Susie Dunlap and Randy Czarnetzki would be the first to call their upcoming March wedding "a crazy idea." In fact, that's exactly what they do call it.
"It definitely started as a crazy, out-there idea that I had," Czarnetzki says. "But Susie went for it."
That "crazy, out-there" idea was to have a curling-themed wedding. Yes, curling -- that Olympic sport where players slide heavy stones across the ice toward a target. It may have started as a crazy idea, but with some input from friends and family and plenty of outside-the-box thinking, that idea has turned into a wedding that should perfectly reflect the couple and the love they have for each other.
From the beginning, Dunlap and Czarnetzki's relationship has erred more on the nontraditional side. They've been dating since 2007, when they met at a bar in Clearwater (they were both drinking Bloody Mary's with beer chasers and olives). After three years of long-distance dating, Czarnetzki proposed on the jumbo screen at a Twins game last summer.
"I had no idea what he was doing," Dunlap says. "I was so shocked I couldn't speak. It was perfect. I couldn't stop smiling afterward."
Like most couples, Dunlap and Czarnetzki share various interests. But when Dunlap learned early in their relationship that Czarnetzki was a fan of curling, she didn't know if that would become one of their mutual passions.
"When I first learned that he was a curler, I didn't quite know what to think," Dunlap says. "I really didn't have a clue what it even was. Then he asked me to go curling with him. I was scared out of my mind."
Turns out, Dunlap fell in love with the sport, too. Over the last few years, Czarnetzki and Dunlap have been active in the Willmar curling club. They both serve on the club's board, and they even earned their licenses to officiate games together. So when it came time to start planning their wedding, it felt natural to incorporate curling into it. Their March wedding will have a few traditional elements here and there, but for the most part, it will be an unconventional ceremony that they and their guests should remember forever.
"Our wedding is definitely meant to be fun, not serious," Czarnetzki says. "We want it to be like a party. We want to make it feel as low-key and relaxed as possible."
To do that, the couple is infusing their personalities into every part of the wedding. When Dunlap walks down the aisle this March, it will be on the ice at the Willmar Civic Center. The couple is planning to lay carpet and place chairs on either side of the "aisle" for close friends and family, and the rest of the guests will sit in the warming area.
Instead of the traditional white dress and veil, Dunlap will wear leggings, a champagne-colored tunic with beading and special curling shoes that she's having made from white tennis shoes. As she walks toward her groom, curlers will stand on either side of the aisle with their brooms in the air, forming an archway.
It will be a civil ceremony: no readings, no traditional music. In fact, the couple may even have a friend play his bagpipes, a nod to curling's origins in Scotland. Since they already wear their wedding rings, they're planning to tie them onto curling stones, shoot them down the ice, and retrieve each other's rings at the other end.
Following the ceremony, they'll hold a reception in the lobby area. In keeping with their low-key vision, each guest is being asked to bring food or a dessert in lieu of gifts. And instead of a classic white-tiered wedding cake, theirs will be made of Twinkies, Ho Hos, Suzy Q's and Ding Dongs.
They've also decided to skip the traditional wedding invitations. Instead, they've set up an event on Facebook that's open to the public. Anyone who knows the couple and wants to attend their wedding can RSVP there and show up on the big day, they said.
"Everyone is welcome, even if they just want to see what's going to happen," Czarnetzki says. "The more, the merrier. If people want to be there, then we want them there."
Although the couple is planning an entirely original wedding, Dunlap hasn't stressed herself out with the details. She's received many ideas from friends and family, and the manager at the Civic Center has stepped in as her "unofficial wedding planner," she says.
"I really have not had to do a whole lot of planning or thinking on my own," she says. "People have so many ideas. Everything has just been falling into place."
The couple knows that their special day may not seem like everyone's idea of a fairytale wedding - some may even call it crazy - but for them, it's the perfect way to celebrate their love for each other.
"We've been to too many weddings where the atmosphere is so tense, and it doesn't even seem like the bride and groom are having any fun," Dunlap says. "I don't want our wedding to be like that. We don't want to take ourselves too seriously. We just want it to feel like us."