// photography by Two Kin Photography //
From the beginning theirs was a uniquely Flint love story. In the Gothic edifice of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Saginaw Street in downtown Flint, Sarah Schuch and Steven Elkins were married on October 1. With its pointed arches, vaulted ceiling, and ornate façade, St. Paul’s is a perfect setting in which a couple might begin their life together. The old Durant Hotel, where the couple had their reception, is another landmark that provides a grand place for a celebration. Its refurbished ballroom is as exquisite today as it was in the 1920s when the building was constructed. So how did this young couple, Sarah and Steven, come to revere these two institutions so representative of Flint and perfect for their wedding? How did they arrive, first, at becoming engaged and then, eventually at their wedding day? The story has more to do with the town they have sought to honor than anyone might imagine, because Flint has everything to do with their meeting, courtship, decision to marry, and most of all, how, when and where they would do so.
They met at Blackstone’s, a restaurant on the site of a men’s clothing store of the same name, a place that has been a sign of Flint’s renaissance for years. It didn’t take long for them to realize their relationship was fated to be, for their livelihoods, social lives, friends… their very roots are here – making their union one to be celebrated in a special “Flint way.”
Sarah Schuch Elkins has much to say about the couple’s journey towards matrimony. She explains that they met on May 28, 2015, at Blackstone’s, saying, “We were in the right place at the right time and, thankfully, knew the right people.” The meeting was facilitated in part by a mutual friend. Although Sarah hardly spoke to Steven that night, she was intrigued by him. As they continued to run into each other at events downtown, their mutual interest grew. Steven pursued Sarah persistently. When he first asked her for a date, she suggested a time a week later, but he moved things up, and a few days later, they went on their first date, which lasted ten hours. For some lucky people, like Sarah and Steven, there may be such a thing as love at first sight – as well as fate taking a hand in their futures. As Sarah reveals about their meeting and dating, “Sometimes you know a person is going to be exactly what you’re looking for — and maybe represents some things you never knew you were looking for at all.” She felt from the outset of their relationship that Steven was unique.
Steven proposed March 31, 2016. He made up a story to get Sarah to the back room of Café Rhema downtown. A friend of theirs had learned the song “I Do Not Love You,” by Ron Pope, which they claimed as “their song,” and he was playing his guitar and singing it as Sarah entered. A slideshow was also playing on a screen above with messages from Steven. “It was perfect,” Sarah notes. Since they both lived and worked in Flint, a Flint-focused wedding made sense to the couple. Sarah explains that “Our guest favors were mason jars with Michigan on them and a heart over Flint. The beer came from Tenacity Brewing. Steven and his groomsmen wore cufflinks with a map of Genesee County and Flint on them. Also, Floradora, with Meghan Hoffman, was our florist, and some of the flowers were grown in Flint.” Further, their photographer owns a coffee shop in Flint, while their DJ lives here too. Overall, the couple was on their way to establishing a Flint-focused celebration, paying homage to the city they love.
It is not surprising that Steven and Sarah worked so well together to have a memorable wedding, since they share interests and a passion for where they live. But that doesn’t make them carbon copies. On the contrary, they complement each other. Sarah admits she found Steven hard to read at first, but soon learned he was open and honest. She was drawn to his sense of humor, integrity, and the way he pushes her “out of my comfort zones.” She recounts an incident that happened while she was at work. “I will never forget when he sent me flowers to me at my office. He made sure they were large and would be walked through to me, grabbing everyone’s attention, knowing very well I hated that. I knew then that our relationship was bound to be interesting.”
Steven knew his and Sarah’s relationship would lead to something meaningful. He says, “Our first date was ten hours or so. We walked through the park, had dinner, and finished the evening at Starlite where we had a conversation that was pretty real… about our expectations in a relationship. We found we were both on the same page. I had read an article that claimed if you could look into your significant other’s eyes for four minutes, you would fall in love. It was tough at first because of the giggling, but we did it.” Steven says Sarah makes him a better person. “I am direct, impatient, harsh and a ‘get-to-thepoint’ type. Since meeting Sarah, I notice myself being more patient and thoughtful with my words. Since coming to know her, I feel myself seeking to understand people before I jump to conclusions.”
Once the couple’s engagement was official, the wedding planning began, a period Sarah deems “a bit crazy.” Because they both knew they wanted everything to take place in downtown Flint, that fact narrowed their choices of venue. Sarah says she was “looking for space that was beautiful and had character. St. Paul’s and the Durant were perfect.”
The ceremony itself went well, enhanced by the church where the vaulted ceiling makes for impressive acoustics, and the music director produces soaring, elegant tones to accompany the liturgy of Holy Matrimony. The weather cooperated (it didn’t rain), but Sarah does relate a few “hiccups.” Four bees had to be banished from the room where she and her bridesmaids were getting dressed, and she had to send friends out to get heel inserts she’d forgotten for her shoes. She says, “I worried so much about things being perfect, but when the day arrived, I didn’t care about any of that. I just couldn’t wait to walk down the aisle toward Steven.” They wrote their own vows, which Sarah says provided, “an amalgam of sincerity and love combined with laughter.”
Reception planning proved more complicated as the Durant only supplies tables and chairs in the ballroom, so the couple had to find additional sources. Sarah says she understands why people hire wedding planners. But the two of them got the job done on their own, perhaps an indication of how well-suited they are to working as a team. For example, besides a caterer (they used Creative Catering in Davison), Sarah says she and Steven were responsible for the glasses, water pitchers for the tables, and the ice to be used. They kept their decorations to a minimum, concentrating on table centerpieces. Their arrangements consisted of wooden boxes built by Steven’s grandfather, filled with sunflowers and various white blooms all enhancing the yellow-paneled walls, white wainscoting, high ceiling, crown molding and original tiled floors of the ballroom. The decor captured the charm of the original 1920’s Durant.
The couple arrived at the reception in a party bus along with matron of honor Aliscia Klenke, best man Aaron Hamp, bridesmaids Jessie Luney and Aimee Nanney, and groomsmen Bradley Eaton and Scott Elkins. “I was honored to have been part of this beautiful occasion,” Aaron says. Sarah’s dress was strapless and flowing, with appliqués extending from bodice to nearly knee-level, where the fitted gown flared out to drape in back, with the barest hint of a train. Sarah wore a garland around her upswept do and a glittering belt accentuating her waist. The look was refined and harmonious.
Her bridesmaids and matron of honor wore long halter dresses of coral, with wide sashes at their waists, while the groom and his attendants wore suits and ties with their matching cufflinks. The ensembles provided the finishing touches to the restrained but sophisticated ballroom décor, highlighting the simple while speaking of distinction. Sarah and Steven wanted to showcase their city and did so effectively. As Michelle Blaisdell, guest of best man Aaron Hamp comments, “A team of some of the best local wedding vendors, coupled with the individuality of the bride and groom, made this Flint Fairytale one-of-a-kind.”
Sarah knows Steven took care to ensure the day was special for her. “When I got to the room where we were getting ready, a vase of roses and a note were waiting. Later, when he got to the church, we exchanged cards and gifts. He had a sweet card which had a bee that popped out. We had time before the ceremony to face each other and pray together. It was a great way to enjoy the moment.” For Steven, the six-month wedding planning process flew by. The big decisions were easy; the date, venues, and vendors fell into place. “All of a sudden,” he says, “we were a couple of weeks away. We had ups and downs in the wedding process, but when the little decisions and details were stressful for me, particularly toward the end of the process, I remembered I was doing it for Sarah, for us to become husband and wife. Once that fact set in, everything went smoother. It’s all about the person it is being done for that indicates the degree of love with which it is accomplished. That’s why they call it “a labor of love.”