The initial exchange of phone numbers is the first stepping stone in any great relationship. It can lead to the first date, the long walks on the beach, and, for some, even a walk down the aisle. Mike, a submarine officer stationed at Pearl Harbor was immediately taken with Jen, the Minnesota beauty vacationing in Hawaii. So much so that when it was time for her return to the Midwest, he mustered up a bit of that old fashioned chivalry and politely asked if he might be able to call her sometime. She obliged, thinking nothing would develop given the distance. These first telephone chats, however, served as an anchor in the pair’s fledgling romance.
“When you go on dates, you go to the movies, you’re not really talking, you’re just hanging out. All we had was talking on the phone. I would find myself staying up until 2 a.m. on a work night talking to him, and that’s when I knew this was probably something serious,” Jen says.
That was way back in 2007. From then on, the couple flew back and forth across the ocean to visit each other every couple of months. After Mike was re-stationed in Connecticut, the trips became even more frequent. On one particular Thanksgiving visit to Minnesota in 2009, Mike, always a gentleman, took the opportunity to ask Jen’s parents permission to propose. Later that same afternoon Jen drove to Mike’s rescue (he claimed to have a broken-down car), only to find him sitting in the same gardens where her father had proposed to her mother 38 years earlier. One sentimental speech and diamond ring later, Mike “jumped ship” so to speak, leaving behind his coastal submarines for the Navy reserves in Minnesota.
But before even that could happen, wedding planning began full speed ahead, with activities like reception-space-scouting and cake-testing taking up a good chunk of Mike’s visits. After a marathon tour of different hotels and venues, the pair settled on the Garden Room of Eden Prairie. Jen loved the arboretum for its beautiful garden views and two-level banquet hall, while Mike thought the outdoor patio would be a great space for cigar toasts.
Jen, a veteran of nearly two-dozen weddings, had no trouble finding her sea legs when it came to wedding planning. Over the years she’d been a florist, personal attendant, pianist, and bridesmaid in the weddings of many friends and relatives. Going with a travel theme to commemorate the couple’s long-distance romance, and a few military touches to salute their initial meeting, the couple set off creating their perfect day. Tasks like hand-making more than 300 invitations and taking dance lessons they battled together. Others they divided and conquered. Jen did all the reception flowers, while Mike was in charge of planning the entire honeymoon.
Every table had a destination theme that was somehow important to the couple or that they had traveled to together, and the seating cards were replicas of airline tickets. To celebrate the guests that were flying in from all over to be with them on their special day, the couple even had gift bags of Minnesota goodies like wild rice and Pearson’s Salted Nut Rolls waiting at their hotels, and gave out reception favors that read, “Distance means so little when someone means so much.”
June 25, 2011 was a very regal day, with wedding colors matching the medals on the groom’s Navy dress whites, a sword arch for the couple to walk through after their ceremony at Saint Bonaventure’s Church in Bloomington, and even a few surprises. Jen helped design a special submarine groom’s cake with a handcrafted cake topper made to look like her and Mike from Queen of Cakes in Edina, and Mike had fresh Hawaiian leis flown in that the couple wore at the reception.
The couple now have a 2-year-old son named Luke, and have been married for almost three years. They still joke about their first meeting.
“I always say I was the first girl he saw after being on a submarine for years,” Jen says.
But Mike, forever the tactful officer, insists, “She was everything I was looking for.”
Date: June 25, 2011
Ceremony: Saint Bonaventure Catholic Church, Bloomington
Reception: Garden Room of Eden Prairie
Wedding Dress: Mori Lee (from Rush’s Bridal)
Bridesmaid Dresses: Bill Levkoff (from Rush’s Bridal)
Groom’s Tux: Navy dress whites
Groomsmen Tuxes: Men’s Wearhouse
Photographer: Matt Garceau of Camelot Photography
Rings: Union Diamond (bride’s engagement ring), Helzberg Diamonds (bride’s wedding band), Scheherazade Jewelers (groom’s wedding band)
Hair: Amanda Rutledge (The Hair District Chanhassen) and Linda Chao (friend)
Flowers: Love Knots (wedding) and the bride (reception)
Singers: Steve Howe, Rachel Holder
Musician: Karen Thompson
DJ: Instant Request
Videography: Forever Films
Cakes: Queen of Cakes, Edina
Dance Lessons: Arthur Murray Dance Studio, Edina