Cottagewood Couple Hosts a Hometown-inspired Wedding

High school sweethearts plan a wedding featuring the lake they love.
Sydney Middleton and Andy Gerten's wedding photos capture their youthful spirit.

High school and college sweethearts Sydney Middleton and Andy Gerten can drive around Lake Minnetonka, point out landmarks and reminisce about the places that define their six-year courtship. The couple became engaged and later wed at special places around the lake, further enriching their homegrown love story.

Sweethearts on the Lake
Sydney Middleton and Andy Gerten met as freshman at a high school football game when they were 14 years old; they later became classmates at Minnetonka High School, each remembering the other as “friendly and very nice.” “I claim I liked Andy first,” says Sydney. “We spent time together during the summer and we both knew we liked each other.”

Their friendship continued to deepen, until the day Andy texted Sydney to meet him at the lifeguard chair on the Excelsior Beach. It was there he asked her to be his girlfriend, and the two have been a steady item since. “I just felt really comfortable talking to her about anything and everything,” says Andy. “Of course, she’s gorgeous and funny and we hit it off right away.”

Andy and Sydney celebrated high school graduation and both chose to attend Iowa State University. “We always knew we’d be together,” says Sydney. “It just felt right. We talked about marriage quite often.” When the couple finished up their degrees and started careers back in the Twin Cities, friends started wondering when the relationship would move to the next level. “I thought it was coming anytime,” says Sydney.

A Proposal in Cottagewood
Andy was putting a lot of thought into the perfect proposal and to distract Sydney, he planned a New Year’s Eve vacation up north. “Everyone thought I was going to propose to her in Lutsen, but I knew we didn’t have anything special in Lutsen,” says Andy. His decoy tactic worked on Sydney and their family and friends. Sydney even expressed a little bit of disappointment over the fact she knew the question was coming.

“I just knew he was going to ask me at Lutsen, and then I was disappointed because I knew it was coming and I wanted it to be a surprise,” says Sydney. “At one point on a ski hill, he was on one knee fixing his boots and I thought he was going to propose. The whole trip [the suspense] was driving me nuts.”

But Andy was making plans to pop the question at the Cottagewood Store in Deephaven, which is a special place to Sydney and her family. “I knew that she loved Cottagewood and it would be a great place,” says Andy.  He confided in the store manager, Laurie Jenkins, who helped him set the stage for the big moment. Sydney never saw it coming.

January 9 was a regular day. Sydney went to work, had a few special things planned for her dog’s third birthday, and a meeting that night with the Cottagewood Store manager about a special project.  “I had dinner and went over to the store and Andy was there,” remembers Sydney. “The weird thing is, it didn’t click in my head what was about to happen. I was wondering, ‘Why did you come to my meeting?” As she walked closer to Andy, she started noticing photos of the couple over the years hanging by ribbon from the ceiling. She saw a tray full of mementos like movie stubs, plane tickets, coins and even a note from high school. Then, she saw Andy get down on one knee. “He had a long, cute speech that I don’t remember any of because I was squealing and shaking the whole time,” remembers Sydney.

And of course, she said yes. “I have always lived in Cottagewood and when I was born, they put my birth announcement up on their windows. I had my first job there, so the fact Andy proposed there was just so much fun,” says Sydney.

Planning Begins
Wedding plans for the couple kicked into high gear to get a wedding ready for August 10, 2013, the sixth anniversary of the day Andy asked Sydney to be his girlfriend on Excelsior Beach. The couple and their parents worked to plan wedding events with plenty of unique, personal touches.

In tribute to the proposal, the groom’s parents, Dave and Denise Gerten, scheduled the rehearsal dinner at the Cottagewood Store. The meal was catered by D’Amico & Partners and served on the outdoor patio. “We had a lot of family coming from out of town, so it’s nice that they could see the store that is so special to our family,” says Sydney.

Tying the Knot
The next day at Nelson Shrub Rose Garden at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska, Sydney walked down the aisle on her father’s arm while her uncle sang the song “Daughter” by Loudon Wainwright. The groom and his six groomsmen wore navy sport coats, white button-up shirts with navy and white polka-dot bow ties, khakis and Sperry boat shoes. The six bridesmaids wore navy cocktail dresses. Sydney wore an all-lace Lila Couture dress with veil from Posh Bridal Couture in downtown Wayzata. For her “something blue,” the bride wore turquoise, Tory Burch shoes. Sydney also incorporated a broach from her grandmother in her wedding bouquet for her “something old.”

Sydney also planned a special surprise for the mothers. Since her parents, Tyler and Kim Middleton, were also 23 years old when they married, Sydney incorporated a photo of her parents on their wedding day that hung from her bouquet. On each mother’s wrist corsage, Sydney hung a photo of each mother holding her child.

Following the ceremony, the wedding party and guests boarded boats to be ferried over to a nautical-themed reception planned at the Lake Minnetonka Yacht Club. “It was perfect for us because we are surrounded by water and my family is a big-time sailing family,” says Sydney, adding that this was one of her favorite parts of the day. The bridal party enjoyed time together sailing around the lake on their own boat before arriving on Lighthouse Island.  “Not many couples have a reception on an island,” says Andy. “But the lake is something we both love.”

When guests arrived, they sipped on a signature blue lemonade vodka cocktail called Something Blue that was served out of an E-Boat Bar, an actual sailboat on land with a bartending station set up inside to serve up drinks. It’s one of many local vendors that Sydney and Andy wanted to be part of their big day. “Everyone we chose, we chose from this area because there are so many great options,” says Sydney.

Sydney also wanted her wedding to be extra-personalized, so she put her skills as a graphic designer to work. She designed the programs, thank-you cards, labels for the signature drink and labels for the canisters of Sofia’s Cookies that were given out as wedding favors. Sydney enlisted some help from bridesmaids to sketch out their love story on chalkboards. The boards were posted around the reception.

Sydney’s friend Caitlin even designed a custom coloring book for the kids that told their love story, which included pages for Iowa State, dog Harley, the Cottagewood store and the wedding. “Sydney’s creative and she thought of everything,” says Andy. “I really appreciate all of the work she put into it. She made a lot of the things by herself and I thought that was pretty cool.”

Better Together

Sydney and Andy wanted their wedding experience to be uniquely theirs, just like their relationship. “We compliment each other,” says Sydney. “We always have fun no matter what we are doing together.” For the reception, Sydney echoed that sentiment by designing two signs for the backs of the two newlywed chairs, that read “Better Together.” Andy couldn’t agree more. “It’s surreal,” says Andy. “I’m excited just for the fact I got to marry her.”