'Hometown' honeys, AJ Quade and Alyssa Landwehr, prepare to tie the knot
Family setup leads to lifelong love
WORTHINGTON — When considering cool pickup lines, how about invoking the cute girl’s grandpa?
Well, it worked for AJ Quade, a 2016 graduate of Westbrook-Walnut Grove High School. He’s headed to the altar later this month with the date of his dreams, 2017 Worthington High School alumna Alyssa Landwehr, daughter of Joe and and Laurie.
“I’d gone up to Marshall to hang out with a friend who was an elementary ed major at SMSU,” said Quade, 24, explaining Landwehr was then enrolled in the same program.
“I saw her and my friend said, ‘Yeah, that’s Alyssa Landwehr, Gary Debates’ granddaughter.’”
“So I walked up to her and said, ‘I can’t believe I’m talking to Gary Debates’ granddaughter,’” said Quade. “And that was my pickup line.”
The threads that conspired to intertwine Landwehr and Quade, who began dating in late 2019 and became engaged the following fall, trend long and twisty, with all roads leading to Westbrook — and yes, to Landwehr’s maternal grandparents.
“My grandparents live in Westbrook and my mom grew up there, so every year at Christmas we went to Christmas services at Trinity Lutheran Church,” said Landwehr.
Coincidentally, so did Westbrook native Quade with his parents, Tony and Kelly, his three siblings and their extended family. The Quade/Landwehr grandparents were in the same social circle, and Landwehr’s grandpa, Gary Debates, was a well-known and loved Westbrook teaching legend.
It’s easy to imagine the young couple peering over hymnals at each other year after year while singing “Silent Night” on Christmas Eve, with Quade being mildly curious about the girl from Worthington but neither ever bothering to strike up a conversation.
But on that fateful 2019 evening in Marshall, the pair found plenty to talk about — enough, apparently, to unleash a lifetime of marital chitchat.
“I liked his energy, and he was vibrant,” said Landwehr, 23. “We talked a long time.
“It was kind of nice because with the Westbrook connection we had a lot of things in common, and we talked about how we’d seen each other growing up.
“And of course, he was cute.”
Even so, Landwehr needed a bit of coaxing to agree to a first date with Quade, according to his recollection.
“She was a little hesitant to go out with me but her mom told her, ‘Oh, the Quades are nice people, you should go,’” he said.
Quade didn’t take his own charm for granted. Instead, he learned Landwehr was missing a girlfriend who was in Sioux Falls for the summer, so he offered to drive her there and back to see the friend.
“She got to hang out with Miranda, and I got to talk with her on the ride over and back,” said Quade. “It seemed pretty worth it to me.”
Part of the trio’s evening plan was dinner at Texas Roadhouse, but the line was ridiculous.
“We went next door to a different restaurant that was having its opening night, and now that’s our favorite place,” said Quade. “And then we went bowling. It was a really good night.”
Engaging engagement tale
Quade studied precision ag and ag business at Ridgewater College in Willmar before returning to farm full-time with his dad near Westbrook.
Landwehr, meanwhile, graduated from SMSU in 2021 and now teaches fifth- though eighth-grade ESL classes in Windom.
Their engagement, like their meet-up, unfolded in adorable fashion.
“He proposed to me at a pretty place outside of Walnut Grove that runs along Plum Creek where there are groves of trees,” said Landwehr. “It’s a special place to his family.”
Quade agrees, though the engagement process was trickier to navigate from his perspective.
“I always liked that spot, but all through harvest I was planning how I would propose. I thought maybe I’d do it in the field when she brought me meals,” said Quade. “Then I got to thinking, will she want pictures in front of a combine? Is she dressed up when she comes out to the field?”
He reconsidered, instead hatching a plan that involved his brother Austin in a slight ruse. Quade scheduled a Saturday evening dinner with Austin and his wife, and Austin was directed to call and say he was running late.
Then, Quade was to tell Alyssa they had to stop at the Plum Creek site to collect a heater he’d “left” in the deer stand (where, in fact, his brother was hiding to capture photos of the moment).
“I was trying to time it with the sunset, but Alyssa was running late, and then when we left the yard there were two calves in the middle of the road,” he related. “I said, ‘I don’t have TIME for this right now,’ and they both walked right back behind the fence so I thought God was looking out for me that night.”
Landwehr, protesting hunger pangs, nevertheless agreed to walk with him to the deer stand — where he promptly dropped to one knee and proposed. Quade’s brother snapped the moment and they proceeded to celebrate over dinner with their immediate families.
Setting the scene
A little virus called COVID-19 was the couple’s next hurdle.
“We’ve had kind of a long engagement because we pushed off the wedding partly due to the pandemic,” said Landwehr. “We weren’t in a super big rush — and I was still student teaching — and we wanted to feel safer about gathering together and not have to worry about closures or maximum capacities.
“And it allowed us to take our time and be relaxed with the planning.”
In late June, Landwehr and Quade will be wed by Pastor Char Cooley at Trinity Lutheran in Westbrook, where both sets of their parents had their own weddings around three decades ago. They’re expecting about 350 of their closest family and friends to be present.
“AJ has a ginormous family,” said Landwehr. “And we just couldn’t leave anyone out.”
Landwehr’s six bridesmaids will wear floor-length dusty blue dresses, and Worthington hairstylists Gabby Munkel and Khantalie Heig are slated to work their hair magic on the entire wedding party.
Landwehr purchased her ivory satin, off-the-shoulder bridal gown at Marie & Marie Bridal of Sioux Falls.
“It’s very simple and elegant,” said Landwehr. “I told my mom I wanted to look like a cake topper.”
Quade, leading the six groomsmen, will do his best to channel a different vibe.
“I literally walked into the Stag (in Worthington) and told them, ‘I want to look like James Bond,’” Quade said.
Thus, the guys will sport formal black tuxes and black neckwear; Quade’s will be a stylish bow tie.
Sydney Leigh Photography will take photos in advance of the ceremony because the crowd will head to the Worthington Event Center thereafter for the reception.
The couple engaged Vivian Grace Creations of Lamberton to coordinate the decor and flowers, and Hy-Vee will cater the meal and cake. DJ Barry Roberts has been hired to spin the tunes and set the reception’s celebratory mood.
Mostly, Landwehr and Quade, who say they aren’t “flashy people,” are looking forward to settling down in rural Westbrook. They like playing board games together (“Our favorite is Yahtzee, and we’re very competitive with our games,” said Landwehr) and anticipate a trip to a tropical locale to mark their one-year anniversary in 2023.
Family ties may have helped them connect, but Landwehr and Quade have come to appreciate one another for their own unique qualities.
“AJ is very hard-working and will do anything to succeed in his goals,” said Landwehr. “He’s also very giving — that’s one of the things I noticed about him right away.
“I mean, I can’t tell you how many times he’s stopped to help people at the side of the road, even in the pouring rain or a blizzard. And he’s super smart — he can fix anything.”
Quade credits his future bride as being “the most caring, empathetic and sympathetic person I’ve ever met.
“She’s always there for everyone,” he added. “And — she’s pretty cute. I noticed that the first day I saw her.”
Rest assured, they’ll share the same pew and hymnal on Christmas Eve at Trinity Lutheran this December.