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A couple’s Autumn wedding takes center stage against a beautiful backdrop of fall colors.

Annie Weidner & Matt Murtha // October 10, 2020

Three weeks after their first date on March 28, 2017, Matt wrote a letter to Annie in a leather-bound notebook. Among other things it said, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I hope it holds you.” Both were attending Miami University (Ohio) at the time. He had just five weeks until graduation. She had a year and five weeks. In the three weeks he’d been dating Annie, he’d morphed from a guy who couldn’t wait to get out of school and start an independent life at a new job in Chicago to a committed man.

The couple made it through that next year—Matt traveling whenever he could to Miami University, and Annie heading to Chicago when she had a break in her schedule. After she graduated, Annie took a job in Chicago. As they continued their relationship, Matt kept writing letters in that notebook. The letters documented what they did together, what they did with their friends and the progression of their relationship. When he was ready to propose, he got her friends at work to ask her out for a girls’ happy hour. She drove with a girlfriend and when they pulled up, there was Matt, dressed in a suit—holding the notebook. He asked her to walk with him and as they did, he read her the letters. When they arrived at the Lily Pond in Lincoln Park, he got down on his knee. She could hardly see or speak through her tears, but she made her “yes” clear.

Featured in MyNorth Weddings, a magazine for couples who love Up North

How to top the romance of that engagement? With the perfect wedding, of course. But as it turned out, pulling it off would be complicated. Their initial plan was a destination wedding in California’s wine country. So, a year ago this fall, they planned a scouting trip to Sonoma and Napa to work out the details for a wedding on their chosen date, October 10, 2020. As they were waiting for their plane at Chicago O’Hare Airport, a friend texted and said, “Be safe.” They didn’t know what she meant until they walked over to a television and watched the news: Napa and Sonoma were on fire. They called their hotel and were told the hotel was only open to evacuees.

They decided they could easily pivot and drive south to look for venues in the Monterey/Carmel area. They did, and found a beautiful vineyard to be married in, and lined up many of the vendors that they needed to make a wedding happen. By March of 2020, they were busy buttoning-down plans when COVID-19 hit. Certainly, this will be OK by October, they thought. But by July, California was a COVID hotspot, and they could see the writing on the wall. It was time for another pivot: it would need to be a very small wedding, completely outside, in a region that was closer to Chicago and that wasn’t on the COVID hot list. Northern Michigan—a place where Annie’s family had vacationed and loved, might just be the answer.

The temps were in the 70s and it was peak color season in Northern Michigan the week of the wedding. “It looked like fall, but felt like summer,” Annie says. The bridal party arrived on Wednesday and moved into the resort’s well-appointed Mountain Cabins. Over the next several days they hiked and visited nearby Boyne Valley Vineyards. When the other guests began arriving on Friday, they hosted a golf competition on The Alpine course at Boyne Mountain.

With so many gorgeous outdoor venues at Boyne Mountain, all the event functions could be held safely outside. First, a bridesmaids’ luncheon on the Beach House Lawn beside sweet Deer Lake. The rehearsal dinner was held on Stein Eriksen’s patio, at the base of a ski hill and in front of a charming Alpine-style building. When the dinner was finished, the patio became the site of the welcome party, complete with a bonfire and s’mores.

The sky was just as blue the day of the wedding, but the temperature had fallen into the 50s. Annie had purchased her wedding gown for a California wedding, but she never felt cold. “I must have had so much adrenaline that I felt like I had a coat on,” she says. The ceremony at the edge of the Boyne River was intimate and simple. The only decor was a large wooden cross that a family friend had made. The pastor, also an old family friend, included the guests in the service. Annie and Matt exchanged their own vows. “Later, friends told us that it felt like they’d been at a spiritual retreat—everything was centered on peace and love,” Annie says. Serenity turned to jubilation as the guests and bridal party made the short walk to a huge tent—big enough to make sure all tables were spaced six feet from each other.

The plated dinner offered three elegant choices: filet mignon, halibut with truffle butter and chicken piccata. Between speeches, the newlyweds snuck away with the photographer, Janelle Elise, for sunset photos. “As we were going back up the hill, the sun was filtering through these really tall trees,” Matt says. “Janelle said, ‘We have 30 seconds to capture the light, we have to run.’ So, we chased the sunset—and those are some of our favorite shots.”

The six-piece Brena Band from Grand Rapids got the tent rocking. “They played everything from ‘Come On Eileen’ to Justin Bieber,” Annie says. “I’ve never seen a wedding with the guests so involved with the music—my grandparents were dancing to songs they’d never heard of in their lives!”

The couple had planned a sparkler sendoff, but they took Janelle’s suggestion for a better fairytale ending: Dancing alone under the market lights hung in the trees. And that is how Annie and Matt ended their perfect wedding. The wedding that neither fire, nor COVID, could stop.

Wedding Resources

Venue | Boyne Mountain

Photographer | Janelle Elise Photography

Wedding Planner | MerryMakers

Videographer | Flom Films

Florist | Sweetwater Floral

Catering | Boyne Mountain

Cake | Simply Sweet by Jessica

Live Music | Brena Band

Bridal Gown | Lovely Bride

Hair & Makeup | Vogue Salon & Spa

Rentals | Rental Express