Real Wedding | Katie & Johan

I got chills twice reading Katie an Johan’s wedding story. The first was at the sweetness of his proposal. And the second time is when I read about Johan’s accident 7 months before the wedding.  The story has a happy ending with two people who clearly belonged together getting married in a beautiful ceremony in which their happiness and love for each other is palpable.

Katie & Johan | May 8, 2010 Smoky Mountains, East Tennessee

How he proposed
At dinner on my back porch.  He prepared a fantastic meal, and during the blessing, asked for courage to ask an important question…and when I opened my eyes, he was down on one knee.

The ceremony
In October of 2009, seven months before our wedding, Johan was critically injured in a motorcycle accident.  He subsequently suffered a stroke, and in addition to more than a dozen broken bones, was in the hospital for two months and then had several follow-up surgeries less than 3 months before our wedding.  Our engagement period literally shifted from worrying over flowers and colors to worrying whether or not we would have a wedding at all.  It wasn’t until February that we decided to move forward with the May wedding date as originally planned, and by that point, we were not only short on time, but moreover, exhausted!  So it was an easy decision for us to err to the simple and natural side of things.  We cut our original guest list in half and opted not to have a traditional bridal party.  Our ceremony was outdoors in an English garden, so we let the blooming flowers take care of the decoration for us.  Our neighbor and close friend performed the ceremony, and a close friend sang “Amazing Grace.”  We had a string trio play the processional, recessional, and for the cocktail hour immediately following the ceremony.

The reception
Johan is Danish and we both have lived in a variety of places, so we had guests who traveled from 10 countries to attend our wedding. It was important for us to celebrate the blending of our cultures, so we incorporated a number of Scandinavian traditions into our reception.  True to Danish form (and that of many European countries), we had an assigned “toastmaster” who coordinated a multitude of humorous, heartfelt, and colorful speeches.  Our guests completely immersed themselves in the way of traditional Scandinavian toasting (dating back to the Vikings), which includes shouting “Skal!” and then having to make eye contact with everyone at the table.  As in the U.S., if people tapped their glasses with their silverware, we had to kiss; except per Danish tradition, we had to stand up on our chairs to do it (not easy in a wedding dress!).

After dinner, dancing commenced in the home’s vast living room, where we had a friend DJ several playlists we’d made.  The dancing wouldn’t have been complete without the ceremonial Danish custom of cutting Johan’s socks off at the toes, an apparent cue for me as the new wife to prove my sewing skills (ha!).

The moment Katie will never forget
Our first dance.  I know that sounds cheesy, but we hadn’t danced since Johan’s accident, so it was a real milestone.

Splurges & savings
Size- what started out as a 250 person guest list we cut down to 112.  This let us splurge on some other priorities that were important to us: namely the food and bar budget.   Because we were in such a naturally beautiful setting, we only used flowers for my bouquet and relatively small table centerpieces.  And the dress- it was more than I planned on spending but was totally worth it.

How she knew her wedding dress was “The One”
I tried on 10 or 12 dresses but knew mine was “the one” before I even saw it in person.  I had seen it online and knew immediately that I had to have it…and to be honest, it was secretly purchased and hidden in my mother’s closet before Johan even proposed!  When you know, you know.

Why she decided to sell her wedding dress
Weddings are so expensive and can be a lot of stress…and for most of us, require sticking to a budget and making the tough decisions to do so.  We compromised on a lot of things, but wearing a dress that made me feel like the most beautiful girl on that mountain was not one of them.  I think that beautiful things are meant to be shared, not bagged up in the back of a closet…and so would love for someone else to be able to wear it.

Her advice for other brides
Don’t let the stress of planning and spending and having a list of 327 things to do make you wish you’d eloped!  I got to that point after Johan’s accident of thinking “How are we going to get all of this done?” and realized that we just had to be thankful that we were going to have a wedding at all and cling to that in itself as the most important thing.  And in hindsight, I can say that good food, wine, music, and lots of laughter were all we needed to ensure that everyone had the kind of time that they’re still talking about!

Katie’s Wedding Dress: Monique Lhuillier Tamara

Photography: Watson Studios