Going to the Chapel, But First a Stop at the Wisconsin Statehouse


Photos: Becca Dilley/Becca Dilley Photography

By Cynthia McCabe

Don’t even bother trying to bust this union, Governor Walker.

Wisconsin sweethearts Heather Allen and David Sensenbrenner spent last week at the statehouse protesting Gov. Scott Walker’s attempts to take away state workers’ rights and voices. On Saturday, they took a break to get married, but even that didn’t keep them from coming down to lift the spirits of their fellow ralliers.

Under a shower of fluffy snowflakes, the longtime union supporters brought their entire wedding party and their homemade signs inscribed “God Bless This Union” and “Labor of Love” to the statehouse steps.

Ralliers exhausted from two weeks of protesting cheered wildly. Onlookers snapped cell phone pics as the smitten couple smooched. The Teamsters tweeted their congrats.

“It just felt like everything fit together that day,” Allen said. “A wedding is about coming together and supporting each other — husband and wife, family and friends. And for us that also meant the community around us.”

The 30-year-old Wisconsin natives met in high school, reconnected two years ago in Washington, D.C., and then moved back to their hometown recently. There was never a question that their wedding weekend would incorporate activism against Walker’s budget “repair” bill.

“We are just so extremely saddened by the budget repair bill and the threat to teachers and all public workers in Wisconsin,” said Allen, adding that there were two teachers and a childhood speech pathologist in the wedding party.

She and several members of the wedding party even slept overnight inside the capitol Tuesday and Wednesday night in protest.

The politically minded couple — she’s a consultant for the environmentally progressive National Resources Defense Council, he’s the son of former Madison Mayor Joe Sensenbrenner — had planned all along to take wedding day photos at the statehouse. As events unfolded they realized they’d have a lot of company in those photos.

“There were people trying to hold an umbrella over my head,” Allen said, sharing her tips for brides who want to stay polished when heading out in a snowstorm to an 80,000-person rally two hours before their wedding. “My stylist made a fierce helmet out of my hair.”

Photographer Becca Dilley captured the photos of the couple’s big day and said the energy around them was palpable as they moved through the throngs of sign-waving ralliers.

“Everyone was just really excited to see people taking time out of a really important day,” Dilley said, pointing out that it made for great art, too. “It’s always fun when you can incorporate what’s important to the couple.” (See WISN 12 news video of Allen and Sensenbrenner at the capitol.)

And while most couples might be leery of politics creeping into their wedding day, Allen and Sensenbrenner said their family and friends were unified in their opposition to Walker’s bill, which they view as a threat to the Wisconsin middle class. They were “ecstatic” at the idea of heading downtown to do a little pre-marital protesting, Allen said.

“We have a lot of friends and family who are wonderful people, who are Republicans, and they’re also nurses, librarians,” Allen said (her husband is even a distant relative of U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.). “They believe in this cause. We had people from every walk of life and everyone was supportive of this particular cause.”

As for the vintage-style lace and tulle wedding gown Allen wore, it remains in excellent condition despite the journey from statehouse to church to reception it took on Saturday.

“Luckily, it was tea length,” Allen said.

Didn’t get anything for the happy couple? No problem. Make them happy by supporting the pro-worker cause and signing our National Petition for Workers’ Rights and signing up as an online volunteer in the fight for public education!

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