It’s a good thing Matt Hemsley is persistent. When he first met Maria through a mutual friend, his courtship advances fell flat. “I remember being very interested in getting to know her better, and she wanted nothing to do with me for a couple years,” he says. But Matt didn’t give up. When he asked Maria out yet again in 2007, she said yes.
After their first date at Vincent A Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis, the pair started what Matt calls an “extended courtship” due to his busy job as a consultant. “It was like a long-distance relationship,” he says. “I was on the road all the time. We’d go on a date, and then I’d get caught up in a project. Weeks would go by and we would barely talk.”
After a year of this, it was Maria’s turn to be persistent: She told Matt it was time to really try to make the relationship work. That mutual persistence paid off with an engagement in January 2010. Matt had planned to propose during a trip to Whistler, British Columbia. When he picked up the ring from his jeweler, however, he decided he couldn’t wait that long. He surprised Maria before dinner one night as she was blow-drying her hair—a moment she calls less than picture-perfect. “I would dream of being in the perfect, beautiful outfit with perfect hair and makeup in the perfect location and flawless skin and everything,” says Maria, a senior merchandising manager. “Instead, I’m in a towel, I have a banana clip on, I’m sweating profusely, and half my hair is up in a banana clip and half of it is down.” But Matt says, laughing, “It was perfect.”
The proposal didn’t fit Maria’s perfect vision, but their wedding certainly did. The couple wove their theme of casual elegance through the ceremony at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral on Loring Park—where Maria stunned in a strapless Romona Keveza dress off the New York runway—and the 300-person reception at Minikahda Club overlooking Lake Calhoun.
“I knew that I wanted a pretty traditional wedding,” Maria says. “I loved the country club feel, but I also wanted to bring in some personal touches.” One example: his-and-hers drinks at the reception. Maria chose the “Cider Ritz,” a cocktail of apple juice and champagne that she discovered during the couple’s visit to the Ritz Paris hotel, and Matt chose the Pimm’s Cup, a favorite from his grad school years at Oxford. At the reception, bartenders served the drinks with personalized stir sticks, some bearing the couple’s monogram, others with the message “Sip and repeat.”
Maria spent months crafting those little details to prevent the black-tie affair from feeling stuffy. “We wanted it to be elegant, but we also wanted to incorporate things that would make people feel comfortable,” she says. The thoughtful touches included a bonfire and make-your-own s’mores, hand-rolled cigars, a “hangover station” with monogrammed water bottles and mini packets of Advil and Alka-Seltzer, and McDonald’s cheeseburgers at the end of the night. (“They went in about three minutes,” Matt says. “I didn’t even get one.”)
The bride and groom also wanted to celebrate their shared Minnesota heritage (she grew up in Edina, he in Wayzata). “We had a lot of out-of-town guests, so we wanted to own the Minnesota [aspect],” Matt says. Minnesota-themed welcome baskets greeted guests in their hotel rooms, but the biggest hit was the favors: 200 jars of Maria’s mom’s famous pickles. The bride and groom still get occasional calls and e-mails from guests asking where they can find more of those pickles.
Of course, even this picture-perfect wedding was not without its mishaps: Two days before the wedding, Maria discovered her dress was too big and needed emergency alterations. And one bridesmaid’s dress split up the side during pictures. Maria tried to keep things in perspective, despite the minor drama. “Remember what the day’s about,” she says. “It’s not just about one day or one weekend, it’s about celebrating that the two of you are going to spend this amazing life together.” A life, Matt would add, that was well worth the wait.