Featured: A Bayfield Wedding with a French Twist

What happens when a woman from northern Wisconsin meets a man from France?

They get married on Lake Superior in such a dreamy way! Janelle and Guillaume married next to Lake Superior and celebrated in Bayfield together with friends and family, many being from France! Read all about their journey to find each other, their wedding festivities and more!

Photographer: Bottle Rocket Photography

Tell us a little bit about yourselves and how you met.
I’m Janelle and I’m from Ashland, I’m a mathematician working in research and teaching. My husband is Guillaume from Nancy, France, he’s a family practice physician. We live in a suburb of Paris now, but wanted to get married in my home area. We met 8 years ago when we were students.

I always wanted to study abroad in France. My college, UW-La Crosse, had a direct exchange program with Nancy, France, which was much more affordable than most programs, so that’s where I landed in spring 2010. My one absolute-must while there was to go skiing in the Alps, so I signed up for a University-led trip to Chamonix. Meanwhile, Guillaume was in his second year of medical school in Nancy (his hometown). After the grueling first year (they don’t actually get accepted in France until after the first year, which is right after high school and like a super intensive premed year, so they work day and night all year to get the best scores on the entrance exams to get in) he decided he could use his winter vacation that year to ski, and signed up for the same trip. So we met skiing amazing powder in Chamonix!

I fell in love with France and with Guillaume (yes, in that order!) before returning home from my semester abroad, and was devastated to be leaving. We kept in touch, and traded off visiting each other during winter and summer breaks, and I eventually decided to take a leap and move to France for graduate school in math after graduating from La Crosse. Given my contacts in Nancy (Guillaume but also friends and university faculty) and the affordability of the city, it was the logical choice of universities. We ended up getting an apartment together, I got a job teaching English on evenings and weekends, and I brought my cat Bitty from the US to join us (Guillaume’s first pet! He’s grown very attached). But then I had the chance to go to University Pierre and Marie Curie in Paris for the second year of my masters, and stayed with a lovely family there during the weeks. We celebrated the end of my masters and his medical school in 2014 with a month-long trip to Argentina, then when I accepted a PhD grant in Paris he decided to sign on for his residency in Paris too.

We officially moved to the Parisian region, and a few months later (5 years after we met in Chamonix) we went skiing in Chamonix where he proposed! (He hired a mountain guide we’d skied with before to take us ski touring, and he carried a bottle of champagne up 2 summits in his backpack to pull out when I said yes!) We waited until after we both finished our degrees to get married, so it ended up being a looooooong engagement.

Photographer: Bottle Rocket Photography

What made you choose Bayfield for your wedding?
We chose a Wisconsin wedding because (a) We love Wisconsin and Lake Superior, and (b) many of my friends and family had already visited me in Paris or Nancy (almost 7 years in France now!), whereas most of our French friends and family hadn’t been to the Great Lakes. We choose Bayfield because Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands are my happy place, Bayfield is way cuter than Ashland for our out-of-town guests (almost everyone!), there’s no lake-side reception hall in Ashland quite comparable to the Pavilion, and we wanted to do an island cruise during the reception. (It got cancelled due to weather unfortunately.) But mostly because I LOVE lake Superior. 🙂

Photographer: Bottle Rocket Photography

Tell us about your trip and your wedding!
Guillaume had his bachelor party sailing the islands a few days before the wedding (yes I was jealous). He and my brother chartered a boat and all his friends who could make it ahead of time joined them.  I was so happy to share my home town and area with all our guests. We had a welcome cookout at my parents’ home in Ashland the night before the wedding, and had the ceremony on the Ashland oredock. We decided to do a ‘first look’ and then wedding party photos before the ceremony, as I wanted a more intimate setting for our first encounter on our wedding day. The morning of I was all nerves, worrying about everything going well and our guests all having a good time, but it was when we saw each other before the ceremony that I realized the details didn’t matter, I was (finally!) marrying my best friend and sharing the day with people we love.

I was never the one who planned out my wedding while growing up, except one detail: I would arrive on my horse. When I told Guillaume, he said that was fine as long as he could arrive by boat. In retrospect he was probably joking, but we decided to be a bit theatrical and just go with it. We had ceremony music performed by my aunt on her bassoon, and my college roommate on her marimba. Guillaume’s little sister translated the important bits into French, and my friend Facetimed with Guillaume’s grandparents in Nancy who weren’t up for making the trip. Since we had this all planned out, and I desperately wanted to say “I do” on my favorite lake, we gambled against rain when the forecast announced a 30% chance, and we lost that bet. It started sprinkling just before the ceremony, and by the end it was raining pretty hard and our wedding party was soaked. It was pretty chaotic, which makes the photos a bit less picturesque, but definitely made it memorable!

Everyone ran off to Bayfield for the reception afterwards, and since our cruise was cancelled we had a big gap between the ceremony (which we had moved earlier to make sure no one would miss the cocktail hour cruise) and the dinner, which was a little awkward, we should have made a better backup plan I think, but during the rain the lights and woodwork of the pavilion gave everything a warm glow, which was really nice.

Since Guillaume is French, we organized the reception with a “French touch”: champagne toast for the cocktail hour, dinner served at 7:30pm (which is a actually early for French weddings, it was a compromise between cultures!) with multiple courses of local products (e.g. cranberries, sweet potato wild rice pilaf, local beef or lake superior whitefish) and good wine, a cheese course (half WI cheeses, half French cheeses), then dessert with more champagne! We brought all the champagne from France in our suitcases (yes it’s legal, you just have to declare it at customs if you have more than 1 liter per person and tell them the value so they can decide if they want to tax it) with the help of some French guests. The dinner was a total splurge, but it was very important to Guillaume to have a nice meal for his wedding, as is customary in France.

We had a jazz combo play for a couple hours after dinner (I come from a family of amateur musicians, so live music was very important to me), and my dear friend from high school Philip Brede sang Sinatra’s “Come Fly With Me” with them for our first dance (very fitting for the adventure addicts we are!). I’ve always loved swing dancing, and Guillaume grew to love jazz too over the past few years, so we decided to take weekly swing classes for the year before the wedding to learn properly. (And we’ve decided to continue with the lessons this year too!) Later in the evening we had a sparkler tunnel near the marina (but safe distance from any boats or wood docks!!!), and when the band finished we switched to using a DJ app for some after party dancing. One of our French guests sneaked off to a nearby hotel to borrow a sharp kitchen knife to ensure that Guillaume wouldn’t miss out on another French tradition: opening a champagne bottle with a sword! (Well, filet knife in his case!). I can only imagine the look on the receptionist’s face when he asked for a sword 🙂
After the night wound down, the close friends still with us helped with some preliminary cleanup, then we locked up and ran to the beach for a midnight (3am more so…) dip! The water was numbingly crisp, and it was fantastic!
The next morning we had an informal brunch with make-your-own pancakes and leftovers from the welcome cookout. Afterwards the guests who were still around all pitched in to clean up and put away all the tables and chairs!
It was a very international affair, with 6 nationalities represented, and a third of our guests coming from overseas. The cross-cultural aspect made planning difficult, but it made such a special crazy chaotic weekend!
Extra bonus: the Glenn Miller Orchestra was at the Big Top the night after our wedding, and we went with a whole bunch of family and friends who had attended the wedding! My uncle requested they play “Come Fly With Me”, and they obliged and asked us to dance to it again, which was really fun.

Are there any recommendations you have for someone looking to get married in the Bayfield area?
Bayfield was a great place for our reception, and I recommend all the vendors we worked with. Just make sure you have a rain or chilly weather plan, even in the summer. And if you have international guests you may need to book hotel rooms for them. Also avoid event weekends; I didn’t realize how big the La Pointe swim had gotten in recent years and planned our wedding that day… hotels were full up months before the wedding, we ended up sending our invites 7 months before the date to try to get people to reserve their rooms early enough (most of them didn’t).

What was 1-2 of your favorite moments of your wedding day?
For me it was the first dance (Guillaume seconds this), and when we went to take photos on the marina breakwater walls, coming back to see the Pavilion glowing and full of our closest friends and family having a great time even though they got rained on and missed out on the cruise and had to wait extra long for dinner. I was so worried about making the wedding a great time for everyone, and it made me so happy to see people enjoying themselves. Also seeing my American friends/family chatting and dancing with French friends/family; I tried to plan seating charts to create mixing despite the language barrier, but our guests proved to be even more outgoing that I’d expected.

Photographer: Bottle Rocket Photography

Photographer: Bottle Rocket Photography
Catering: Good Thyme Catering
Ceremony Location: Ashland Oredock
Reception/Brunch Venue: Bayfield Lakeside Pavilion
Flowers: Wild Hollow Farm
Desserts: Ashland Baking Company
Beauty: Mollie Kae Hair & Makeup
Beer: South Shore Brewery
Cruise: Apostle Island Cruises
Accommodations: Winfield Inn