Lake Minnetonka made the guest list.
Wedding plans can be set in motion long before a couple entertains the notion of the proverbial walk down the aisle. Dreams are imagined, ideas are pinned and look-book pages are carefully torn and saved. For the lucky ones, all or parts of their celebratory visions come true.
Once her parents moved into their Lake Minnetonka home, Caitlin Amoroso realized she wanted to get married in the backyard of the family home. And, truly, for many Minnesotans, celebrations on or near a lake are just part of our DNA.
“Home is where the heart is,” Amoroso says. “I have so many happy memories at my parents’ house, and the view of Lake Minnetonka from their backyard is one of a kind. I couldn’t think of a better place to tie the knot.”
With the help of Rustic Elegance, Caitlin and Ryan Amoroso held their wedding and reception in 2021 at the bride’s family lakeside home. “Rustic Elegance assisted us in a broad spectrum of wedding details from figuring out the logistics of the tents and tables to the placement of silverware on the tables,” says Wendy, Amoroso’s mother. Prior to the wedding day, the Rustic Elegance team toured the property and developed a layout for the tents and helped book rental items (tent, tables, chairs, lighting and more).
As with any outdoor celebration, the landscape had to be considered. The yard proposed certain challenges, and the space and slope down to the lake wasn’t conducive to having the entire event in that area. With a little brainstorming and creative thinking, the team came up with a plan—move to the front yard for cocktail hour and dinner and use the lakeside for lounging and the dance.
With so many decisions and ideas vying for a wedding day’s attention, there are bound to be a few that, well, just need to be sidelined. “One of the things I appreciated most … was, if we had a bad wedding plan idea, [owner Kellie Heinen] told us and explained why,” Wendy says.
With the wedding planning team working out the details and logistics of the ceremony and reception, attention also must be directed toward landscaping and gardening details well ahead of the event. For those living in this area, buckthorn and sumac are oft unwelcome guests, and Wendy relied on Sarah Windland from Windland Fields (Maple Plain). “They have helped us transition our yard over the years from a yard with a lot of buckthorn and itchy sumac to a great yard with low maintenance but beautiful plants,” she says. Prior to the wedding, the Windland Fields team removed undesirable vegetation from the lakeside hill and planted over 250 bush honeysuckles. “Our yard looked wonderful for the wedding,” Wendy says.
Come wedding day, three Rustic Elegance coordinators were on site. “Weather played a bit of a role in the day with the threat of storms … We were constantly opening and closing the [tent’s] sidewalls based on what the weather was doing,” Heinen says.
After the vows were exchanged, guests enjoyed butler-passed appetizers, a charcuterie display and cocktails. Lake Minnetonka hosted a featured activity as guests were invited to take a pontoon ride along the water.
During dinner, Heinen and the team transformed the ceremony space, turning the lakeside ceremony tent into a lounge and dance area. “We used our décor and rental furniture to create a soft seating vignette for guests to casually mingle,” she says. “When creating this space, we thoughtfully designed the tent to have the chandeliers hanging in a position where they would work for both the ceremony and the lounge space.”
The team also utilized a rustic bar, placing it in front of the ceremony arch to create a focal point. “This was my favorite part of the day, watching this space be transformed and be perfectly useful for both the ceremony and then the lounge tent,” Heinen says. The team also incorporated its rental décor items, such as wine barrel cocktail tables, whitewashed ceremony doors, dessert stands, an antique buffet hutch for desserts and more to add to the aesthetic of the day.
“My favorite part was feeling truly comfortable,” Amoroso says. “Our guests could go down to the lake, play bag games or dance. It had a very low-key, fun and casual vibe.”
“Looking back on the wedding, we were able to enjoy the day and all of our guests because Rustic Elegance took care of all ‘the day of’ coordination,” Wendy says. “Hiring a day-of wedding coordinator was one of the best wedding decisions we made.”
Weddings, while traditional in theory, can bend to the trends.
“Boho weddings and neutrals are going to continue to trend into 2022,” Heinen says. “You’ll continue to see things like traditional pampas grass, colored pampas grass and spray painted dried florals. Elaborate hanging floral installations have been popular along with hanging greens. Balloons are also making a comeback, and we are seeing these used in creative and fun installations as well. We are also seeing more and more backyard weddings. Big and small, people are liking the flexibility to create their own space and tailor their wedding to reflect who they are as a couple.”
Hosting an event at home clearly has its upsides, but there are elements that should be addressed when making the decision to forgo another venue. Heinen shares her thoughts: “There are definitely things to consider before deciding to host a wedding at a more nontraditional venue, especially home weddings, where a venue is being created from scratch,” she says.
Layout and logistics: Is there enough room for guests? Don’t forget space for vendor set up, parking, bathrooms and more. Consider logistics needed for lighting and power sources.
Décor and rental items: Every chair, table, table linen, dish, utensil, glass and more will need to be sourced for the event. “This is a great way to truly customize the space to fit the desired look and needs, but it is also a bit more work to source and pull together from different vendors,” Heinen says.
Vendors: Hire vendors experienced with working in this type of setting. “Good vendors with experience will make all the difference,” she says.
And last, but certainly not least— the weather: “You can never predict Mother Nature,” Heinen says. “It could be too hot, too cold, too windy, too rainy, etc., but planning ahead can ensure a perfect day no matter what.”
Mother Knows Best
Over the course of nearly a decade, Heinen has assisted with more than 800 weddings. While some of us might blanch at the thought, she relishes the opportunity to be a part of the beginning of so many marriages—so much so that she made it her business. In 2012, Heinen launched Rustic Elegance, which specializes in backyard and barn wedding coordination. It also offers a carefully-culled rental décor collection, including furniture, tabletop elements, dessert stands, beverage vessels, chalkboards, easels and more. (The website’s vintage mix-and-match dinnerware has us swooning.)
With a graphic design degree from the University of Minnesota, Heinen had sketched out a career. But a conversation with her mother, Jean Heinen-Felling, altered the trajectory of Heinen’s path. “After working in design for 10 years, I was starting to feel lifeless and uninspired, and I hated sitting at a desk in an office all day,” she says. “I knew there had to be something more for me out there. That was when my mom suggested starting my own wedding planning business … This would bring together my passions for weddings, events and design, as well as my love of the outdoors.”
While Rustic Elegance bills itself as specializing in backyard, barn and tent weddings, it can also assist with weddings at traditional venues.
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