The first three years of the COVID-19 pandemic left many newly engaged couples with tough decisions to consider, like whether to postpone their nuptials; go forward with plans hoping restrictions would lift; or scrap the idea of a wedding all together. Sara and Tyler Erickson became engaged in the heart of the pandemic’s uncertainty, December 2020, but decided early in their engagement that having the day they dreamed of trumped any timeline – they’d wait it out. The couple’s extended engagement culminated in a gathering in May 2022 surrounded by their family and friends.
“We did it our way,” said Sara. She and Tyler’s number one priority was the venue. They wanted a place that fit their style and could offer them an outdoor ceremony. The reception and dance area needed to be large enough to accommodate their wedding party of 11 bridesmaids and groomsmen and 300 guests. Location was also critical. Many of Tyler and Sara’s friends would be traveling to the wedding from the Twin Cities where Sara and Tyler live, but they also wanted to make it easy for family from the Caledonia and Spring Grove areas to attend. With all this to take into consideration, Sara and Tyler landed on Serenity Hills in Preston, Minn.
“We were very lucky that we booked Serenity Hills right after we got engaged because they only had four dates left for 2022,” Sara said.
With everything they needed on site, Serenity Hills made it convenient for the wedding party, vendors and friends who were helping Sara and Tyler with the run-of-events for the day.
“Serenity Hills has a bridal cottage and a groom’s den on site where everyone got ready. It made the day a lot less hectic. Our make-up artists and hair stylists came right to the venue,” Sara said.
The Sandwich Shop in Preston catered food for the wedding party so no one had to go offsite once they’d arrived for the day. Sara noted that the one-stop convenience of Serenity Hills was especially helpful with such a big wedding party and making sure things ran efficiently – from hair and make-up to photos and the reception. There was no waiting for members of the party to arrive or dead time between portions of the event.
“We had eleven bridesmaids and groomsmen who were a mix of family and friends. It just made sense to include them all,” Sara said.
Sara and Tyler describe their style as country casual and the outdoor ceremony with the backdrop of a spring cornfield was the perfect match. They both grew up on farms and wanted a day that felt relaxed and reflected places special to them.
“We like to joke that we did it in a cornfield. The venue was perfect for us,” Sara said.
The Erickson’s also decided that their wedding day would be an adult only affair – something many couples struggle with wondering if requesting “no kids” will deter guests from attending. Sara and Tyler found it to be the opposite with friends deciding to use the happy occasion as their own time away from their children for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
“For many of our guests it was the first weekend they had been out of the house at an event and away from their kids since the pandemic began. We were glad that people were good with our adult only request,” Sara said.
Supporting Small Businesses
To help those economically impacted by the pandemic, Sara and Tyler booked services and purchased items from small business owners as much as possible. For some of the services, such as the DJ and videography by Ryan Pitts, the couple knew the vendor personally since childhood. Sara and Tyler noted how the small businesses they utilized paid extra attention to details and offered options like helping to ensure Sara’s fare for the day was gluten-free.
For gifts and mementos, Sara purchased items from Etsy shops including a remake of a custom necklace etched with messages written in her grandparents’ handwriting. When Sara reached out to have a new necklace made, the Etsy shop owner still had the original artwork and worked with Sara to make the new necklace special for her wedding day. The couple’s beloved dog, Ray, who had passed away prior to the wedding was there in spirit too, through custom-made pieces that Sara and Tyler carried.
A Style that Reflects Their Roots
Denim jackets and cowboy boots may not be trending bridal attire, but the look hit the mark for Sara and her bridesmaids.
“I wanted to wear a denim jacket with my dress, but I didn’t want it to just be me, so we made a whole look out of it. Each of my bridesmaids picked their own jacket so it’s something they can wear even after the wedding,” Sara said.
The bride also sported a pair of Corral cowboy boots purchased in Austin, TX where she and her girl squad celebrated her bachelorette party.
Tyler’s crew included several friends who, like him, served or continue to serve in the United States military. Tyler chose not to wear dress blues, but instead went with navy blue, modern-cut suits with polished brown shoes.
Matching American flag socks served as a subtle accent and nod to their bond as brothers in arms.
At the reception, guests enjoyed the couple’s selection of smoked chicken or pork rack served alongside new potatoes and cole slaw catered by U2 BBQ of Calmar. Nothing Bundt Cakes of Rochester, MN created the two-tiered lemon and gluten-free chocolate chip cake for the bride and groom with six different flavors of mini bundts for guests.
“I think everyone had a great time, and that’s what we wanted. It just fit our style,” said Sara.
Wedding Planning Tips from the Erickson’s
Here are a few tips the Erickson’s shared for newly engaged couples:
- Do it your way. The timing, location, style, guests – everything. It’s your day.
- Book your venue as early as possible.
- Explore ways to support small businesses and unique vendors. Your business means the world to them and you’re not just another wedding on their calendar.
- Style the way that feels good to you and reflects who you are.
- Utilize a timeline and budget planner. Sara liked “The Budget Savvy Wedding Planner and Organizer” by Jessica Bishop.
More photos in the Driftless Journal.