One year after Gabrielle Toonen, an influencer and portrait photographer, and AJ Dillon, the running back for the Green Bay Packers, connected through mutual friends and began dating, One year later, he planned a surprise proposal. He wanted to propose in a location that meant something to both of them, somewhere they could revisit forever, so AJ convinced Gabrielle that they would be part of a Door Country, Wisconsin, tourism ad.
The photo shoot began on Gabrielle’s family dock in Egg Harbor, where her family and AJ’s mom waited nearby. The couple snapped pictures for the alleged “advertisement” and moved on to the interview portion. For the final question, AJ got down on one knee and asked the most consummate question of all: “Will you marry me?”
There could be no better place to tie the knot than Gabrielle’s family’s lake house, where the two got engaged. The peerless view of the lake also serves as the most picturesque backdrop. The reception venue, Horseshoe Bay Country Club and Beach Club, is just two convenient miles away. The space also allowed the couple to have the wedding they envisioned. “I wanted to bring a ballroom outdoors on the lake,” Gabrielle shares. “I always dreamt of a timeless, classic, yet glamorous and romantic wedding, but I wanted to mix it with the characters of Door County, Wisconsin. Bringing a gorgeous clear top draped tent, colors of pinks and reds, and crystal clear chandeliers right alongside the bluffs with woods nearby helped accomplish that.” Carrie Baldwin from Door County Events turned that dream into a reality, and Lance Nicoll photographed the weekend’s events.
Gabrielle carefully curated her bridal looks. For the rehearsal dinner, she wore an Elizabeth Fillmore dress with a Sophia Webster bag and Amina Muaddi heels. She complemented her welcome party Alexandre Vauthier dress with pearlescent Pacharee earrings, a Cult Gaia purse, Jennifer Fisher jewelry, and Jimmy Choo heels.
Prepared to try on countless dresses to find the ultimate gown, Gabrielle headed to the bridal atelier with her mother and sister. The search didn’t last for long, though. She only tried on one perfect Sareh Nouri dress and accessorized with Loeffler Randall shoes, an unbelievable Rosantica purse, a diamond tennis necklace, and a matching bracelet. Her mother also lent her diamond studs as a meaningful “something borrowed.” Sara Miller applied the bride’s luminous beauty look. The bridal party stood beside Gabrielle in uniform burgundy Azazie gowns. By the end of the night, Gabrielle would slip into her second look, a Retrofête dress with Fallon jewels and Gianvito Rossi shoes.
AJ kept his groom’s look classic throughout the weekend. He donned a Jil Sander top and Ermenegildo Zegna pants with smart Scarosso shoes. He topped off the outfit with Saint Laurent glasses. At the welcome party the next day, he opted for Bottega Veneta, a vintage G brooch, and Dior shoes. For the wedding, he chose a custom tuxedo by Master Rudolf Taylor and a dashing bow tie. His groomsmen sported tuxedos from the Black by Vera Wang collection.
On June 25, 2022, guests sat in the backyard of Gabrielle’s parents’ lake house for an incredibly intimate ceremony. The weather only added to the ambiance. A light breeze gently swept through, and the clouds brought romantic brooding light. The wedding party descended down the white carpeted aisle as Duomo’s “Wildest Dreams” from Bridgerton played. Once Pachebel’s “Canon in D” started, the bride’s father escorted her down the aisle to meet the groom underneath the Blossom Flower House’s gorgeous floral arch. Gabrielle’s cousin, professional artist Katrina Elam, sang her original song “Love Is.” A dear family friend officiated, and once the couple was pronounced husband and wife, a confetti cannon erupted to kick off the evening’s celebration.
The reception brought energy and vivaciousness to complement the tender and emotional ceremony. Passed appetizers were distributed around the room, including signature Wisconsin cheese curds in a custom monogrammed pink cup. The large ice sculpture luge also featured the couple’s monogram and dried flower petals. The plated dinner began with a Door County salad topped with the famous Door County cherries. Every table also had a charcuterie board, a nod to the couple’s frequent wine nights. Guests sipped specialty cocktails like the Bridal Bellini and the “Dillon Special,” which was a reimagined espresso martini. The elegant FlourGirl Patissier wedding cake of red velvet and vanilla with local fresh cherries featured a lookalike bride and groom on top.
The wedding party’s grand entrance was a sight to behold. Gabrielle’s sister and maid of honor rode in on a child-sized Tesla, and her brother pretended to be the paparazzi. Later that night, people would take turns attempting to fit into the mini car. The father of the bride, brother of the bride, maid of honor, and best man delivered toasts. AJ’s former football coach followed with a spontaneous speech.
Entertainment was central to the function. Katie Geis Art documented the reception with live painting; Ivy Illustrations created live fashion illustrations of guests; a bourbon-tasting bar and live cigar roller from ACA Entertainment with custom cigars were set up in the room; a live band, the Dynasty Band, serenaded for hours on end. The late-night menu included AJ’s favorite AC Tap chicken wings and Gabrielle’s favorite Girl Scout cookies. More than 20 disposable cameras were distributed to guests instead of a photo booth. Rather than sign a typical guest book, guests wrote signatures on a giant wine bottle. By the lake, giant marquee lettering spelled out “The Dillons.” “We genuinely wanted our reception to just be a Gatsby-like party,” Gabrielle says. “And it felt that way!”
The bride and groom shared a first dance to “You Are The Best Thing” by Ray LaMontagne, but it was the last slow dance to “Stand by Me” Ben. E. King that is their favorite moment from the night. “Just seeing all of our friends and family having such an amazing time, partying, and dancing was epic,” Gabrielle recalls. The bride’s cousin, Katrina, again serenaded everyone onstage and was later joined by the mother of the bride and her best friends.
The after-party at the local dive bar Bayside Tavern followed. But AJ and Gabrielle were the first to leave and return to their weekend cottage. The newlyweds absconded to honeymoon in Santorini, Greece, and Paris, France.