When Jack Winkels discovered his girlfriend of three months would be leaving the state for an entire year, he didn’t waste any time. Fifteen days before Gabi Gesch’s departure for Seattle, her post-graduate destination, Jack proposed.
Gabi knew marrying Jack would make her happy, but one sign unquestionably confirmed her decision. The day of the proposal, the couple took a walk through the south Minneapolis rose gardens. Jack told Gabi to pose for a photo at the bottom of a hill, a ploy to give him time to prepare the ring. The developed picture revealed a ray of sunlight captured in its corner. Gabi’s mom had recently passed away, and when she saw the photo, “I knew it was her shining down on us, giving us her blessing,” Gabi says.
The two agreed to a long-distance relationship while Jack finished studying construction management at the University of Minnesota, where Gabi had just graduated. (The two didn’t meet through school, however. They met while working part-time at a nearby liquor store. It took two and a half years for Jack to “put the moves on,” as Gabi says).
After a year in Washington, Gabi rejoined Jack in Minneapolis and they began planning the wedding. They chose September 1 for the date, as it marked the two-year anniversary of Jack’s proposal.
The couple ran into one hitch early on: finding a convenient location that permitted an open bar without breaking the budget. Then, an unexpectedly simple solution arose. Gabi’s family owns a stretch of land across from their home in Willmar. With three tin sheds and a wall of corn to soundproof the wedding party from the town (and the town from the wedding party), it was the rustic, intimate, and affordable choice they’d been looking for.
With the location settled, the rest of the planning fell into place. Gabi credits this to her decision to hire a wedding planner. After reading dozens of forums and articles on the subject, Gabi decided to make the investment. And the team from The Bliss Life delivered, taking care of floral arrangements, décor, site preparations, and clean up. “That was the best decision,” Gabi says.
The location steered the wedding’s theme toward a mixture of playful and pastoral accents. Over the years, the sheds on the family land had collected stores of antique farm equipment. The Bliss Life helped sort through the contents to find the most original and whimsical pieces to use for centerpieces and décor.
Gabi and Jack’s friends and family helped add personal touches to the wedding day. Gabi’s sister, a cake decorator, designed their Funfetti-flavored cake. Wooden trailers from Gabi’s father became a stage for the happy hour entertainment, a bluegrass ensemble comprised of Jack’s uncles. And later in the evening, Jack’s brother and his band took to the stage with lively music to keep the party going.
Even with a wedding planner and family support, the day didn’t come together without some sweat and muscle. Every weekend of summer leading up to the wedding, Gabi and Jack were in Willmar, clearing the shed and fields of unusable antiques and farm debris. “It was a labor of love to go back to Willmar every weekend,” Gabi says. The two somehow managed to complete the preparations and attend eight of their friends’ weddings, some of which took the couple as far away as Schaumburg, Illinois.
All the ingenuity and support made for a carefree wedding day. The couple was married at Redeemer Lutheran Church before heading to the farm for the reception, where The Bliss Life had decorated the grounds with wagon wheels, books, and jars. Guests danced, listened to touching toasts from the wedding party, and played yard games throughout the evening.
For Gabi, the capstone detail to the reception was the small tin shed where they set up the open bar. That summer, the couple had scrubbed the shed to rustic finery, even planting a nearby flower garden. They outfitted it with draft beer, wine, and soda, placing the cake next to one wall and lawn games by the other. As hoped, guests loved the tin shed bar. It became the center of activity, inviting guests to fill their glasses and mingle at the old-timey station.
Gabi remembers the wedding as fun, laid-back, and smooth—all thanks to the support from their loved ones and vendors. For all the wedding’s perfection, Gabi has just one wish: “It’s a shame that time couldn’t slow for just one day,” she says. “Early morning turned to late night way too fast, and I wish I could [go] back and enjoy it all over again.”
Wedding Date: September 1, 2012
Ceremony: Redeemer Lutheran Church
Reception: The family farm
Bride's Dress: Flutter Boutique
Bridesmaid Dresses: Nordstrom
Groom's Attire: Men’s Wearhouse
Groomsmen Attire: Men’s Wearhouse
Rings: LJS Design
Photographer: Jessica Hannon Photography
Invitations: DIY from Walmart
Caterer: Larson Catering
Transportation: Night Life Limousine
Cake/Desserts: Objects and Subjects
Flowers: The Bliss Life
Wedding Planner: The Bliss Life
Makeup: Liz Marcus
Hair: Alison Warne
Music: East Hill Bluegrass Band
Rentals: South Central Tent Rental