Whitney Ottenhoff married her husband, Jake Ottenhoff, in downtown Detroit last year.

Whitney Ottenhoff married her husband, Jake Ottenhoff, in downtown Detroit last year.

Photo provided by Whitney Ottenhoff


Tales from the veil: Local brides look back on wedding success

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published January 24, 2018

 The Belle Isle Conservatory was the ceremony site for the wedding of Heidi and Merissa Parkman, of West Bloomfield.

The Belle Isle Conservatory was the ceremony site for the wedding of Heidi and Merissa Parkman, of West Bloomfield.

Photo provided by Heidi Parkman

 Meredith Gokey, who married Joe Gokey in Macomb Township in 2017, loved the color scheme of her event.

Meredith Gokey, who married Joe Gokey in Macomb Township in 2017, loved the color scheme of her event.

Photo provided by Meredith Gokey

 Bena and Mark Poston, of Sterling Heights, opted for a unique Sunday brunch affair for their 2017 celebration.

Bena and Mark Poston, of Sterling Heights, opted for a unique Sunday brunch affair for their 2017 celebration.

Photo provided by Bena Poston

METRO DETROIT — I found the guy. I got the ring. The date is set.

The hard part of finding my happily ever after is done, right?

Not so much. Turns out that planning a wedding, despite the warnings I’d been given over the years, is much tougher than I expected. Making decisions about where to spend my money, whom to invite and where to share our vows when I marry my fiancé this September have been occupying nearly every minute of my day.

I need advice, and I need it fast. So when my editor asked me if I’d like to interview a few recently wed brides about their wedding planning experiences, I of course had to respond with “I do.”

I started with Whitney Ottenhoff, of Detroit. She was married in 2017 at The Atheneum hotel in downtown Detroit. The eighth floor of the building offers panoramic views of the city, which sold her on the venue for hosting her 250 guests. But it was the little things that Ottenhoff said stuck with her in the long run.

“This might sound bad, because it wasn’t part of the wedding, but I really loved my rehearsal dinner,” she said. “After we went to practice at the church, we went to my mom’s house for dinner. It was just the bridal party, my parents and grandparents. It was more intimate, and I got to talk with everyone. We were singing and dancing until 3 a.m., and it was so much fun.”

The following day, Ottenhoff said, she listened to her gut, and despite what planners and photographers had asked her to do, she insisted that the affair run her way.

“The photographer really tried to convince me to do a first look, since there wasn’t much time between the ceremony and the reception to take pictures,” she explained of the new trend in which brides and grooms meet for photos before the ceremony. “But I really wanted to see my husband for the first time at the altar. I wouldn’t change that for the world.”

She and her family also created much of the décor themselves in the months leading up to the wedding. Beer bottle caps were bent into holders for dinner menus at the reception, and herbs were planted into painted pots to give away as favors at her shower.

Then I picked the brain of Meredith Gokey, who did some hands-on planning before her affair last May. The Clinton Township bride was married at a church in Macomb Township, then traveled to an Oakland Township golf club for the reception. The design elements she pulled together were among her favorite things about her wedding.

“I was going on Pinterest to get a vision for what I was planning, and I saw a flower bouquet I liked that was whimsical and colorful and vibrant, so I just coordinated everything with that,” she said. “The backdrop was very rustic, so (the décor) with that made it very warm and inviting. I was really proud of what I worked so hard to create and see it all come to life. I loved how it all turned out.”

She was also glad that she had developed a friendship with the pastor who would marry her and her husband in the time leading up to the wedding.

“It made it kind of personal, and that’s something I’ll never forget. We got to know the pastor, and he ended up becoming one of our really good friends,” Gokey added.

Heidi Parkman, of West Bloomfield, said she and her bride were careful to only worry about the elements of their wedding that mattered most to them. In the end, that boiled down to the bar, the music and the food.

“We’re social and like to make sure everyone can have a good time. And we’re both known for liking expensive liquor and dancing. And we’ve had a lot of bad wedding food,” Parkman said.

The pair were married at Detroit’s Belle Isle Conservatory, then headed back to the mainland and Ferndale’s Rust Belt Market for the party. The day played out exactly as they had hoped, though Parkman said that if she could go back and do it again, she’d change one small thing.

“I wish I had found a day-of coordinator to make sure everything was perfect. I had a lot of help from friends, but there were some mistakes only I noticed,” she said.

Bena Poston, of Sterling Heights, had Parkman’s mindset when it came to planning her November nuptials. She forwent the traditional Saturday night reception and opted for a Sunday morning ceremony followed by brunch. 

Her favorite part of the day was being married during the morning’s regular church service at St. John Episcopal Church in Royal Oak in front of the congregation and her invited guests.

As guests made their way to have brunch in a banquet hall that was decorated with handmade accents created by Poston’s sister, the things she had spent so much time planning seemed to fade into the background.

“It was easy because there was a lot of people involved and helping. Accept help. That’s important. My choir mate made the cake, and my friend put together coffee hour. But the seating chart was pointless. Unnecessary stress,” she said. “The best part was the dance at the reception. Mark (the groom) quietly sang to me while we danced.”