How do you entice dudes to a diaper party? Let them play poker in the garage. Elizabeth Berger and Daniel McClintic, guests of the diaper/poker extravaganza arrived as singles and left planning a New Year’s date. On a cold and snowy day exactly four years later, while walking their dog in the woods near their Sanford, Michigan, apartment, Daniel proposed.
Elizabeth is half Italian so a Tuscan wedding was on her wish list. Given getting friends and family all the way to la Penisola was out of the question, she turned her venue search to Northern Michigan, a region the downstate woman knew echoes the beauty of Italy. After a bit of web sleuthing, Elizabeth was ecstatic to find that she could have her Tuscan wedding after all—in a vineyard and on a peninsula, to boot! The peninsula would be Leelanau—Michigan’s orchard-, vineyard-, dune-covered little finger that is surrounded on three sides by Lake Michigan. The vineyard? Aurora Cellars, a full-production winery in Lake Leelanau that features award-winning wines and yes, a Tuscan-inspired wine tasting room.
Photos by ShutterBugs Photography
Aurora Cellars offers two wedding venue-packages. Larger weddings, up to 300 guests, are set around a newly renovated Victorian farmhouse with a large patio bordered by Chardonnay vines–a weddings’ package called Aurora Cellars Estate. Beautiful indeed, but Elizabeth naturally gravitated to the Tuscan wedding and ceremony package at the on-site Aurora Cellars Terrace. Suited for small events of 100 or less, the Aurora Cellars Terrace venue package features a Tuscan wedding ceremony on a terrace in the vineyard, a reception in the winery and a tent set up on the patio. “What sets these weddings a part,” says Kim Bunbury, Aurora’s Tasting Room manager, “is the Tuscan architecture of our wine tasting room, our beautiful wood farm tables, grapevine chandelier and Tuscan food—all paired with our award-winning estate wines.”
On a beautiful September day, Elizabeth, attended by her bridal party, donned her gown in the newly renovated bridal suite on the winery’s top floor. Meanwhile, the groom, his men and 50 of the couple’s closest family and friends gathered at the top of a hill in the vineyard to await Elizabeth. The bride’s walk to meet her future husband at the simple altar—a flower-decked arch mounted on rustic wine barrels—was framed by a view of rolling hills covered in vines heavy with grapes. “It was stunning,” Elizabeth recalls.
Dan, who is a musician, brought his own portable piano for the ceremony, which the winery staff set up—speakers, electrical cords and all. The ceremony was presided over by Dan’s uncle, an ordained minister and the couple’s neighbor, Sister Marie (a retired nun) played the piano. After Dan and Elizabeth were pronounced man and wife, guests mingled over charcuterie and estate wines and cider while the formal photographs were taken just steps away in the vineyard. “It worked out so well,” Elizabeth says, “because everyone could intermingle while the photographs were going on.”
With photos finished, the guests and bridal party strolled down the hill to the wine tasting room where a tent was set up outfitted with those wooden farm tables and grapevine chandeliers. As was the charcuterie, the dinner was catered by Folgarelli’s Market & Wine Shop—a Traverse City institution that is now managed by Darric Newman, a member of the family’s third generation. The Tuscan feast featured grilled vegetables, prosciutto-wrapped grilled chicken, pasta with Bolognese and pesto and, well, more wine. Tiramisu for dessert, of course. That was served along with a pistachio-, cherry-, almond-layered cake frosted to look like birch bark, made by Potter’s Bakery in Traverse City.
With dinner over, the Aurora staff lit a bonfire in the fire ring located beside the wine tasting room and set out the makings for s’mores. Inside the winery, Dan and Elizabeth danced their first dance as a married couple to “Lucky,” by Kat Edmondson. Lucky being exactly how they felt.