Slideshow

Rachel & Jonathan: By Design

“Nobody actually thought I was ‘just a friend,’ ” says Jonathan of his relationship with Rachel. Except perhaps for the couple themselves.

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  • Photography by Erin Johnson Photography
    Rachel and Jonathan steal a blissful moment
  • Photography by Erin Johnson Photography
    The bride made pie toppers for the assortment of goodies guests were encouraged to bring
  • Photography by Erin Johnson Photography
    The groom’s mother and her sisters made all of the flower arrangements with a mixture of wildflowers and prairie grasses
  • Photography by Erin Johnson Photography
    The groom serenaded the bride during the reception
  • Photography by Erin Johnson Photography
    Sparklers kicked off the dancing festivities
  • Photography by Erin Johnson Photography
    Guests put their thumbprints on the tree “guest book” drawn by the bride’s sister
  • Photography by Erin Johnson Photography
    An encouraging sign for the dance floor
  • Photography by Erin Johnson Photography
    Guests brought 35 pies for dessert
  • Photography by Erin Johnson Photography
    The couple’s nieces and nephews were the ring bearers and flower girls
  • Photography by Erin Johnson Photography
    Guests were given handmade name cards and tags for their beverage glasses
  • Photography by Erin Johnson Photography
    Cards were collected in a vintage suitcase
  • Photography by Erin Johnson Photography
    The bride’s sister hand-carved a stamp of the bride and groom’s dog for “doggy bags“ that were made for each guest
  • Photography by Erin Johnson Photography
    Bridesmaids donned neutral-toned dresses
  • Photography by Erin Johnson Photography
    The couple designed and printed their invites and save-the-dates
  • Photography by Erin Johnson Photography
    The groom’s mother created the floral arrangements and brought antlers from her ranch in South Dakota
  • Photography by Erin Johnson Photography
    The bride wore TOMS shoes (her favorite) for the day

When Rachel and Jonathan met at graduate school at the University of Minnesota, they quickly became best friends—giving each other relationship advice, going on double dates, even spending Thanksgiving together with her family in New York. “Nobody actually thought I was ‘just a friend,’ ” says Jonathan. Except perhaps for the couple themselves.

It wasn’t until the second year of grad school that they started developing feelings for each other. When they did start dating, it didn’t take long for things to get serious. They spent a semester abroad in Europe studying landscape architecture together, starting their trip in Paris and ending in Tuscany. Though they’d only been dating five months, something clicked. “At the end of the trip, for me it just made sense to propose,” says Jonathan.

The pair returned from Europe engaged and jumped right into planning a joint project: a July 4 engagement party, complete with DIY decorations, flowers, and music from local acts such as Jack Klatt and the Cat Swingers. (Jonathan, who plays in the local band Communist Daughter, is infamous for throwing elaborate parties, so they had a reputation to uphold.) “It was a really, really big party with fireworks and tacos and live music, and that set the scene for what we wanted our wedding to be like,” says Rachel. “It was like a mini wedding. We wanted that same feeling but more elegant.”

The couple still had grad school to finish and jobs to find, so it would be another two years before their actual wedding. That gave the two designers plenty of time to create their perfect event.

First up: the setting. Jonathan grew up on a farm in South Dakota, and Rachel’s grandmother has a farm in Mankato, so an outdoor farm wedding seemed fitting. They chose Windbeam Farm in Hager City, Wisconsin, where guests could choose to camp for the entire weekend. It was the perfect setting for a low-key, do-it-yourself wedding.

The pair worked closely together on the vision—from designing their invites to designing their ceremony—though they also divided and conquered some tasks. “He kind of took over the musical part and I did a lot of the craft part,” says Rachel. The décor helped create a playful, rustic vibe: Colorful farm-fresh flowers rested in milk cans and Mason jars, table numbers included drawings by the couple’s nieces and nephews, and a homemade wood sign encouraged guests to “Dance Yer Butt Off!!!” Rachel spent hours on craft projects like the escort cards, which she hung from an old weathered door with twine and mini clothespins, while Jonathan was up at 6 the morning of the wedding to assemble flowers with his mother. “It was a lot of work, but we really embraced it,” says Jonathan. “The way we looked at it was that it was a big deal, and we wanted to invite everybody we knew, and we made it as big a deal as we possibly could and put on the best party we could.”

To accomplish that, they whole-heartedly enlisted the help of their community. Jonathan’s Communist Daughter bandmates played during the ceremony and cocktail hour, and his former co-workers at Café Levain prepared a Tuscan-inspired meal, which was served family-style out of mismatched bowls brought by guests. The homemade sangria featured wine from Jonathan’s parents’ winery, while the beer was from a friend’s start-up brewery. Even dessert was DIY: The couple put a callout to guests to bring homemade pies and ended up with 35. “It was nice to have that support,” says Rachel. “The wedding definitely felt like us, but it also felt so supported by everyone; it felt very inclusive and loving.”

With the wedding behind them, Rachel and Jonathan still have plenty of joint projects to work on. They teach two classes together at the U of M. They carpool to work at their landscape architecture firms a few blocks from each other. And in August they’re anticipating their biggest joint project yet: a baby boy.

Ceremony/reception: Windbeam Farm in Hager City, Wisconsin • Dress: J.Crew • Hairpiece: bhldn.com Bridesmaids’ dresses: Individual dresses in gray, gold, and cream • Groom’s/groomsmen’s attire: Blacklist Vintage • Rings: Knox Jewelers (hers), Konzuk Shop (his); engagement ring from Tuscany • Catering: Café Levain • Pies: Home-baked by guests • Flowers: Arranged by Jonathan’s mother and her sisters • Invitations: Designed and printed by the couple • Ceremony music: Family, friends, and Jonathan’s Communist Daughter bandmates • Reception band: A friend of a friend’s wedding cover band • Linens: Windbeam Farm • Hair/makeup: Indigo Salon in Red Wing • Honeymoon: Grand Marais

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