Birmingham native Kelli McBride and Austrian René Hinteregger met while working in the hotel industry in Austin, TX. Kelli remembers several work-related phone calls with René that jokingly ended in a lunch invitation. As the calls (and interest) accumulated, Kelli took him up on the lunch offer but, this time, as a date. Affections grew as the two continued to get to know one another.
René moved from Texas to Berlin when his visa expired. After a year of dating long-distance, Kelli joined him in Germany. Together again, the couple knew they wanted stay that way forever. René found a vintage sapphire ring and planned the proposal day. He completely surprised Kelli by proposing in front of the Brandenburg Gate, a symbol of unity, promising to model that same sense of harmony and oneness in their marriage. Kelli wholeheartedly agreed.
Fast forward to May, when Kelli and René planned for their gorgeous celebration with friends and family in René’s hometown of St. Paul, Austria.
Using the incredible scenery as inspiration, Kelli chose tones of blue and green with pops of pink to decorate the day. “The colors are just naturally there,” Kelli explains. “If you stood in the town square and turned in a circle, you would’ve chosen the same colors.”
Kelli enlisted help from Mariée Ami’s Neillie Butler to create the perfect celebration. After working with Mariée Ami for two of her sisters’ weddings, she knew she could trust Neillie with the details. “She was a dream,” Kelli says. Despite language barriers and overseas planning, the Mariée Ami team made sure they knew as much as possible to help the day run smoothly.
And it was a long day. “The day started at 5 a.m., and it ended at 3 a.m.,” states Kelli matter-of-factly. As per Austrian tradition, the bride and groom are kidnapped by the bridal party to the tune of accordions and whistling and taken to a wedding-day breakfast. The party separated again to get ready for the day.
In Austria, couples have both a civil and religious ceremony on the same day, and wedding guests expect to attend both ceremonies before the reception. With more than 90 friends and family members in attendance, the party seemed small by American standards but huge by Austria’s. “We were one the whole day,” comments Kelli. “If one person moved, we all did.” Each guest filled an important role in the day, because they were not just observers but participants.
As the wedding party was preparing for the religious ceremony at the church, Kelli found a special gift from her mom. Kelli’s father passed away in 2010, but her mom made sure he was still part of her day. She found a seamstress to carefully stitch his signature onto four pieces of fabric representing their family. Kelli’s bridal shop, Browns Bride in London, carefully sewed the signature into her dress near her heart, representing that Kelli’s father is forever in her heart.
With everyone ready, it was time for the religious ceremony. Kelli and René chose a Catholic mass at René’s family’s church, Benediktinerstift Sankt Paul im Lavanttal. With multiple languages represented, some debate went into the language of the service. Eventually the pair chose to say the traditional vows in the other’s heart language — Kelli spoke in German and René in English. After a moving ceremony, the pair headed out of the church as Mr. and Mrs. Hinteregger.
Because guests are active participants, Austrian culture traditionally adds some games to the wedding day. Kelli described being summoned to the reception hall with René, because some guests had blocked the entrance with a challenge. Kelli and René were given small and broken scissors to race around a huge heart for entry to the reception. Thankfully, one of Kelli’s sisters snuck her a pair of real scissors, Kelli quickly won the race, and the celebration began!
At the reception, guests enjoyed a dinner with Italian and Austrian influences, including tomatoes caprese, pancake soup, schnitzel with pommes, steak and fish. After dinner, the celebration continued with cake. As the groom’s cake was presented, guests began singing “Deep in the Heart of Texas” to honor René’s former home away from home. The groom’s cake was a traditional Austrian cake separated by layers of fruit.
With an intimate celebration among loved ones in this quaint Austrian village, Kelli and René started their new life together. The pair honeymooned off the coast of South Africa before returning to Berlin. They hope to begin a new adventure in America soon.
Here’s to many happy years together, Kelli and René!
Venue: Benediktinerstift Sankt Paul im Lavanttal
Photography: Hilo & Ginger, NYC-based fine art wedding photographer, available worldwide
Bride’s gown: Mira Zwillinger at Browns Bride in London, U.K.
Bridesmaids’ dresses: Bella Bridesmaids in Birmingham, AL
Hair and makeup: Gilbird in Vienna, Austria
Groom formalwear: MK Herrenmode
Groomsmen’s formalwear: Lambert Hofer
Invitations, programs, menu cards: Mariée Ami
Flowers: Eva Conrad
Catering: Heidi Mehringer
Music: Baron Music
Groom’s cake: Café Konditorei Sternweiss in Sankt Paul, Austria
Guest accommodations: Hotel Hecher in Wolfsberg, Austria
Trumpets: Adi Streit
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