Our Wedding


On this last day of 2013, I want to share the most meaningful and beautiful day of my year life.

These thoughts, memories, photographs and videos are etched in my mind and on my heart. Give me amnesia, and I will still have vivid recall of this day.  Words fail me where emotion is so strong. Here goes…

Photos by: Matt Lien Photography, my friends & family, and myself

Video by: Sky Focus Films

*words below written the week following our wedding*


On August 24, 2013, I married my best friend, my soul mate, my other half: Matthew.


The amount of love, sheer joy, and laughter from this past weekend was absolutely surreal.


While our wedding day was beautiful, I know our marriage will be even more incredible.  (spoiler alert–I was right. Marriage is the best.)


So often I was told, “soak it all in, it goes so fast”, “enjoy each other”, “spend some time alone together”–and I have to say– our wedding day was the longest day of my life, in the best possible way. It did not go quickly in any sense. We had hours of alone time together. And maybe that’s the luxury of planning a small, 20 guest wedding where we were together for the entire weekend in one huge barn on Lake Superior.


Some thoughts I need to write down so I don’t forget them:

Somehow I survived and thrived on 4-5 hours of sleep during the week leading up to the wedding. I didn’t have projects to do. Just the anxious anticipation of what was coming.

Spending an entire day with my lifelong best friend, playing tourist around our hometown, swimming at the island like we did as kids, watching osprey dive into the lake after fish.


Welcoming everyone to the barn. Getting excited for every “hello?” I heard coming from downstairs.


Watching my vision of the wedding weekend come to life. Having so many willing hands to help decorate and set up.


Having a moment on the lawn Friday night with Jessie and my mom where I broke down crying out of sheer happiness and gratitude.

Waking up the morning of our wedding to see the sun rise.

The downpour the morning of our wedding. I ran through the rain in giddiness. “This means good luck!”


Making my bridal bouquet, corsages and boutonnieres with the help of Rachael. All from flowers grown by myself, my mom or Aunt Jen. Using peonies that were saved from Claudia’s yard, as well. (You can read more about how I saved peonies from May to August and made them bloom here.)


Gena’s waffles of insane greatness. Having breakfast delivered to me as I worked.

The “shower scene”


How Nike, Jordan and Maggie were such a great part of the day. They were so well behaved and stuck around the yard.



Getting ready in my room with Jessie and having the girls pop in throughout the day.


{Simultaneously trying to smile and hold back the tears.  Laugh every time I see this photo.}2013-12-31_00062013-12-31_0007

Deciding that the ceremony wouldn’t have a set start time–just whenever we were ready.


Walking towards my dad in the yard and hugging.


Finding the same toad Friday night and then on my walk down to the lake. I gave him one last kiss and told him I didn’t need any more toad princes. 🙂


Beginning the ceremony by paddling on Lake Superior with my dad in the Annika Marie canoe he made for me in 2002. Using paddles he had made, one for me, one for Matthew.  Him reminding me of how he baptized me in Lake Superior when I was 2 weeks old.


My dad deciding Lake Superior was calm enough to make the paddle in.

Watching the videographer and photographers climb up the hill/cliff to capture the best angle of us on the lake.

Kneeling on the bottom of the canoe as we paddled in–didn’t want to tip!

Seeing all of our guests meet me on the beach, and Matthew up above on the cliff. Waving to Dan, our officiant.

2013-12-31_0015One of my favorite family moments of the entire day: Having my sisters and parents help me walk up the hill to the ceremony. They were staggered along the hill and read note cards I had written to them. Erica cried before she even read hers, and then she cried even harder. Karissa saying “you’re gorgeous” through her tears. Tears and hugs from my mom. And a “you’re doing this right” through the hugs and tears with my dad.  My dad then handing off the paddle to Matthew, telling him how it will help steer us through life.2013-12-31_00162013-12-31_00172013-12-31_00182013-12-31_0019


Hearing Canon in D as I walked up the hill.

During the ceremony, looking out at our small group of guests and seeing every smile of our closest loved ones.


Feeling Matthew squeeze my hands tight.

Reading our personalized vows that we wrote. Laughing and choking up, but not crying.


The last part of my vow when I got choked up: Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, What have you done with your life? & though there are many moments I think I will remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us. {spoiler- our wedding video is amazing and captures my emotion through these vows}

Looking over at Nike by the feet of everyone as she was sleeping and then would yawn loudly.



Dad and Erica playing We Bought a Zoo. I will always think of our wedding day (and them) when I hear this song.


The time alone to take photos. The magical light. Our insanely talented photographer and videographers. Their kind spirits, big smiles.


The FOOD. Oh man–the food. Best decision ever was to grow our own produce and work with a farm to table restaurant. This is not something they normally do, but because of the size (20 people), we were able to pull it off.

Caprese salad (with Ron’s tomatoes)

Daikon radish wrapped in bacon (with Ron’s daikon)

Fruit salad

Beef roast–the best ever

rolls from Hayward bakery

the BEST mashed potatoes and gravy (from my parent’s garden)

green beans (from my parent’s garden)

ale soaked mac n cheese with bacon – DROOLING

champagne gelato made by friend Kaila who also made…

banana cake with cream cheese frosting

coconut cake with cream cheese frosting

my mom’s Norwegian wedding cake

3 kinds of gelato (from local farm made with sheep’s milk)



Photos at magic hour–walking through the lake in my wedding dress and not having a care in the world.



Our wedding guest book made out of the maple in my childhood backyard that fell in a storm this summer



The driftwood–oh, the beautiful driftwood, that adorned our tables and lined the aisle


The first dances–especially dancing with my dad as he laughed and cried telling me how he would dance with me as a 2 year old and he would smell my head, and I always had a distinct stinky sweaty smell. He smelled my head then, and said now I don’t stink–now I smell like Mom. 🙂




Matthew doing the Harlem Shake– and my dad doing the long bow stance and Aunt Jen doing karate

Dancing with everyone to twist n shout


The way the lights twinkled as twilight began


Twerking in my wedding dress and Jessie recording it

Karissa and Tyler slow dancing (that may be Tyler’s first slow dance!)

Attempting Chinese lanterns (only Dad was able to get one to work)



Sitting around talking until late

Me being the last one to go to bed…stayed up until 2 am on the deck, listening to the waves crash, reminiscing over the day.

Waking up and having Matthew say, Good Morning Wife

Spending the entire weekend with our family. Sunday was beach recovery day. Watching Nike fetch again and again.


And now enjoying our week long honeymoon at the Barn with day trips throughout the area. Eating leftovers for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Kayaking the Lake Superior sea caves {my video featured on Buzzfeed}

2013-12-31_0061A trip to Madeline Island and Big Bay State Park (location of my baptism when I was 2 weeks old) 2013-12-31_00622013-12-31_0063



We also got to visit my 94 yr old Grandma Vi and dressed up in our wedding attire just for her.



Looking back, nearly 4 months later, there is still nothing I would change about our weekend. Everything was perfect, for us.

I wasn’t upset that all of the decorations blew over in the wind. I didn’t mind the heat (not when you have Lake Superior to swim in!). I didn’t even notice that many of my handmade pieces stayed in their packaged box INSIDE, not even seeing the light of day. I wasn’t surprised to see my dad in his swim shorts taking a swim to cool off, after the ceremony.  Our wedding day was a true reflection of us. Homegrown. Organic. Meaningful.

The things that were forgotten–those were minuscule details that didn’t make the whole day. The day was made by the emotions and the people.

The best thing we ever did was decide to keep questira ira services. Having 20 of our closest family and friends was a dream come true. Intimate. Emotional. Unique.

And as a grand finale, I present to you our wedding film highlights by the amazing Chris Martin of Sky Focus Films. {another best decision for the wedding–investing in an award winning videographer. I cannot speak highly enough of Chris. Such talent. He gets it. This video speaks for itself.}

Annika + Matthew // One of Us from Sky Focus Films on Vimeo.




My Word for 2014 » Driftless Living Photography | Southwestern Wisconsin Lifestyle Photography | Annika Swenson - January 5, 2014 - 8:55 am

[…] simplify I did. The biggest result of simplifying was our very intimate, home grown, organic wedding. A true reflection of our values, lifestyle and […]

My Favorite Things of 2013 » Driftless Living Photography | Southwestern Wisconsin Lifestyle Photography | Annika Swenson - January 7, 2014 - 1:36 pm

[…] had a big event to plan, and I wanted as much time as possible to still enjoy the good things in life–family, […]

Susan Bisbach - January 11, 2014 - 4:49 am

🙂 Just wanting you to know that I loved reading this all….again 😉

Krystal Muellenberg - August 14, 2014 - 8:02 pm

Oh my goodness. Your wedding was amazing. Absolutely gorgeous.