Generations of Detroit Weddings

Today’s LoveintheD blog post is by Julie Tobi, a Metro Detroit wedding planner who planned her own Detroit wedding in 2010! A few months after the wedding, her family discovered her grandparents’ Detroit wedding album from 1949. Read on for the story…

Drawn to Detroit

When planning our 2010 wedding, my husband and I considered Detroit right away. We were both drawn to Detroit – its history and its future, and our family history in Detroit. At some point, most people in our families had lived in Detroit in one decade or another, and many others had worked in Detroit. My husband and my dad attended high school in the same building, though decades apart the school had different names.

julie tobi2

Logistically, Detroit was fairly central with us living in a nearby city, me being from Metro Detroit, and my husband being from Detroit. But it was not logistics that convinced us. We believed in Detroit and wanted to show our family and friends a good time in a city that many spent little time in because they thought there was “nothing” in Detroit. A city that we had great hope in..

We decided on the Rattlesnake Club and it was amazing. We were married on an absolutely perfect fall day (75 degrees and sunny in October!) right on the edge of the Detroit River. Our hope of showing our guests a glimpse of a Detroit they hadn’t experienced became reality. During cocktail hour I saw one of our guests smiling and looking around her. Then she said, “This feels like Chicago.” “No,” I thought, “It feels like Detroit.”

julie tobi1

A piece of family history

Three months before our wedding, my grandma died. Before she passed, she told my aunt to tell me she was sorry she wouldn’t be at my wedding. She was always thinking of her grandkids. I honored her on our wedding day by wearing her rhinestones in my hair (earrings I turned into hairpins), wrapping her pearl necklace twice around my wrist during the reception, and putting one of her handkerchiefs in the bodice of my dress. She was with me.

A couple months after our wedding, my family was going through my grandma’s belongings and came across her 1949 wedding album to my grandfather, who died before I was born. They wed in Detroit. Looking at the album, I was transported to a time that looked magical and simple in a beautiful. Some of the pictures seemed serious and formal; some showed what I interpreted as deep love; others showed dancing. What I loved most was that they seemed so rich. I felt like I was holding a piece of family history and Detroit history that should be in a museum.

julie tobi grandma photo3


julie tobi grandma photo2

My favorite picture is from the reception, or maybe even the after party, with everyone gathered at a bar. You see people talking, my grandparents kissing, my great-grandma at the bar wearing a hat and a huge corsage. Then — a real gem, the last picture in the album, my grandparents in their get-away car with a sign on it that reads “Just Married Watch Detroit Grow.” I tried to imagine the hope they had in their youth for the city they lived in. The history of my grandparents’ wedding in Detroit and finding that picture months after our wedding made our Detroit wedding even more perfect.

Julie Tobi grandma photo1

Moving forward

Now I help other couples with their big day as a wedding planner and coordinator. I started J. Eliza Events because of how much I loved planning my own wedding and because I wanted to help couples plan a wedding focused on the reason for the event – to join two people together and revel in the emotion of it all. I like to say that weddings aren’t about chair covers and perfect make-up – they’re about committing yourself to another person and the emotion and beauty that comes with it. I love being a part of that.

In wedding planning, I encourage couples to only do what feels right to them. It is easy to get caught up in “musts” and “shoulds” and feeling like you need to spend a fortune, and throw the bouquet, and eat cake, and have it all. (Of course if you want to do those things, have a blast doing them!) One of my favorite weddings skipped most of the “traditions” and they served key lime pie instead of cake…it was truly one of the most spectacular weddings I’ve been a part of. You could feel the love and happiness the entire night and when it was over, no one wanted to leave. And I can guarantee no one missed the bouquet toss.

Now that I help so many other couples with their weddings, I often think of my own wedding day. One of my favorite moments from that day wasn’t even part of the wedding festivities. The morning of our wedding my husband and I walked out the back door of the hotel and looked at the Detroit River. It was a cool fall morning and the sun was shining. We just stood next to each other and looked at the river in silence. We knew the day was going to be busy, full of emotion, and at the end of it we would be married. That silent, calm anticipation, standing next to my now-husband, is one I’ll never forget. What we were about to do was big, and we were ready.

[real wedding] Michael and Barbara’s Wedding at Fort Street Presbyterian Church

LoveintheD co-blogger Shannon made this great blog post possible!

We love real wedding posts as much as our readers – and we know you’ll enjoy reading about Michael and Barbara’s 2010 wedding at Fort Street Presbyterian Church. If you were married in Detroit, please send us an e-mail and you could be featured on LoveintheD!



Why did you decide to get married in Detroit?

Michael and I had our first date in Detroit – we went to a Tigers game and Hockeytown Café. So we wanted to incorporate Detroit into our wedding. We both enjoy spending time there. Detroit has so much history and I’m passionate about its future.

Tell us about Fort Street Presbyterian Church.

It’s one of the oldest churches in Detroit. The interior is beautiful with dark walnut and stained glass windows. We worked with their wedding coordinator, which made the whole process easier. There’s a parking lot across the street so our guests didn’t have to worry about parking. The only downside was that there was no air conditioning.



Can you describe your wedding?

We didn’t decorate very much in the church – it’s so beautiful that we didn’t want to distract from the existing décor. The music was performed by the church organist. One of my favorite memories is that my niece – she was three at the time – was our flower girl and she got confused about when to walk down the aisle. We all got out of sync with the music, but it was cute and funny. Another problem we had was that some of the roads were blocked on the morning of our wedding. A film was being shot in the area, but thankfully, everything was clear by the time our guests arrived.

The Details:

Venue: Fort Street Presbyterian Church

Florist: Gerald’s Florist, Madison Heights

Dress: Maria’s Bridal

Bridesmaid Dresses: David’s Bridal

Rehearsal Dinner: Angelina Bistro, Detroit 



How did you and Michael meet?

Michael is actually the brother of one of my longtime friends. He’s a little bit older, so I had never met him until after I graduated college. When we saw each other, there were sparks!

Do you have any advice for others who are planning their Detroit wedding?

Have fun and take advantage of all the cool places to take photos. And, if you’re planning a summer wedding, be sure you have air conditioning!


Readers: What other historic Detroit churches would you recommend as wedding venues?

Vintage wedding dress turns into samurai inspired gown!

Last spring I met Bridget Sullivan while shopping at the Peacock Room in Detroit and exploring the idea of doing a vintage wedding photo shoot for LoveintheD. Turns out Bridget is a fashion designer who loves using vintage apparel to create new looks!

She is a contestant in the Detroit Institute of Arts “Beyond the Armor” design contest and created an amazing dress using a vintage wedding dress. I interviewed Bridget recently. Check it out!

contest photo1

How did you get into fashion design?
I’ve been making things for my entire life, but it was’t until I found the Fiber Arts department at the College for Creative Studies that I decided to focus on fashion design.  After graduation, I moved to New York City where I interned at Diane von Furstenburg and worked in an eco-friendly fashion showroom called FoundFuture.  Grammy-Award winning musician Esperanza Spalding began performing in my designs around the same time, and has since worn my garments around the world on tour.  I’m now back in Michigan, where I work as a fabric desiger at Lear Corporation and work on my personal fashion line, Bridget Sullivan Designs.

What do you love about using vintage wedding apparel?
I have used many types of vintage clothing for my designs, but wedding dresses are my favorite.  Not only do the yards and yards of white material make them the perfect blank canvas, but I love the romantic idea of working with a dress that someone has gotten married in.  It seems like such a waste for these beautiful garments to be worn only once.  I love giving a new purpose to traditional, romantic dresses.

Tell me about the dress you created for the DIA samurai exhibition design competition and how you found the vintage wedding dress you used!
My “Crane Dress” is inspired by “Reeds and Cranes,” a silk painted folding screen painted by Suzuki Kiitsu.  He was trained by a powerful Samurai artist named Sakai Hoitsu, who adopted him and elevated him to the elite Samurai class. Samurai culture is full of rich symbolism, and the crane is a powerful image that can mean many things.  The Samurai warrior learned about facing death bravely by watching cranes, who appear calm and fearless when attached by an enemy. Cranes are a symbol of longevity and soaring spirit.  They are also considered good luck in marriage because they mate for life.

Reeds and Cranes

I designed the Crane Dress specifically for a talented dancer named Destiny.  I was inspired by the Samurai practice of balancing”bun” (arts) and “bu” (war).  This reminded me of the beautiful blend of strength and grace in ballet, as well as the delicate power of the crane.

I bought the vintage wedding dress I used to create my competition design at the Grosse Pointe Neighborhood Club Thrift store.  It was only a sheer shell of a dress with no lining.  I kept it in my studio for over a year before using it to create my “Crane Dress.”

Wedding Dress_Before and After


Kozo Bodice2

Can you tell me more about the competition?
I am one of 10 fashion designers competing in the “Beyond the Armor” fashion challenge sponsored by the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Detroit Garment Guild.  We were given a private tour of the fascinating “Beyond the Armor” Samurai exhibit at the DIA, and challenged to design garments inspired by what we learned and saw.

You can vote for your favorite design by clicking here (vote for Bridget Sullivan, #8!) now through May 12th.  The winner will be revealed on May 17 at a fashion show finale at DIA.  The show starts at noon and is free with general admission. RSVP by calling 313-833-4005.

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What/who/where in Detroit inspires you in your fashion designs?
Detroit is a wonderful city to be an artist. My education at CCS taught me how to be an professional working artist, and opportunities such as this competition have allowed me to showcase my designs in unique and special ways.  There is a strong community of creative people, and I’m happy to have met many more through this competition.

As a fashion designer, it is important to have a network of people to help my designs come to life.  I consider myself lucky to be friends with very talented photographers, models, makeup artists and business owners who have supported me and my designs.  For the Crane Dress photo shoot, local photographer Lindee Robinson took photos of model and dancer Destiny Mankowski at the DIA.  Hair and makeup was done by Natalie Briles, and jewelry was provided by the Peacock Room boutique.  Thank you all!

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Why I’ve been a bit of a slacker as a blogger lately…

You may have seen that there was a big time gap in between blog posts this summer/early fall. I just wanted to let you, the LoveintheD blog readers, know that it’s not because I don’t care about the blog! I do. I really really do.

Some of you know this already, but for the many of you who do not:

This summer I decided to run for office! In January, I was asked by my friend and mentor, Rashida Tlaib, to run for State Representative in House District 6 (Detroit, River Rouge and Ecorse). After six months of meetings, reflecting, writing and of course, a few list-making processes, I finally decided to go for it. I realized I can use my organizing, advocacy, and coalition building skills while serving the residents of District 6 and working to improve the well-being of our communities. The campaign has already been an amazing journey and learning opportunity. I have been overwhelmed by the amount of support and encouragement from friends, colleagues, family members… and people I have met at neighborhood meetings and community events. Most importantly, I am excited about continuing to make a positive impact. Check out the campaign facebook page here. The primary election is August 5, 2014.

Okay, that’s the update! No more will be posted about the campaign here on this blog, so that I can keep it to its true and original purpose. With that said…

Are you interested in being my LoveintheD co-blogger? I am looking for someone who is passionate about socially conscious weddings, reliable, a good writer, and loves and lives in Detroit. If you are interested, please email me at with your story, why you are interested, and a short writing sample. Please note that it might take me some time to get back to you.

Thank you for your patience and happy blog reading,


Detroit’s future – Vote on Tuesday August 6!

I apologize for the lack of blog posts over the past few weeks. I know this isn’t a great excuse, but life has just been a little hectic lately. In a good way!

As you know, I started this blog because I love Detroit and wanted to provide inspiration for brides and grooms to pursue socially conscious choices in their wedding planning and to highlight responsible vendors based in the city. Some of you know that I am not a wedding planner and was not a do-it-yourself bride. I got into blogging because I care about our city and have a social justice orientation to things :-)

You care about the future of Detroit as well. Tuesday’s primary election can be a historic one and your vote can help make the difference. Yes, the bankruptcy might happen. Yes, the emergency manager is in place. In my view, resident voices are more important now than ever before. In addition to the mayoral race, we will be voting for city council members by district for the first time in 95 years. This is our opportunity to elect candidates that will best represent the values, concerns, and visions of our neighborhood residents. The new city council will help shape what Detroit’s future looks like and set the bar for what a district-based city council can achieve.

Click here to read the League of Women Voters Detroit voter guide to learn about the candidates and make your decision! Then go vote on Tuesday, August 6.


I filled out my absentee ballot last night and am excited to turn it in today. Will you vote on Tuesday?

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. To check out your sample ballot and find your polling location, click here. Detroiters across the city will be voting on Tuesday, August 6. Will you?

P.S. Congratulations to Melissa & Chris who were recently married in Detroit!! Check out their Engaged in the D guest blog posts here and here.

LoveintheD reader survey!

So the LoveintheD blog has been up and running for about four months now. I would like to learn more about YOU, the blog readers. Can you take three minutes to fill out this really short survey? By doing so, you will help me understand what it is you are looking for in the blog.

Created using SurveyMonkey.

Thank you for your time! Happy blog reading! Are you following LoveintheD on Twitter yet? If not, click here to start today.


Six word stories, wedding style

Have you noticed the growing fascination with six word stories? 

I first discovered six word memoirs on Colored Girl Confidential. The current theme semester at the University of Michigan is “Understanding Race” and a few weeks ago the University launched its campus portion of Michele Norris’ “The Race Card Project.” University of Michigan students, faculty and alumni are sending in six word stories about race, ethnicity and identity.

Where does this idea of six word stories come from?

Ernest Hemingway reportedly wrote the original six word short story: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.” He wrote the story to win a bet that he could write a story in six words that could make people cry.

A few weeks ago, I tweeted my own six word memoir to CG Confidential:


I recently thought to myself, wouldn’t it be cool if people developed six word stories about their weddings, before their weddings even took place? Maybe it could be a way to express your vision or theme for your wedding. You could post it on your wedding website. You could ask your wedding guests to suggest six word short stories about you and your partner through your wedding website and then use those stories at the reception in place of table numbers. Or – this may have been done already – what about a wedding twitter feed with six word stories?

Our wedding six word story would have been something like:




Steph_Sean bubble tea
Photo credit: Orris Photography

What would be your wedding six word story?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day from LoveintheD!

Below is one of my favorite first year anniversary photos taken by Ryan Southen Photography. I am not sure what we’re doing for Valentine’s Day 2013 but in years past, we have had dinner at Vicente’s Cuban Cuisine, enjoyed a “home-cooked” lobster tail meal together at home (okay, okay, Sean picked up the already cooked meal from the store), and enjoyed spoken word poetry at the Max M. Fisher Music Center.

Yes, Valentine’s Day is a “Hallmark Holiday” of sorts.

But I have to admit – it is kind of nice to be able to use it as a reason to get dressed up and go out to dinner or just to spend quality at-home time with a significant other. I happen to be the one in this couple who needs to work on making more time to spend with my loved one, and I make sure Valentine’s Day is one of those days when (at least most of) the evening is set aside for Sean!

I found this unscientific online poll in which 66 percent of the participants believed that Valentine’s Day is a commercial holiday, while 34 percent believed it is a romantic holiday. Where do you fall on that spectrum?

Valentines Day postPhoto credit: Ryan Southen Photography

Check back on LoveintheD on Monday for the next Real Wedding post!

Readers: What are you doing to celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Love in the D.

Welcome to LoveintheD! I am thrilled to launch a socially conscious Detroit wedding blog!

Why did I start LoveintheD?

Thanks for asking! I married my husband Sean on October 14, 2011 at the First Unitarian Universalist Church. We celebrated our reception at the gorgeous Colony Club. I enjoyed planning and, of course, had lots of fun on our wedding day! However, mid-way through the planning process, I realized that I wasn’t having much luck on mainstream wedding planning websites finding many vendors based in the city or vendors owned by women of color. I also wished that I had started thinking earlier in the process about making the wedding a socially responsible one.

I looooooved looking at the plethora of wedding blogs already existing in the blogosphere, but became frustrated that hardly any of the wedding blog posts I saw (of course there are exceptions – some blogs do include great Michigan weddings!) were from Michigan, let alone Detroit.

I love Michigan. I love Detroit. I grew up in a suburb of Detroit and have lived in the city for a little over seven years now. Detroit is where I met my husband, have continued to grow as a woman and as an advocate and organizer, and have learned many things about struggle, hope, and love. Sean and I plan to raise our family in Detroit. After we got engaged, there was no question where our wedding should be held. Of course it would be in Detroit!

In the months after the wedding, I had some thoughts about starting a Detroit wedding blog, because I figured: “Well, if no one else has done it yet, I might as well start one!” A year and some change later… here we are!

Photo credit: Orris Photography

What do I mean by “socially conscious” and why is that important?

Social conscience. An attitude of sensitivity toward and sense of responsibility regarding injustice and problems in society. [Source:]

Basically, a socially conscious bride or groom might consider the workers that prepare or serve the reception meal, the effect of various aspects of a wedding on the environment, same-sex couples who may not be able to enjoy the benefits of legal marriage, or small local businesses in the city. Of course, it is probably impossible to be conscious of all these things and pull off a perfect wedding that is 100 percent socially responsible. But one could try, right? Here on the LoveintheD blog, I plan to blog about weddings that include at least a few socially conscious elements.

I decided that if I were to start a Detroit wedding blog, it would have to have some element of social consciousness in order to stay true to my passions.

What will I blog about?

LoveintheD posts will include: real Detroit weddings, local vendors, ways to incorporate Detroit into your wedding, style and music (occasional posts from my husband), Detroit happenings and social justice topics from the frame of “lovin’the D.” This is all new for me, so we’ll see how it goes! I would really appreciate your comments, feedback, and ideas.

Thanks for stopping by! Check out LoveintheD this Thursday for the first Real Weddings post.

What kind of stories, tips, and resources would you most like to see on the LoveintheD blog?