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When Joe Pawelezyke and Michael Pytlik met on Match.com in 2012 they knew they had similar interests, but it wasn’t until they dated for a while that they realized they both had a flair for fashion — Renaissance fashion, that is. But it’s not enough for clothing to just date back to the Renaissance, both Pytlik and Pawelezyke are connoisseurs of particular styles dating back roughly to the Elizabethan and Tudor eras as well as garb worn by famous Italian families like the Borgias and the Medicis. In fact, it was a wedding outfit of Henry VIII’s that inspired their own wedding wear when they tied the knot at the Michigan Renaissance Festival in 2016.
“We were in Chicago and went by a fabric shop — it was just on a whim that we walked in there — and we saw a roll of fabric and we both said, ‘This is going to be our wedding garb,’” Pawelezyke said. “And we had complementary outfits made with that fabric.”
A Growing Interest
Just as the couple’s clothing was chosen with the most discerning eyes, the location of the wedding venue was carefully chosen, too. Long before wedding plans were in the works, however, Pawelezyke said that Pytlik first introduced him to the Festival when they began dating.
“I had kind of grown up in a way with the Renaissance fair. I got into it in the late ‘90s and was quite a bit into going to the fair in Michigan,” Pytlik said. “Joe liked it quite a bit like me, and so we got fully into the historical clothing.”
They both soon realized that they really enjoyed the research process for finding new outfits, and over the next several years, their burgeoning interest as a couple turned into a full-blown hobby. It wasn’t long before Pawelezyke and Pytlik began attending both Michigan’s Festival and similar venues in nearby states and locales.
“We ran into people at other fairs in other states and we have our friends all over the place, and one of them really became our expert seamstress. She can recreate almost anything we look up or decide or get a picture from a movie or whatever,” Pytlik said, adding that he annually travels to Israel and began a tradition of bringing back unique fabrics for future clothing projects.
As the relationship progressed, it was becoming clearer and clearer that historical dress was a key factor in solidifying the couple’s bond. When asked if they recalled a specific moment that they knew they wanted to get married, both Pytlik and Pawelezyke said there wasn’t one in particular. But Pytlik said that it was on a 2015 trip to Israel that he heard the news that the U.S. Supreme Court had passed marriage equality.
“It just seemed like it was the next logical step,” Pytlik said. “And we enjoy the fair, we enjoy travel, history — a lot of things we enjoy together — and it just sort of fit. And we wanted to include all of our friends and family as best as we could. So, I don’t know if there was an exact moment, but if there was one it was when I was on the phone from Israel saying, ‘We can do this now. Let’s think about it.’”
A Venue Made in Heaven
As soon as official proposals were made, the couple set about planning their day at the Michigan Renaissance Festival and choosing among the various themed options available for interested couples.
“They did the Royalty Package which was in our Crystal Palace,” said Kim Heidger, the venue’s marking manager.
This included a ceremony in the Palace and, just like with all wedding ceremonies held at the Festival, all-inclusive catering. Heidger said that Pytlik and Pawelezyke, like many couples over the course of wwthe Holly venue’s 35-year wedding history, ended up customizing the package’s parameters to fit their needs.
“Probably one of the number one questions that we get asked is, ‘Does it have to be a themed wedding?’ And it absolutely doesn’t,” she said. “It can be whatever people want it to be. We have linens and we have decorations on our site that we use to decorate the weddings, but people can also bring in outside decoration. We have a pretty large variety of what people can do.”
Pytlik said that their customization had to do with some location changes and the implementation of their own unique theme.
“There’s a portion of it that’s out in the open where you can do vows when the fair is actually open. We didn’t want that, so we did it in the castle,” he said. “We then went to the ceremony, which we wrote together. We had my rabbi and also had a friend who was a shaman, so we had a dual kind of ceremony with witnesses and the whole bit. And it had a Jewish flair, but it also had a kind of non-religious sort of spiritual Celtic flair to it, too. So, it was an interesting combination. We also had the presenting of gifts to each other, we had a knot-tying ceremony, and also we did the dinner and then we went to places within the fair itself as part of the reception.”
Pawelezyke said that though he had good expectations to begin with, he was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly the entire day came together and how well it created their targeted ambiance.
“We’re so grateful for the fair’s staff and how they accommodated and worked with us to bring forth this vision of our fantasy medieval/Celtic wedding to life,” he said. “It was very, very well done and very nice how they accommodated us. … And [some] who accommodated us there were people who hadn’t even personally known us but had seen us coming up and said, ‘Congratulations, thank you, we’re next!’ Fair people are unique family to begin with and they get it. So, to share that with them and to have them share the experience with us was just the most appreciating thing.”
To find out more about the Michigan Renaissance Festival and wedding packages visit michrenfest.com. This year BTL’s LGBTQ Wedding Expo takes place Sunday, Oct. 13, noon to 4 p.m. at The Henry in Dearborn. The Renaissance Festival will be on hand to discuss your event. Tickets are available online at www.MiLGBTWedding.com.