Wedding planning took on an added personal note for celebrated wedding planner Michael Nolte when his daughter Justine tied the knot.
One hundred forty-seven guests filled Leawood’s Church of the Nativity on the evening of April 17, 2015. Dressed in black-tie formal attire, the congregation breathed a collective gasp as the bride, Justine (Nolte) Groff, appeared from behind an ethereal wall of ribbons draping the back of the church, which parted as the choir sang “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.”
Adorned in a custom-designed, embroidered gown, featuring an elaborate skirt bedazzled in more than 200,000 Swarovski crystals and carrying a cascading bouquet of 100 Phalaenopsis orchids, Groff began her walk down the aisle on the arm of her father Michael Nolte.
As the pair glided past the elaborate gold columns, which lined the aisle to the alter, there was not a doubt in anyone’s mind, including the bride, that this wedding was what dreams were made of. Every last detail of the Marie Antoinette-inspired occasion was special and personal, just how Groff had envisioned. But that comes as no surprise considering the entire event was planned and executed by Michael Nolte, who wore two hats that day — wedding planner and father of the bride.
The Father of the Bride Wears Two Hats
After beginning his career with a bridal salon in Columbia, Missouri, Nolte opened Nolte’s Bridal in Overland Park at Hawthorne Plaza in 1992. Soon his knack for all things beautiful catapulted him to one of the premier wedding coordinators in the country. Today, Nolte’s status as a wedding retailer, gown designer, event planner and author deems him beyond capable of planning his own daughter’s wedding.
Nolte’s approach to his daughter’s wedding was simple — keep it special. The event, admits Nolte, did not necessarily have to be more luxurious or more expensive than other weddings he had planned, but Nolte knew from the start that the precise details of his daughter’s wedding day would make all the difference. Soon the pair was off and running, making plans for a French-inspired wedding with details reminiscent of the baroque period.
“Justine wanted a very intimate wedding,” Nolte says. “She had a small guest list, and the wedding was ‘unplugged,’ meaning no cameras were allowed except the ones we commissioned to be there. No one was allowed to post pictures to social media. Guests were just there to enjoy the evening and celebrate Justine and Michael, simple as that.”
A Black-Tie Wedding Ceremony
The Nolte-Groff wedding was a black-tie formal, four-day affair, which kicked off with a welcome party for guests and ended with a farewell brunch at the Noltes’ Leawood home. The couple chose the Church of the Nativity for the ceremony and Hallbrook Country Club for the reception, both based in Leawood.
As a special touch, members of the Kansas City Symphony provided music for the wedding ceremony, which began promptly at 6 p.m. The best men, in full dress tails and white gloves, watched as the 10 bridesmaids, all wearing white English net evening gowns covered in silk hydrangea blooms, glided down the aisle to "Serenade to Spring” in an elegant step/hold/step/hold procession. As Nolte walked his daughter down the aisle, she carried an all-orchid bouquet containing the wedding ring of her great-great-great-great grandmother and wore her mother’s blue topaz ring as her “something blue.”
One touching moment of the ceremony occurred during the Tribute to the Blessed Mother, when all four grandmothers accompanied the bride to the statue of Virgin Mary. The grandmothers presented the nosegays they were carrying to Justine, who then placed them at the foot of the statue and they joined hands for a moment of prayer.
Then, after exchanging traditional vows, the newlywed couple exited the church to Mouret's "Rondeau."
A Marie Antoinette-Inspired Reception
At the French-inspired reception at Hallbrook Country Club, guests were greeted by candelabra-bearing footmen that conjured the Palace of Versailles. There, cocktails (and a magician!) awaited to delight the guests, as well as pastel towers of French macarons, and an exquisite five-tier wedding cake, created by Cheri Elder of Sweet Bliss Cakery. The fanciful cake was adorned with pistachio green and gilded gold baroque fondant, the colors of the famous Laduree macaron shop in Paris.
The floor plan of the Hallbrook Country Club allowed Nolte to create a series of reveals that maintained an aura of expectation and excitement throughout the evening. For example, upon entering the dining room, guests were seated at long, European-style banquet tables covered in custom made green-and-gold striped linens and lined with gold Chivari chairs. The place settings shimmered with gold-banded stemware, chargers and china. Notes of color were introduced in the massive floral arrangements that formed a hedge down the tables, alternating with tall crystal candelabras with silver-gilded 30-inch tapers, custom-made by Creative Candles.
Guest and the wedding party enjoyed a decadent five-course meal, including seasonal dishes such as spring pea and corn bisque, poached pear and goat cheese salad, rosemary shrimp and beef tenderloin, while honored guests toasted the bride and groom.
Following the toasts, the guests transferred into the ballroom for the couple’s first dance, where branches of cherry blossoms and white hydrangeas festooned the chandeliers. Nolte’s team removed Hallbrook’s existing wrought-iron chandelier and replaced it with a stunning 7-foot Versailles crystal chandelier, which was brought in especially for the Groff wedding and took six hours to assemble and install.
Nolte and Groff danced their father-daughter dance to Ben E. King's "Stand By Me,” a song that is tied to many special memories. “That’s the song which we ‘danced’ when she was a toddler on my shoulders,” Nolte recalls. Next Michael and Justine Groff dazzled guests with their choreographed dance number to The Righteous Brothers’ "Unchained Melody," the bride’s parents’ favorite song (and her “something borrowed”).
At the conclusion of the dances, frosted glass walls opened to reveal an enchanting dessert salon transformed from the former dining room just 20 minutes earlier. Tables were repositioned, chairs removed, walls were fully draped in ivory chiffon, and the bride's spectacular train was pinned onto the new walls as a backdrop to towers of macarons on silver trays, fabulous desserts of every description and a flavored coffee bar. In addition, the French doors to the veranda opened to reveal hundreds of Mercury glass candles glowing and a fire pit and lounge area for guests to relax and enjoy cigars and brandy on the spring evening.
Once the music began in the ballroom, guests danced the night away to alternating sets from the band Atlantic Express and DJ Entertainment to Go on the custom glossy white dance floor adorned with the couple’s gold gilt monogram in a Ladurée-style wreath.
Despite the sheer perfection of Michael and Justine Groff’s wedding day, the Fairway, Kansas-based couple did face a couple of hiccups leading up to the ceremony of their dreams. And as Nolte knows all too well, there are almost always fires to put out throughout the wedding planning process. One of those mini crises came in the form of Justine’s custom-designed dress. “I designed my daughter's bridal gown,” Nolte says. “After six months, it arrived 19 days before the wedding, completely wrong as the factory missed an entire page of details and revisions. Even with hundreds of gowns I have designed in the past, never has something like this happened.” And although Nolte didn’t see the mal-manufactured dress in person as he resolved not to see his daughter in her gown before the wedding day, he still had to figure out a way to troubleshoot the issue.
The dress, which was set to be produced by Stephen Yearick, required a complete re-do with 20 seamstresses working around the clock to replace it on time for the wedding ceremony.
And just when that crisis was averted, Nolte faced another set of pesky problems. To his dismay, he discovered that the 100 rare Cattleya orchids he imported from Hawaii for the wedding were eaten by slugs just two days before the ceremony. “I needed a minimum of 50 orchids to create the cascade bouquets for the bridesmaids. Thankfully, I ended up with 60 that were salvaged,” recalls Nolte.
But for Nolte, there’s no stressful event as a wedding planner that could supersede the remarkable moments he experienced as father of the bride. One in particular sticks out in Nolte’s mind. After the rehearsal dinner, Nolte slipped up to Hallbrook Country Club to check in on the reception preparations that he and Justine had so carefully designed. “When I laid my eyes on the dining room, I just fell apart,” Nolte says. “It was so beautiful, and it was at that moment that I realized that this exquisite event I was planning and executing was for my own little girl. Up until that moment, I was all business, but when I saw it all come to life, I couldn’t contain my emotion.”
Nolte’s Bridal is located at Hawthorne Plaza, 5057 W. 119th St., Overland Park, Kan. For more information call (913) 345-1122 or visit noltesbridal.com.
Little White Book of Wedding Resources
Wedding Planner: Michael J. Nolte
All Gowns: Nolte's Bridal
Ceremony: Church of the Nativity
Officiant: Fr. Al Rockers
Ceremony Music: Kansas City Chorale
Reception: Hallbrook Country Club
Florist: Fiddly Fig
Lighting and Draping: Landers' Visions
Engagement Ring: Tivol
Wedding Bands: Helzberg Diamonds
Weding Cake: Cheri Elder of Sweet Bliss Cakery
Band: Atlantic Express
DJ: Entertainment to Go
Photography: Clayton Jenkins
Hair: Krystal Rae Reno
Makeup: Chanel at Halls
Rentals: All Seasons
Filmmaker: Brandon Perrigo
Invitations: Dauphine Press
Calligraphy: Michael Sull
Tuxedos: Tip Top Tux
Transportation: KC Transportation Group
Guest Accommodations: Aloft hotel
More Wonderfilled Weddings on the Way
Michael Nolte will release a guidebook for wedding planning due out this month entitled Wonderfilled Weddings: My 35 Years as a Planner. The hardcover coffee-table book will retail for $45 and will highlight Nolte’s 35 years in the wedding planning industry. The book is divided into three sections: Nolte’s personal autobiography; how-to pages for everyone involved in a wedding, from the bride, to the mother of the flower girl and everyone in between; and the 10 most beautiful weddings designed by Nolte in the past five years, the last being Justine and Michael Groff’s nuptials. A bonus section will underscore the valuable things Nolte learned recently as the parent of a bride.
For example, Nolte advises, “Have breath mints everywhere, and I mean everywhere! Nerves give you a dry mouth, which gives you bad breath. Also, never do anything for the first time on the wedding day. For example, I spent 45 minutes trying to tie my pique tie on the day of Justine’s wedding. It was very frustrating.
Michael Nolte’s Five Essential Tips for Successful Wedding Planning:
Be realistic about your budget.
Put all money accumulated and gifted to you for the wedding in an account before you start planning. This allows you to have all the cards on the table and a realistic expectation of what you can afford.
Keep it real.
Don’t make your wedding be an all-day photo shoot. Pick one place for outdoor pictures. Don’t drive around to all the KC landmarks and manufacture moments all over the city. It takes too long, and it’s not authentic.
Plan an hour of alone time as part of the wedding day.
Go for a run, get a massage, lay by the pool. Do something for yourself, by yourself.
Don’t drag it out.
It’s better to have a fabulous time in a short amount of time than to have a lengthy reception that is boring.
Limit the guest list so you can afford to have nice things.
If you are feeding the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, your entree ends up being chips and salsa,” says Nolte.