The year was 2013, Stephen Krotseng said, and he and Taylor Barstow were two lonely singles living in Chicago.
“With nothing to lose, we both signed up for OkCupid to see what all the online dating fuss was about,” he said.
After kissing many digital frogs, they both were starting to lose optimism. Even when their profiles matched, they had low expectations given their experiences thus far.
Stephen threw out the idea of taking Taylor to a fancy speakeasy because he thought she would be impressed. Taylor, hoping for a low-key dive bar experience and therefore unimpressed by the fancy plan, showed up anyway.
“As we hugged and sat next to each other, we quickly realized there was quite a bit of chemistry,” Stephen said. “The time melted away as we talked about our families, discovered our shared interests and gained a sense of each other’s personality.”
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Taylor called her parents right afterward and said she’d met someone exceptional. Stephen did the same.
Seven years, two apartments and one city later, they became engaged. After re-planning their wedding twice because of the pandemic, they were finally lucky enough to celebrate with 145 loved ones.
ENJOYING THE VIEWStephen invited Taylor to go on a walk in Buena Vista Park near their apartment in San Francisco. When they got to a quiet part of the park with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Stephen distracted Taylor by giving her binoculars to enjoy the sights. While she was looking at the view, he got down on one knee and popped the question.
Afterward, they walked to the top of the hill where a picnic was waiting for them to have lunch and celebrate as a couple before sharing the news with friends and family.
Although they were legally married on Oct. 16, 2020, on their one-year anniversary they planned a bigger event later in Omaha. They both love history, travel and design and decided the Durham Museum would be the ideal location for their celebration.
SPECIAL MOMENTSHearing Taylor’s parents, the maid of honor and the best man recount their experiences with them were at times hilarious and always heart-warming, the couple said.
“We appreciated that they let their personalities shine through the writing and retelling, and shared things we hadn’t remembered or noticed about our love.”
After a month of dance lessons, they felt intimate and connected during their first dance to a 10-piece band while showing off some rudimentary swing dancing moves.
“It was a lovely moment to share some of our joy with our guests.”
Parents of the bride, Holly and Bruce Barstow, retrieved family wedding dresses from storage and they were on display at the reception, paying homage to the bride’s sister-in-law, mother, late aunt and grandmothers.
“Seeing the grandmas look at their dresses and photos, recognizing their gowns and reflecting on their big days, was a really special moment.”
Holly and friend Patricia Longacre created a dessert buffet, with to-go boxes for guests. Dinner tables were named after the couple’s favorite places: the national parks.
“Avoiding numbers removed some of the stress of guest placement,” they said.
They made themed cocktails — the Locomotive (a twist on an old fashioned) and the Caboose (a twist on a margarita) that were a huge hit.
TURN TO EMAILS
If nervous about guest comfort and safety, especially during a pandemic, communicate openly with guests early and often. Thanks to their parents’ advice, they kept in mind that the tone of an event is established in any communication (digital or print) so using care and time to craft intentional messages was crucial.
“Sharing with guests our multiple wedding date changes, vaccination/testing requests and in-event masking ideals beforehand made us less nervous and hopefully helped the guests feel more comfortable,” they say.
Google Sheets were the key to all of their planning, execution and accountability success while sticking closely to their budget.
PERFECT FOR THEM
Stick by your partner, physically, all day of the ceremony.
“Imagine a rope tying you together. If you get separated, it’s really easy to not see each other again for 30 minutes because of how many conversations you get pulled into, and you don’t want to spend your wedding night apart from your spouse,” they said.
Nothing is going to go perfect, so they say embrace the chaos and live in the moment.
They’re grateful for the way Holly and Bruce helped to put together the wedding ceremony and reception. They call it the ultimate gift.
“They made us feel supported and worthy throughout the planning process. We cannot thank them enough for actualizing a wedding celebration two years in the making.”
They’re also grateful to the groom’s parents, Richard and Kathryn Krotseng, for a wonderful welcome evening and Sunday brunch. Folks who funded their Amtrak trip from Omaha back to San Francisco gifted them a memorable and relaxing ramp back to real life, they say.
They put a lot of thought into writing their vows, they said.
“Though performative, sharing and hearing our sentiments in front of loved ones felt surprisingly romantic and appropriate given the symbolism of the event.”
Even after being together for eight years, Taylor’s curiosity, open-mindedness, adventuresome spirit and sense of wonder about the world make Stephen feel young and in love, he said.
Taylor said Stephen’s emotional intelligence and commitment to building an intentional life captured her heart right away.
“I admire the way he cultivates relationships, approaching kinship with curiosity. His growth mindset and zest for life inspire me to be more present for life’s daily joys,” Taylor said.
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