On Christmas Eve in 2009, Joshua Bourke first walked into Sarah Onstwedder’s aunt’s holiday party. “He’s best friends with my cousin who’d invited him along,” Sarah recalls. “We didn’t know it then, but it was the beginning of our love story."Five more holiday parties came and went, though, with the pair only exchanging small talk. "Then, at the 2015 event, Josh asked for my phone and put his number in it," Sarah recalls. "We went on our first date a week later."
Four years later, in March 2019, Josh, a former professional football player, proposed. "He did it in front of our whole family," she says. "It meant so much to me because family is where it all started!” Wasting no time, the pair decided to marry that July in a venue that's near and dear to their hearts in Detroit, Michigan. "We picked the breathtaking Detroit Institute of Arts because we have been going there since we first started dating and it’s our favorite place in Detroit," Sarah says. "We love how when you walk in, it looks like you’re in Italy. Just being surrounded by all of the art is just an incredible feeling."
Paper & Honey designed the couple’s custom letterpress stationery suite, which set the tone for the couple's 6 p.m. ceremony at the Detroit Institute of Arts. “The easiest part of planning was picking our venue,” says Sarah. “I started to envision myself walking down the aisle there and got so excited!”
Sarah got ready for the wedding with her bridesmaids, including her sister and her cousin, who had joined Sarah for wedding dress shopping. “My cousin got engaged a couple of months after me, and I told her she should try some dresses on, too,” Sarah says. “She did and both of us ended up saying ‘yes to the dress.’ It was a day full of laughter, happy tears, and joy I will always keep close to my heart.”
“I knew this dress was the one because my mom and my sister started crying when I walked out,” Sarah says of her Berta gown. She completed her look with a custom veil from Ultimate Bride, Christian Louboutin heels, and heirloom jewelry from her grandmother. “Before my grandma passed away, she gave me her earrings and wedding ring and told me it could be my ‘something borrowed’ on my wedding day," she says. "As a surprise, my sister added a blue stone to the ring and made it into my ‘something blue,’ too. The ring is so special to me and I will cherish it forever!”
The couple included special quotes in their wedding vows and throughout the wedding day. "We personalized our wedding day to reflect who we are as a couple," Sarah says. Her bouquet was wrapped in a light-peach ribbon calligraphed with the words “I will always choose you.”
I just love the look of my girls in all white. It just made everything look so elegant!
Sarah's 'maids wore floor-length white gowns with sweetheart necklines by Elle Zeitoune. "I choose these dresses because I wanted to keep our vision consistent with the chic and clean look," she says. "I just love the look of my girls in all white. It just made everything look so elegant! The mother of the bride and the mother of the groom dressed in white as well.
“Having a first look with Josh was one of the best decisions we ever made,” says Sarah. “I remember riding in the vintage car going to meet him at the marble staircase at the DIA. On the way, I read a card he’d written to me and I thought, ‘I can't wait to marry the man of my dreams’.”
The couple posed for portraits along the institute's striking Beaux-Arts facade.
Naturally, Sarah posed for more bridal portraits outside the museum. Her romantic bouquet was made up of duchess peonies, phalaenopsis orchids, Hanoi ranunculus, sweet peas, white campanula, scabiosa, blueberries, and smilax.
Josh donned a dark plum suit from Tom James of Toronto and a watch that was a gift from Sarah, made by Detroit-based company, Shinola. (The couple and many of their 189 guests also stayed at the new Shinola Hotel in Detroit.)
"We wanted our wedding to be romantic, chic, clean, crisp, elegant, and we couldn’t have picked a more perfect timeless place to have our vision come alive than the Detroit Institute of Arts," says the bride.
Floral and event designers Ines & Marie worked with White Buffalo Designage to create a floral-filled acrylic installation that welcomed guests at the ceremony entrance. Inside, the altar was set with four oversized arrangements of white duchess peonies, viburnum, Playa Blanca roses, white Majolica spray roses, tulips, and foxgloves—atop acrylic stands, naturally.
We wanted our wedding to be romantic, chic, clean, crisp, elegant, and we couldn’t have picked a more perfect timeless place to have our vision come alive than the Detroit Institute of Arts.
The ceremony was held in the DIA’s colorful Rivera Court, named for the murals by artist Diego Rivera that grace its walls. "The ceremony took place at the colorful Rivera Court, where the workers of the Detroit Industry Murals surrounded our guests," says the bride. Transparent "ghost chairs" were used so as not to detract from the art and architecture of the space.
I’ll never forget standing at the entrance, about to walk down the aisle with my dad. We both looked at each other, and he said, ‘You look beautiful. This is your moment.'
A live pianist performed Ed Sheeran’s “How Would You Feel" for Sarah's walk with her father. “I’ll never forget standing at the entrance, about to walk down the aisle with my dad,” she recalls. “We both looked at each other, and he said, ‘You look beautiful. This is your moment.'”
The bride’s nephew, who served as ring bearer, also offered a memorable quote. “Just as he was about to walk down the aisle, he turned to me and said, ‘Auntie Sarah, I just love you so much!’ It brought me to tears and I’ll remember that moment for the rest of my life.”
The couple wrote their own vows and had a family friend officiate the ceremony. Josh’s vows included a recollection of their first date two-and-a-half-years earlier, saying, "I’ve never been one to fall hard but after that night…I thought about how beautiful you looked, how witty you were. How we had such fun together. I was scared because I knew that this wasn’t any normal date, this was a date with the woman I was going to marry.” (Turns out, he was right!)
While Sarah says the whole ceremony script was special, she admits that she does have a favorite line. "My all-time favorite quote that Josh said was 'I love you more today than yesterday but not as much as tomorrow,'" she says. "He has been saying that quote since we first told me he loved me." At the end of the ceremony, she and Josh recessed down the aisle to "Better Man" by Leon Bridges.
During cocktail hour, guests were able to explore the DIA’s collection, which features more than 65,000 works of art. "Josh and I wanted our guests to have the whole experience at the DIA so we paid to have the gold doors open so our guests could enjoy the art and walk around," Sarah says.
Guests’ names and table numbers were etched into acrylic box frames, which were filled with more lush white-and-green arrangements.
The reception was held in the DIA’s stately Great Hall. "The head table was in the middle of the room and made everyone's jaw drop," admits the bride. The focal point? Four arches of greenery that made up, what Sarah calls, "a huge statement piece."
Show-stopping floral arches were made with smilax, mock orange, green maple, pittosporum, autumn olive, and camellia. They were "planted" in pots that made them appear as if they were naturally growing inside the dramatic space.
Below the arches, the head table was covered with ivory linens and topped with a printed overlap and sheer runners. It was decorated with an assortment of candles—LED pillar candles, taper candles on brass candlesticks, and votives in crystal-cut holders—and accented with clear chargers and more crystal-cut glassware. Upholstered chairs and monogrammed linen napkins completed the look.
Guest tables were topped with the same beautiful rentals yet were surrounded by clear ghost chairs for a more modern look (to match the ceremony site). "The tables made everyone feel like they were in Italy," Sarah says.
While the arch installation was undoubtedly the focal point of the reception, the couple's five-tiered wedding cake by Sweet Heather Anne was a close second. It was decorated with white and gold sugar flowers on the outside, and, inside, it was filled with chocolate salted caramel and raspberry and cream flavors.
During the reception, Sarah and Josh shared a first dance to “Incredible” by James TW, while a DJ got everyone dancing later in the evening.
Looking back on their wedding day, Sarah says the memory of being surrounded by their family and friends stands out the most. “We’re so close with our family and friends,” she says. “Bringing all our loved ones together from different parts of the world and having them all in one room was so special.”
Wedding Venue Detroit Institute of the Arts
Wedding Planner Katie Gregg Events & Co.
Floral & Event Design Ines & Marie
Wedding Dress Berta
Hair Luigi Bruni; Kevin Green
Makeup Emily Gray
Bridesmaid Dresses Elle Zeitoune
Groom, Groomsmen & Ring Bearer’s Attire Tom James of Toronto
Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands Joseph-Anthony
Invitations Paper & Honey
Calligraphy M.B. Calligraphy
Seating Chart & Welcome Sign White Buffalo Designage
Guest Book Indigo
Entertainment White Pines Entertainment
Cake Sweet Heather Anne
Accommodations Shinola Hotel
Photography K.R. Moreno