonders Events
Cookin’ up a storm
Hair & Makeup
Hayley Paige from Bella Bianca
Earrings & Ring
The Celtic Croft
Bow Tie & Ties
The Black Tux
Aster Wonders Floral Design
Tablecloths & Dinnerware
Apres Party & Tent Rental
Custom Giant d20
Good Fortune Cookies
Oh wow! Lauren and John, thank you both ever so much for sharing your really very epic wedding with us xo Lou