Chris & Val’s Fun, Offbeat Bennett Barn Wedding

March 22, 2016

Val is Milwaukee born and raised, but her now-husband Chris had a bit of a trek to get here. He was born in Minnesota, went to UW-Madison for undergrad, and did grad school in Oregon before being offered a job in Milwaukee. Luckily, e-harmony brought the two together.

On the night Chris proposed, he suggested making Val’s favorite food at home – sushi. “It looked like he was cooking rice on the stove and had some seaweed out,” Val says. “Little did I know this was all for show. He bought a sushi cook book the week before and asked me to check how long to cook the rice. I started paging through, and he had cut out a section in the back — the ring was tucked inside. He set up his laptop to record the whole thing. The cooking ended up being totally fake — Chris had take-out sushi from my favorite place hidden in the fridge.”

The couple planned a fun, whimsical wedding at Bennett Barn in Watertown. For the ceremony, Chris and Val wrote their own vows: “We decided to say them privately to each other, rather than over the microphone.” To keep it private, the wedding party formed a semi-circle around the couple. “It was super intimate and special — just us and the most important people, our parents and our wedding party.”

The ceremony had started at 5pm and rolled right into the cocktail hour and reception. “I wish we would have started earlier — I feel like it went by way too fast!” says Val. “But it was an absolute blast. Dancing: yes! Basketball: yes! Outdoor lawn games: yes! Nintendo: yes! Anything traditional: nope! I wanted it to be different and outside-the-box.” There was even an ice sculpture (a surprise from Val’s parents!) made by Val’s cousin Hailey, who works at Art Below Zero.

Val admits they had a tough time deciding what to do for food — then Chris suggested food trucks. They gave guests several options: mac n’ cheese with Andouille sausage, mushroom risotto, gourmet sandwiches, and meat skewers. There was also bread and olive oil at each table, plus the Wisconsin-favorite meat and cheese as an appetizer. Dessert was donuts instead of cake, and the late-night snack was pretzel sticks served with cheese or Nutella dipping sauces.

For drinks, there was a ton of wine, beer, and soda, plus signature drinks in self-seve containers, sangria, and Old Fashioneds. “Chris brews his own beer, so we had three different types bottled. He printed labels for them that were all wedding-related — it was very cool.”

Val tackled a lot of DIY projects for the big day, too. She designed the invites and save-the-dates, made the cone and hemp ceremony backdrop, made earrings for her bridal party, and made her own veil. “It was a headband I bought and added tulle and lace to,” she says. She also embellished her wedding shoes: flats from Target smartly glued with lace. She did all of the table decorations — spray painting dinosaurs, filling teacups with flowers on top of books, and the table numbers. Val also made all the bouquets with dried billy balls bought on Etsy.

Looking back on the experience, Val knows she couldn’t have pulled it off without her photographer Robyn Vining and Janelle Meyer Brown from Evenement. “They were my go-to people. I would recommend them to anyone who needs someone to not only help when you have questions, but to support you and be a friend when you’re not sure what you want. Thanks ladies!”

Val is also super happy with her last-minute decision to have her friend Sara Liberte shoot video of the day. “Sara owns a photography company, but also makes awesome videos,” she says. “Without her video, I feel like I would have missed so much. It was so perfect to watch the video and relive the action. I remember at one point looking around and seeing everyone laughing, talking, dancing, and playing games — that’s exactly what we wanted.”

Val’s advice to future brides: “Enjoy it! Once it was over, I felt a little sad. I didn’t know what to do with myself! I had spent so much time prepping the DIY items and planning our perfect day… What do I do now? Well, it’s just as fun now — we can just relax and enjoy each other. Also, make sure the day is what you and your future spouse want. We did exactly what we wanted and I’m so happy looking back, knowing that we did it for us.”


Pre-Wedding Celebration~Bachelor Party was in Minneapolis. They went to food trucks, some micropubs, and a hockey game.`Bachelorette Party was at Splash Studio in Milwaukee to paint and then back to our house to watch movies and have snacks!
Bridal Registry~MoMA Store,, Bed Bath &Beyond
Wedding Consultant~Janelle Meyer Brown from Evenement
Rehearsal Dinner~Rock River Pizza in Watertown
Ceremony and Reception Location~Bennett Barn, Watertown
Caterer~Simmer, Yellow Bellies, Meat on the Street`Late night snack was Milwaukee Pretzel Company
Desserts~Donuts from Grebe’s Bakery
Flowers~Dried flowers bought on etsy`Men’s boutineers purchased from a shop on etsy
Music/Entertainment~We created our own playlists
Photo Booth~Sound By Design
Ice sculpture~Hailey Erato, Art Below Zero
Transportation~School bus shuttles from hotel to barn (First Student)
Photographer~Robyn Vining
Videographer~Sara Liberte Photography
Dress Designer~Ceremony Dress from David’s Bridal`Reception Dress from ModCloth`Bridesmaids Dresses from ModCloth
Formal Wear~Shirts from Express Men`Bow Ties from Etsy Shop – Lovely Props`Pants from Banana Republic`Suspenders from Suspender Store
Rings~Bride’s Engagement Ring: Trumpet & Horn`Bride’s Wedding Ring: etsy shop Minimal VS`Groom’s Ring: Jon Barber, Jeweler, Michigan
Honeymoon~Maui! We stayed in 2 places, first at the Octagon Suite at the Aromatherapy School of Maui – Discover Aroma. It was in the middle of lavender fields, it was awesome! Second was a beach house in Paia, a little hippy town. Private beach access, it was beautiful. At the Paia Inn.