Broadway Actress Jenn Dunne and her fiance Booth Keeney, a New York City-based video editor, staged their dramatic wedding at Arcadia Dunes Nature Preserve in Manistee County. Simple, yet stunning, the Northern Michigan wedding fit their creative personalities.
The story of this very special wedding begins with the individualized invitations. The bride and groom wrote personal notes to all 47 people on their guest list, then found photos of each person and enclosed them with the notes. “We wanted them all to feel that they were specifically chosen, that this is a homespun kind of thing, and we really wanted their presence there,” says bride Jenn Dunne Keeney. “I had so many friends call me saying, ‘I am crying right now reading this invitation.’ Even Booth said he received messages from his friends like, ‘That was the best invitation ever.’”
For Jenn Dunne and Booth Keeney, the vision for their July 11, 2015, wedding in Northern Michigan had to reflect their partnership and personalities—and the people in their lives who mean the most to them. “From start to finish, we wanted it to be ‘us,’” she says. “What made it perfect was it was us honoring everyone that was there, making it all inclusive.”
Jenn grew up on Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City, Booth is from Connecticut, and they live and work in New York City. Jenn is a Broadway performer, currently starring in Chicago, the musical, and Booth is a video editor. When the couple began talking about where they’d be married, they initially figured somewhere on the East Coast.
But then Booth suggested Northern Michigan, having seen its beauty during a trip there with Jenn. “He was blown away when he saw the sand dunes,” Jenn says. “He was like, ‘Yeah, my friends have to see it. They won’t believe it.’”
Knowing their wedding guest list would be small and the celebration intimate, the couple decided to hold their ceremony at Arcadia Dunes Nature Preserve, on a bluff, overlooking Lake Michigan. “Our family used to go hiking and camping around there. It was one of our places,” Jenn says.
Choreography of the Heart
A wealth of personalized touches captured the essence of the event: Jenn’s flowing pink-peach bridal dress and delicate flower crown; the flea market chandelier; the deliberately mismatched china dishes used at the outdoor reception dinner at her family’s farmhouse in Leelanau County. Each touch was a product of carefully made choices. For example, Jenn decided to wear a flower crown in lieu of carrying a traditional flower bouquet so that she could hold both of her parents’ hands as she walked down her sand dune aisle. In another heartfelt touch, Jodi Hefferan of The Flower Station in Traverse City used flowers from her own garden in the crown.
Securing Detroit-based photographer Jesse Green, an in-demand artist who had impressed Jenn and Booth with his blog about photography and positive changes in the Motor City, was another important part of their day. “So much of our wedding planning was like that—we went with what our gut said, that sense of real artistic enthusiasm,” Jenn says. “We wanted people to have their heart into it.”
Let the Show Begin
Jenn and Booth began welcoming friends and family on Friday night, when Booth’s father (and ceremony officiant), Dwight Keeney, hosted a meet- and-greet cocktail hour at Red Ginger, a modern Asian restaurant in downtown Traverse City.
On the morning of the wedding, friends stopped by the farmhouse—owned by Jenn’s mother Debbie Dunne and her partner Gary O’Connell— to help set the table for the evening festivities. “My mom made an egg casserole, everyone came in their sweatpants and we had a lot of fun getting things ready,” Jenn says.
Later, everyone—bridal party and guests—met on the west side of Traverse City, to caravan the 50 scenic miles out to the Arcadia bluffs. Jenn was in the last vehicle, allowing Booth and a few others to arrive first to begin the 25-minute hike to the ceremony spot on dunes overlooking Lake Michigan.
The Plot Thickens
“Unbeknownst to Booth, I had set up a bunch of surprises,” Jenn says. These included three things that, early on in the wedding planning, Booth had jokingly said he wanted: A storm trooper, a bagpipe player and ninja bodyguards. “He was just picking out the most outlandish things,” Jenn says. “I was like, ‘Got it.’”
Channeling the creative energy that fuels this actress, Jenn made those wishes happen: The three women hired to help serve the catered food, (donning Jenn’s grandmother’s old gingham aprons) were the ninjas. Dave O’Neil, a Native American flutist and Scottish bagpipe player from Grand Rapids, would play the pipes. And finally, while she couldn’t find storm troopers, Jenn did come up with Jawas, the sand people from Star Wars—a feat she accomplished with the help of 501st Legion, Michigan Chapter, an organization dedicated to promoting the magic of the Star Wars movies through costuming.
“As Booth started walking in the woods, he heard the bagpipes in the distance,” Jenn says. “When he came to this place where there is a staircase in the sand, two Jawas handed him a card from me.”
Setting: Outdoor Altar
Jenn and Booth chose not to have a traditional bridal party, choosing instead to involve all of the guests in the ceremony. After exchanging vows they’d written for each other, each guest placed a flower at the couple’s feet, blessing their union. Jenn then surprised Booth by singing “One Voice,” by The Wailin’ Jennys.”By the end of the song, all the guests had joined in. A paper cup champagne toast capped the ceremony before everyone headed back through the woods, and traveled to the farmhouse for dinner, conversation, laughter and a bonfire.
By the end of the song, all the guests had joined in. A paper cup champagne toast capped the ceremony before everyone headed back through the woods, and traveled to the farmhouse for dinner, conversation, laughter and a bonfire.
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