Annie Wallace and Spencer Tinsman both attended Iowa State University, but they had to travel halfway across the world before they would cross paths. “We met while studying abroad in Swansea, Wales, in 2015,” Annie remembers. “We were assigned to the same house in the student village on campus, connected immediately, and began officially dating once we returned home to the US.”
The proposal was casual—Spencer asked Annie to marry him while they were watching Harry Potter on a Wednesday night—but the ring was anything but. “Spencer proposed with an antique sapphire ring we found while on a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, a few months prior,” Annie shares. “The ring was made sometime in the late 1800s in England; it seemed like the perfect fit given my obsession with one-of-a-kind antiques, and it was a nod to the UK, where we met.”
They chose Annie’s parents’ Lake Geneva home as the wedding location, and built a tented venue from the ground up, personalizing every detail along the way. Annie has a stellar eye for design—she owns an interior decor shop—so she had specific ideas when it came to florals, color palette, and overall aesthetic for the wedding day. Her biggest inspiration? Vincent van Gogh. “I wanted to bring inspiration into the venue by pulling from the colors and textures of van Gogh paintings, which we successfully captured in the color scheme, floral displays, bar decor, and a ‘Starry Night’ floral wall. Our menus pulled in the colors with a brush stroke quality, and our invites were lined with a van Gogh landscape.”
But, even more important than aesthetic was ambience. “We wanted the ambience of the day to be captured by the taste of the food, the warmth of the drinks, the energy of the bands, and the detail of the decor,” the couple shares. “It was all complemented by the fact that our wedding was held at Annie’s family home. We achieved this radiating warmth and energy felt by us and by our guests that day. Like coming home to family or visiting a lifelong friend you haven't seen in years, we wanted that similar sense of comfort and happiness and love.” They continue: “We wanted to be fully present with one another, to be so grounded in the ambience of the moment that we forget about our phones, get out of our heads, and connect with everything around us.”
Annie and Spencer’s 220 guests got a hint at what might inform the decor from the very start, when they sliced open midnight blue envelopes lined with a van Gogh landscape, and pulled out an invitation wrapped in star-dotted vellum. Em Paper Co. helped set the color palette with the stellar suite, incorporating emerald, blue, and other cool moody tones.
The bride was initially drawn to the texture and lightness of Alexandra Grecco's Azalea gown—and upon slipping into it fell even more in love. “When I put it on I could not stop smiling, I felt like a fool,” she remembers. “My cheeks hurt I was smiling so much.”
Her accessories checked the boxes for something old and new. “I wore an antique emerald ring from an ancestor in Ireland, and a necklace Spencer gave to me that morning. My earrings were a fun complement to the floral design on my dress; I found them at Anthropologie a few weeks before the wedding.”
“I knew I wanted my hair pulled back, so I grew it out for the wedding to allow for more style options on the big day,” Annie shares of her wedding day beauty. “I decided to go for a 1960s-inspired low updo—a little bit of volume, but still a simple and timeless look with a natural part.”
Floral designer Derrick Taylor plucked dahlias from his personal garden to incorporate into Annie’s bouquet—a cluster of white florals that also included roses, calla lilies, and jasmine and was accented with ferns and other greenery.
Bridesmaids were given carte blanche when it came to picking their dresses, with just one stipulation: the gowns needed to be either midnight blue or emerald. “These were meant to reflect the colors of the day and the time of year,” Annie says. They selected styles for BHLDN, Jenny Yoo, Morning Lavender, and Reformation.
Spencer looked oh-so-classic in a black tuxedo and white bow tie. “He also wore a set of van Gogh cufflinks and socks, and a Shinola watch,” Annie says. “It is a watchmaker based in Detroit, where we lived and grew closer together for almost three years.”
It was easily the most emotional part of the day for me. I’ll never forget how I felt.
“We always pictured a traditional ceremony, and opted to have a full Catholic mass” Annie says. “We decided not to do a first look, for a more traditional approach of seeing one another for the first time at the end of the aisle.” But for all her keeping with tradition, Annie had a surprise up her sleeve.
Live musicians played the classic Canon in D during the processional, but as Annie entered, the song changed to an instrumental version of “Love of My Life” by Queen. “It’s a song and band that brought us together in the beginning of our relationship,” she says. “The string group we hired learned it just a few days before the ceremony and we were able to keep it a secret.” Recalls Spencer: “I had no idea Annie was going to walk down the aisle to ‘Love of My Life.’ I was caught totally off guard, and that—coupled with seeing her for the first time in her wedding dress—was easily the most emotional part of the day for me. I’ll never forget how I felt.”
They exchanged traditional vows and sealed it with a kiss. “We made the ribbon wands for guests to wave as we left the church,” Annie adds.
Many couples incorporate their dogs into the big day—but Annie and Spencer brought along their bunny, Aristotle, whom Annie has had since she was 18. The beloved pet wore a ribbon in midnight blue, of course, and had his very own signature cocktail named for him.
Cocktail hour took place around the pool, where unique floral installations floated in the blue water. “The beer menu had at least one craft beer from every state we have lived in, and the cocktail napkins had a variety of ice-breaker questions for guests to use when meeting someone new, something we love to do on road trips,” the couple shares.
“A jazz band, The Aston Neighborhood Pleasure Club, played at cocktail hour,” Annie says. “Spencer and I would watch them play at a New Orleans bar we used to go to in Detroit, and we knew we needed them at our wedding. They even led us and all the wedding guests in a second line from cocktail hour to the reception.”
“Our ‘Starry Night’ floral wall stole the show,” Annie says. Created using more than 4,500 florals to bring the famous painting to life, the wall was affixed with escort cards at the entrance to the tented reception, and then spun around to serve a backdrop for the head table.
“We wanted the tent to feel organic, capturing the beauty of the autumn season by pulling in the natural colors found around us in Wisconsin,” Annie says. “We wanted candles everywhere, to bring warmth and coziness into the autumn evening.” She continues: “Linens were midnight blue velvet and emerald velvet, and place settings included beautiful glass chargers resembling van Gogh’s sunflower painting. Half the tables featured a tall tree dripping in tea light candles and Spanish moss, and the others had candles in brown and orange holders, ferns, white florals, and dried grape wood vines.”
The newlyweds made their grand entrance and launched into the first dance, to “If Not for You” by George Harrison.
The newlyweds cut into a red velvet cake with boysenberry filling—alternate tiers had almond cake with espresso filling—and shared another romantic kiss. “The white iced cake was meant to mimic the design of my dress,” Annie shares. “Purple flowers, both real and piped, were added in a spiral fashion up the cake as a nod to the venue design.”
“We had an old horse stable on the property converted into a whiskey and cigar bar for the evening, which captured Spencer’s love of whiskey,” Annie shares.
Annie danced with her father to John Denver’s “Annie’s Song,” a fitting choice considering she’d been named after the song. Next, Spencer and his mom swung to “Drift Away” by Dobie Gray.
Annie disappeared and returned in a party-ready white ASOS dress to kick off the all-night dance party. “Our reception band, Rod Tuffcurls and the Bench Press, is a cover band from Chicago that we have been seeing live in concerts since 2015,” Annie says. “We actually picked our wedding date because of their availability—it was the one detail I would not budge on.” She continues: “We were called onstage by the band and ended up singing ‘Mamma Mia’ to our entire wedding. This was unplanned, and the fact that ‘Mamma Mia’ was on queue was just a sign it was meant to be. We know every single word.” It was her favorite moment of the day. “I felt totally on top of the world.”
Venues Ceremony: St. Francis de Sales Church; Reception: Private Home
Wedding Planner Michigan Avenue Events
Bridal Salon Alice in Ivory
Bride’s Jewelry Anthropologie
Bride’s Hair & Makeup Three One Two Bridal
Bride’s Rehearsal Dinner Dress Shona Joy
Groom’s Attire Daniel George
Groomsmen’s Attire Menguin
Engagement Ring Croghan’s Jewel Box
Wedding Bands Tapper’s
Floral Designer Taylor and Co. Event Design
Invitations Em Paper Co.
Escort Cards Eight21 Studios
Guest Book Luna Paper Co.
Catering Catered by Design
Cake Julie Michelle Cakes
Tent Blue Peak
Transportation Jones Travel
Accommodations The Abbey Resort
Videographer LEAP Weddings
Photographer Olivia Leigh Photographie