One of my favorite things for I-can’t-remember-how-long has been reading people’s blog posts about their wedding days. Even when planning our own wedding, I poured over the same half a dozen blog posts over and over again, longing to figure out just what it was that these women wanted to remember about their own wedding days. It was important to me that our wedding be not only beautiful, but meaningful. For both Tim and myself, details were important. Knowing that our day was touched by more hands than our own gave us memories stronger than iron.
When we first started planning our wedding, we both knew instinctively that we wanted it to be in May. My parents were married in May, and when I was a little girl one of my favorite things to do was flip through their wedding album. Everything about their wedding was perfect. My mom’s backless, tulle dress and flawless smile. The pink chiffon off-the-shoulder bridesmaid dresses with the men in sharp grey tuxes. The outdoor ceremony in a flower garden and inside-outside reception full of food, dancing and laughter. I wanted my day to be just like my mother’s and the stories I told of our wedding to be just as joyous and sunshine-filled.
(My parents on their wedding day in 1993)
The other major theme that was important to me was that the wedding be distinctively celebratory. When Tim and I decided to get married, we did so knowing that we would be representing Christ to the world through our marriage. In the same way Christ rejoices over His bride the church, we rejoiced in and over each other. We wanted Scripture, prayer, music and words that would celebrate our marriage and the marriages of so many of our friends – as well as the joy that all of us, married or single, had found in Christ. I remember spending one evening months before the wedding addressing envelopes with half a dozen friends and being moved to tears at how beautiful weddings are. It’s no wonder Christ performed His first miracle at a wedding – it was the perfect opportunity to serve and love on each other.
The night before the ceremony, all of our out-of-town friends and family gathered into one gorgeous hotel to spend the night and get early the next morning. Early on in the planning process, Tim and I decided to have a slightly non-traditional late morning ceremony and brunch reception. I wanted sun, sun, sun all day long and lots of yummy breakfast food. It did mean, however, that we had a more chill evening beforehand. All the bridesmaids and groomsmen went out for deep dish Chicago style pizza and then hung out at the hotel all evening. I even found out later that some of my bridesmaids crashed another wedding going on at the hotel and danced pretty hard for a solid half hour. Getting in the mood, I guess.
Waking up the morning of the wedding, I noticed rays of sunshine peeking through the hotel curtains. The weather app predicted it would be 70 degrees and sunny all day long. Elaini and I whispered in bed for a few minutes while the other girls showered – neither of us quite believing the day had actually come. Getting nine girls completely dressed and camera-ready by 9:00 AM was a bit of a struggle, but I was determined not to stress and my bridesmaids took care of absolutely everything. My friend Lily sat me down by a window and did my hair and makeup (“simple, dewey, soft” were the only instructions I gave) and by the time our photographer Bekah showed up, everyone was running to and fro in a flurry.
My sister Hannah helped me into my gown by New Zealand designer Kelsey Genna. I’d been in love with Kelsey’s designs for years and chose my gown from a flash sample sale she held back in September. I had it shipped across the ocean, crossing my fingers it would fit. I never needed a single alteration.
The moment I saw my flowers is when I thought I’d start to cry myself. Sheer perfection. I’d wanted lots of pinks and lots of eucalyptus, and for a week or two it looked like the eucalyptus crop had failed this year and we’d have to substitute with something else. Luckily, those California farmers pulled through.
Originally, Tim and I were firmly against the idea of a first look. We wanted that moment of walking down the aisle for the first time to be pure magic. But after talking about it with our photographer, we decided to go for it and soak up that early morning light. The moment I finally saw Tim standing outside with his back turned toward me, it all felt 100% real. I started shaking with joy.
Tim’s deep green suit (a total risk that paid off) was from ASOS and all the groomsmen ties were from Stag Handmade on Etsy. All the bridesmaids wore different pink dresses from ASOS to create a rainbow of color. Even my pink shoes were from ASOS – really our one-stop lifesaver of a website.
Planning a wedding so far away from my family was really challenging at times, but seeing my mom’s eyes water up at how beautiful everything was made me feel so proud and happy. We planned our wedding on Mother’s Day and it held the distinction of being the only Mother’s Day so far that earned me an extra mother.
Tim’s father David is an ordained minister so he graciously agreed to officiate our ceremony. Our selected Scripture was Jeremiah 31:10-14, read by Mark Lewis, our dear friend and mentor in so many ways. “Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry…” It summed up the joy of the marriage celebration. Our friend Max also composed original music for the processional and recessional, our friends Audrey and Emma sang one of my mom’s favorite hymns (“Complete in Thee”) while Tim and I took communion, and Tim’s grandfather read the most amazing Anglican prayer over us and all our guests. Smiles, smiles, smiles.
Our venue was the historic Columbus Park Refectory, built in 1921. It sits right on the edge of a pond, so guests could mingle outside on the patios, walk down by the water, or dance their feet off in t ballroom. We served a buffet breakfast of brioche french toast, sausage, bacon and macerated berries. (I overheard one friend incredulously realizing that he’d never before been to a wedding with BACON)
Almost all the little details of our day were created and organized by dear friends! Our invites were hand-painted by our friend Jill, the leaf detailing on the programs were painted by our friend Rebecca, and all the hand lettering was done by the incredible Grace. We also commissioned custom silhouettes by Boddington Studios to use for all of our programs and to display on the guest book table. The naked cake was a labor of love by our friend Kristina – who gave up a whole weekend to work on it and couldn’t even make it to the wedding due to an unfortunately-scheduled international flight. Walking into the ballroom and seeing that cake made my heart pitter-patter.
For our first dance, Tim and I chose a cover of “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” by She and Him. I think I could have lived in those two minutes and forty-four seconds forever.
I was a little unsure whether our friends would still tear up the dance floor at two in the afternoon, but they certainly didn’t disappoint. Two and a half hours of hardcore dancing to everything from La La Land to Beyonce to the Mulan soundtrack.
For the reception, I changed into a dress that my sister Hannah sewed for me! She brought it to Chicago a week early so she could do fittings and make sure it was tailored just right. I’d never wanted to be one of those brides who paid for two wedding gowns, but having something so flirty and feminine to dance in was exactly what I needed. How do sisters always know things like that?
When I think back on our wedding day, I know I’ll have stories of sunshine, laughter and music to tell our kids – just like the stories my parents told me. I could feel the hands and hearts of guests both present and absent gently pushing us along into this next stage of life. All I can say now is: I’m glad we didn’t elope.
Credits // Photography – Bekah Wriedt, Dress – Kelsey Genna, Shoes – ASOS, Florals – Gatherings Design, Tim’s Suit – ASOS, Groomsmen Ties – Stag Handmade, Bridesmaid Dresses – ASOS, Venue – Columbus Park Refectory