• Stonegate Manor & Gardens Benton Harbor wedding venue
  • Stonegate Manor & Gardens Benton Harbor wedding venue
  • Stonegate Manor & Gardens Benton Harbor wedding venue
  • Stonegate Manor & Gardens Benton Harbor wedding venue
  • Stonegate Manor & Gardens Benton Harbor wedding venue
  • Stonegate Manor & Gardens Benton Harbor wedding venue

Bride and Groom, Photography by Henna Hue

Photography by Henna Hue

Music is at the heart of Bryan and Ashley’s story.

They met while still in high school at one of Bryan’s band’s shows. They dated for a while; then parted. But when Bryan’s ex-girlfriend dumped her cat on him, he remembered Ashley. She got the cat AND his heart!

When it was time to propose, Bryan turned to yet another band for help. While on a date at one of their favorite spots in South Bend, the band started playing “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”. Bryan pulled Ashley out onto the dance floor. When the song ended, he hopped up onto the stage and grabbed a mic to give a heartfelt, tearful speech followed by a proposal. The music just got sweeter and sweeter after that!

Ashley had always wanted an outdoor wedding that had a fairytale forest kind of feel. What describes the Fairy Garden better than that! Plus having their 2 dogs was important (and they still have the cat!). The animal-lovers at Stonegate Manor are always happy to welcome pets so it was their perfect choice.

The theme for their wedding was “US”. They wanted their wedding to express all the things that describe them as a couple and the things they love to enjoy together. To make sure the décor truly reflected their special uniqueness as a couple, Ashley made all of the decorations.

Each table was named after a place/location in Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings. The cakes were also Harry Potter and Star Wars themed. Because they both love tacos, a taco bar was inevitable and a big hit! Rose-gold, terracotta and greenery with plenty of eucalyptus and dried pampas grass provided both a modern and elegant look.

Bride and wedding dress, Photography by Henna Hue

Ashley’s wedding dress search was rough. She had her heart set on a “floor model” at a store going out of business. When some stains couldn’t be removed, she was heartbroken. She ended up choosing a gown at Greta’s Bridal in South Bend. A Stella York slim-fit dress, it featured a lace top that was deep in the front and low in the back with a lace train. She had the lace on the sides of the lower portion of the dress taken off, see-through mesh added and the lace put back on top (a feature she loved about the very first dress). Adding a rose-gold belt added bling and making it truly one-of-a-kind and all hers. Foregoing a veil, Ashley wore a glittery see-through mesh cape attached to the straps of the gown. She truly felt like a Queen!

Not wanting to go with the “traditional” fall colors of maroon and navy, Ashley chose cinnamon as the color for her bridesmaids’ dresses. The dresses were purchased at David’s Bridal but only the Matron of Honor’s came in before COVID hit. The others would not arrive before the wedding. Kennedy Blue, an online bridesmaid dress company, came to the rescue. They had several styles to choose from and in a color that was complementary to the Matron of Honor’s dress.

Ashley sourced most of her décor on Etsy and choices were made with an eye towards repurposing. Her bouquet was all faux and now graces their home as a centerpiece. The eucalyptus and mums used on the arch were removed after the ceremony and then used on the sweetheart table during the reception. Dried pampas grass and wheatgrass were also used on the arch and the pampas grass now adorns their home.

To incorporate rose gold and the “Fall feel” into the reception, Ashley painted white pumpkins with rose-gold glitter paint. The KELSO letters (the groom’s last name and Ashley’s new one) were sprayed with the same rose-gold paint. The triangle terrariums, also from Etsy, used on the tables were meant to represent the “Deathly Hallows” in Harry Potter. The fairy lights, also now used in their home, added the “Fairy feel” Ashley loves to the reception.

Groom and his suit, Photography by Henna Hue

Bryan and the groomsmen obtained their attire at Men’s Wearhouse. This worked well as there was a groomsman in another state. Bryan wore a dark grey suit while the groomsmen’s suits and vests were light grey with orange striped ties. Bryan wore a dark grey vest with a black & white special Harry Potter-themed bowtie. The fathers wore a mix of the two: light grey suits with dark grey vests and the same orange-striped tie. The cohesiveness of the color flow was amazing and perfect for a fall wedding!

Ashley and Bryan included in their wedding a special symbolic “joining ceremony” that we at
Stonegate Manor had never experienced nor heard of before. Incorporating Ashley’s Celtic heritage into the ceremony, Bryan and Ashley “tied the knot, a Celtic tradition where a family member (they had their fathers “joining houses”) ties 3 different colored strands of rope into a lose infinity knot over the couple’s clasped hands. The couple then pulls their hands apart while pulling on the ropes creating a tight infinity knot. With another nod to tradition, Ashley borrowed her grandmother’s handkerchief with embroidered blue flowers. She and her Mom shared a secret smile…it had “Happy Birthday” embroidered on it!

Instead of a guest book, guests signed a specially made canvas that had their wedding date and “House Kelso” with the Winterfell house sigil (wolf). Their two “girls” were canine flower girls. They gifted all the guests little “Doggie Bags” filled with dog treats for people to take home to their pets…what a fun idea!

Live music was also an important element of the day with an acoustic band playing during cocktail hour and a rock band for the reception. Bryan is in several metal bands so their reception entrance song was a metal one.

Although having met while Bryan was playing in a band, he hadn’t been on-stage for 10+ years! But on this most special day, he took to the stage again and KILLED it with one of the most famous guitar solos known to man: Eruption by Eddie Van Halen, his all-time hero. If that wasn’t enough to melt Ashley’s heart, he joined the band in the next song, You Really Got Me by Van Halen, dedicating it to her. (Sigh…this author saw this and it gave me goosebumps!) Watching him play and truly enjoy the moment was stratospheric high point for Ashley in a day filled with high points.

Some tips Ashley and Bryan would like to pass on to couples planning their weddings:

Make sure the vendors fit your budget – while Ashley was fortunate to have many friends who contributed their time and talents to the big day, just remember you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to get wonderful service. More expensive is not necessarily better.

Be in constant contact with each vendor and clearly express what you want.

Don’t be afraid to say NO if you don’t like something.

Despite all the stress and tears (especially during COVID), it was worth it!

Stonegate Manor & Gardens Benton Harbor wedding venue