Nichole Meisenheimer ’10 and Michael Stratton ’13 really should’ve hired Reggie Redbird as their wedding planner.
The Illinois State alums are such die-hard Redbird fans that they deliberately planned their October wedding so it wouldn’t be the same weekend as Homecoming. They ended up doing the exact opposite.
Here’s what happened: With the exception of last year, Homecoming was always the second weekend of October when they were students, not the first. So they set October 5, 2013, as their wedding date, thinking they were safe, not realizing that October 5 was, in fact, Homecoming Saturday at ISU.
“It was an accident!” Meisenheimer told STATEside. “We already had things booked and couldn’t change.”
So 2013 will be the first Homecoming game that the soon-to-be Strattons have ever missed, dating back to their freshman years. Both were heavily involved fans while on campus; Meisenheimer was even a founding member and later president of the Red Alert student fan organization.
They met after Stratton kept seeing “that girl in the front row of every game,” wondering who she was. They were introduced by a mutual friend who was a manager of the football team.
Before they fell for each other, they fell in love with Illinois State. For Stratton, he knew he’d be a Redbird when his first campus tour finished. For Meisenheimer, it was getting to come to campus early her freshman year as a member of the Big Red Marching Machine and attending so many games.
“It was that instant immersion and being a part of the Redbird family,” she said. “We (in the band) were as much a part of the school as any of the teams.”
The couple now lives in Freeburg in southern Illinois. Meisenheimer, an arts technology graduate, runs her own event planning company full-time, Keen Events. Stratton is in his first year as a math teacher in Columbia—a job he earned, in part, using all the extra experience he picked up through the College of Education’s unique Professional Development School program.
With Stratton in his first year, they’re skipping the traditional honeymoon in favor of a “mini-moon” trip back to Normal. Since they’ll miss the Homecoming game, they plan to spend the night in Normal and cheer on the Redbirds on October 19 against Indiana State. That’ll be their first time inside the new Hancock Stadium, although Meisenheimer made her friends spend the night in Normal in September on the way to her bachelorette party in Chicago, just so she could get a glimpse at the stadium’s exterior.
And come this Saturday at their wedding, they’ll be following the Homecoming game as close as they can on their phones, which they use to track the @ISURedbirds Twitter feed.
“We’re both holding each other accountable” for the scheduling snafu, Stratton jokes.
“We truly love Illinois State University, the opportunities we were given, and the experiences we had there,” Meisenheimer said. “We will always be, first and foremost, Redbirds.”
Ryan Denham can be reached at rmdenha@IllinoisState.edu.