A handsewn dress and new Army uniform outfit couple for a beautiful Nebraska wedding | Nebraska News



Daniel and Cicely Wardyn on their wedding day. The groom — a lieutenant in the Army reserves — wore a newly issued uniform that harkened back to the Greatest Generation and the bride wore a silk gown reminiscent of the sleek simplicity of women’s fashion in the 1940s, one she sewed herself despite not sewing much since high school.



Cicely and Daniel Wardyn climbed through a barbed wire fence to get some of the pictures on their wedding day.



Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn worked on a practice dress to refine her pattern before cutting it out of silk.



Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn put 25 buttons down the back, placing pins where the loops were to make sure she didn’t miss one.



Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Because she’d made her own dress, Cicely Wardyn didn’t have a garment bag to pack it in, so she used her grandma’s Eastern Star garment bag. 

The whole wedding dress affair — the one involving silk and design sketches and a sewing machine — began with a compromise.

It may also have had something to do with the federal government, or whoever in that deep well of bureaucracy decided the U.S. Army should issue new uniforms, the pinks and greens of the World War II era to honor that part of America’s heritage.

Frankly, the whirlwind of thread and fabric in a three-month time span was likely as much Cicely Wardyn’s childhood as anything, growing up on a farm near Lexington where she learned to sew in 4-H, wrestling with a sewing machine at her aunt’s house.

That, and the fact that the assistant director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture who spent a few years working in Sen. Deb Fischer’s office in Washington before coming back to Nebraska to earn her master’s degree, comes from a long line of stubborn women.

So in August, Wardyn put pencil to paper and sketched out the dress of her dreams, got her hands on a sewing machine at her mom’s house, and made her own wedding dress.

No matter that she had rarely sewn since high school.



Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn sketched her dress before sewing it. The heart-shaped pin cushion was one of her first 4-H sewing projects, the thimble was her grandma’s, and the little trimmer scissors belonged to her great-grandma.



No matter her social calendar in the three months of planning before her wedding — four other weddings, two out of state, one out of the country, Thanksgiving, a Broadway show at the Orpheum, a new job that took her on a trade trip to Germany and helping at her family’s farm — meant lots of weekends she should have been sewing but wasn’t.

“I’m just stubborn and decided I’d figure it out,” she said. “It was kind of a big puzzle. It was more just me seeing if I could do it, to prove that I could do it.”

And, on Dec. 1, Cicely Batie and Daniel Wardyn were married, an intimate affair at the Sherman County Courthouse, a grand old stone edifice built in 1921 with a marble staircase and wood beams.

The groom — a first lieutenant in the Army reserves — wore a newly issued uniform that harkened back to the Greatest Generation, and the bride wore a silk gown reminiscent of the sleek simplicity of women’s fashion in the 1940s (with the possible exception of that low back).

The story begins six years earlier when Cicely and Dan met at a mutual friend’s wedding. She was living in D.C. and wasn’t much interested in him. He was persistent, and they began dating in earnest when she moved back to Nebraska to work on her master’s degree in 2019.

In June, Cicely accepted a job at the state ag department, but not before telling her new boss that she had to take some time off because her boyfriend was insistent that they take a trip to Alaska (there is, according to Cicely, also a stubborn streak in her husband, which led, eventually, to the aforementioned need for compromise).

Her boss agreed, the two went to Alaska and took a beautiful, four-day hike in Denali State Park, though Cicely remembers her boyfriend being uncharacteristically gruff.

They took a midnight hike to see the sunset (which is when the sun sets in the vast Alaskan wilderness). It was stunning, but she’d had it with the attitude.



Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Daniel and Cicely Wardyn were married on Dec. 1 in the Sherman County Courthouse in Loup City.



“I said ‘Why are you being so weird? You could be a little more romantic,’ and he said ‘How’s this for romantic?’ and I turn around and he’s on his knees with a ring.”

She said yes, he became his normal self (minus the pre-proposal-hope-this-plan-works nerves) and now all they had to do was plan a wedding.

Dan, a traveling nurse working in COVID-19 ICU units across the country, headed to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Cicely came back to Lincoln — and ended up in tears after the first discussion about the wedding.



Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn’s mother, Barb Batie, helps her button her wedding dress.



She wanted the big wedding she’d dreamed of since childhood; he wanted no fanfare, something small. Really small.

He drove to Lincoln to make sure they’d get over this first relationship bump. They agreed not to talk about it for a bit.

At the end of August, they brokered a compromise over the phone (her in a hotel in Grand Island after hosting a group of Germans at the State Fair, him in Rochester, Minnesota).



Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn made this original sketch of the wedding dress she envisioned. She said she’d always wanted a satin or silky gown and was obsessed with having sleeves. She also adored the look of 1940s movie starlets and wanted to attempt a look with that amount of glamour. 



They set a date. They decided on a charming courthouse. She hired a photographer to capture the day. They found a perfect place for the small family group coming to the wedding to gather afterward for dinner.

And Cicely decided the best way to get the dress of her dreams — probably the only way — was to make it.

The 6-foot-3 woman with broad shoulders, a thin waist and a very strong 4-H background had always wanted to try making her own wedding dress.

“I kind of knew what I wanted and I knew I’d never find something that would fit me in three months in a store,” she said.



Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn’s wedding dress.



Years ago, Cicely’s mom wisely realized that sewing lessons might go better if she wasn’t the one teaching her daughter. So off the 8-year-old girl went to her aunt, who helped her make a pillow for her first 4-H project.

After the pillow came dresses and wool outfits with lining, and help from her grandma — the most-expert of the family seamstresses — who couldn’t sew anymore when Cicely was a teenager, but could advise.

She entered her outfits in 4-H contests — including modeling her handmade wool outfits while walking a sheep around an arena for judges to see (it’s called the sheep lead event for the city slickers among us). She showed cattle. She entered cooking and photography 4-H contests. In 2009, Larry, her rooster, won poultry reserve best of show.

And now, the 4-H-trained professional was determined to make a wedding dress. And it was going to have sleeves.



Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn first cut out the sleeve cuffs for her wedding dress.



“No one has sleeves,” she said. “I thought it would be neat to have something no one else has.”

She sketched out the shimmery, flowing dress she imagined, bought 13 yards of silk, 10 yards of satin, covered buttons and a bolt of pattern fabric. She watched YouTube videos and laid out her design on a grid.

She’d go to the bathroom with a tape measure to measure her body parts — the length from the middle of her sternum to her shoulder blade, the length of her arms, the width of her waist — then go add to the pattern.

She used old bed sheets to cut the dress from her pattern first, so she could make adjustments (and realized she’d have to choose either a low back or a low front, but not both).



Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn used old bed sheets to cut the dress from her pattern first, but realized she’d have to choose either a low back or a low front, but not both.



The hardest part was getting the low back to fit right — snug but not tight, so it wouldn’t pull in front. She redid it with the bed sheets six or seven times.

On Nov. 16 — two weeks before the wedding — she cut the silk. She found silk much easier to sew than satin. Dan helped with some edge stitching.

At her mini-bachelorette party, she and friends watched a Husker football game and she sewed.

They hosted Thanksgiving so she could sew.

Her aunts came to Thanksgiving. She put on her dress for them and they helped her make adjustments she couldn’t do on her own. She loved this, because those aunts — who played such a big part in her early sewing years — wouldn’t be at the small wedding, so this allowed them to be a part of it.



Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn’s aunts helped her fit the back of her wedding dress and check the hem. She said there was one spot she couldn’t see well enough and needed assistance to make sure it was centered and snug.



She didn’t set out, exactly, to create a vintage wedding, but Dan’s uniform, and her dress and the courthouse all just sort of happened.

“It just kind of evolved that way,” she said.

After the small wedding, the family group headed to Katalari Farms, a nearby Christmas tree farm, for dinner with prime rib catered by Whitefoot Catering in Boelus (did we mention that part of Wardyn’s job is overseeing ag promotion and development?)

The Christmas tree farm let them reserve their first Christmas tree as a married couple, and the bride and groom — in gown and uniform — cut it down. Everyone sat at one long table. The couple had their first dance to Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E.” They had a two-layer Dairy Queen ice cream cake (Dan’s idea).

She wore her grandmother’s pearls, the same ones her mom had worn at her wedding. They used the cake knife his grandparents used to cut their wedding cake.

The next day, she was doing a presentation at Nebraska Cattlemen. Then the newlyweds went to Topeka, Kansas, for an Army “family drill day.” After that, Dan headed to Anchorage for a nursing job. Cicely went back to work.

It wasn’t the big wedding of her childhood dreams, but it was the right one, an intimate, happy, beautiful vintage affair with family.

Maybe, she said, they’ll have a bigger reception some time next summer. She’s thinking she might use some of that extra silk to make a cocktail dress.

“We’ll see if I have time,” said the bride.

Here’s betting she’ll find it.

Photos: Cicely Wardyn’s wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Daniel and Cicely Wardyn on their wedding day. The groom — a lieutenant in the Army reserves — wore a newly issued uniform that harkened back to the Greatest Generation and the bride wore a silk gown reminiscent of the sleek simplicity of women’s fashion in the 1940s, one she sewed herself despite not sewing much since high school.



Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn sketched her dress before sewing it. The heart-shaped pin cushion was one of her first 4-H sewing projects, the thimble was her grandma’s, and the little trimmer scissors belonged to her great-grandma.



Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely and Daniel Wardyn climbed through a barbed wire fence to get some of the pictures on their wedding day.



Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Daniel and Cicely Wardyn were married on Dec. 1 in the Sherman County Courthouse in Loup City.



Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely and Daniel Wardyn on their wedding day.



Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn’s wedding dress.



Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn’s mother, Barb Batie, helps her button her wedding dress.



Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn worked on a practice dress to refine her pattern before cutting it out of silk.



Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn used old bed sheets to cut the dress from her pattern first, but realized she’d have to choose either a low back or a low front, but not both.



Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn first cut out the sleeve cuffs for her wedding dress.



Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn’s aunts helped her fit the back of her wedding dress and check the hem. She said there was one spot she couldn’t see well enough and needed assistance to make sure it was centered and snug.



Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn made this original sketch of the wedding dress she envisioned. She said she’d always wanted a satin or silky gown and was obsessed with having sleeves. She also adored the look of 1940s movie starlets and wanted to attempt a look with that amount of glamour. 



Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn put 25 buttons down the back, placing pins where the loops were to make sure she didn’t miss one.


Shelly Kulhanek


Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Cicely Wardyn wedding dress

Because she’d made her own dress, Cicely Wardyn didn’t have a garment bag to pack it in, so she used her grandma’s Eastern Star garment bag. 



Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSreist