This Michigan Wedding Used a Signature Scent—Complete With 400 Custom Candles—for a Personalized Touch – Martha Stewart

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Allison Gustafson and John McGrane met at a party in business school—the results of Allison’s entrepreneurship major would play a big role in their future wedding—and were friends before they started dating. “John was the friend who was always there when I needed him,” Allison says. “He’d show up to my pitch competitions, cheer me on during Greek Week, and take me to lunch when I was having a bad day.” After a summer spent on campus when all their friends had gone home, they made their relationship official. 

Eight years later, John got down on one knee in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, as the sun set over the horizon. It was the picture-perfect proposal, except for one detail: The jeweler didn’t have the ring ready. “I had to choose a fake ring to propose with,” John remembers. “When we got back from vacation, I picked up the ring and tucked the bag around our [dog’s] collar and sent her down the stairs with it. It was a cute moment.”

As they began wedding planning, Allison took a hands-on approach. “I am such a creative at heart, so when it came to planning, I wanted to be fully submerged in the ideas and experience,” she says. They booked Greencrest Manor for its enchanted garden feel and took advantage of the venue’s unique spaces. “We also loved that we could stay on-site the entire weekend,” Allison says. They hosted a rehearsal dinner and welcome party on the grounds, and their families and bridal party lodged there with them.

While Allison had an aesthetic vision that infused every detail, it was another sense that made the day most unique: smell. The bride is the founder of Applewood Candle Co. “One of our most special memories was having candles delicately woven into our day,” she says. “John and I have lived and breathed candles for the last few years. My business grew tremendously in 2020, and since then, our house has been taken over by the business. It’s something I put my heart and soul into, and it felt remarkable to include my passion on our wedding day.” Allison and John poured more than 400 candles for the wedding weekend. “Guests were gifted a special candle in our signature scent as their favor, and it doubled as the escort card,” Allison says. “We had a unity candle during our ceremony, had hundreds of candles burning during cocktail hour and reception, and also gifted our guests a custom room linen mist in an Amalfi Coast-inspired scent at the welcome party, for sweet dreams the night before our wedding.”

The Venue

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The couple selected Greencrest Manor in Battle Creek, Michigan, for its natural beauty. “As an avid gardener, I loved the gardens that Greencrest had to offer; I remember seeing them on Instagram and thinking, ‘This cannot be Michigan,'” Allison says. “We toured the venue in the middle of January, right after a huge snowstorm, but I could see the vision and the beauty that would blossom in the summer months. I immediately knew it was the one.”

A Classic Palette

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The palette was elegantly neutral: white and cream tones with touches of cafe, Champagne, and brushed gold. “I [envisioned a] timeless garden party,” Allison says. “I wanted our wedding to be something that no matter when we look back—whether it be three or 30 years down the road—we remember a classic design.”

An Inspired Scent

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The bride, naturally, wanted to incorporate scent into the wedding day. “I knew we’d have to play off the natural scent of the flowers that were growing in August since most of our wedding weekend was outside in the gardens,” she says. “We hand-blended our custom scent with delicate floral notes of white rose and Italian jasmine, balanced by notes of white currant, fresh citrus, and white tea. I’ve curated countless custom wedding scents for other couples’ [weddings], and I was so excited to finally be able to create one for [our own] special day!”

Getting Ready

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Greencrest Manor boasts a chic “She Shed”—it’s where Allison and her bridesmaids spent the wedding morning getting ready and where she escaped for outfit changes throughout the weekend. “It was so easy having everyone on-site at all times, so we could stick to a timeline but still enjoy the day,” she says.

The Dress

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Allison wore an A-line Martina Liana gown customized to cover a deep plunge in the front. “I loved the large bow on the back and the buttons that traveled from the waist down to the end of my train,” she says. “This truly was a timeless, classic gown.” She paired it with block-heel Bella Belle shoes with a bow across the toes to mimic her gown and be practical in grass.

A Romantic Bouquet

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Her garden-inspired bouquet featured cream and white quicksand roses, ranunculus, and tuberose. Though planner and florist Modern Day Collective handled the florals for the day, Allison and John made their own additions: “We also picked more than 100 dahlias from our own garden the Thursday before our wedding, so we could bring them to the venue with us,” Allison says. “Having these incorporated throughout the wedding weekend and in the manor was extra special; gardening is something John and I spend a lot of time doing, so it was sweet to have stems from our own garden.”

The Groom

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The morning of the wedding, Allison gifted her groom a pair of gold cufflinks customized with his monogram, which popped perfectly against his navy tuxedo. 

The First Look

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Allison and John met in front of the manor—lush ivy serving as a beautiful backdrop—for their first look. “Stunning is the only word to describe this moment,” John says. “Allison looked absolutely beautiful, and I couldn’t wait to spend the rest of the day, and our lives, together. A sense of relief and peace came over both of us.”

The Wedding Party

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Allison’s bridesmaids wore one-shoulder fluid satin gowns by Amsale. “They had a mermaid silhouette with a slit to keep them cool in the warm August afternoon,” Allison says. The groomsmen matched John in navy tuxedos.

A Garden Ceremony Setting

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Behind the manor house, an elevated garden blooming with hydrangeas and roses served as an idyllic ceremony setting. Two large arrangements flanked the altar. “It truly was so magical!” Allison says.

A Runway-Inspired Layout

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“We used hundreds of white roses to line either side of the aisle, and then had the idea to have guests sit in a runway fashion so that they were facing the roses,” Allison says. “It was very unique and something I felt would set our day apart.”

Parasols for Guests

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The weather was clear and beautiful; “80 degrees and not a cloud in the sky,” Allison says—but they were prepared for heat. Each guest’s chair was set with a program and foldable fan, and the venue provided parasols and an infused water station.

A Spiritual Ceremony

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Though their ceremony wasn’t held in a church, “we both wanted to have a biblical sense to our wedding,” John says. “With Allison’s catechism teacher as our officiant, we were able to achieve that.” They wrote their own vows—with a twist. “We wrote them together,” Allison shares. “We felt it was important to share the same vows, and each took turns reading each vow off during our ceremony. It was memorable to come up with a unique set of vows that described our relationship and what we both want for our future together.”

Cocktail Hour

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For their two-hour cocktail intermission (timed so the couple could do portraits and a room reveal but also enjoy time with their guests), loved ones sipped Palomas, named for the couple’s dog, Magnolia. “We even had napkins with Magnolia’s face printed on them for an extra touch of Mags!”

A Fragrant Escort Board

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“At the sound of the dinner bell, guests were ushered from the veranda, across the manor drive, and over to the Mais de Fete, or celebration house,” Allison says. “Before entering, they were greeted by brushed gold shelving lined with candles.” Allison and John had hand-poured each candle, which served as escort cards for their 89 guests. “We chose a classic matte ivory vessel, and I designed the label to include our names, the date, and our crest on one side. The other side listed the guest’s name and table number and was accented by a pearl wax seal.” After the party, guests took their candles home as a wedding favor.

The Celebration House

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“We were blessed with a true ‘God moment’ right before the reception,” Allison shares. “Our photographer took John and me aside so we could get some photos in the garden. Suddenly, with not a cloud in the sky, it started sprinkling rain. For over a year, we had prayed daily for sunny skies and no rain on our wedding day, but this little sprinkling was enough to feel like an extra special blessing upon our marriage. All of the guests were already tucked away and hadn’t even noticed—it was something that just we had the opportunity to experience!”

A Candlelit Reception

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“We wanted the atmosphere to feel romantic and intimate, so we played more on the candles to evoke these feelings,” Allison says. “Each table had tons of candles so that once the sun began to set, the room would be lit by dim, warm candlelight—and a heavier infusion of our custom scent, of course!” Modern Day Collective added pillars and tapers. “Finally, to complete the space, we chose gold crystal chandeliers, linen draping, and twinkle lights to add to the romantic candlelit glow.”

Touches of Gold

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Simple white linens and runners were accented by golden touches like rimmed charger plates and flatware.

Cake—and Champagne—First

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“A McGrane family tradition is to have dessert first,” John says. “My grandfather used to always order dessert first, and on one of our first dates, I asked Allison if she’d be open to dessert first, which she was! We shared this tradition with our wedding guests for a unique experience.” They cut into a red velvet cake—with a topper of magnolia—and did a Champagne tower before dinner was served.

A Second Dress

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The bride changed into an Anna Campbell gown and switched her hair into a party-ready half-up style. “I met my husband in the manor gardens for our ‘second look,'” she remembers. “I had a feeling he would like this dress more than the first, so I wanted to make sure we had another special moment. We danced around in the gardens before heading back to the celebration house.”

The First Dance

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They launched right into their first dance to Brett Young’s “Dance with You.”

More Time Together

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“At the end of the night, we had a little afterparty in the manor, and everyone spent time together before a well-deserved night of sleep,” Allison says. “Finally, we all were able to enjoy breakfast together and reminisce on the previous day; it made it feel that much more special to have our favorite people spend the entire weekend with us versus staying off-site.” It was all a deliciously scented dream come true. “The weekend felt so magical that I couldn’t help but get a little emotional at times. It truly was the happiest day of our lives.”


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