West Michigan bride of the month: The “hunt” is over, Shelby says “I do” in sweet ceremony

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich (WOTV) – “I’d choose you; in a hundred lifetimes, in a hundred worlds, in any version of reality, I’d find you and I’d choose you.” -The Chaos of Stars

A woman’s wedding day is often viewed as the biggest day of her life – a night she thinks about from when she’s just a young girl. It’s the night she marries her love, her best friend, and her forever roomie.

It’s not until you’re planning a wedding that you really realize all that goes into this magical day. Bring on the stress, the laughter, the tears, the romance, the nerves, the “bridezilla” moments, and more!

Each month we’re choosing one West Michigan bride to feature her wedding day and all the fun, crazy steps in between.Meet our bride, Shelby Bensinger of Holland. She originally had a vision of a casual barn wedding, but her big day took a turn and landed in a magical place somewhere in-between sweet and glamorous. Her personal touches like a donut bar and garden-inspired favors transported guests to the pages of her fairytale day, when she wed husband Justin. Read on to hear her charming love story from the West Michigan lakeshore…

Question 1: Tell us your engagement story…

The big day was February 20, 2016. It was one of the beautiful, nearly 70 degree days we had that winter. We went to St. Johns (MI), where his family lives to go hunting. While I don’t hunt myself (I’ll sit out there with him but would never have the heart to shoot an animal), I do love being in the woods and exploring.

It was our mission that day to take down old tree stands, put up new ones, and to find deer antler sheds.

“My mom always joked that he would propose to me in a tree stand. The hunt was finally over after 10 years of dating!”

After reaching our final destination in the woods, he asked me to climb up a tree stand to “see something he saw the last time he was in the stand.” After realizing that there wasn’t anything to actually see, he started the romantic, mushy proposal. I would share all the details, but honestly I was so in shock with what was happening that I don’t remember every word!

Sitting in the tree stand with twigs in my hair, prickers all over my clothes, and dirt under my nails, he got down on one knee and made me the happiest girl in the world. My mom always joked that he would propose to me in a tree stand. The hunt was finally over after 10 years of dating!

Question 2: What month did your wedding take place?

April 22, 2017

Question 3: What was your venue?

Our ceremony was at the Holland Area Arts Council in the art gallery. The reception was held at Baker Events Center, also in Holland.

Question 4: Band or DJ?

Moments in Time was the DJ company. Brian was our DJ for the evening and he was phenomenal.

Question 5: What was your favorite part of the planning process?

Planning all the decorations, in particular the flowers! I am a sucker for flowers, so it was very fun to make my vision come to life! I had an amazing florist; shout-out to Brenda J. Batts! She designed not only the bouquets, but also our centerpieces and all the décor and backdrop for our ceremony! I would highly suggest her to everyone! Romantic, rustic garden was the look I was going for and she nailed it!

Question 6: What is one thing you wish you would’ve done on your wedding day that you didn’t?

While it is very unrealistic, I wish I would have been able to have a conversation with every person that was at the wedding/reception. Despite dismissing people row by row at the ceremony, both my husband and I dwelled on not being able to talk with everyone at the reception. It meant the world to us to have everyone there and we both wished we could have had more time to have conversations with them!

Question 7: Did you do a first look? Why or why not?

We did a first look simply because we did not want to take pictures in between the ceremony and reception. It was just as special to us to see each other before the ceremony, and our photographer captured it perfectly!

Question 8: Worst part of the planning process for your wedding?

Making decisions. Ask anyone who knows me well and they will tell you that I am the most indecisive person they have ever met. Too many options/choices and too much time to make the decisions was definitely my problem.

Question 9: How involved was the groom in the planning process?

More involved than I would guess other grooms are. We had just over a year engagement, so there were periods of times where there was really nothing to do. He pulled the, “it’s up to you” and “you’re better at knowing what looks good,” card a couple of times, but maybe that’s because he knows I’m very particular about certain things. He really helped keep me on track towards the end of the wedding planning. He always makes lists for things to get done, so you better believe a final checklist was made the last month before the wedding!

Question 10: Was your wedding a black tie affair or casual?

More casual than black tie affair. Although the whole wedding ended up being much more formal than I had originally thought my wedding would be. Backyard BBQ/barn wedding was my original plan, but I would never change the way it turned out!

Question 11: What was your favorite moment from your wedding day?

While the reception was without-a-doubt the most fun, the whole ceremony was my favorite moment. I felt that it was very personalized, simple and sweet. We had my brother-in-law marry us, which I would never change. He has known us and has watched our relationship grow for years, and was able to really connect with us.

Some special touches we had were planting a tree for our unity ceremony and having his aunt (who is also his godmother) do the reading. We also had a pianist, Suzanne Shirey (a co-worker of my mothers) play all of our ceremony music. Hearing the music at rehearsal was actually the first thing to make me tear up because it was more beautiful than I could have imagined! All in all, it was the most loving moment in my life.

To go along with my indecisiveness, I also loved the speeches at our reception. My sister (maid of honor) and his brother (best man) gave the funniest, most sincere speeches I have heard (trying not to be biased.) My grandpa, who is my rock, also gave a blessing, turned into a story of our life, before the meal. It was very special to have one of the most influential men in my life welcome my husband into our family.

Question 12: Describe your wedding dress…

The dress itself was strapless, however I wore a separate piece under to give it a different appearance. I never have liked the way strapless dresses looked on me, mind you having an exposed chest. I fell in love with the dress itself, and wasn’t ready to say no.

The lining color was described as latte smoke, which gave it a very vintage look. The bodice was lace with light pearl and sequin beading, with the rest from waist down being tulle.

The ladies at Renee Austin Wedding in GR were amazing, and helped me find the perfect piece to add. The best I can describe the additional piece is a short backwards cardigan. It was made of tulle and had beading along the neckline and capped sleeves. It buttoned up the back and most people couldn’t tell that it was separate from the dress. I couldn’t resist adding a small beaded belt to add some sparkle.

Question 13: Did you go wedding dress shopping with an idea in mind? Did you end up liking that style?

I knew I didn’t want poof (that was also the one request from the groom), so no ball gowns were ever in the running. While I didn’t want strapless, I find it ironic that it ended up being the look I wanted. I love lace, tulle, and anything with a boho chic look to it. Before physically going to any stores, I kept getting drawn to the Watters/Wtoo collection, and actually ended up with a dress from their line.

Question 14: What’s the best piece of marriage advice you’ve received?

I would say it is not a piece of advice that we received, but rather being surrounded by so many loving relationships. We both grew up with the most amazing, supportive, and nurturing parents, grandparents, and other loved ones. We looked up to them and still do today. Also, throughout the years we dated, we watched both siblings and friends find true love and create successful marriages. To have those around us show so much support in us as individuals and as a couple has shaped our relationship into what it is today. The lifelong guidance is irreplaceable and we will be forever grateful for that.

Question 15: What’s your best advice for staying on budget?

Don’t sweat the small stuff that people usually end up throwing away, such as the save-the-dates and invites. I worked with two amazing people that not only saw my vision, but then created it within budget!

Ragsdale Design Center in Rockford designed and printed my postcard style save-the-dates. She also printed my two piece invitation set that was also hand-designed by Kendall Dice Hand Lettering & Design based out of Holland. Both were extremely professional and allowed me to play a part in the design process! The more simple the better (which plays a huge roll in keeping costs down)!

Question 16: Weirdest gift you’ve received?

It may be a weird gift to receive as a wedding gift, but my husband would probably tell you it was the best. His brother and sister-in-law gave us the Classic Edition Nintendo NES. While I’m not a fan of video games and spending time playing them, I will admit that it’s quite fun and better than receiving an X-box.

Question 17: What was on your wedding menu?


-Cherry Walnut Salad

-Butter Whipped Potatoes

-Roasted Asparagus with Shallot Butter


-Carved Dijon Pork with Apricot Mostarda and Cider Gravy on the side

-Carved Tri-Tip Sirloin with a Mushroom Demi Glaze


-Donuts from deBoer Bakkerij in Holland My favorite part of the meal. Just listen to this flavors… Chocolate Brownie Roll, Nutty Friend Cinnamon, Maple Bacon Bar, Strawberry Poppy Seed, Vanilla Birthday Cake, Blueberry Blizzard, Carrot Cake and Oreo. YUM!!

Question 18: What was your biggest ‘bridezilla’ moment?

I honestly feel that I didn’t have any bridezilla moments, and think if you would ask those closest to me during the planning that they would agree. The thing that stressed me out the most was probably the way my dress fit. I’m pretty nit-picky, but it ended up working out just fine!

Question 19: What wedding detail was worth the money? What could you have done without?

Not to sound cheesy, but everything was worth every penny and I would never get rid of anything! Hearing people say they had a fun night is priceless and makes the price tag of a wedding all worth it. Especially after waiting 11 years for it!

Question 20: Best idea that you stole?

I have Pinterest to thank for a lot of my ideas. They were the foundation of a lot of my decorations and was able to put personal touches on them! Some of my favorites include the donut table, the memorial lantern table, and our seating arrangements that also doubled as our wedding favors.

We hand filled packets with wildflower seeds, stuck them on wooden skewers and placed them in various sized terracotta pots. My now sister-in-law has the most beautiful hand writing, and she so graciously wrote on names and table numbers on the seed packets! We had a sign that said “plant yourself here & watch our love grow” hanging above the pots. So “punny” but I loved it.

Question 21: What’s your best advice for brides-to-be?

HAVE FUN! Even though you may wish you would have eloped through most the planning process, I bet you will want to plan it all over again once the day has come and gone. Remember what the day is all about, and just soak in the feeling of EXCITEMENT that you get to marry the person of your dreams.

***Do you know a fab West Michigan bride who deserves to be featured in our series?  Email us her name and contact info, and “Like” us on Facebook!

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