After a proposal in the Upper Peninsula, Alison and Selena knew they wanted to get married Up North. Working with a dream design and planning team, their big day came to life at Willowbrook Mill in Northport. Dive in for all the details of their stunning Northern Michigan wedding.

This article was first featured in the 2022 issue of MyNorth Wedding.

Alison Kinning & Selena Creed | July 15, 2021

As a vascular surgeon at Michigan Vascular, Alison Kinning cares for humans. As a wildlife biologist, Selena Creed protects both birds and the flying public by keeping the runways clear at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. It didn’t take long for the bots at OkCupid to deduce that these two caring people might enjoy a first date. That quickly happened, but, ok cupid, it was pretty much a clunker of a first night on the town together: the pair met for a movie that turned out to be, as Alison describes it, “the worst movie ever.” To boot, Alison had just gotten back from a friend’s wedding in New York City and she was exhausted.

Still, there was enough chemistry between them that a week later Selena drove from her home in Ann Arbor to Alison’s home in Holly to walk Alison’s dog with her. (“My dog was difficult, he’s best introduced to someone new out on a walk,” Alison says.)

Fast forward a year to their engagement in September of 2020. The couple, who had driven to Copper Harbor in the Upper Peninsula to be engaged, envisioned a similarly beautiful setting for their wedding. And while they wanted a destination wedding, they didn’t want one that was too difficult for their mostly Michigan guests to get to.

So, Alison Googled LGBTQ-friendly wedding venues in Michigan and up popped Willowbrook Mill in Northport. Set in the picturesque harbor town at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, Willowbrook Mill’s setting got a big check for natural beauty. It would also allow their guests to spend a long weekend exploring this spectacular corner of Northern Michigan—without getting on a plane.

As Alison and Selena discovered when they met with Willowbrook Mill Owner Mimi Heberlein the following October, it isn’t just Northport and the Leelanau Peninsula that are picture-perfect: so is Willowbrook Mill. Constructed in 1879, the rustically elegant white clapboard building set beside a small creek has served several purposes over the centuries, though, just as the Heberlein family thought when they purchased it in 2016, it is tailor-made for intimate weddings.

Willowbrook Mill works with a number of event planners including Conradie Event Design, owned by Melissa Conradie. Browsing Conradie’s site, Alison clicked on a story about a foraged dinner for friends that Conradie, along with the creative team known as NoMi Collectif, designed and executed for Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine (Read it here: Create a Foraged Feast with Morels in Northern Michigan). Struck by the team’s interpretation of a woodland theme in their table design, Selena and Alison were not only sold on NoMi Collectif, they were ready to trust them totally with their event: “We told Melissa from the get-go that we just want to show up and get married,” says Alison, adding, “neither of us is very good at this sort of thing, nor do we have the time.”

Outside at Willowbrook Mill

Photo by Nicole Geri & Josh Hartman

Cutting the cake at Willowbrook Mill

Photo by Nicole Geri & Josh Hartman

That is not to say that their wedding was not personalized. Quite the contrary. The creative team took the time to listen and learn about the couple so that their passions and interests came through in exquisitely deliberate ways: a feather motif on the invitations (courtesy of Holly Thomas Design), real feathers (provided by Selena from a turkey she harvested last spring) for the floral arrangements and Alison’s favorite flower, sunflowers, in her bouquet (thanks to Amy Kate Designs). And in a truly sweet and natural touch, the couple tapped, boiled and bottled their own maple syrup to give as guest favors.

Reception at Willowbrook Mill

Photo by Nicole Geri & Josh Hartman

Outdoor ceremony at Willowbrook Mill

Photo by Nicole Geri & Josh Hartman

Dancing inside at Willowbrook Mill

Photo by Nicole Geri & Josh Hartman

Alison and Selena’s big day turned out to be a page out of a storybook. Morning rain cleared and dried in time for a simple and stunning ceremony on the patio overlooking the brook. Afterward, the 57 guests were treated to an exquisite and delicious sit-down dinner, and the couple led off the dancing with John Prine’s “I Have Met My Love Today.” After dinner, the magical evening continued with dancing to music provided by the Northern Michigan DJ Avatar Media Productions. But the love at this wedding didn’t stop there. Everyone involved, from the newlyweds to the Heberleins and all members of NoMi Collectif, ended the event as true friends who still talk and text often.“We really just loved everybody,”Alison says.

Kissing couple at Willowbrook Mill

Photo by Nicole Geri & Josh Hartman

Willowbrook Mill Wedding Resources

Venue | Willowbrook Mill
Photography | Nicole Geri Photography; Josh Hartman Photography
Event Planning & Design | Conradie Event Design
Floral Design & Tabletop Decor | Amy Kate Designs
Catering | Smoke and Porter Public House
Boutique Bartending | Tonic & Lime
Cake | Aunt B’s Cakes & Dessert,
Beauty | The Hair + Beauty Lounge
Entertainment | Avatar Media Productions
Rentals & Decor | Gigi & LaClede; 307 Events; Serradella
Stationary | Holly Thomas Design
Ring Designer | W.R. Metalarts
Bridal Dress and Vest | Sean Waisanen (Selena’s mother)

Photo(s) by Nicole Geri & Josh Hartman