I know I usually start blogs with more photos, but this one definitely needs a backstory first. Don’t worry, plenty of photos to come below!
In August 2018, I met with Mandy and Kirk, where they told me all about the plans they had for their wedding at Red Barn Farm in Northfield. They loved it there and wanted something more casual, with no dance and lots of family time. I was excited to work with them and do a wedding at Red Barn, as we hadn’t worked there yet. However, Mother Nature had other ideas…
Exactly one year and one day out from their wedding, a tornado ripped through the Northfield area and leveled Red Barn Farm. Being in the event industry and knowing this happened to them on a Thursday, right before a busy weekend of weddings, our hearts went out to them. We were thankful that so many other vendors and venues jumped in to help couples out for the rest of their 2018 weddings. But what about next year? I emailed Mandy and Kirk right away to make sure they knew, which they did. They were pretty calm since their wedding was a year away, but still sad for the owners and wondering what the plans were. Thankfully, they had plans to rebuild as soon as possible and be up and running for the next season.
Mandy and Kirk were glad that Red Barn would be rebuilt, but the new design wasn’t exactly what they had in mind, so after much thought and cooperation from the owners of Red Barn, they decided to do something else for their wedding. But what? They knew they wanted something non-traditional and reflective of themselves. All sorts of ideas were tossed out there, everything from eloping out of the country to an amusement park to the Wabasha Street Caves, but nothing seemed right. On November 1st I got an email from Mandy and Kirk with their “latest and greatest idea”…chartering a train!
Enter the Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway! This historic train features several types of cars and makes runs during the summer and fall. You can charter one of the runs for a private event, so Mandy and Kirk decided to charter the 4:00pm dinner train for their wedding on the same date as their original one at Red Barn. This would be a first for us but we were excited to go on this journey with them! (Pun totally intended 🙂 )
I won’t go into super long detail about the planning of this wedding, but let’s say we encountered one road block after the other, the largest of which was the fact that the land where the train depot was, plus the tracks, plus the area surrounding it, were owned or ran by no fewer than three different entities, with us only being able to talk to one of them (the train) personally. We had to throw out several ideas and finally landed on that we could have one small tent set up the day before that the food would be served under and where things would be stored until we could set up the depot after the last public train left on the day of the wedding, and then dinner would actually be outside on the platform along the tracks, with the backup rain plan being eating on the train.
Lots of planning and meetings and phone calls and emails happened over the next several months. The day of the wedding required plans for everything, backup plans for everything, and some very precise timing. Thank goodness we use Timeline Genius for mapping out the day and keeping all the details straight! After sending out the timeline and confirming (and reconfirming) everything with Mandy and Kirk and all the vendors, we were ready to go!
The morning of the wedding came. Because there were so many details involved in the wedding, including outfit changes for Mandy and Kirk and lots of set up to do, Laura from Life and Art Photography came out early in the day to help capture it all. Kirk had a traditional Norwegian Bunad suit made for him in Norway, and Mandy had a casual dress for pre-ceremony, but then a fancier one from The Wedding Shoppe she would change into on the train. They didn’t want guests to see those outfits yet, so they actually did all the first look photos in the morning before things were set up and anyone arrived around the depot.
Next they changed into their more casual clothes that they would be wearing when guests arrived at the depot. They wanted something with a bit of an old-timey feel, but still fun and casual.
When the morning round of photos were complete, Mandy and Kirk changed back into their work clothes and started doing set up. We came in at this point in the day as well, as did their great rental company, Ty’s Wedding Rental. They were a big help in providing a lot of what we needed for the day, as well as being onsite to help run sound equipment and flipping the space. While we couldn’t set up too much around the depot yet since public trains were still running, we worked under the tent to get other things prepped because, of course, it had been raining on and off all morning. There was some covering with the tent and under the depot if needed, but it was going to make for a much better day if it stopped!
While we got things ready for set up, Laura and her assistant were working hard on getting lots of fun detail shots. There were many little touches to this day, but I think we were all most excited about getting pictures of the amazing items that Brandi from Hunt Wright Design Co. put together for them. Not only was it the invitation suite, but she also made little train tickets for everyone and designed their logo that they had made into a stamp and used on their envelopes and snack bags.
Finally the rain stopped about an hour before guests were set to arrive! We got the depot set up, shooed Mandy and Kirk off to put their casual clothes back on, and were all set when people started to arrive. All the guests had been told was that they would be going on a train ride and that Mandy and Kirk would be getting married. So when they arrived to the depot, they were welcomed by Mandy and Kirk in their casual clothes and handed train tickets. Around the depot they found a little band playing music, drank Whistler Classic Sodas, and snacked on popcorn and personalized M&Ms.
Also around the depot, guests could drop their cards into one of the vintage suitcases around, check out photos from Mandy and Kirk, and leave them well wishes by signing a vintage postcard. All of these areas were made better by rental items from Rustic Elegance, which has a great inventory to choose from.
Finally it was time to board the train. While guests were arriving, the wonderful bartenders from Give Us A Shot and the amazing catering team from Pickles Cafe and Catering had been busy getting the alcohol and appetizers set up on the train, which was not an easy feat! We got everyone loaded on, band and all, and took off for the 45 minute train ride to the ceremony site. There were a few cars for guests to choose from where they could sit with their families and relax. Conductors for the train were happy to talk with guests about the history of the train and they were free to walk around and explore the whole train during the trip.
As the train slowed down to get to the spot where it the engine would uncouple and head to the back for the return trip to the depot, guests were able to get their first look at the ceremony site. Imagine their surprise when out in the open field were pews, a platform, and even an old frame from a church window! The team from Old Things, New Designs got out the site early to set up so Laura could take pictures that morning, including some aerial shots with her drone.
This was also the first opportunity guests got to see Mandy and Kirk in their formalwear. Kirk disembarked from the train first and made his way to the ceremony site. Mandy came next, escorted by a dear friend of hers who helped her navigate the old train tracks and long grass. Cousin Gina performed the ceremony that was definitely filled with laughter and tears, and of course the big kiss at the end, all with the backdrop of the train behind them.
Following the ceremony, some family photos needed to be taken at the site, so guests were ushered back onto the train. As they boarded, everyone was handed a newspaper heralding the wedding and telling guests all about the story of how they got there and everyone that was involved in the day. They even made sure to give a special shout out to all the vendors!
While I was gone with the train, things were busy back at the depot. Catering was getting their pizza oven and buffet set up, and the platform was being transformed to the reception. When guests left, none of these were set up, so when they arrived a whole new space awaited them! Ty’s team, along with AJ from Keyed Up Events and Brandi from Hunt Wright (who graciously agreed to be an extra set of hands for the day, and got to see the vision come to life) got all the guest tables and sweetheart table set up and decorated, as well as the beautiful dessert display from Nothing Bundt Cakes and items from Rustic Elegance.
Once we got guests settled into their seats, Mandy and Kirk came down from the train and were announced in to the area, where they proceeded to do the first and only dance of the night. From there, guests enjoyed the wood-fired pizza and pasta buffet, spent time chatting and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere. Mandy and Kirk cut their cake, guests enjoyed dessert, and the evening finished out with a round of toasts and a heartfelt thank you from the couple.
The whole evening was completed by 9:00, so guests said their goodbyes and departed knowing they had a full day of good food, free alcohol and an amazing experience no one would ever forget! It was one for the books for us to, and we are so grateful to Mandy and Kirk for letting us come on this journey with them, and to help them make their wedding even better than the one they had originally planned.
Once again, the amazing group of vendors that worked so hard to pull this wedding off!
Venue: Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway
Photography: Life and Art Photography
Rentals: Ty’s Wedding Rental & Event Services
Vintage decor: Rustic Elegance Ceremony
Pews: Old Things, New Designs
Catering: Pickles Cafe
Bartending: Give Us A Shot
Band: Joy’s Band
Stationary: Hunt Wright Design
Ceremony dress: The Wedding Shoppe
Custom Norwegian Bunad made in Norway
Desserts: Nothing Bundt Cakes
Classic Sodas: Whistler’s Classic Sodas
Planning and Coordination: Keyed Up Events
Lots of DIY items by the Bride!
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Content from Keyed Up Events, a Minneapolis Wedding Planner