A Music-Inspired Micro Wedding in Michigan
Vanessa Tong and Aaron Johnson II met at Central Michigan University in the School of Music. “She was a vocal performance major and I was a percussion performance major, so we had a lot of the same classes and lived in the same dorm hall together,” Aaron remembers. Music became the bedrock their relationship was built on.
The summer of 2020, Aaron—now a singer-songwriter and musician—planned a road trip to St. Petersburg, Florida, to shoot some music videos for an album he was gearing up to release.
“We got engaged August 13. I planned it in such a way that we were able to use one of the music video shoots as the perfect proposal setup,” he shares. “We were filming for my song ‘Always Winter,’ so we were both dressed nicely. For the final scene, we were on a beautiful beach just before sunset. I told Vanessa to stand off at a distance and wait until I tapped her shoulder to turn around and sing the final lyrics with me. To her surprise, on the videographer’s cue, she turned around and found me on one knee, shaking and quivering as I was asking her to marry me.”
The couple planned a few different wedding celebrations, and it only made sense that music be the basis of each and every one. “Music is our love language,” the duo shares. “The vision behind our wedding celebrations is to combine music and cultures in an intimate, creative, and meaningful way. At the same time, we want to honor our heritages and celebrate new traditions as we begin our new journey together as husband and wife.” One such new tradition? An uber micro-wedding ceremony and picnic brunch they hosted with just a handful of loved ones before their larger wedding. Though the celebration was small, the design and details made a huge impact.
To honor their own multicultural backgrounds, the couple worked with a diverse group of vendors to bring their micro-wedding to life. “We both come from multicultural families. My heritage is a combination of Chinese, French Canadian, and Native American,” Vanessa says. “We wanted to work with people who can appreciate the cultural differences and even share the same values with us. Our photographer, Chinling Thomas, was born and raised in Taiwan; she specializes in multicultural celebrations. The cake artist, Maggie Herron, is Indonesian. We also opted for modern cheongsam and hair accessories from East Meets Dress for our bridesmaid’s look.”
“As we planned our music-themed wedding, we researched a lot to get inspiration,” the couple shares. “The number of music-inspired weddings online was relatively low. It took us a lot of time to finalize a mood board for our wedding day story. Throughout the process, we had to learn how to translate our vision to individual vendors for a consistent wedding look.” They chose a color palette of lavender gray, light blue, and antique rose as a jumping-off point.
“Aaron and I loved the idea of getting ready together before our pre-ceremony waterfront brunch,” Vanessa says. “It gave us an opportunity to enjoy a quiet, intimate, and romantic moment.”
For her first look of the day, Vanessa wore an A-line, scoopneck dress by Allure Bridals with layers of gossamer tulle, and a raw-edge cathedral veil. She wanted a relaxed, romantic look for the Parisian picnic brunch they had planned.
For her beauty look, “we envisioned a natural look that emphasizes the eyes and uses light contouring,” explaisn the bride. “Considering the sophisticated wedding dress style and my soft hair texture, I decided to wear my hair half-up, half-down in loose waves adorned with jeweled pins.” She also dabbed Young Living lavender essential oil on her wrists, neck, and chest. “Lavender has a calming effect and scent,” she says.
Aaron prepped his skin with a range of products by Goodfellow and slipped into an ultra slim black wedding suit by Michael Kors. He donned a unique pocket square boutonniere that matched the bridal bouquet.
The festivities began with an intimate Parisian-inspired picnic brunch on the lush lawn at Waldenwoods as classical covers of the ‘Bridgerton’ soundtrack wafted in the air. The idyllic scene was completed by an array of pillows and poufs and a fringed white market umbrella. A vignette under a nearby tree included a vintage violin as a nod to the couple’s musical foundation.
“Cool blue floral napkins channeled the perfect spring day, and a hemstitched runner in the same dreamy blue ran the length of the low picnic table, puddling gently on the ground at each end,” the couple shares. “Crisp white Wedgwood china featuring a royal blue border, layered on top of warm woven chargers, added to the romantic European-inspired celebration.” Place settings featured scroll-style place cards, cut glass goblets, and flatware brushed in a champagne finish.
Rather than a large cake for the small celebration, the couple opted for miniature painted cakes, three inches in diameter. They were painted with textured florals by Maggie’s Pastries and filled with lemon curd, raspberry compote, and buttercream. “In order to highlight the musical aspects of our wedding, we included French macarons decorated with musical notes,” the couple says. The notes popped against the vanilla bean dusty blue cookie.
To pay homage to the bride’s Asian culture, the bridesmaid wore an updo style with two golden pearl hair pins.
The ceremony was set on the farmhouse terrace, with classic soft honey crossback chairs evoking the French countryside. Lavender topiaries in raffia baskets and oversize brass lanterns marked the aisle. “A gorgeous gold antique mirror with delicate edging served as a welcome sign and also reflected the crystal blue lake of Waldenwoods,” the couple describes. “A classic acoustic guitar from the groom’s personal collection offered a reminder of the wedding’s musical roots.”
Vanessa’s bridesmaid changed into a more formal yet modern cheongsam with light pink blush and gold tones for the ceremony, and carried a tambourine as a hoop bouquet to echo the wedding’s theme. The instrument was wrapped with Italian ruscus and petite blush-toned flowers.
The bride changed for the ceremony as well, into a Maggie Sottero dress with art deco-inspired beading and an illusion V back. “I have never felt so beautiful before,” she says. “It fit perfectly and made me feel like a queen.” She paired it with Bella Belle shoes and a jade ring. “In Chinese culture, jade is a symbol of life, harmony, and renewal,” she says. She processed into the ceremony to an arrangement of one of her groom’s original songs.
We wrote our own vows simply from our hearts, recounting fond memories and making deeply heartfelt promises.
“We wrote our own vows simply from our hearts, recounting fond memories and making deeply heartfelt promises,” Vanessa shares. “For a unity ceremony, a traditional Chinese noodle-eating ritual was chosen as a symbol of longevity and a tribute to my Chinese heritage.”
“Instead of a first dance, we performed a first song for our guests,” Vanessa says. “With Aaron playing keyboard piano and me singing, we put our own spin on the classic ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ by Elvis.” It was one of the many ways the duo turned convention on its head to create their own traditions. “This really reflected our relationship since Aaron has written a lot of music as an expression of his love for me,” the bride says.
After “I do,” the newlyweds headed inside for an intimate reception. The decor harkened back to their earlier brunch. The cool blue floral from the picnic napkins became the floor-length tablecloth of their sweetheart table, and romantic place settings centered around vintage gold-rimmed glass plates inherited from the bride’s great-grandmother. Ivory candles in glass pillars and lush florals anchored the table.
All that matters is you and the love of your life making a life-long commitment to each other—and that’s beautiful.
After a customized dinner, the evening ended with Champagne as Vanessa and Aaron poured a bottle of bubbly over a tower of cut glass coupes. “Only celebrated people can celebrate people well,” the couple reflects. “At the end of the day, plans will go wrong and details will be interpreted differently in the heat of the moment. All that matters is you and the love of your life making a life-long commitment to each other—and that’s beautiful.”