Northwest Woman

Wedding Stories: Dream Destinations for Your Big Day

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She’s dreamed of her wedding day since she was a little girl. The flowers, the gown, the location – every detail is important and requires months of planning. Of all the components that comprise a wedding ceremony and reception, few are as important – or as challenging to schedule – as the venue. Whether you dream of a Midwest destination wedding or a hometown setting, our area offers spectacular options. Here, we highlight some of our favorites, and share the experiences of couples who recently said “I do.”

Click on a location to read about a specific venue


Ironworks Hotel

 

Kilbuck Creek

 

Heidel House Resort & Spa

 

Dry Creek Estate

Franchesco’s Ristorante

 

Burpee Museum of Natural History

 

Giovanni’s Restaurant & Convention Center

 

Barnacopia

Copperstone Inn / Pavilion at Orchard Ridge Farms

 

Anderson Japanese Gardens

 

Starved Rock Lodge & Conference Center

 

Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens

Byron Forest Preserve District

 

Shogun Japanese Restaurant

 

Prairie Street Brewhouser

 

Wedding Guide 2014

Wedding_Ironworks_Summer

A Love Aloft

Ironworks Hotel, Beloit, Wis.

Elizabeth and Igor Kasyanyuk love the industrial loft look, with exposed brick, wood and stone. That urban chic-meets-vintage-flair aesthetic is now the backdrop of their renovated residence in downtown Rockford, and it set a romantic tone to their recent wedding.

The couple knew they’d found the perfect location when their wedding planner and personal friend, Lori Eickhoff, showed them the new Ironworks Hotel, in downtown Beloit.

“We stumbled onto Ironworks, and the minute we went in there, we were blown away,” says Elizabeth.

Opened just this year, Ironworks Hotel has been thoroughly renovated into a tribute to America’s industrial heritage. Its exposed architectural elements and Restoration Hardware-style furnishings echo that modern industrial chic. With up to four meeting spaces that accommodate 200 guests, a classy steakhouse and a 54-room hotel, this space is already filled for weddings through 2014. One of the first couples booked this year, Elizabeth and Igor fell in love right at the entrance, where a grand canopy of steel I-beams hold actual equipment from an early Beloit factory.

“We loved that there was so much light in there, that you could see light from the river,” says Elizabeth, describing the river views set just outside the window-filled reception rooms. “It was during the day, so you could see the river, the warm hardwood floors.”

The couple met in July 2012, on a blind date initiated by friends. She had grown up in Freeport, Ill.; he was born in Ukraine and had grown up around Rockton, Ill. The two found an instant connection and crafted serious wedding plans just a year later. In October 2013, Igor proposed in a carefully orchestrated visit to Kohler-Andrae State Park, near Sheboygan, Wis.

“He went two weeks ahead of time to scout with his friends,” says Elizabeth. “He set the bar high for everyone we know.”

With the help of some friends and an electric perrywinkle sky, Igor proposed during a beachside sunset.

“We strolled along the boardwalk through the sand dunes, and he led me to a beautiful fixture on the beach, with lanterns, photos and my favorite champagne,” Elizabeth recalls. “Two photographers and several great friends also appeared as he got down on one knee.”

On June 7, 2014, the couple were wed on the grounds of Beloit’s Hanchett Bartlett Homestead. Afterward, the couple and their 190 guests traveled to Ironworks for a grand reception. Some birch branches, intertwined with twinkle lights, were all that was needed to dress up the venue’s hardwood floors, exposed wooden beams and metal lamps.

“The space had enough of its own character that it did not need tremendous amounts of additional decor to look sophisticated and well-rounded,” Elizabeth says. “Some of our favorite design details were the factory elements.”

The meal, provided by Merrill & Houston’s, the hotel’s steakhouse, didn’t disappoint. “We had had a tasting with Igor’s parents, and his mother is Ukranian – she’s an amazing cook,” says Elizabeth. “Irena’s cooking is masterful and it is difficult to find a restaurant meal that can compete with her home-crafted Ukranian cuisine. Irena was pleased and enjoyed the flavors and quality of our menu choices.”

The couple left straight from the reception for a honeymoon in Spain, making a grand exit with friends and family cheering them on. It was a perfect end to a perfect day.

Vendors
Ceremony: Hanchett Bartlett Homestead, Beloit, Wis.
Reception/Catering: Ironworks Hotel, Beloit, Wis.
Gown: Sara Grace Co., Rockford, Ill.
Photographer: Karrah Kobus, Minneapolis, Minn.
Videographer: Greg Farnham and Nate Carter, Rockford, Ill.
Music/DJ: DJ Next Door
Hair: Salon Riverside, Loves Park, Ill.

Learn more at www.ironworkshotel.com.

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(Ryan Davis Photography photo)

(Ryan Davis Photography photo)

Inside Connection

Kilbuck Creek, Monroe Center, Ill.

Sara and Mark Henderson are accustomed to having an inside connection in their work, their romance and especially their wedding planning.

As chief meteorologist of a local television station, Mark has spent the past 10 years going inside some exciting stories. As a wedding planner at a local venue, Sara has helped many brides to accomplish a picture-perfect event.

Naturally, Sara had the inside scoop on planning her own wedding, held on June 21, 2014. She knew she wanted an outdoor ceremony at Anderson Japanese Gardens, but it was her personal connections that pointed Sara toward a reception at Kilbuck Creek, a quiet retreat near Monroe Center, Ill.

“We saw it and loved it right away,” she says. “We were amazed by how much they were there for us.”

Just opened last year as a wedding, vacation and corporate retreat, Kilbuck sits on 200 wooded acres, and includes a guest house, a new wedding pergola and a banquet hall that seats about 250. About 30 weddings are scheduled this year. The retreat-like setting proved the perfect stage for Mark and Sara’s relaxed reception.

“We’re in our 30s, so we’ve seen lots of weddings, and I had worked with lots of weddings in my job,” says Sara. “We turned the experience upside down. We wanted something traditional, but we wanted people to have fun, too.”

Couples who book their wedding at Kilbuck have free access to the grounds all weekend, so Sara and Mark took full advantage. On Friday evening, they used the Kilbuck lodge for a rustic rehearsal dinner. For their Saturday reception, wedding coordinator Branigan Theden arranged for lawn games to be spread around the property, including a life-sized game of Jenga on the deck. She even helped Mark to plan a special fireworks show, put on by one of his friends.

“They had never done fireworks on the property, so Branigan worked everything out with the owner, and it proved to be a great setting,” says Sara.

The couple met in 2012, about the time Sara returned to Rockford after living in Cincinnati. “We both went to Valparaiso University, and it turns out we had a lot of the same mutual friends,” she says. “Mark posted something on Facebook, I liked it, and then I noticed we had a lot of the same friends. We started talking, and we haven’t stopped.”

Sara was especially smitten with Mark’s supportiveness of her now three-year-old daughter, Juliana.
“From day one, he was very cordial, polite and understanding,” says Sara. “He was very different from anybody I’ve ever known.”

About a year later, Mark proposed, during the fireworks show at an outdoor concert. Mark’s television camera crew captured the special moment.

Sara had just about a year of planning, which she says was just the right amount of time to arrange a perfect event and a generous multi-station buffet, which was catered by the owner of Costa’s Pizza & Ristorante, in Byron, Ill.

“He just took our ideas and ran with them,” says Sara. “He actually brought pizzas over late in the evening for our guests. I know Branigan has him slated for exclusive catering in 2015 for a good reason.”

Vendors
Ceremony: Anderson Japanese Gardens, Rockford, Ill.
Reception: Kilbuck Creek, Monroe Center, Ill.
Catering: Costa’s Ristorante, Byron, Ill.
Photographer: Ryan Davis Photography, Rockford, Ill.
Gown: Sara Grace, Rockford, Ill.
Florist: Event Floral, Rockford, Ill.
Music/DJ: Pablo & the Rhythmix

Learn more at www.kilbuckcreek.com

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Wedding_Heidel_Summer

Shore-ly in Love

Heidel House Resort & Spa, Green Lake, Wis.

Christy and James Tyler knew they wanted a destination wedding, but it had to be big enough for Christy’s large Irish Catholic family, which was centered around Wisconsin. The couple found the perfect balance of quiet retreat and spacious venue at Heidel House Resort & Spa, in Green Lake, Wis.

Set on the shores of Wisconsin’s deepest natural lake, Heidel House offers several settings for outdoor nuptials, indoor receptions and rehearsal dinners. Plus, the resort maintains 190 guest rooms, in addition to guest homes and suites – perfect settings for large family groups.

“I think some of the guests actually brought their own boats, and they spent some of the weekend on the water,” says Christy. “I loved how comfortable it was. It felt cozy, down-home and hospitable. And Green Lake is just so beautiful.”

On May 23, 2009, the couple were wed on Heidel House’s Grey Rock Lawn, a space that seats 300 and overlooks the banks of Green Lake. Afterward, the couple celebrated with about 150 guests inside the Dartford Ballroom, with more scenic views of the water.

Thanks to a full-package deal, the day went smoothly, and the couple enjoyed a largely carefree day. The only thing that could ruin the day was rain.

“It was overcast and cooler than usual, and it drizzled all morning long,” says Christy, laughing. “They asked me if I wanted to move the ceremony inside, and I finally had to call James and tell him to decide for me. He said, ‘We’re having it outside. You spent all this time planning for a wedding on the water, we’re having a wedding on the water. It’ll all be OK. Even if it is pouring rain, all that matters is that we’re married.’”

The couple first met while Christy was in photography school, introduced by a mutual friend who knew their shared love for photography. Christy had grown up in small-town Wisconsin, James around the Southeast.

“He was so different from anyone I had ever met,” says Christy. “I had in my mind this list of boxes to check, but he wasn’t any of those things. He made me really, really comfortable. And he’s really honest and just says what he feels – I think that’s opened me up in a lot of ways.”

In July 2008, a little more than a year after they met, James proposed on the shore of Lake Mendota, in Madison, Wis. But it almost didn’t happen. On their way to a weekend visit with family, Christy’s car broke down, threatening James’ plan to go ring shopping with his future brother-in-law.

“One night, we went to the Union Terrace with my brother,” says Christy. “What I didn’t know is that they had bought the ring that day, and James had brought it with, just in case. My brother left the Terrace at midnight and I wanted to walk over to the pier.”

Without even knowing it, she had set the stage for James’ surprise.

“I had read his email and was convinced it was going to happen after a Coldplay concert we were going to attend the following Thursday,” says Christy. “I was completely shocked.”

The couple relive their wedding on most summer weekends, as professional wedding photographers. “James and I joke that it’s like couples therapy for us,” she says, laughing. They do occasionally return to Green Lake, where their Heidel House experience gives brides a photographic edge.

“It’s cool because we’re like, ‘Oh, we got married here!’” she says. “Especially since we’ve been there, we can map out good places for photos and know how the flow of things goes.”

Vendors
Ceremony/Reception/Catering: Heidel House Resort & Spa, Green Lake, Wis.
Turtle Custard: Culver’s Frozen Custard
Gown: Vera’s House of Bridals
Music/DJ: Record Entertainment Inc., Fond du Lac, Wis.
Ceremony Music: String quartet from Lawrence University
Photographer: John Hamblin, Chicago/Detroit, and Patrick Sablan, Chicago

Learn more at www.HeidelHouse.com.

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(Peer Canvas Photography photos)

(Peer Canvas Photography photos)

A New Tradition

Dry Creek Estate, South Beloit, Ill.

When Emily and Nate Scott began planning their wedding, selecting a venue was pretty much a no-brainer. After all, Emily’s parents own Dry Creek Estate, 8877 Stateline Road, South Beloit, a new winery and wedding venue that’s located on the quiet country escape where Emily grew up.

“We had talked about doing a destination wedding, but we knew it was a lot of planning,” says Emily. “With Dry Creek, we thought it would be a great family tradition, since we’d be the first wedding there. It was very special for us.”

Just opened this summer, Dry Creek Estate looks like a Tuscan winery, complete with stone accents and terra cotta roofing. Its open-air pavilion seats up to 300, and its outdoor spaces are perfect for weddings.

For Emily, the space wasn’t just a great family tradition in the making, it was also a chance to enjoy the quiet countryside. Located along the Wisconsin state line, the property is just five miles away from Interstate 90 – close enough for visitors, but far enough from busy traffic.

On June 14, 2014, Emily and Nate were married on the main lawn, just in front of a stone arch and small pond, a space specially designed for ceremonies. The couple didn’t have a wedding party, but by their sides were a series of rustic wine barrels with flowers on top. Playing on that wine theme, Emily had her guests sign corks instead of a guestbook.

The wedding, of course, was a family affair. Emily’s young nephews served as ushers, and pulled a wagon carrying her five-month-old son, Mason, who was the ring bearer.

Emily met Nate online in 2006. As they talked, the two realized they had a lot in common, and because Nate lived nearby in Beloit, they also shared some connections. About a month later, they decided to meet in person.

“I just found this out, but apparently when I went to go meet Nate, my sisters, Ashley and Alicia, actually followed me the whole time, just to make sure I was OK,” Emily says, laughing. In person, she saw who he really was, and found she admired his driven personality. Just before they met, Nate had joined the Army National Guard, and while they dated, the two endured his rigorous training and multiple deployments.

In September 2013, Nate took Emily on a romantic retreat to Lake Geneva, and, enlisting a horse-drawn carriage, proposed in the evening. Unfortunately for Nate, Emily had seen the surprise coming. “I acted like I was surprised at the moment,” she says, “but I had seen him buy the ring. I didn’t hide it very well, because I’m not a very good liar.”

Planning the wedding was a smooth process, thanks to Dry Creek’s go-to wedding planner, Tia Lasswell, who has more than 15 years of experience in wedding coordination. She helped Emily to connect with Dry Creek’s Rockford-area caterers, and was key in pulling together the site’s first-ever wedding.

“It was a wonderful planning process,” says Emily. “Anytime I needed help with anything, I’d just talk to the wedding coordinator. I could call, text, give her suggestions, help with whatever. It was awesome – I felt like it wasn’t as bad as some people make it sound.”

Dry Creek is still accepting reservations for weddings this year and next year, but spots are filling up fast, says Emily’s sister Ashley, who’s a venue manager. Late-summer dates are especially popular, when the winery is in full color.

“Come out and look at it,” says Emily. “When you see everything we have to offer, it’s hard not to say ‘yes.’”

Vendors
Ceremony/Reception: Dry Creek Estate, South Beloit, Ill.
Catering: Thunder Bay Grille, Rockford, Ill.
Music/DJ: Flipside Entertainment, Rockford, Ill.
Photobooth: Spotlight Photobootht, Rockford, Ill.
Gown: Deborah Vllaneueva Artful Dressmakingt, Rockford, Ill.
Tuxes: Men’s Warehouse
Photographer: Peer Canvas Photography, Beloit, Wis.
Floral: Broadway Floristt, Rockford, Ill.
Linens: Beautiful Day Linens, Rockford, Ill.

Learn more at www.DryCreekEstate.com.

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(Annie Steele Photography)

(Annie Steele Photography)

Come Rain or Shine

Franchesco’s Ristorante, Rockford, Ill.

On a rainy afternoon in downtown Chicago, Kara McKinney and Aaron Villacorta were walking their dog along the shores of Lake Michigan. They’d been dating for three years, having met through a mutual friend.

Aaron stopped walking and looked very seriously at Kara. “You’ll be OK with it if we don’t get engaged for another three or four years, right?”

Kara hid her disappointment. “Sure I will,” she answered. “We both have a lot going on in our work lives right now.”

Then Aaron smiled. “Well, I wouldn’t be OK with it, so let’s get engaged right now, today,” he said.

Kara laughs when she recalls that magical rainy afternoon. Today, the happily married couple lives in Buffalo Grove, where Aaron works as a logistics broker, Kara as an early childhood specialist. They’re not far from the things that matter most to them – her family in Rockford, his family in Mundelein and downtown Chicago, where they met.

Aaron and Kara complement each others’ strengths and “just get each other,” says Kara. “He’s more of a perfectionist, I’m more laid back. What drew us together is that we laugh at the same things, share the same sense of humor. That’s important. And, for both of us, family is very important.”

In fact, it was at a birthday party for Kara’s mother that the couple first thought about booking their wedding at Franchesco’s Ristorante, 7128 Spring Creek Road, Rockford.

“They did such a great job with that family birthday party,” Kara recalls. “We had the best time. We loved the atmosphere, the food was terrific, and the staff couldn’t have been friendlier or more attentive.”

The same held true at their May 3, 2014, wedding and reception at Francesco’s. “We couldn’t have been any happier with the way it went,” says Kara. “They treated us as if we were part of their family.”

The couple’s pastor officiated the ceremony in a decorated banquet room arranged with an aisle for the bridal party to walk down. Lavender, grey and white were the starring colors. “My late Grandpa had always given lilacs to my Mom, so I wanted the lilacs to be part of the decor, in his honor,” she says.

After the ceremony, the 275 guests enjoyed a cocktail hour.

“Then, the staff opened up another banquet room for a sit-down dinner reception with the kind of classic Italian dishes our families just love – there was Mediterranean chicken, lots of good pasta, and a beautiful wedding cake made by Kim Salamone, one of the restaurant’s owners.”

One of Kara’s favorite touches was a digital montage of family photos that Aaron put together himself, easily accommodated by Franchesco’s AV department. “It’s something we can keep forever,” she says.

One of the keys to a great event is employing a high ratio of servers per guest, says Franchesco’s owner Benny Salamone, who hosts 50 to 60 weddings each year.

“To serve hot, fresh food, from kitchen to table, you need an adequate number of servers,” says Salamone. “We have at least one server per three tables, compared to most facilities, which have one server per 50 to 60 guests.”

Franchesco’s also supplies linens and centerpieces, if requested by the bride, making her job a bit easier.

“The best advice I would give a bride-to-be is to work with reliable people, stay calm and just enjoy your day,” says Kara. “It’s kind of like marriage itself. You have to overlook little imperfections and believe everything will work out just fine – come rain or shine.”

Vendors
Ceremony/Dinner/Cake: Franchesco’s Ristorante, Rockford, Ill.
Gown: Sara Grace Co., Rockford, Ill.
Flowers: Crimson Ridge, Rockford, Ill.
Photography: Annie Steele Photography, Chicago
Music/DJ: Paul Singh
Hair/Makeup: WM DaySpa, Rockford, Ill.

Learn more at www.Franchescos.com.

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(Brian Milo Photography photo)

(Brian Milo Photography photo)

Faithful Friend

Burpee Museum of Natural History, Rockford, Ill.

Stephanie and Eric Lindquist weren’t even sure if Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford hosted weddings when they started planning their wedding reception. Once they’d met MacKenna Atteberry, the marketing coordinator and events planner, they had no doubts.

“MacKenna was so good,” says Stephanie. “She talked us through a previous wedding they’d hosted, and was very detailed. She showed us around the museum, and completely sold us on it. We booked it right away.”
The museum provides several scenic locations for weddings, from the Riverview Room & Terrace that overlooks the Rock River, to the 400-seat outdoor amphitheater near a riverwalk.

The Riverview Room proved the perfect space for the couple’s May 24, 2014, wedding reception. After their ceremony at Heartland Community Church in Rockford, the couple and their 200 guests enjoyed the museum and all it had to offer. The younger children explored the exhibits, while guests enjoyed music and dancing in a tent on the outside terrace.

“I like unique and different, and Burpee was exactly that,” says Stephanie.

Stephanie was working at Eddie Bauer in 2010 when Eric was hired at the store. The two hit it off immediately, and continued their friendship when he left for a job as a camp counselor.

“He’s the sweetest person,” says Stephanie. “He’s sort of a weirdo, and he’s kind, and he’s very involved in church. He’s now a social worker, and I’ve never met anybody like him before.”

In December 2010, a tragedy in Stephanie’s family brought the two friends closer than ever. “The night it happened, I reached out to him, as a friend,” says Stephanie. “He was there that night, and was by my side through everything.”

They soon started dating, and by summer 2013, were talking marriage. Stephanie picked the ring, but it was up to Eric to spring a surprise proposal on the girl who always knows what’s coming.

On a Friday afternoon in June, the two arranged to meet up at Stephanie’s home in Janesville, Wis., but Eric said he first had a commitment at church. That evening, when Stephanie pulled up to her parents’ home, something was wrong.

“My parents go to a fish fry on Fridays, so nobody was supposed to be home,” she says. “I came home, and the home was lit up like a Christmas tree. Nobody’s home, but that’s weird, because my dad would never leave a light on in the house.”

Inside, she discovered a poster from Eric, reading, “Before we take the next step in our lives together, let’s look back on our favorite moments.”

Scattered throughout the house, Eric had laid out a trail of greatest hits – the menu from their first date, photos of the Grand Tetons and Stephanie’s dog, warm blankets, baking items, fun pictures. It all led to her room, where Stephanie discovered Eric, kneeling with a ring.

Planning their wedding was a smooth process, thanks to MacKenna’s helpful advice. Whether it was scheduling the setup, locating vendors or answering questions, Burpee’s events coordinator was quick with input, of a helpful variety.

“Here’s a small example,” says Stephanie. “She offered ideas on where the head table would go, because it’s an L-shaped room and we wanted everyone to be able to see us. She showed us what’s worked and what hasn’t, and it was so helpful. It’s the first time you’re planning a wedding, so you don’t always know what works. We really needed that advice.”

Vendors
Ceremony: Heartland Community Church, Rockford, Ill.
Reception: Burpee Museum of Natural History, Rockford, Ill.
Catering: Best Events Catering, Rockford/Janesville
Cake: The Sweetery, Rockford, Ill.
Linens: Best Events and Embellish Specialty Rentals, Rockford, Ill.
Photography: Brian Milo, Rockford, Ill.
Florist: Flowers and Balloons by Haley, Rockford, Ill.

Learn more at burpee.org.

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(Mandy Blair Photography photo)

(Mandy Blair Photography photo)

Best Friends, For Life

Giovanni’s Restaurant & Convention Center, Rockford, Ill.

Cara Burks still laughs about the awkward first impression she had of her husband Josh. It was 2006, and Cara, then a ninth grader, had just finished playing in a basketball tournament at the small Christian school they both attended.

“I knew who he was, but I didn’t really know him that well,” she says. “He came up to me and said, ‘I did a pushup for every good thing you did out there on the court.’ Then, we talked about what I did, and watched some of the other games.”

It may have been an odd pickup line, but it caught Cara’s attention, and began a natural friendship. “It seems as though we’ve been best friends forever,” she says.

The two dated throughout high school, taking a brief break when Cara, who’s a year older, left for Maranatha Baptist University, in Wisconsin. After Josh went to West Coast Baptist College, in California, they picked up where they had left off.

Cara graduated in 2013 and moved home for a job with a local wedding planner. Josh was still in California, or so Cara thought on an evening in late November 2013, when her twin sister, Hallie, and brother-in-law, Justin, invited her out to dinner.

“While we’re there, my brother-in-law says he’s feeling sick and he goes to the bathroom,” Cara says. “It’s maybe 15 minutes later and he’s not back yet, and we’re starting to worry. So, my sister goes and checks on him.”

While they were gone, someone began playing Cara’s favorite song on the dining room piano. “I feel this tap on my shoulder, I turn around, and it’s Josh, with a ring,” she says.

Thanks to her job, Cara already knew her choice vendors, including a reception venue: Giovanni’s Restaurant & Convention Center, in Rockford, which has three settings that are ideal for receptions and rehearsal dinners. The recently renovated location was spacious enough for the couple’s 250 guests, including 20 attendants.

“We worked with Ricci at Giovanni’s, and she showed us the space, explained what was included, how we could set it up,” says Cara. Dates book quickly at Giovanni’s, which hosts about 100 weddings each year, but Cara found a convenient Friday opening: July 11, 2014.

“I actually liked it a lot,” she says. “It’s a new trend for weddings, but it gives you a chance to start off a long weekend with family.”

Cara was also impressed by the menu, which included garlic-crusted chicken, with mac-and-cheese bite appetizers.

“When we went in for the tasting, we were really pleasantly surprised,” she says. “They took us to a special tasting room and let us experience everything – the appetizers, the entrees and the desserts.”
Planning in just nine months was sometimes trying, says Cara, but she had a helping hand through every step.

“Since it was 7/11, we were thinking of doing a slushy machine,” she laughs. “Ricci actually looked it up, to see how much it would cost and what would be involved. It was great that she was willing to go so far.”

Cara also credits a willing team of vendors, especially her boss, Laura Sanders Ahern, of Accent on Events. “It put me at ease, because I knew everything would be exactly as I wanted it,” says Cara. “Hiring people is worth it, if you can afford it. It was my magical day, and everybody helped it to feel that way.”

Vendors
Ceremony: Burpee Museum of Natural History, Rockford, Ill.
Reception/Catering: Giovanni’s, Rockford, Ill.
Cake/Cupcakes: Sugarjones, Rockford, Ill.
Planner: Accent on Events, Rockford, Ill.
Floral: Event Floral, Rockford, Ill.
Linens: Beautiful Day Linens, Rockford, Ill.
Photographer: Mandy Blair Photography, Rockford, Ill.
Lighting/Ceremony Music: Luxe Productions, Rockford, Ill.

Learn more at www.GioDine.com.

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(C. Tyson Photography photo)

(C. Tyson Photography photo)

Puppy Love

Barnacopia, Polo, Ill.

Blame the dog for bringing together Chelsea and Trevor Runkle. During her freshman year at the University of Dubuque, in Iowa, Chelsea volunteered at a humane society for a class project.

“I’m a sucker, and I fell for a puppy I saw there,” she says. “I brought the puppy home to my dorm, and my roommate, Sam, and I would sneak him outside to go to the bathroom. We weren’t supposed to have him there, so we contacted my friend Brandon, who told us the dog could stay there while we looked for another place to live.”

When the girls brought Tyson, a pitbull-terrier mix, they also met Brandon’s roommate, Trevor. He and Chelsea shared an instant connection that only grew stronger.

“Trevor is so sincere, and just a sweet guy,” says Chelsea. “He wears everything on his sleeve. Now, he’s a cop, and I’ve never met a person who didn’t like him.”

At the end of her junior year, in 2013, Trevor planned an elaborate proposal, with help from about 40 family members and close friends, including her roommate, Courtney.

“Our moms came over, gave us some blindfolds and said, ‘We’re going to take you somewhere, but you can’t ask where,’” Chelsea recalls. “We thought they were just up to some kind of funny outing, but when they took off my blindfold, Trevor was there on one knee.”

Chelsea had little trouble selecting a venue for their June 28, 2014, wedding. Raised in the countryside outside of Durand, Ill., she knew she wanted a rustic farm setting. One visit to Barnacopia, in Polo, Ill., was all it took.

“The only thing that was missing was my grandma and grandpa, who passed away before the wedding,” she says. “Their whole lives were John Deere, and it just felt like something from them. I was with my mom, and she said, ‘This is so your grandparents.’ We just felt them, like the barn was part of our family.”

Relatively new to the wedding scene, this unique barn-like structure is part museum, part gathering place. Its three floors include banquet space, a “drive-in” movie theater, two guest rooms and many classic vehicles – including a fleet of John Deere tractors.

Owners Gary and Judy Bocker rent the barn for wedding weekends, and barely a corner of the property went unused for Chelsea and Trevor’s celebration.

On that Friday, the couple held a rehearsal dinner at the barn, before the girls began their sleepover inside. On Saturday morning, the Bockers delivered breakfast. The couple was wed that afternoon beneath the property’s weeping willow.

The Bockers customized many elements for the day, including parking their tractor collection on the back lawn. “Judy said I could put them wherever I like,” says Chelsea. “When we were doing photos, I actually crawled onto the front of a John Deere tractor in my wedding dress!”

For those planning their own wedding at Barnacopia, she offers one simple tip.

“Go in with a dream, because Judy and Gary will make it happen,” she says. “People say, ‘I want this, but it’s not realistic.’ The Bockers will do anything to make it happen. They even said, ‘If you want to ride a tractor down the aisle with your dad, we’ll do it.’”

Vendors
Ceremony/Reception: Barnacopia, Polo, Ill.
Catering: ABC Catering, Rockford, Ill.
Cake: By the Dozen Bakery, Rockford, Ill.
Music/DJ: Luxe Productions, Rockford, Ill.
Floral: Merlin’s Greenhouse & Flowers, Oregon, Ill.
Gown: Bridal Elegance, Ottawa, Ill.
Photographer: C. Tyson Photography, Rockford, Ill.
Videographer: Vixen Productions, Rockford, Ill.

Learn more at www.Barnacopia.com.

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Wedding_Goldmoor_Summer

Rainy Day Romance

Goldmoor Inn, Galena, Ill.

It’s been said that rain on your wedding day brings good luck and an abundant family. If that’s the case, then Erica and Emerson Buchanan are in for a long, happy marriage.

Despite a rainy, cool spring and gloomy weather forecasts, their May 5, 2013, wedding happened without a hitch. When the rain appeared early in the day, the staff at Goldmoor Inn, 9001 N. Sand Hill Road, Galena, was prepared for the worst.

“We had chosen to do the ceremony in the grass, but [owner] Patricia Smith and [wedding coordinator] Erica Wall rearranged everything for the weather,” says Erica. “The day ended up being sunny and nice.”

That afternoon, Erica and Emerson were wedded at the bed-and-breakfast’s outdoor pavilion, a large canopy with seating for nearly 125. A popular space for weddings year-round, the 18-room, family-owned inn features several indoor and outdoor venues that can host anywhere from two to 125 guests. Its sweeping views of the Mississippi River, abundant gardens, three-acre front lawn and charming exterior make it a romantic setting for about 55 couples each year.

“We look like a castle, perched on a bluff,” says owner Smith. “The turret suite is our only round room. It’s two floors up, and it’s the only room with a panoramic view. While the bride is getting ready, she can see everything happening downstairs.”

In addition to an on-site wedding planner, venues and in-house catering, The Goldmoor offers spa services, bachelor/bachelorette party accommodations, rehearsal dinner settings and easy access to several Galena-area vendors, as well as gourmet food. Erica was delighted with the inn’s chicken Marsala and pulled pork dinners, both made from scratch at Goldmoor.

“I actually didn’t taste the food beforehand,” she admits. “We had this idea of doing a pig roast, and a chic picnic. The food was absolutely amazing.”

Erica first met Emerson in the eighth grade, when he moved to Galena from Dubuque. The two remained friends in high school, continuing their friendship online after Emerson enlisted in the Army. It was during a trip to Minnesota that they made a romantic connection.

In summer 2011, while home on leave, Emerson proposed to the diehard Chicago Cubs fan. “We went to Little Cubs Field, in Freeport, because I had always told my family that I wanted to be proposed to on Wrigley Field,” she says. “He had blindfolded me, and when he took it off, he was in the grass on one knee.”

Emerson completed his tour in Korea while Erica planned their wedding from home. They legally married in spring 2012, while Emerson was still overseas. While planning the wedding, Erica found eager and helpful assistance from Goldmoor staff members, who guided her through every step.

“The day before the wedding, for the rehearsal, I wasn’t completely sure what song I wanted to play when I walked down the aisle,” says the bride. With some advice from wedding coordinator Erica and input from the bridesmaids, the group successfully selected Bruno Mars’ “Marry You.”

Reflecting on their rainy day experience, the couple encourages future brides to plan for rain, and to work with a venue that offers personal service even on the busiest of days.

“We were really worried that, if it was cold and rainy out, nobody would want to stay for the reception,” says Erica. “There was another wedding going on inside, so there was no way we could have gone there, and there were lots of high schoolers in the dining room for prom. But even though it was so busy, they definitely took good care of us.”

Vendors
Ceremony/Reception/Catering: Goldmoor Inn, Galena, Ill.
Photography: Ky Boyd Photography
Gown: David’s Bridal
Tuxes: Seno Formalwear, Freeport, Ill.
Floral: Flowers by Su, Warren, Ill.
Hair: Kim Sinagra/Suite 5 Salon, Galena, Ill.

Learn more at www.goldmoor.com.

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(Jenelle Kappe photos)

(Jenelle Kappe photos)

Cupid’s Arrow

Pavilion at Orchard Ridge Farms/Copperstone Inn, Rockton, Ill.

Craig Gavril’s mom likes to take credit for setting up her son with Rebekah Nowak in 2007. Maybe it was more than coincidence that Carol invited her son to the 25th anniversary of the Emerald Society bagpipe group, in Chicago.

“Becky went to the event with her family, my mom ran into her and introduced us, and the rest is history,” says Craig. “I guess that’s why they call her ‘Cupid Carol.’”

Craig and Rebekah hit it off quickly, eventually leaving the party to walk through downtown Chicago. Five years later, on Dec. 21, 2012, they walked those same steps toward Craig’s grand proposal.

“She wanted to see Martina McBride, who was playing at the Chicago Theatre, but it was sold out,” he says. “I didn’t tell her at first that there were actually two tickets sitting in her purse. After the concert, we walked to this park at State and Wacker, the same place where we had a conversation the day we met. I pulled off her glove and got down on one knee, and put the ring on her finger before she knew what to do.”

The engagement ring, which Craig designed himself, features a main stone of emerald, with one trillion-cut diamond on either side. The custom-fit wedding band has a peek-a-boo diamond on the bottom.

Planning their wedding, the pair visited 10 potential venues, but nothing quite charmed them. “We were looking for something with a rustic feel,” he says. “We wanted a barn feel, but in Chicago, that was always under a tent. We kept searching, and I pulled up The Pavilion in Rockton. I thought, no, it’s too far. I took Becky to see it, and we fell in love with it.”

The exposed timber frame, the elegant chandeliers, the warm stonework – The Pavilion at Orchard Ridge Farms and its accompanying Copperstone Inn were just what the couple wanted. Set on 130 rural acres, The Pavilion and Copperstone provide several ceremony sites and quiet lodging for wedding parties. The seven-suite luxury bed-and-breakfast offers a spa, bar, theater, Jacuzzi and gourmet breakfasts.

Every year, nearly 80 couples celebrate their weddings here, and dates book fast. Originally, Craig and Rebekah wanted a September date, but late summer is an increasingly popular time for nuptials. On May 3, 2014, the couple were wed by the pond near The Pavilion.

“We lucked out on the weather,” says Craig. “It was rain and thunderstorms leading right up to the day, and then that Saturday, we got up to 70 and sunny. Then on Sunday, it was back down to the 60s. Somebody was watching out for us.”

Kacie Benjamin, The Pavilion’s events coordinator, and Taneel Fraley, The Pavilion’s premier wedding planner, helped to make the day smooth and carefree, even coordinating with out-of-town vendors.

“The staff was wonderful,” says Craig. “They took care of anything we could ask for. I didn’t have to ask any questions that day.”
The couple celebrated with about 200 friends and family, heralded by 20 bagpipes from the Emerald Society.

Rebekah is an only child, so Craig knew all along that their wedding would be an important occasion. Thanks to the team at The Pavilion and Copperstone, the day was flawless.

“Seeing the reactions, every single moment somebody was saying it was the best wedding they’d ever been to,” says Craig. “To get out of the banquet hall setting, to be in this big, spacious, beautiful space, was thrilling.”

Vendors
Ceremony/Reception: The Pavilion at Orchard Ridge Farms, Rockton, Ill.
Catering: Hoffman House, Rockford, Ill.
Wedding Planner: Taneel Fraley, Favor* Wedding & Event Planning, Rockford, Ill.
Hair/Makeup: Arch Apothecary, Rockford, Ill.
Florist: Stems Floral & More, Rockford, Ill.
Wedding Rings: Ancona Jewelers, Addison, Ill.
Live Band: Hey Jimmy, Chicago
Photographer: Jenelle Kappe, Chicago
Cake: Sugarjones, Rockford, Ill.

Learn more at www.OrchardRidgeFarms.com.

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(Sung Joon Koo photos)

(Sung Joon Koo photos)

A Family Affair

Anderson Japanese Gardens, Rockford, Ill.

Planning an intimate outdoor ceremony was an important part of Julie and Rohika Wagner’s wedding preparations.

“I was very particular about how I wanted the ceremony space,” says Julie. “I wanted nature involved, but a lot of places that had lots of flower arrangements or a botanical setting were very pricey. I just wanted a nice place with a nice space.”

The two Palatine residents couldn’t find anything in Chicagoland that compared with what they found at Anderson Japanese Gardens, 318 Spring Creek Road, in Rockford. One of the highest-rated Japanese gardens in North America, Anderson Gardens hosts about 40 weddings at three sites: the Pavilion, the Waterfall and the Main Gate.

“When we went there, it was covered in snow, and it was just beautiful,” she says. “It looked like I was in Japan. It was so peaceful and calming.”

Julie knew that sense of calm when she first met Rohika, in 2012, at a sporting event in New York City. The New Jersey native felt an instant connection to him, and the two shared much in common. Both are half-Asian in ancestry; Julie’s mom is Korean and Rohika’s mom is Japanese.

Both families are members of the Unification Church, a worldwide religious organization founded in Korea by the late Sun Myung Moon. Arranged marriages are part of that tradition, so before dating, the two sought the blessings of their parents.

“In our church tradition, it’s the parents who decide,” explains Julie. “We were giving our parents the offering, and left it for them to decide. Luckily, they said it was OK.”

Their parents’ blessings cleared the way for Rohika’s surprise proposal in May 2013, during a visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden. “I thought it would be a regular date, but he had the ring in his pocket and not in the box, so I never saw it,” she says. “He was really sneaky.”

A sudden shift in plans gave the couple just six months to put everything together in time for their May 25, 2014, wedding. It was hectic, but Julie found a helping hand from Anderson Gardens’ wedding coordinator, who helped the bride to find a reception venue at the nearby Burpee Museum of Natural History.

“I couldn’t really think of my reception or catering, but after our tour, the planner there gave us a to-do checklist,” says Julie. “When I looked through it, that’s how I found my vendors. That really helped us a lot. It was like a cheat sheet for planning a wedding.”

In the final hours before the ceremony, Julie found herself in good hands. When the family served water bottles to keep guests cool, staff provided buckets of ice. While the bride prepared in the lower level of the visitors center, staff kept her out of sight from the groom.

“They helped me be all ‘James Bond’ about getting ready,” she recalls. “They planned it so that nobody could see me come up, or walk toward the ceremony, until the right time.”

The two were wed in front of the garden’s Main Gate, with about 50 guests in attendance. Their ceremony was more relaxed than traditional, but the symbol of their church is inscribed in their rings, providing a constant reminder of their faith and family – two elements that brought them together.

Vendors
Ceremony: Anderson Japanese Gardens, Rockford, Ill.
Reception: Burpee Museum of Natural History, Rockford, Ill.
Catering: ABC Catering, Rockford, Ill.
Cake: Jarosch Bakery, Elk Grove Village, Ill.
Photographer: Sung Joon Koo, Austin, Texas
Floral: Blue Daisy Floral Design, Arlington Heights, Ill.

Learn more at www.AndersonGardens.org.

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(Vermilion River Photography photos)

(Vermilion River Photography photos)

February on My Mind

Starved Rock Lodge & Conference Center, Utica, Ill.

A summer wedding was so cliche to Cindy and Brian Fusinato. Besides, Cindy figured, it’d be just her luck to have rain interrupt an outdoor ceremony.

“I wanted to do it on Valentine’s Day,” says Cindy. “Someone else had already booked it, so I asked what the next available date was, and it was the weekend of Feb. 21 or 28. I thought the 21st was just there, in the middle, and the 28th is at the end of the month, it’s memorable, so I picked that.”

Selecting the perfect venue was also a snap. Brian and Cindy had grown up in Spring Valley, Ill., and Peru, Ill., respectively, and Cindy wanted something close to home. When they attended a friend’s wedding, she knew she also wanted to celebrate at Starved Rock Lodge & Conference Center, which is within 20 miles of home.

Located inside Starved Rock State Park, this 75-year-old lodge hosts about 120 weddings each year, most of which happen in summer. During warmer months, the park offers scenic outdoor settings, but during winter and inclement weather, the Lodge’s Great Hall is the venue of choice.

On Feb. 28, 2014, Brian and Cindy were married in the Great Hall, in front of its grand stone fireplace, which was lit for the occasion. Afterward, the couple celebrated with about 200 guests in the adjacent Starved Rock Room, where the Lodge’s restaurant catered a bounteous feast.

“The food was excellent,” says Cindy. “They catered our rehearsal and wedding, so we had something completely different for each. We had the Tuscan buffet for the rehearsal dinner, because my husband’s Italian. We had lasagna and all of that good food. Then, we did the grand buffet for the wedding, and we had fried chicken, turkey, mostaccioli, mashed potatoes and two types of salad.”

The couple met in 2006, while socializing with friends at a local bar, and connected right away. After the couple had dated for nearly six years, Brian crafted a wedding proposal that took Cindy completely by surprise. It was her birthday, and Cindy had just arrived home from a night shift at work, eager for a day trip to Naperville.

“I walked into the house, and he was pacing and stressed,” she recalls. “We were going to leave right away for Naperville, so I figured that’s what it was. He said, ‘Happy Birthday’ and he handed me this long box. I said, ‘I told you not to get me anything for my birthday.’ I’m thinking it’s a necklace or a bracelet, and when I opened it and saw the ring, I just dropped to my knees. He got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I almost had a heart attack – I was not expecting it.”

In the days leading up to their winter wedding, the couple retreated to a cabin at Starved Rock – a perfect place to relax before the big day. Playing on the February colors, Cindy dressed her wedding party in chocolate brown, with the groomsmen wearing colorful reddish-pink ties. The bride’s ivory dress added just a hint of color to the snow-white backdrop.

Looking back, Cindy says she’s pleased with her unique wedding, and is still receiving compliments from guests. Really, she says, it’s just the result of a clear vision.

“My only problem was at the start of the planning, when I was constantly browsing Pinterest,” she says. “I was eventually like, ‘This is a waste of time.’ Stick with what you’ve got on your mind. The more you go on Pinterest, the more changes you’ll want to make. I stayed with my vision, and it worked perfectly.”

Vendors
Ceremony/Reception: Starved Rock Lodge, Utica, Ill.
Cake/Desserts: Tiers of Joy, LaSalle, Ill.
Photographer: Jim & Carol Krancic, Vermilion River Photography, Oglesby, Ill.
Gown/Bridesmaids: Marien Mae Bridal Boutique, LaSalle, Ill.
Tuxes: Something Different Tuxedos & More, Spring Valley, Ill.
DJ/Music: Guys on the Radio DJ Service, Spring Valley, Ill.
Decorator: SueZ’s Linens and Things, Blackstone, Ill.

Learn more at www.StarvedRockLodge.com.

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(Rhonda Van Laeke photo)

(Rhonda Van Laeke photo)

Blue Eyes

Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens, Rockford, Ill.

Those blue eyes. That was the first thing Bethany noticed about Justin Kilburg, when she was introduced to him by a mutual friend, in 2011.

“I didn’t give much thought to him at first,” laughs Bethany. “The only thing I remember thinking is, ‘His eyes are really blue.’”

But the more they conversed, the more she discovered the man behind those eyes. Justin was easy to talk with, had an intriguing personality, and was a loyal friend. She wasn’t at all surprised when Justin proposed on Valentine’s Day 2013.

“He gave me this huge box of chocolates,” she says. “It was seriously the size of my body. When I opened it up, one of the chocolates was missing, and a diamond ring was in its place.”

Rather than host their wedding in western Iowa, where Bethany grew up, the couple decided to hold it in Justin’s hometown of Rockford, after a casual visit to Sinnissippi Park and the Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens.

A popular spot for more than 30 weddings every year, the conservatory and gardens offer at least six choice spots, indoors and out, for ceremonies, receptions and showers.

Bethany and Justin were married on May 31, 2014, in a small ceremony at the century-old rose garden just north of the conservatory. They and their 70 guests then moved to a cocktail hour inside the conservatory and a reception on its terrace, overlooking the Rock River. Behind the scenes, facility rentals manager Leslie Campos directed the show.

“She acted like our day-of wedding planner,” says Bethany. “If something went wrong, she was there for us in an instant.”

The couple met at the University of Iowa, where Bethany will start her senior year this fall. Both plan to continue postgraduate studies on campus.

Learn more at www.rockfordparkdistrict.org/ncg.

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Simply Love

Byron Forest Preserve District, Byron, Ill.

For Glenda and Jon Muranko, it was a natural choice to host their wedding ceremony and reception at the Byron Forest Preserve District, in Jon’s hometown of Byron, Ill.

“I loved the outdoor location,” says Glenda. “We were up in the hills, and you can see in all directions. It’s just gorgeous out there. And the sunset – it’s incredible!”

Relatively new to the local wedding scene, the Forest Preserve encompasses nearly 2,000 acres, with about eight spots for outdoor ceremonies and three locations for indoor receptions. Its Heritage Farm is also a popular spot for rustic-themed weddings.

On Aug. 8, 2008, Glenda and Jon were married on a hillside in the nature preserve. Afterward, they and their guests celebrated in the upstairs room at the Jarrett Prairie Center, which offers pristine views of the surrounding landscape.

Glenda and Jon met in 2001, when the two attended a church trip to Chicago. “Jon asked me if I would help him with his online marketing business, translating things into Spanish,” says Glenda, who grew up in Honduras. “I said I’d help. So, we became friends and got to know each other.”

The couple’s friendship soon turned into romance. In 2007, Jon took Glenda out for dinner in Rockford. “He took me to Sinnissippi Gardens, and proposed near the old lagoon,” she says.

While preparing for their wedding, Glenda appreciated the flexible and helpful staff at the Forest Preserve. “They were very open to everything – ‘What do you need, and how can we help you do it?’” Glenda says.

Glenda’s friend is planning her own wedding at Byron Forest Preserve this summer, and she has one simple tip: “When you do a wedding outside, you don’t need so much decoration, because nature helps you out,” she says. “Just keep it simple.”

Learn more at www.ByronForestPreserve.com.

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Weddings-Shogun-Sum14

Heart’s Desire

Shogun Japanese Restaurant, Rockford, Ill.

After working for nearly seven years at Shogun Japanese Restaurant/Izakaya 88, in Rockford, Alisha Jones had little doubt about where she would host her wedding reception, when she got engaged in spring 2013.

Now the wedding coordinator for this restaurant’s unique banquet space, she has an easy time selling others on the same benefits she saw: built-in decorative lighting, custom bar options and a menu of convenient services.

“The thing I like most about this room is that you don’t just get the space – you get the plates, chairs, silverware, tables, linens and DJ, all for one price,” she says. “Everything is there for you, and all you need is catering.”

Alisha met LaMarr Wooden through some mutual friends in January 2013, and the pair found an instant connection. What wasn’t to like? He was studying to become a nurse practitioner, and he was upbeat, the kind of guy everyone wanted to be around.

A few months later, LaMarr sprang a big surprise while the two walked through Nicholas Conservatory, at Sinnissippi Park. “He just got down on one knee and proposed, in the gardens,” says Alisha. “I’d only known him a couple of months – it was really fast.”

Planning moved quickly, too, for their June 1, 2013, wedding. They stewed over location – Alisha’s hometown of Creston, Ill., or LaMarr’s hometown of Rockford? Once they’d picked, Alisha could envision how she’d use Shogun’s banquet space – a former nightclub – for herself. Given her familiarity with the staff, and the comprehensive services they provided, it was a largely carefree experience.

“Everything comes out really conveniently,” Alisha says. “When I called other places, it just wasn’t as comprehensive as Shogun.”

Learn more at www.ShogunofRockford.com.

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(The Salty Peanut Photography, photo)

(The Salty Peanut Photography, photo)

Three Beers for Love

Prairie Street Brewhouse, Rockford, Ill.

As they planned their winter wedding, Anna and Ryan Follmann knew they wanted a vintage space, someplace that was filled with character and charm. They couldn’t find what they wanted in Madison, Wis., where they live, nor could they find it in their hometown of Elgin. So, Anna started an online search for warehouse weddings. When she found Prairie Street Brewhouse in Rockford, she was hooked on both its style and location, which is a perfect in between for guests.

“My husband and I wanted a space that was unique,” she says. “We didn’t want a hotel or a barn, and my husband is into beers. We loved that the Brewhouse had exposed iron and brick, and was so open.”
Nearly 100 couples celebrate their weddings at the Brewhouse, which can accommodate groups in three different rooms, in addition to dockside ceremonies along the Rock River. The largest room, the Barrel Room, holds about 300 people.

For their Dec. 7, 2013, wedding, Anna and Ryan used most every public space in the Brewhouse. Their ceremony was held in the smaller Malt Room, their cocktail hour was hosted in the Ice Cellar, and their reception was held inside the Barrel Room. An on-site bridal suite also proved the perfect place for Anna and her bridesmaids to prepare.

With the help of a vintage rental company, the couple used chalkboards for signs, and old windows for their seating chart. While several Rockford-area vendors provided entertainment, food and linens, the Brewhouse provided an alcohol package with impressive choices.

“One of the things they let us do is have our pick of which 10 beers we wanted on tap,” says Anna. “You don’t see that anywhere. When we moved from the cocktail reception to dinner, they moved the bar, too, and offered five options during the reception.”

Anna and Ryan first met in Elgin in 2001, when a group of mutual friends hosted a gathering. “We were the only ones who weren’t coupled up,” says Anna, “so naturally, we started talking and we just had a lot of fun. We only started dating eight years ago.”

When they met, Anna was still in school and Ryan had just started a job. Though they were geographically distant, their friendship remained tight.

“When we were at a distance where we could travel to see each other easier, we started hanging out more, and then we started dating,” she says. “It was friendship before relationship, and that was perfect.”
In summer 2012, Ryan was invited to join Anna’s family for a weeklong vacation to Barbados, a trip that coincided with Anna’s birthday. For months, he managed to keep a carefully guarded secret.

“On the second-to-last day we were there, on my birthday, he proposed,” she says. “My family knew he was going to do it, but I didn’t. There was a secluded area right by the beach, and he did it there at sunset.”

The couple contemplated holding a November wedding, but because dates fill up fast at the Brewhouse, they found a better date was available in December. As Anna planned the day from the couples’ home in Madison, she found that the Brewhouse’s events manager, Rachael Pennell, was always helpful, whether it was pointing out local vendors she’s worked with, or showing off the venue when the two were in town.

“The entire planning was really smooth,” says Anna. “With me not being local, it was important that the communication be there. It definitely was there. Rachael was very helpful, and always had answers when I needed them.”

Vendors
Ceremony/Reception: Prairie Street Brewhouse, Rockford, Ill.
Catering: Abreo, Rockford, Ill.
Cake: The Sweetery, Rockford, Ill.
Day-Of Coordination: Lauren Wave, Rockford, Ill.
Floral: Blumen Garten/Renee Hesselbach (sister of groom)
Linens: Beautiful Day Linens, Rockford, Ill.
Vintage Rentals: A La Crate Vintage Rentals, Monona, Wis.
Photography: The Salty Peanut Photography, Madison, Wis.
DJ/Lighting: Luxe Productions, Rockford, Ill.
Makeup: Arch Apothecary, Rockford, Ill.

Learn more at www.psbrewhouse.com.

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