Detroit Proper

From the Opera House to Eastern Market, a Detroit Red Wing and his bride celebrate their day in the city where they found love | Photographs by Jean Smith

ATOP THE DETROIT OPERA HOUSE, under a bright summer sun last July, Detroit Red Wing Justin Abdelkader and his wife, Julie, said “I do” and were wed in front of 250 of their family and friends in the city where they found love.

Justin, from Muskegon, and Julie, from Plymouth, met in September 2013 through mutual friends. “We actually went to an Imagine Dragons concert as a surprise spur-of-the-moment trip,” Julie says. “I didn’t know he was going. It was a total set up.” The impromptu date was the start of their relationship, and in November 2016, Justin knew it was time to take the next step.

Justin and Julie Abdelkader wed atop the Detroit Opera House with the city’s skyline in the background.

“I started thinking of how I was going to do the proposal,” Justin says. “Julie had always said that she wanted to go skating at the Joe Louis Arena, and since it was the last year at The Joe, I thought, ‘How can I make that happen?’ ” With help from the building manager and Zamboni driver Al Sobotka, Justin pulled off his proposal. While trying not to give the surprise away, he convinced Julie to come to The Joe with him. Once they arrived, he brought her through the locker room, opened the double doors to the rink, and led her on a red carpet to center ice where he popped the question. After Julie said “yes,” they toasted to their future with champagne before going for a skate.

They immediately began their wedding plans. Initially, the newly engaged couple tossed around ideas of celebrating Up North or in Grand Rapids, but eventually decided that Detroit would be the perfect setting for the big day. “When Julie and I started hanging out, things were centered around hockey because we had games all the time,” Justin says. “We got engaged downtown … Julie had gone to her first hockey game there, we go out to eat a lot down there. It was a part of our lives so much.”

They chose to have their ceremony on July 21, 2017, on the rooftop of the Detroit Opera House with the Detroit skyline as the backdrop. “Just seeing the whole city there, it’s a very cool view,” Julie says.

On the morning of the wedding, Justin and Julie got ready with their wedding party at the MotorCity Casino Hotel. “I didn’t realize how much energy was in a room when you’re nervous,” Julie says as she reflects on the day. “It’s super overwhelming, but I had the best time with my friends.” Meanwhile, the guys had a slightly more relaxed experience. “We weren’t worried about our hair so much,” Justin laughs. “I think everyone was excited and anxious to get things started.”

The couple’s love story began in Detroit, making the city the perfect location for Justin and Julie’s wedding celebration.

Despite the excitement of the morning, the couple wanted their wedding to feel laid back. Fresh greenery with white floral accents adorned the ceremony and reception venues, providing a relaxed ambiance that reflected their relationship. “We didn’t have a dress code or anything — I think someone was wearing sandals,” Julie says. “This was a celebration of us, and we’re pretty carefree.”

The ceremony was officiated by Justin’s chaplain. “[During the ceremony] he talked for about 10 minutes just about us and his advice for us as a couple,” Justin says. “It was more personalized than just having any person up there.”

The beginning of the reception occurred in Shed 3 of Eastern Market. A live acoustic guitarist set the mood during cocktail hour where guests sipped drinks before sitting down for dinner.

Justin and Julie decided to stray from a traditional dinner by opting for a variety of small plates — ranging from salmon to vegetarian ravioli to beef tenderloin — instead of one larger dish.

Their first dance was a mash-up of two songs: “You & Me” by Dave Matthews Band and “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi. “We did a semi-choreographed dance to ‘Despacito,’ and it was tough because I never practiced it in my shoes and dress,” Julie says. “I’m thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, my dress is too long and I can’t do these moves!’ ” Although they ad-libbed some of the moves, which they learned at Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Royal Oak, they nailed the routine.

A live band roared on stage for the evening, and at one point, they even brought Justin and Julie onstage with them. “That was the coolest part,” Justin says. “When we went onstage and grabbed the guitars.”

Julie and Justin’s wedding day reflected the couple’s carefree spirit.

“We were both up there, and I looked around and I thought, ‘These are all of our friends. I know everyone here, and they’re all here for us,’ ” Julie says. “I had my friends from college and his friends from the [Detroit Red Wings] team all together. It meant a lot.”

Once the clock struck 11 p.m., the after-party commenced in Shed 2. A DJ took over for the band as guests danced under the stars. “We had our DJ out there, which fit the feel,” Julie says. “That’s where everyone was doing the worm on the dance floor. It was a different vibe out there.”

Now, the Abdelkaders are just as excited for all that their future has in store. “We will be growing our family by one this September, and we are thrilled,” Julie says. The couple is expecting a boy. “We are working on getting our house baby-proofed and setting up a room for him!”

As they reflect on their wedding, they both agree that the best advice is to savor the moments leading up to the big day. “There were a lot of difficult decisions along the way, but try to enjoy those because the day goes by so quick,” Justin says. “You’re just planning a big party with all your best friends, and as stressful as it is, try to take a step back and realize that it’s probably going to be the best day of your lives.”

The bride and groom, who are expecting their first child this September, are looking forward to all the future holds.

HAIR: Ashley Loneske
MAKEUP: The Makeup Loft
FLOWERS: Jen House Design
BAND: Your Generation In Concert
FOOD: 2 Unique Caterers & Event Planners
VIDEO: Killer Creations Photography and Cinematography
CAKE: Love & Buttercream
LINEN & CHAIRS: Luxe Event Linen
DRESS: The Gown Shop
SLO MO BOOTH: Lights Camera Photo Booth
DJ: DJChaChi
CEREMONY: Detroit Opera House
RECEPTION: Eastern Market Corp.
JULIE’S DRESS: Modern Trousseau
“HIS” DRINK: Old Fashioned
“HER” DRINK: Red Sangria