WRITER | PATTI EDDINGTON
PHOTO | JESSICA FREDERICK PHOTOGRAPHY
Justine Lucas says it is her “Type A” personality that led her to carefully, lovingly micromanage the details of her stunning Mackinac Island wedding to husband Ryley. She spent more than a year planning their June 7 nuptials, and the days preceding it were a flurry of deadlines, timelines, and lists.
“I was running around like a mad woman all over town dealing with last-minute things like finding candles for the pillars on the tables, having Ryley’s white dress shirt dry-cleaned, and printing the cards for the seating chart,” she says.
All that hard work paid off with a “cool, calm, and collected” couple. The only true surprise of the day was a beautiful moment that brought tears to the eyes of the guests and is something the bride says she will remember for eternity.
“I was adamant he write down his vows,” she says. “He was reading from his paper, and then he tore it up and said, ‘I don’t need this paper to express my love for you.’ I was shocked. I had no idea he was about to do that, but neither did he. It made such an impact on everyone. Sometimes something you’ve planned goes even better unplanned.”
How it all began
Justine and Ryley’s wedding took 15 months of intense planning but was actually 13 years in the making. The couple began dating when Justine was a 17-year-old senior in high school and thought Ryley, four years older and the brother of a good friend, was “cute.” He took her to dinner but only had $40 in his wallet. “He said I had to leave the tip,” she says.
Both attended Ferris State University. Ryley is a maintenance supervisor at the GoGo SqueeZ plant in Grawn; Justine is a registered dental hygienist in Kingsley. The couple got engaged in March 2018.
The planning process
Choosing the location for their ceremony was the easiest part of the planning process. The couple visits Mackinac Island frequently, and during a bike ride stumbled upon The Inn at Stonecliffe, overlooking the straits and the Mackinac Bridge.
“I was in awe over the huge, plush front lawn and how grand it looked,” Justine says. “I mentioned how amazing it would be to be married there, but never thought it was something we could afford. Once we were engaged and started looking into venue options, I couldn’t help but to think of the Inn. We decided we could do it if we kept the guest list to just our closest family and friends.”
The couple settled on an intimate list of about 70 and chose three bridesmaids and two groomsmen. They opted for simple, classic elegance, hired a guitar player for the ceremony, and held the reception on the gorgeous Stonecliffe grounds.
Justine wanted to do the majority of the planning and began shortly after the engagement. Still, she understood she would need assistance on the big day and turned to the Traverse City Wedding Connection Facebook page, where she found wedding planner Katelyn VanVreede of It Takes 2 To Say I Do.
Because the venue and colors — rose gold and gold — were already decided and much of the decor was to be borrowed from recently married friends, the Lucases decided to use VanVreede simply for “day of” coordination.
But they got so much more than they had anticipated! Van Vreede arrived a day early with an assistant in tow, bringing with her not only an emergency kit of wire, fishline, scissors, tape, Command Strips™, Super Glue, bobby pins, snacks, eyelash glue, mints, a sewing kit, and hair spray but also a calm demeanor and a reassuring smile.
VanVreede had begun hashing out the wedding day timeline with the bride and the vendors a few months before the wedding. She says the couple did an amazing job on their wedding day and calls Justine one of the most genuine brides she’s ever worked with.
“I could instantly see how much they loved each other,” she says. “As his beautiful wife walked down the aisle, I saw Ryley mouth the words, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s gorgeous.’ These two are meant to be.”
Photographer Jessica Frederick got to know Justine and Ryley while taking their engagement photos and was hired to shoot the wedding as well. Engagement shoots are her favorite way to learn about a couple and begin planning for the wedding day.
“I request a timeline of the day far in advance to be sure the schedule accommodates enough time for the photographs that are important to the couple and also time for them to enjoy their wedding day without feeling rushed,” she says. “I want my couples to feel like they are hanging out with an old friend on their wedding day.”
The best-laid plans
Despite all those months of planning and attention to detail, the Lucas wedding had a minor glitch, nothing the humans involved could have anticipated.
Friends and family arriving for the rehearsal made careful arrangements to ensure plenty of time for their horse-drawn taxis to make the slow trek to Stonecliffe. “I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of my mom, stepdad, and three-year-old niece, who was my flower girl,” Justine says. “Their horse team ‘conked out’ on them and had to be exchanged with another. My mom said it took about 30 minutes for the other team to come and get hooked up. It’s funny now, but don’t be in a hurry on Mackinac Island!”
Equine fatigue aside, the couple ultimately had the wedding of their dreams. “I just felt happy, proud, and content with how everything turned out after so many months of planning,” Justine says. “We had all of our closest family and friends there to celebrate at a place that is so special to us. I am so thankful we were able to make that happen. I want to relive that day over and over.”