Love is all OU needs


Every year, 50 to 60 weddings take place in the mansion and on the grounds.

‘It’s just magic here’

Meadow Brook Hall doesn’t collect dust. Every year, 50 to 60 weddings take place in the mansion and on the grounds.

Built in 1929 by Matilda Dodge Wilson, the hall is equipped to host everything from the ceremony to the reception. Couples can choose from two garden locations or the ballroom.

“It’s just breathtaking,” said Shannon O’Berski, the marketing and communications manager. “There’s no place like it.”

Kaniqua Daniels-Welch and Stefen Welch, both OU graduates, took full advantage the campus’ historical venue when they tied the knot on June 9, 2012 in the Pegasus Garden.

“Stefen and I met at Oakland, so we wanted to have both our wedding and reception on campus,” said Kaniqua Daniels-Welch. “Having our wedding at Meadow Brook felt almost like a fairy tale.”

Along with the unique location, wedding guests enjoy tours and dinner. The hall offers its own professional wedding coordinator services to the bride and groom.

And with only one wedding held on the 124 acres at time, the venue is an exclusive one.

“It’s like it’s your castle for the evening,” said Lori VanHulle, the hall’s sales manager.

According to VanHulle, peak wedding season is from May to October, many hosting 300 to 350 guests, but the hall has seen marriage ceremonies with up to 400.

For some, however, the hall’s history is not enough. Horses and fireworks have also become part of Meadow Brook matrimony.

While VanHulle hasn’t seen fireworks in her time working at the hall, she organized an Indian wedding in which the groom rode in on an elephant.

“It was fabulous. A little scary at first,” she said. “[The elephant and I] had a good working relationship.”

Because of its historical significance, there are some rules couples and their guests must follow: artifacts are too old to be replaced, open flame is not allowed, and certain furniture cannot be sat on or touched.

“Most people understand that and they respect that when they come here,” VanHulle said.

For Daniels-Welch, the experience was nothing short of beautiful. “With the beautiful, historic architecture, gorgeous gardens and breathtaking landscaping, Meadow Brook is any bride’s dream location for a wedding ceremony,” she said.

“But I think the best part was being able to come back to the place where we first became friends to start our journey as one.”

“It’s just magic here,” said VanHulle.

The power of the tower

Ben Wiersma’s family scattered rose petals over a heart made of snow in front of Elliott Tower, then hid, cameras ready, on Jan. 17.

Meanwhile, Wiersma, 25, asked his then-girlfriend Jill Finn, 24, both OU alumni, if she wanted to see the new Engineering Building.

 They stopped instead at Elliott Tower, where Wiersma proposed to Finn.

“My whole goal was to catch Jill off guard,” Wiersma said.

It worked. A shocked and ecstatic Finn said yes.

Wiersma and Finn graduated from OU in 2012, each with a bachelor’s degree in pre-physical therapy.

The couple met in the fall of 2008 at a meeting for pre-physical therapy majors.

Finn said she recognized Wiersma from the dorms and went to talk to him because he was the cutest guy in the room.

“He put up with me right away,” Finn said.

Wiersma said he thought Finn was very upfront.

“I just politely responded, answered questions, and I asked questions as well,” he said.

As part of the Honors College, Wiersma’s and Finn’s friend groups intermingled. They participated in group activities on and around campus  and started dating in January 2009.

The couple liked to walk around campus and go to church and Finn’s parents’ house on the weekends. Finn attended Wiersma’s intermural sports events.

After graduation, Finn stayed at OU and Wiersma went to Grand Valley State University. Both are working toward doctoral degrees in physical therapy and will cross the stage this year.

Since Wiersma and Finn only see each other every two or three weeks, graduate school took some adjustment.

However, the two still manage to find time to visit at their parents’ houses or spend a day in Lansing.

Finn said she starts to get cranky after three Wiersma-less weeks, but their relationship is strong.

“If you really want it, you can do it,” she said.

While the proposal is still fresh and details must be planned, the couple said the wedding will most likely take place in Spring 2016, probably on the west side of the state, where Wiersma is from.

Both families are excited and ready to help with the wedding.

“We’re very blessed with our families and their support,” Finn said.

The couple is eager to move into the next chapter of their lives, both with their relationship and professionally.

“We can start to move forward from the classroom,” Wiersma said.

Finn said that even though OU is a commuter school, students should try to appreciate the campus and classes.

“We made it what we wanted to,” Finn said, adding that she and Wiersma had fun and fell in love at OU.