A Country-Chic Wedding on a Private Estate in Fergus Falls, Minnesota

Oriana Zens (29 and a graphic designer) and Adam Nelson (30 and in finance) hung out in high school, but they didn’t realize they had feelings for eac

Oriana Zens (29 and a graphic designer) and Adam Nelson (30 and in finance) hung out in high school, but they didn’t realize they had feelings for each other until they were in college. They dated long-distance (Adam was at Yale in Connecticut; Oriana was at the University of Wisconsin in Madison), broke up after college, then gave their relationship another try when he was in Denver, Colorado, and she was in St. Paul, Minnesota. “We finally both moved to Chicago, where we discovered that living in the same city was so much better than weekend visits and plane tickets,” she says. Chicago quickly became their city, yet Minnesota—where their families live—has special meaning to them both: It's where they grew up, it's where they met, and it's where Adam proposed. He went to great lengths to make the winter proposal memorable by setting up a tent on a frozen lake on his parents’ property (complete with cozy blankets and pillows, fancy hors d'oeuvres and a bottle of champagne inside; and a bonfire outside), then played along when Oriana wondered what the deal was with the tent on the lake. When the couple made it to the tent, Adam got down on one knee and asked her to be his wife, she said yes, and fireworks lit up the sky. Shortly afterward, family members showed up to help the couple celebrate. Fast-forward to that fall, and the couple were married at Oriana's childhood church and had their reception—for 450 guests—in a beautiful, newly built horse barn and riding arena overlooking the same lake where Adam had proposed nine months earlier. Oriana's great eye for design and sense of style helped transform the space into one exuding a country-chic vibe with a touch of sparkle and glam. A live band, horses, and a fireworks show and sparkler send-off provided entertainment throughout the evening. "Our wedding was the facility's first big reveal and will always be the first memory of the place," she says. "It's been special to relive that day every time we go home and every time we walk into that barn and arena." Plus, she adds, other than the special connection they have to the property, it was also the only facility within 60 miles that could accommodate all their guests. —Chrissy Sorenson

The invitations set the tone for a green and gold theme with a hint of sparkle to give it a "glamorous feel." Oriana is a graphic designer but didn't want the extra pressure of designing her own wedding invitations. "It was a huge relief and weight off my shoulders" to have someone else design them, she says.
"I love doing braids in my hair, and wanted to stay true to my own style," Oriana says of her wedding day hair. She wanted something that "actually looked like me," she says.
When Oriana suggested gray suits for the groom and groomsmen, Adam “had a strong opinion” that the men wear tuxes with ties rather than bow ties. Their boutonnieres were eucalyptus and silver brunia.
“My dress was the hardest thing for me to decide on—I loved too many of them,” Oriana says. “I often joke with my husband that we’ll need vow renewals every five years, so I can buy more dresses.”  She chose a form-fitting Cosmobella gown from Macy's with a low, open back and lace details.
Oriana asked her bridesmaids to wear long gold or champagne dresses. "That was my only instruction," she says. "They looked beautiful together, and I'm so happy I didn't panic or think too much about the colors or styles not blending. Plus, they were all comfortable in the dresses they chose."
The only decorations at the church were two big flower arrangements on each side of the altar. "I wanted the ceremony to be about our marriage and our commitment to each other, rather than about how the church was decorated," she says.
A barn wedding isn't complete without a "just married" sign on the back of a tractor.
In order to get to the arena, where the tables were situated, guests were greeted by horses sticking their heads out the stall doors. “They were everyone’s entertainment,” Oriana says. “I think they were in more photos that night than Adam and I.”
Oriana’s dad built the head table stage, with a 10-foot grapevine wreath and 100 candles hanging from the center.
Fabric was draped over the arena to transform and soften the large steel building. Ten chandelier armatures, decorated with glowing candles, hung over long farm tables on both sides of the aisle.
One of the bridesmaids baked a small cake for the couple, sparsely decorated with greenery and roses. The main dessert was chocolate petits fours, baked by Oriana's mom, who had owned a catering business for 25 years along with Oriana's dad before retiring.
Oriana and her mom made and canned 450 mini jars of jelly to give to guests as favors, an activity that became special bonding time for the mother-daughter duo. The labels said "jam-packed with love."
Oriana and Adam gave tours of the ranch on a tractor.
Oriana and Adam shared their first dance beneath the romantic glow of hanging votives.
Oriana and Adam had to rent everything for their reception, so they used a spreadsheet to keep everything straight for the drivers and trailers dropping off the dance floor, chairs, tables, and bars for 450 guests. It was a lot of work, but the result was stunning.