Driftless Wedding Series: Velvet and lace… and a new last name

By Samantha Ludeking, Driftless Journal Production Manager

Emily (Brink) and Ethan Novotny are pictured on their wedding day with their daughter Laya. (Photos by Dawson Rasmusson)

Event decorator Emily Novotny pulled off one of her most beautiful weddings yet – her own! Last Sept. 16, surrounded by family, friends and amazing flowers, Emily (Brink) and Ethan Novotny tied the knot in a celebration Emily termed “classy boho”.

Emily, the youngest daughter of John and Tammy Brink, grew up near Burr Oak. Ethan grew up in Ridgeway, the oldest son of Shelly Novotny-Bohr and the late Kenny Novotny. Having graduated from neighboring high schools – Ethan from Crestwood and Emily from Decorah – their paths occasionally crossed. However, they didn’t begin dating until they reconnected on a dating app fifteen years later. 

Fast forward a couple years, Emily is at home, eight months pregnant, and Ethan teams up with his nephew, Peyton, to pop the question. Two-year-old Peyton shows up for a visit wearing a shirt saying “Emily, will you be my aunt?” While Emily read the shirt, Ethan got down on one knee proposing with a ring he had chosen from Elliott Jewelers in Waukon. “I wouldn’t have had it any other way, from the comfort of our home.”

The couple welcomed their daughter, Laya, while planning for their wedding day, just eleven months away. 

“We hurdled through a bunch of stuff that others might have had trouble with while wedding planning,” explained Emily of her experience in the industry.

Emily grew up watching and eventually helping her mom design beautiful weddings through Tammy’s event decor and rental business, Party Island. Having decorated hundreds of weddings, Emily had a vision for her own. “I knew exactly which backdrop I wanted for the head table. I’m not able to put one like it up yet, but my sister Tricia Quandahl did an amazing job. It featured a crisscross beige swag, to the floor lights and wood accents. For the head table, we also went with beige, wood chargers, plenty of flowers and candles, and we call them ‘Molly’s overlays’, which are lace, sparkle and add the perfect amount of texture.”

“It took me less than an hour to choose my gown, I knew exactly what I wanted,” Emily recalled. She chose her dress, as well as navy blue suits for Ethan and the groomsmen, from The Dress by Morgan Lynn in Decorah. 

Emily navigated the trend of coordinating but not identically matching bridesmaids’ dresses by choosing the color and fabric for each bridesmaid, while they were able to choose the style of dress. The result was a beautiful velvet array and happy bridesmaids. 

“Flowers were at the top of my list, because I know they pull everything together, and wow, I will never forget my wedding flowers,” Emily described the flowers from Country Garden, pieced together by Joellen to have blue, terracotta, burgundy, green and pampas grass.

With her experience in the industry, Emily has seen things take a turn for the worse when families stress too much in the planning process. “People would ask me, ‘Are you ready?’ I’d say no, but I don’t care, I just want to marry Ethan!” The same goes for stress on the wedding day, Emily emphasized the importance of “having people around you who understand you and will make decisions and deal with stuff instead of bringing it to you, so you can relax and enjoy being in the moment.”

“Ethan and I wanted to have a very memorable day with our family and friends and especially meaningful with our one-year-old daughter, Laya. We wanted to focus on the meaning of the entire day and have a blast while doing it,” continued Emily.

The Novotnys decided to hold their ceremony at the Oratory of St. Agnes, a rural Winneshiek County Church where Emily’s parents, grandparents and many family members were married. Father Dan Knipper, Emily’s childhood priest, performed the ceremony eliciting smiles, laughs and even tears. Laya went down the aisle in a wagon that was pulled down the aisle by Emily’s niece, Paige, the other flower girl. The ring bearers were supposed to walk down separately but decided to go down the aisle with the girls. “It was the cutest mistake and I’m glad it happened!” said Emily with a smile.

From the church, the wedding party and around 350 guests made their way to the Ridgeway Community Center for the reception and dance. The couple added an outdoor tent to accommodate their large guest list. A tent that coincidentally was blown into the air and over about 20 feet when a windstorm rolled through while the wedding ceremony was taking place in church. Thanks to family friends who set the tent back in its place along with all the tables, lines and décor, it was as if it never happened. 

“Things will go wrong, but you will most likely be the only one who notices it. The day is a celebration of your life together, relax, breathe and have a ton of fun! It goes by super fast,” exclaimed Emily. 

After a meal by McAllister’s Catering, guests were treated to one of Emily’s other special requests for the day – a cinnamon roll wedding cake – “…because my grandma’s homemade Cinnamon rolls are to die for. Grandma Patti has a heart of gold and baked us a multi-layer cinnamon roll wedding cake and baked Ethan’s favorite dessert of all – Monster Cookies.”

When it was time for the party to start, DJ/Entertainer, Scott Siewart, of Madison, Wis., got to work.

“I wanted a high-energy, memorable evening. Scott has done several of our family’s weddings and incorporates a lot of interaction and fun games throughout the night. People were throwing off their shoes and belts, running all over the venue to try to win his games. There wasn’t a dull moment that’s for sure,” recalled Emily.

At the end of the night, Ethan and Emily walked home, only a block from the venue, eating very large bags of Pinter’s popcorn. “We wouldn’t have had it any other way,” said the couple.

Looking back on the day, Emily’s favorite moment was getting the same last name as Laya and Ethan. Ethan explained his favorite part of the day, “ The support and kind words from our family and friends and having both my girls share my last name.”

“All that matters is that Laya’s mommy and daddy are married and we are a family,” Emily concluded.

More photos and wedding features in the February 20 Driftless Journal. 

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