Grade-school sweethearts tie the knot in an enchanted setting at Willowbrook Mill in Northport.

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They were fifth graders in the small town of Hartland, Michigan, when Alex passed Kate a note: Will you be my girlfriend? Circle yes or no. Kate circled yes. The grade-school romance was short lived, but Alex and Kate remained friends through high school and college, though each pursued different relationships. Kate says the timing was never right, but Alex maintains that Kate was always the girl he was thinking about; the one he wanted to marry.

View the full version of this wedding feature including photos, plus complete venue details!

Fifteen years after that fifth-grade note, Alex got another chance to ask Kate out, and this time the timing was perfect. Six months later Alex proposed on the foursquare court at their old grade school by writing “Will you marry me?” in sidewalk chalk.

Alex maintains the seeds of their romance were sown in the fifth grade, Kate says they fell in love during their first getaway together to Leelanau County, where Alex’s parents now call home. Needless to say, when it came to planning the wedding, it was essential that their guests got to experience the “Up North” that had sparked such a remarkable love story.

When Kate’s mom, an event planner for the University of Michigan, told them about Willowbrook Mill in Northport—one of their favorite Leelanau County villages—the couple immediately went to check it out.

The venue, a 140-year-old building suspended over the purling Northport Creek, had precisely the whimsy and charm they imagined. But their wedding date was still two years away, and the owners of Willowbrook Mill had bad news: It was on the market. Kate was crushed.

Enter Mimi Heberlein and her family, who purchased the venue in early 2016. When she heard the news, Kate called immediately, securing her date as the new owners’ first reservation. As the couple was to find out, their dream venue now came with the knowledgeable and friendly assistance of owner Mimi Heberlein and her daughter, Samantha Heberlein.

Kate and Alex exchanged vows in the wooden gazebo that overlooks the picturesque Northport Marina. Decorated with draped linens and hops swags and set with old church pews, the gazebo was a simple, romantic setting for the intimate ceremony in which the couple exchanged vows that they’d written themselves.

After the ceremony, the newlyweds and their wedding guests made the leisurely walk through Northport’s storybook-sweet downtown and across the hops and tulle-adorned bridge to Willowbrook Mill. The ballroom rafters were strung with hundreds of white fairy lights, and the tables were strewn with eucalyptus garlands and white roses, creating a rustic yet elegant setting that continued throughout the venue. The three stone fireplaces, the handcrafted apple and cherry branch chandeliers in the Porch Bar and the lovely Creekside Patio offered guests several perfect spaces to gather and chat with friends and family during the celebration.

The reception’s Michigan-centric theme included craft Michigan beer and local wine. The owner of the Northport-based florist, Field of Flowers North, grew most of the arrangements in her yard, while Abundance Catering sourced everything locally for the pork loin dinner. The romance of Willowbrook Mill, the spectacular ceremony in the marina park, the quaint Northport Inn where some guests stayed, all combined to leave Alex and Kate’s friends and family awed at the beauty of this Lake Michigan village. It was truly an unparalleled setting for a new chapter in this love story.

Willowbrook Mill Wedding Vendors

  • Ceremony Site | Northport Marina
  • Reception Site | Willowbrook Mill
  • Photography | Steven Pham Photography & BDE Photography
  • Video | Voice Wedding Cinema
  • Flowers | Field of Flowers North
  • Dinner | Abundance Catering
  • Cake | Top Tier Cakery
  • Rentals | Sweet Seats, Monstrey MacDonald
  • Music | ElectroSystem Pro DJ
  • Hair & Makeup | Dream Details, Mandy Novack

The bride wore a gown with a lace sheath and illusion cutouts.

Bouquets brimming with native stems and wild owers include: seasonal dahlias, English roses, hops, seeded eucalyptus and lavender.

The wonderfully wild tangle of the bridal bouquet highlighted soft blush and cream tones as well as mossy greens.

The bridesmaids’ dresses shimmered in shades of blue and green that were reminiscent of the colors of Lake Michigan. 

Bridesmaids: Adrienne Brady, Sara Buko, Stephanie Chandler, Meredith Ramm, Randi Allen, McKenzie Zauel, Jen Aycock, Heather Leitch, Christine Flanagan.

The cake, by Traverse City–based Top Tier Cakery, symbolizes the beauty of Lake Michigan.

Following the ceremony, the bride changed out her veil for a wreath—a favorite gift from her bachelorette party.

The 77 VW Photo Booth Bus (based in Allegan, MI) was a huge hit among wedding guests making vintage bulbs (and iPhones) flash all night long.

MyNorth Wine & Weddings | April 21, 2018 

Brides, grooms, friends, and families are invited to explore Leelanau and Old Mission wineries and meet vendors including photographers, bridal gown shops, wedding cake bakers, and florists. Did we mention everyone gets a wine taste at each winery? Get your tickets at

Win a weekend Up North to plan your wedding! 

The getaway includes …

  • Two nights’ lodging in glamorous camping— king size bed, luxurious sheets, down pillows—at Nature Michigan Retreat
  • $2,500 credit for a dress at One Oak Bride
  • Event planning services from Revel Rose, Wedding Revelry & Etc.
  • $100 dining certificate at La Bécasse, Authentic French Country Cuisine
  • Make-up, hair & nails package by Pavlova, European Salon & Day Spa
Enter to win!

Photo(s) by BDE Photography