Ashley (Case) and Phil LaFleur are radiant at their June 4, 2016, wedding.
LEAVES OF GRASS-PAMELA SUTTON PHOTOGRAPHY Ashley (Case) and Phil LaFleur are radiant at their June 4, 2016, wedding.

It was always her dream, said newlywed Ashley (Case) LaFleur of Preston, to have an outdoor wedding. After looking at potential locations, the perfect venue turned out to be the farm where her fiancé, Phil LaFleur, grew up on, south of Rushford.

Ashley, daughter of Troy and Denise Case of Preston, and Phil, son of Allen and Elizabeth LaFleur of Rushford, were married Saturday, June 4, 2016, in an afternoon ceremony officiated by the Rev. Andy Cass of Rochester Assembly of God Church, which they attend.

The bluffs surrounding Rushford provided a beautiful backdrop, while brief, light rain showers caused a slight delay before the wedding proceeded as planned. The rain provided an especially fond memory for the couple, as they saw how their loving family and friends helped towel off chairs for dry seating, and protect flowers, electronic sound equipment and more. Ashley noted she saw these generous efforts in photos after the wedding because at the time she was elsewhere, waiting to make a surprise arrival by horse and wagon.

The courtship

Ashley and Phil both attended Fillmore Central High School, but didn’t know each other back then. Ashley graduated in 2005 and Phil in 2008. The relationship blossomed following Ashley’s hankering for smoothie drinks from the LaFleur family’s Pony Expresso stand at a fair – which Phil was running.

Smoothies led to talking and talking led to dating, where they found a common love for not just smoothies, but also coffee.

The dating led to an engagement, when asking permission from Ashley’s dad, Phil got down on one knee in the Lanesboro apartment he had and proposed to Ashley on Sept. 13, 2015.

Then the planning started for a wedding. It was certainly a busy time, since Ashley also decided to purchase and operate Preston Floral and Gift. It was run by her grandmother, Rita Simonson, for many years and Ashley had at times helped out there.

The bride-to-be loved spring, so the couple selected a wedding date based on a slighter slower time at the flower shop, after the proms and Mother’s Day and before the busy summer season for wedding flowers started. So, the wedding was set for an early June date, which was also a more open month for Phil.

“I love the outdoors… the greens and the colors,” she said. “I wanted spring.”

The wedding

The LaFleur farm had a “little circular drive” that was landscaped to be made bigger and the ground more even. Sod was also put down. Ashley recalled with a big smile as she laughed, “I wanted a small wedding, but that didn’t work out. There were maybe between 200 and 225 guests.”

Concerns for an outdoor ceremony included accessibility, such as for Ashley’s grandfather, Jim Simonson, who’s in a wheelchair. The circular drive allowed people to be driven up and dropped off close to the seating, if need be. The vehicles were parked in a pasture.

Ashley said there never really was a back-up plan in case it rained. They had a small tent, but only to be used for photos. But the bridal party came up with a plan for leaving a message on the cell phone of Phil’s grandmother, Rachel Ukkestad. Attendees were instructed to call that number in case of inclement weather. They’d hear a message with an update on the wedding plans.

“It was beautiful all morning… perfect for pictures. By 3 p.m. clouds got dark and we got nervous,” Ashley said.

It rained around 3:30 p.m. for a short time. The updated message had said to bring umbrellas, so the guests were basically fine. At 4:20 p.m. it cleared up and the guests helped wipe up the dampness on the rented white chairs.

The 4 p.m. wedding began about a half-hour late.

The bride was brought to where her father waited to walk her down the aisle “by a horse and carriage, I guess you’d call it,” she said. Both were hidden at the foot of the drive so guests couldn’t see them.

A wedding gift from Tracy and Brenda Hanson of Chatfield, friends of Phil’s parents, the horse and wagon were used to drive the wedding party around Rushford before delivering them to a bus, which took them to the Lanesboro Community Center, where the reception was held.

Ashley’s colors were peach for her attendants and light blue for the guys. She and Phil each had three attendants, plus Ashley had a junior bridesmaid. There were two flower girls, and three ushers and usherette. Bride and groom also each had two personal attendants.

She and her family and relatives created the flowers for the wedding – no surprise there for a flower shop owner. She wanted them to look like spring. Tulips are her favorite flowers. Bouquets and decorations included those, roses – garden roses, gerbera daisies, stock, succulent plants and astilbes.

Another item playing a role in wedding plans was the couple’s love of coffee, first with engagement photos. Ashley happened to run across wedding photos of Leaves of Grass Photography – now called Pamela Sutton Photography – of Eden Prairie, which specializes in outdoor weddings. She loved what she saw.

When Sutton asked if Ashley wanted to meet at a Twin Cities coffee shop to discuss plans, the bride-to-be knew it was fate. Brick also became a theme. Engagement photos were taken outside a coffee shop in a brick building – and now the LaFleurs live in a lovely, historic brick home in Preston.

Back to coffee, decorations included flowers in coffee cans. At the outdoor wedding venue, they were placed at each row on top of logs, old milking cans and the like. Phil created a wooden arbor, which was placed at the front where the couple and pastor stood for the ceremony. That arbor – or arch, as Ashley calls it – now decorates their home.

Phil was pretty involved in wedding planning, Ashley noted, but smiled brightly and laughed as she said, “He had input… he wanted what I wanted. He’s so easy-going.”

Wedding music was provided by Grant and Melody Lunning of LeRoy with keyboard and guitar. Ashley managed to line them up last minute when other music plans didn’t pan out. She let them select the music to be performed. The deejay was Tony Becker of Rushford.

Food at the reception was catered by the Canadian Honker of Rochester. It included chicken boursin, peppercorn steak, garlic mashed potatoes and salads. Ashley, Phil and crew provided snacks like ranch pretzels and a popcorn bar with different seasonings and candies. The Club of Preston provided bartending services. The wedding cake was made by Linda’s Bakery of West Salem, Wis., which Phil’s grandmother had taken them to. Ashley explained the shop is known for its cakes.

Lanterns were “all over” at the reception. Tables had flowers as centerpieces, along with mason jars filled with coffee beans and candles. Doilies were spray-painted peach in color. “Wilbur buds” – little chocolate kisses – were at each place setting, in honor of Phil’s late grandfather who liked them. Phil made a video on family relationships that played during the reception.

The couple spent their wedding night at Lanesboro. The following day they opened gifts with family and friends, and also cleaned up the Lanesboro Community Center. Then Ashley and Phil were off on their honeymoon, and later, back to their Preston home.

Phil is an athletic trainer for Winona Health, where his work includes Winona State University women’s basketball and track and field teams and Lewiston-Altura High School. As noted, Ashley runs Preston Floral and Gift.