Sara and Nick's Traditional-Meets-Rustic Wisconsin Wedding

The Couple

Emily Steffen

Typically work and play don't mix, but for high school sweethearts Sara Jacobs and Nick Africano, a mutual part-time gig is precisely what sparked their romance. The two were sales associates at Bergner's department store in Peoria, Illinois. After a few weeks in the men's suits and juniors' sections, Nick asked Sara if she'd join him on his lunch break. Sensing they were a natural fit, he then treated her to a date outside the office. One senior prom and several outings later, they were inseparable. Remaining together for college proved tough, however, so they agreed to go their separate ways.

Years later, Nick reached out to Sara while visiting New York City. They planned to catch up over drinks. That plan collapsed, but not without a silver lining; they began talking regularly. Sara eventually moved back to Illinois for law school, and even her busy study schedule didn't get in her way. She and Nick met for a highly anticipated second "first date" in Chicago. Sparks flew—again—and they went on to date for three years.

Nick proposed on December 7, 2012, in Lincoln Park after a daylong scavenger hunt around the city, which began as a birthday celebration for Sara. Nick's last clue read, "What if today had nothing to do with your birthday?"

Sara and Nick tied the knot on July 26, 2014, with a traditional Catholic ceremony and tented forest reception in the Northwoods, near the groom's family lake house.

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The Invitations

Emily Steffen

Chicago-based stationer Sarah Drake of Sarah Drake Design created a custom compass stamp to bundle the stationery suite. The wedding date surrounded the compass rose, while a center monogram further personalized the design.

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The Fashions

Emily Steffen

Sara wore an ivory silk Marchesa gown purchased at Ultimate Bride in Chicago and accessorized with a David's Bridal veil and vintage jewelry. Nick sported a Hugo Boss tuxedo and shirt.

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Looking Sharp

Emily Steffen

Nick accessorized with a classic black bow tie from The Tie Bar, patent leather shoes from Calibrate, and studs and cuff links from David Donahue.

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The Bridesmaids

Emily Steffen

Sara's 'maids were outfitted in identical navy Dessy dresses purchased from Bella Bridesmaids in Chicago. They grasped smaller versions of the bride's colorful bouquet of 'Juliet' garden roses, lisianthus, white hydrangeas, ranunculus, white freesia, and soft greenery designed by Evolutions in Design.

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The Groomsmen

Emily Steffen

Nick's groomsmen donned Joseph Abboud for Men's Wearhouse suits, paired with classic black bow ties.

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The Ring Bearer

Emily Steffen

Sara and Nick entrusted the rings with a friend's son, Cayden, who wore a miniature version of the groomsmen's classic tuxedos.

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The Flower Girl

Emily Steffen

The bride's niece, Catelyn, wore a tulle Swiss dot David's Bridal dress, and her curly locks were topped with a floral crown.

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Ceremony Décor

Emily Steffen

Candle lanterns adorned with flowers and ferns lined the aisle of Holy Family Catholic Church, where the couple's traditional mass took place among 160 of their friends and family members. Sara's mom and sister repurposed lanterns with gold paint, while designers at Evolutions in Design created the floral embellishment.

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The Recessional

Emily Steffen

Following the afternoon "I do's," the smiling newlyweds walked hand-in-hand back down the aisle.

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A Casual Cocktail Hour

Emily Steffen

At five o'clock, guests boarded school buses—a nod to the couple's high school romance—to ride to North Lakeland Discovery Center for cocktail hour. Partygoers sipped brandy old-fashioneds and sat at picnic tables that were topped with large white floral centerpieces created by the bride's stepfather.

Appetizers included prosciutto, lettuce, and tomato bites (dubbed PLTs), and watermelon with goat cheese and balsamic bites.

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A Good Direction

Emily Steffen

For Your Party cocktail napkins printed with the couple's custom compass motif were on hand at the bar.

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The Escort Cards

Emily Steffen

Guests found their seat thanks to the special Shelterwood Edition memo books from Field Notes. The bride and groom wrapped the wood grain–covered books with bands calligraphed with each guest's name and then wrote the table assignment on the first page.

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Among the Trees

Emily Steffen

To avoid competing with the surrounding scenery, Sara and Nick chose a clear tent to cover their reception space. After sunset, the cover reflected the candlelight and bistro lighting, giving the space a warm glow.

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The Tables

Emily Steffen

Ivory linens draped the round tables, while wine bottles bearing table numbers informed guests and served as the first round. Centerpieces of greenery and white buds popped with rich red and pink blooms.

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A Place for Us

Emily Steffen

An ivory napkin hung at each seat beneath a clean white place setting, menu, and rosemary sprig. Chef Dawn Psenicka crafted a menu that highlighted the Northwoods' local produce.

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The Guest Book

Emily Steffen

Sara and Nick found a pair of vintage water skis while antiquing in town. The twosome, known for their love of the outdoor sport, designated one ski as the guest book and dubbed its match a "shot ski," saving it for a late-night appearance.

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Words of Wisdom

Emily Steffen

Nick's grandparents celebrated their own wedding anniversary one month before the couple's big day. His grandmother, affectionately referred to as Mimi, told the couple the story of why 60 years ago she knew she wanted to marry. Mimi said, "'Because I know he'll get me to heaven,'" says Sara.

On their wedding day, Sara gave Nick a Bible, with the inscription "Because I know you'll get me to heaven." Nick gifted Sara with a collection of love stories titled All There Is and a Kate Spade dress for their European honeymoon.

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The Wedding Feast

Emily Steffen

An antipasti starter accompanied by an array of fresh focaccia nodded to Nick's Italian heritage. Green summer salads were topped with shaved fennel and grapefruit and tossed in citrus Champagne vinaigrette. Guests selected their entrées, which included pork tenderloin with an orange-bourbon glaze, mushroom ravioli in sage butter, and meatballs over pasta marinara.

Opera tortes, lemon tarts with fresh berries, vanilla bean cheesecake brownie bites, and mini pecan pies satisfied every sweet tooth. Locally made beer brats from the Lake Tomahawk Meat Market and kettle chips provided a tasty late-night bite.

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The Cake

Emily Steffen

Barbara Dellich of Bee Delish Custom Cakes designed the three-tier confection. Mixed flowers—including the bride's favorite, 'Juliet' garden roses—cascaded down the dual-flavor (lemon with a berry compote and vanilla with lemon cream) cake.

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The First Dance

Emily Steffen

Sara and Nick celebrated their first dance as husband and wife to the tune of Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are" performed by the Blue Water Kings Band.

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A Gentleman's Bar

Emily Steffen

Nick and his guys often end hangouts with cigars and whiskey. In keeping with the informal—but tasteful—tradition, the couple (headed by an eager Nick) devoted one bar to choice cigars and top-shelf bourbons.

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Emily Steffen

Locations: Holy Family Catholic Church; North Lakeland Discovery Center

Event Planning: Bride and D'Arcy Theiler

Catering: Dawn Psenicka

Flowers: Evolutions in Design

Photographer: Emily Steffen Photography

Officiant: Father Aaron Devett

Stationery: Sarah Drake Design

Cake: Bee Delish Custom Cakes

Music: Blue Water Kings Band

Rentals: Briggs Tent & Party Rental; Nimble Well

Lighting: Briggs Tent & Party Rental

Hair: Samantha Pluister of Shear Beauty

Makeup: Kristin Andersson

Transportation: Stargazer Limo; Lakeland Bus (715-356-5984)

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