Katie & James | Wisconsin Barn Wedding at Sugarland

This time of year, my husband starts missing Wisconsin. I think he always misses it, but the start of football season really makes him wish he was back home. And since I started Snippet & Ink six years ago today while I was living in my hubby’s home state, it seemed perfectly appropriate to feature a beautiful Wisconsin wedding at Sugarland from photographer Emily Steffen

Snippet & Ink | Emily Steffen, Sugarland

Says the bride on the colors chosen for the wedding: “For the color scheme and materials, I took cues from nature, especially the woods and rolling hills surrounding our venue, and opted for an understated palette of greens, creams, champagne, blush, and gray. I wanted our wedding to complement rather than compete with the natural beauty surrounding us. We did have one huge pop of bold color in the big red barn – that was just enough for me. I wanted the barn to speak for itself and for everything else to fall into place naturally around it.”

Snippet & Ink | Emily Steffen, Sugarland Snippet & Ink | Emily Steffen, Sugarland Snippet & Ink | Emily Steffen, Sugarland

Friends and family contributed to the ceremony: The bride’s college roommate and her sister played violin and for the processional and recessional. Her sister and a good friend from college sang a duet during the ceremony. “And,” says Katie, “James’s eleven-year-old nephew (the officiant’s son) bravely stood before all the guests to read our chosen scripture passage.”

Snippet & Ink | Emily Steffen, Sugarland Snippet & Ink | Emily Steffen, Sugarland

Instead of a unity candle, the couple planted an oak tree together. Explains the bride: “Since our wedding vows were said under the branches of a beautiful old oak tree, we found it only fitting to plant an oak sapling to signify our new beginning as husband and wife. James planted it in a galvanized bucket and I watered it as part of our wedding ceremony; it was later re-planted permanently at my family farm. Trees are a common symbol of flourishing life and growth, which we hope to accomplish in our marriage, and oak trees are also especially known for growing to an old age, which we hope to mimic by growing old together over many happy years of marriage.”

Snippet & Ink | Emily Steffen, Sugarland Snippet & Ink | Emily Steffen, Sugarland Snippet & Ink | Emily Steffen, Sugarland Snippet & Ink | Emily Steffen, Sugarland

The wedding was full of DIY details, including mason jar drinking glasses decorated with chalkboard silhouettes of the state of Wisconsin – each cut out by hand by the couple and their families!

Snippet & Ink | Emily Steffen, Sugarland Snippet & Ink | Emily Steffen, Sugarland Snippet & Ink | Emily Steffen, Sugarland Snippet & Ink | Emily Steffen, Sugarland

What inspired the couple’s wedding plans? “We both love the outdoors and the heritage of our home state. This led to our selections of a site near UW Madison, where we met and did our undergraduate studies, a caterer that uses many locally sourced ingredients and follows traditional farm-style recipes, and our incorporation of elements that say “Wisconsin” to us such as cheese, ice cream, and local brews, to name a few.”

Snippet & Ink | Emily Steffen, Sugarland Snippet & Ink | Emily Steffen, Sugarland

The groom’s cake was actually three wheels of cheese – only fitting for a Wisconsin wedding! The wedding cake was actually three different flavors: RumChata cake with apricot filling, almond cake with tiramisu mousse, and chocolate Kahlua cake with cappuccino mousse. There were also two flavors of ice cream from University of Wisconsin’s Babcock Dairy.

Snippet & Ink | Emily Steffen, Sugarland Snippet & Ink | Emily Steffen, Sugarland



Why did you choose this location for your wedding?  We went through quite the process choosing our venue. If I recall correctly, we seriously considered four places, with at least one date reservation, and we browsed through dozens of others. It wasn’t that we were indecisive, but more that we had a very precise vision and it took some time to find a location that matched it. We wanted an outdoor ceremony and we wanted it to take place in Wisconsin, where both of us were born and raised and where we will always call home (in our hearts if not in mailing address). More specifically, my original vision for the day centered around a beautiful old barn, since both James and I come from families rooted in agriculture. So we set out to find a place that approximated the feel of a family farm while also providing the accommodations we needed. We eventually stumbled upon Sugarland, and though the barn was under construction, we could just imagine how absolutely perfect it would be when complete. Our wedding reception was the first ever held in newly renovated barn (they were literally still installing flooring Friday night), and we are excited to see how other couples utilize this amazing space in the future!

What was your favorite moment or part of the day?  The moment that really sticks out in our minds came later in the day, while everyone was sitting down to dinner. Up until that point, the day had been such a blur, and finally it began to sink in that all our loved ones were here to celebrate us, as husband and wife, set to begin the rest of our lives together, and that everything had turned out perfectly. In that moment we looked right at each other and James said, “Whoa….we did it!” Not only had we pulled off a fun-filled and beautiful party, we were married! Sitting there together, the rest of the room kind of melted away and we were able to reflect on our commitment and on the day. That was very special and memorable.

Did you include any traditions in your wedding?  James’s Uncle Bob led everyone in the Johnny Appleseed Blessing before dinner, which is a tradition in James’s family. I also followed the Victorian tradition of something old (handkerchief passed down from Katie’s great-grandma “GG” through her Grandma Breitlow), new (lace and charmeuse bridal gown and accessories), borrowed (a vintage beaded clutch that belonged to my namesake, great-grandma Katie Godfrey, lent by her Granny Godfrey), and blue (a star sapphire ring given to her mother by her father while they were dating). Also, our ceremony followed most of the Christian religious customs and our vows were a variation of the commonly heard traditional version.

What was the best advice you received as a bride?  Remember to not only plan a beautiful wedding, but also a beautiful marriage. As our baker, Betty Arp, told me, “Don’t sweat the small stuff; it only matters who you are meeting at the end of the aisle.” This was such crucial advice for me as a perfectionist and detail-oriented person because it was often hard for me to let go of some teeny element or last-minute project I’d imagined and to instead focus on the end goal: being married to my handsome groom! I won’t pretend I always followed this good advice – I probably slept on average three hours a night in the final days before our wedding because I was so bent on getting everything done perfectly. But I do think it saved me additional stress. It may be hard to hear at times (like when your shoes arrive in the wrong color), but don’t brush it off!

Do you have any budget tips for other brides?  Focus on identifying early on which elements of the wedding are most important to you (photography, florals, dress, honeymoon) and other things you’re not so big on where you could potentially cut costs. Set an overall maximum you want to spend, and try to itemize it down from there to budget for each vendor proportionally. You can find budgeting tools online. After you’ve done that, make sure you re-check and update your budget worksheet each time a cost is defined, and if something ends up costing more than you estimated, look for somewhere else to make up the difference. It’s a balancing act. Also, approach everyone who will be contributing money soon after your engagement and ask them to tell you a dollar figure that they’re willing to chip in. This can be an uncomfortable topic to broach, but it’s a lot better than trying to plan without a clear idea of where the funds are coming from. Everyone will feel more secure in the long run knowing it’s been discussed.

Is there anything else that helps tell the story of the day?  We can’t stress enough the importance of our family in supporting and helping us plan and pull off our wonderful wedding. Quite literally, the day would not have been possible without each and every person’s contribution; it was truly a team effort. As much as the physical work put in, the emotional value of having our parents, grandparents, and siblings working alongside us was immeasurable. Their actions spoke volumes about how much they love and care about us and want us to be happy. I can’t think of any better way to not just tell, but show, a couple that they have your blessing than sacrificing countless hours of your personal life preparing for their wedding without so much as one complaint. This dedication meant so much to me and James. It is so encouraging beginning our marriage knowing we are surrounded by such a strong support system.  We know our family will be there for us whenever, just as they were in the weeks and months leading up to our big day.

Vendor Credits

Photographer: Emily Steffen / Venue: Sugarland in Arena, Wisconsin / Dress: Allure Bridal / Alterations: Bridal Stop Shoppe / Hair, Makeup: ANiU Salon /   Shoes: Design Your Pedestal  / Earrings: Boston Store / Bracelet: Tati's Hotties / Headpiece: Richards Designs / Veil: Amelishan Bridal / Rings: Knox Jewelers / Vest, Pants, Socks: Express / Ties: Boston Store, Kenneth Cole / Shoes: Aldo / Bridesmaid Dresses: Bill Levkoff / Flower girls: Poof by Cindy Maricle / Floral Designer: Daffodil Parker / Rentals: Event Essentials, A la Crate Vintage / Band: The UnXpected / Caterer: Old Feed Mill / Cake: I Do Cakes by Betty /


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