Mandi & Derrick Kunz (Wedding Day Photography photos)

Dream Destinations for Your Big Day

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 some spectacular options. Here, we highlight a few favorites, and share the experiences of couples who recently said “I do.”

Mandi & Derrick Kunz (Wedding Day Photography photos)

Inside Connection: Giovanni’s Restaurant & Convention Center • Rockford, ill

For Mandi and Derrick Kunz, there was never a question of where they would hold their wedding reception. For several years, she had tended bar, waitressed and worked in the office at Giovanni’s Restaurant & Convention Center, 610 N. Bell School Road, Rockford. It’s also where she met Derrick, a manager for Cricket Communications and a friend of chef Al Castrogiovanni, whose family owns Giovanni’s.
Mandi had seen a lot of weddings and wanted something special. She got exactly that. Guests were served a delicious custom menu of Dijon porkchops, with au gratin potatoes and green beans, plus six hors d’oeuvres, including Giovanni’s famous mac ‘n cheese bites.
“Food was one of the top things I wanted,” says Mandi. “The meals here are always good. I’ve been to weddings where the food was terrible, and I didn’t want that.”
Food is only the beginning at Giovanni’s. The spacious banquet facility can accommodate a wedding celebration of 100 guests or 1,000 guests. Located near Interstate 90, it’s within walking distance of several hotels, some offering special services and discounts to brides and their guests.
When planning her wedding, Mandi relied on her inside connections to pull everything together. Leading the charge was Jaymie Nelson, general manager and one of three wedding coordinators on staff. Nelson guided Mandi through nearly every question.
“She went with me to my flower appointments, which was nice, because I had no idea what I wanted,” says Mandi. The week before the wedding, when Derrick decided he wanted extra lighting, Nelson found a way to make it happen. Even the day of the wedding, she was at the church early, tweaking last-minute details.
“She put me at ease, making sure everything was set up,” Mandi says. “It was a very stress-free day.”
Nelson’s commitment to the couple ran extra deep, because she set them up, in 2009. Mandi and Derrick knew each other from the bar and restaurant, so they found that conversation came easily on their first date, a Cubs vs. Brewers game in Milwaukee. Even though he’s a Sox fan and she’s a Cubs fan, the two found they had plenty in common, especially their love of sports and fishing.
When they were married on July 9, 2011, they celebrated at Giovanni’s with nearly 215 guests, including co-workers and the venue’s owners.
“The personal connection with everyone was definitely special to me,” she says. “But in every other wedding I’ve seen, they offer the same personal treatment.”


Reception/Catering: Giovanni’s Restaurant & Convention Center, Rockford
Cake: By the Dozen Bakery, Machesney Park, Ill.
Gown: The Crystal Bride, Geneva, Ill.
Florist: Balloons and Flowers by Haley, Rockford
Photographer: Wedding Day Photography, Rockford
Music/DJ: DJ Kamaili, Rockford
Hair: Xeno Salon, Rockford

Jerry & Angela Gille (Mandy Henry photos)

Serendipity: Anderson Japanese Gardens • Rockford, ill

“You never know who you’re going to meet.”
Angela wasn’t too impressed with Jerry Gille’s pickup line, at a Rockford RiverHawks game, but she was strangely attracted.
“I gave him my number, wondering, ‘Why am I doing this?’ and I hoped he wouldn’t call,” she says. “But he did, and I found I couldn’t stop talking to him.”
When the two single parents decided in 2010 to combine families, their search for a wedding venue took them to Anderson Japanese Gardens, 318 Spring Creek Road, Rockford. This was Jerry’s second marriage, and Angela’s first.
Though both had spent years in the Rockford area, neither had seen the gardens until a cold winter day, when they toured with wedding and cultural events manager Julie Pastore. Not only were the gardens gorgeous, covered in six inches of snow, but the Japanese architecture fit well with Jerry’s Taiwanese heritage, something Angela wanted to recognize. The couple was sold.
Each year, about 40 couples tie the knot inside the highest-quality Japanese garden in the U.S., where three different ceremony sites – the pavilion, the waterfall and the main gate – can hold anywhere from 35 to 200 guests. The best part, Angela discovered, was the natural elegance.
“We didn’t have to do anything extravagant for decorations,” she says.
Throughout the eight-month planning process, Pastore kept the busy couple on task, connecting with wedding services and offering steadfast deadlines. Most couples need at least a year to reserve their date, but because the couple was flexible, they found a date on Sunday, during Labor Day weekend.
The Gilles’ Sept. 4, 2011, ceremony went without a hitch, despite a downpour during the Saturday rehearsal. The couple’s three girls – the oldest is 15 – walked arm-in-arm down the aisle, spreading flower petals. The couple’s two boys carried their mother’s train.
Following the wedding, guests could tour the gardens. As party favors, the couple handed out koi food, for feeding the garden fish.
Behind the scenes, Pastore made sure it was a perfect day. “She was so involved in everything that she was like the bride who didn’t get married,” says Angela.
Pastore’s dedication echoes the gardens’ tagline: “Imagine your vision realized, your dreams captured and your event crafted to perfection.”
As a perk, couples receive a yearlong membership to the gardens, and their guests receive a day pass. The Gilles hope to return to celebrate their first anniversary.
And to think that Angela and her son almost missed the RiverHawks baseball game where she first met Jerry. You really never know when fate will step up to greet you.


Ceremony: Anderson Japanese Gardens, Rockford
Reception: Anderson Japanese Gardens, Rockford
Catering: Mary’s Market, Rockford
Cake: Cake Creations, Rockford
Gown: Russair’s Veils & Tails, Clinton, Wis.
Florist: Cherry Blossom Florist, Rockford
Photographer: Mandy Henry
Music/DJ: Delta Disc Jockeys, Rockton, Ill.
Hair/Makeup: High Maintenance Salon, Rockford

Jeremy and Heather Roark (Kathy Casstevens-Jasiek photo)

A Woodsy Wedding: Starved Rock Lodge • Utica, ill

Things have a way of clicking into place for Jeremy and Heather Roark, of Champaign, Ill. As transfer students in the pre-veterinary program at Murray State University, Murray, Ky., they saw each other in every class. At the school farm where they worked, they were routinely paired together and their personalities instantly clicked.
While planning their wedding, they thought about the way each of their families had enjoyed hiking and camping, when they were growing up. Heather and her family often took trips from their home in Sandwich, Ill., to Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Ill.
After some research, the couple knew they had a venue. During the annual bridal expo at Starved Rock Lodge, they arranged for catering, a custom cake, photography and DJ services – all through the Lodge. Best of all, Lodge staff helped Heather to do the rest of her planning long-distance, while she finished school in Kentucky.
“The best thing for us, besides the gorgeous location, was that they were a one-stop shop,” says Heather. “They helped us to plan everything. They helped our families really make it a memorable day, so that we wouldn’t have to spend the day worrying about anything.”
Kathy Casstevens-Jasiek, the Lodge’s marketing director and the photographer for the Roarks’ wedding, had special insight into the venue: she had staged her own wedding there, just a year before Heather. The park sees about 122 weddings each year, and Casstevens-Jasiek knows that hosting a flawless wedding is no small task. At Starved Rock, backup plans are always in place.
“If you don’t use the Great Hall because your ceremony is outside, you can still use it for your reception,” she says. “If it rains, we’ll quickly hang some white curtains and use the Great Hall for your ceremony, then reconfigure it for the reception.”
The Roarks’ big day was flawless. Before the ceremony, the couple, their family and wedding party hopped on a trolley for a ride around the park and photos in the scenic canyons.
Following the 5 p.m. ceremony in the outdoor Sunrise Shelter, the couple hosted a reception in the Great Hall, with nearly 200 guests, many of whom stayed at the Lodge.
Now Heather’s brother Jake is planning his own wedding at Starved Rock. And, like most couples, he and his fiancée are working on it far in advance. Weddings here are already scheduled for 2014.
To future brides, Heather offers a simple suggestion: “Don’t forget to step back and enjoy the moment,” she says. “The day truly does go by so fast, and it’s important to take the opportunity to be in the moment.”


Ceremony/Reception: Starved Rock Lodge, Utica, Ill.
Catering: Starved Rock Lodge, Utica, Ill.
Cake: Starved Rock Lodge, Utica, Ill.
Gown: David’s Bridal
Florist: Regina Little, Sandwich, Ill.
Photographer: Kathy Casstevens-Jasiek/Starved Rock Lodge, Utica, Ill.
Music/DJ: Get Up & Dance DJ, Ottawa, Ill.

Blake and April Johnson (Mandy Blair photo)

Country Roads: Copperstone Inn/Pavilion at Orchard Ridge Farms • Rockton, ill

Blake and April Johnson dreamed of a country wedding.
The self-described “country bumpkins” wanted something that fit their budget and had the perfect look. As they searched for country settings and barn-like venues, they visited a variety of wedding blogs. One had a stunning picture of a bride at a place called Copperstone Inn, 6702 Yale Bridge Road, Rockton, Ill.
The more they learned about Copperstone and its companion Pavilion at Orchard Ridge Farms, the more they knew they’d found what they wanted. “My wife loved it, and she cried the first time she saw it,” Blake says.
But there was a problem: The couple lives in Kenosha, Wis. His family lives in Minnesota. Her family lives in Wheaton.
“Her family wanted us to do it in Wheaton,” Blake says. “Once we showed it to them, they all agreed this place was awesome. But everyone had to drive to get there.”
It was a hard sell, but they’ve never looked back. “I would do it again in a heartbeat,” he says.
Set on 130 acres with a giant reception hall and a seven-room bed-and-breakfast, Copperstone Inn is a prime spot for destination weddings. For out-of-town brides and grooms, the staff provides a list of recommended local bridal service vendors.
Blake was amazed by the helpful attitude of the inn’s small staff. “I felt like royalty, the way they took care of us,” he says.
Blake and April met one another back in 2006, in Nashville, while she attended school and he lived with a friend there. Nearly four years later they began dating. Although April was his first girlfriend, he knew he’d found his one and only.
“I wanted to find one girl and that was it,” says Blake. “I had been good friends with her and one day it just clicked.”
Soon after they started dating, April moved to Chicago to pursue a nursing degree. Blake followed her, eventually moving to Kenosha, when she transferred to Marquette University, in Milwaukee. On Aug. 19, 2011, the two were married on the hill just east of Copperstone’s pavilion, beneath two old oak trees.
The spacious pavilion can hold up to 450 guests, but was arranged to feel cozy for this couple’s 100 guests. “Even though we had a smaller wedding, it was perfect, and the staff helped us to fill up the space,” says Blake.
Looking back, he’s still amazed. “We’ve been to other weddings since ours, and I think ours was better,” he says. “I’m not trying to brag, but I think everything was just gorgeous.”


Ceremony/Reception: Copperstone Inn/Pavilion at Orchard Ridge Farms, Rockton, Ill.
Catering: ABC Catering, Rockton, Ill.
Cake: Bridal Cakes by Ann, Kenosha, Wis.
Photographer: Mandy Blair Photography, Milwaukee

Amy and Joe Burley (Picture4Ever Studios photo)

Romantic River Views: Goldmoor Inn • Galena, ill

From the day that Joe Burley proposed to Amy, the Cary couple knew they wanted a romantic river view wedding at Goldmoor Inn, 9001 N. Sand Hill Road, Galena. Joe had proposed to Amy at his grandfather’s Galena-area property, and the couple had enjoyed a romantic dinner at the Goldmoor afterward.
“He reserved a room and we ate dinner there, and he had told the Goldmoor about us,” she says. “They made a special cake that said, ‘Congratulations Joe and Amy,’ on it.” When they went upstairs to their room, romantic music was playing.
Right away, they booked Memorial Day weekend for their wedding, because it was a time that was significant to both families and accommodated Joe’s work schedule.
The family-owned bed-and-breakfast hosts weddings big and small throughout the year, offering a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces suitable for ceremonies and receptions. With 18 guest rooms and space for nearly 200, the property offers breathtaking views of Mississippi River backwaters and Galena’s rolling hills.
“A lot of brides are amazed the first time they step out of the car and see the view across the river,” says Erica Wall, wedding coordinator.
Wall assumed planning duties for the couple’s wedding just three months before the big day. The couple thinks of her as their caped crusader, because she smoothed out so many rough spots during the planning process. Just hours before the wedding, when both bride and groom were anxious, Wall came to the rescue yet again.
“She was very detailed, very organized,” says Amy. “Even on the wedding day, she put my bridesmaids and me in a room so we wouldn’t see the boys, and she put the boys in a room so they wouldn’t see us, and she’d go back and forth between the rooms, because we were both very nervous.”
Although their relationship culminated in a romantic riverside wedding, it began in the workplace.
Amy had noticed Joe in the mortgage lender office where they both worked. At the advice of a mutual friend, she began conversations with him whenever possible. In late summer 2009, Joe and Amy set a group date at a Palatine bar.
“We ended up closing the bar together, because we just kept talking,” she says.
The Sunday afternoon wedding, under the Goldmoor’s pavilion, went off without a hitch. Wall arranged seating so guests could enjoy the scenic views, and she planned a long, winding entrance for the bride.
“I wanted to make that a special moment for my dad and I – he’s my best friend,” Amy explains.
Couples book the entire Goldmoor property or just a few rooms for weddings and elopements. Receptions may include custom catering by inn chefs, or fine meals in the dining room. Wall is always prepared.
“You only get this service with us,” she says. “All of the focus is on the bride.”


Ceremony: Goldmoor Inn, Galena, Ill.
Reception: Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa, Galena, Ill.
Catering: Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa, Galena, Ill.
Cake: MainStreet Cheesecakes, Galena, Ill.
Gown: Here Comes the Bride, Addison, Ill.
Photographer: Picture4Ever Studio, Chicago, Ill.
Music/DJ: Jojo and Gizep, Addison, Ill.
Ceremony Performer: Jordan Danielson, Dubuque, Iowa
Chair Rental: Covered Affairs, River Grove, Ill.

Mike and Erin Nieft (Ruben Ramos/Fred Fox Studios)

Grand Getaway: Grand Geneva Resort & Spa • Lake Geneva, wis

Lake Geneva and its Grand Geneva Resort & Spa hold special meaning for Erin and Mike Nieft. They visited it regularly during the four years they dated, so it was natural to hold their wedding celebration there, too.
“That’s where we went on our first away weekend together,” says Erin. “We had a great time, and that was when we knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.”
About five months before the couple’s first trip to Grand Geneva, they had met at a Chicago Bears game. He was from Hoffman Estates, she was from Cary, and they both loved biking, traveling and music. With so much in common, their friendship continued beyond the game.
They were married June 18, 2011, at Grand Geneva’s Greenview lawn, which overlooks a small lake and 36-hole golf course. With nearly 120 guests, they celebrated inside the spacious Evergreen Ballroom. The massive ballrooms can hold up to 400 guests, although most weddings host about 175.
The couple spent a year and a half preparing for the wedding, with help from the resort staff, which includes a team of wedding planners who guide each detail from engagement to reception. Coordinator Marlene Minnich came to know Erin’s tastes perfectly. In fact, on the morning of the wedding, Minnich kept in place the hanging lights used during the previous night’s wedding reception, because she knew Erin would love them. She was right. “There was never a ‘no,’” says Erin. “It was always a ‘maybe, I think we can do that.’ There was always an option, and sometimes it was that much better. There were times I didn’t even have to ask.”
Take, for example, the tasting room, where resort chefs prepare dining options and décor for couples to select. Minnich sat with Mike, Erin and their parents, offering ideas. But it was the chair and linen options she suggested that surprised and impressed Erin. The silk napkins, which incorporated her purple and gray color scheme, were an instant hit.
“What she picked, worked,” Erin says.
Grand Geneva hosts about 80 weddings here each year, with as many as five receptions each weekend. Events director Manuel DeMoya says the staff remains flexible, offering a wide range of options, including Friday and Sunday weddings, or afternoon celebrations.
“No budget is too small,” he says. “If they’re flexible, we can help them to plan a great event.”
Because it’s a resort, couples may choose from among many add-ons, including rock climbing, golfing or trolley rides to Lake Geneva. DeMoya says he’ll even reserve an entire restaurant on the property, to accommodate a rehearsal dinner. Erin took her bridesmaids to the resort’s spa for treatments, makeup and hair.
One year later, Erin has no regrets. In fact, when the couple returned for a first-anniversary celebration, there was one friend they were sure to visit. “We’re seeing Marlene this weekend, and I can’t wait to see her,” Erin says. “She’s like part of the family.”


Ceremony, Reception, Catering, Cake:
Grand Geneva Resort, Lake Geneva, Wis.
Gown: Volles Bridal and Boutique, Lake Zurich, Ill.
Florist: Lilypots Flowers & Gifts, Lake Geneva, Wis.
Photographer: Ruben Ramos/Fred Fox Studios, Schaumburg, Ill.
Videographer: JJ Kim/Orange Wedding Films, Chicago, Ill.
Music/DJ: MDM Entertainment, Schaumburg, Ill.
Makeup: Danna “Maddison” from Mario Tricoci, Schaumburg, Ill.
Hair: Grand Geneva Resort, Lake Geneva, Wis.

Adam & Jamie Bozarth (Today Everlasting Photography photo)

Love at First Byte: White Pines Inn • Mount Morris, ill

Jamie and Adam Bozarth knew they wanted a destination wedding not too far from home. When they visited White Pines Inn and state park, located between Oregon and Polo, it was love at first sight. Kind of like their first “meeting.”
“We met in Kansas City, online, in 2010,” says Jamie. Adam lived there, and Jamie, a native of Aurora, Ill., was there on business. When they met in person, things clicked right away. “He was just fun and easy to talk to,” she says. “At the end of the night, he asked if he could see me again the next day.”
By October 2011, when they were searching for a wedding location, Jamie’s mother suggested White Pines Inn, where she’d attended a wedding years before. Located across the road from the state park, White Pines’ wedding canyon offers a choice of nine wedding set-ups, and never hosts any two at the same time. Out-of-town brides can access all kinds of vendors, and even a honeymoon destination – a condo in Costa Rica owned by Beth Henderson, manager of White Pines Inn.
On the day that Jamie and Adam visited White Pines, the canyon’s No. 4 position, surrounded by three walls of limestone canyon, was already set up. Surrounded by neatly manicured lawns, stone outcroppings and a pond, the canyon grabbed Jamie’s attention. On June 23, the couple held their 7 p.m. candlelight ceremony there.
“It was beautiful,” Jamie says. “The sun was starting to set and the light was perfect for photography.”
Afterward, the couple enjoyed an appetizer buffet with their 70 guests – mostly family and friends, all from out of town – at White Pines’ new LaBranche banquet hall, in Polo. White Pines guests may opt to stay at the cabins and the honeymoon suite inside the state park.
In the months leading up to the ceremony, Jamie worked closely with Henderson, tapping many of her personal connections, and Henderson worked with each to ensure a successful day. The venue hosts about 100 weddings a year, inside the canyon, the log cabin lodge inside the park, or the new Polo venue.
Henderson is always prepared for anything. With outdoor weddings, weather is a major concern, but all eventualities are covered at White Pines. Plans are flexible, depending on weather, something that Jamie felt was essential.
“If you want an outdoor place with Plans A, B and C, go to White Pines,” she says. “They really take care of you.”


Ceremony: White Pines Inn wedding canyon, Mt. Morris, Ill.
Reception/Catering/Cake: White Pines Inn LaBranche, Polo, Ill.
Gown: David’s Bridal
Florist: The Flower Patch, Oregon, Ill.
Music/DJ: Rock River Sound, Oregon, Ill.

Peyton & Kimberly Lumzy (The Ginn Family photo)

Small-Town Celebration: Post House Ballroom • Dixon, ill

Kimberly and Peyton Lumzy love Dixon, Ill., and Dixon loves them. When selecting a location for their dream wedding, there wasn’t much of a conversation.
“It wasn’t a question,” says Kimberly, of Bloomingdale, Ill. “For Peyton, it was like, ‘Nope, I want it in Dixon.’”
Peyton scoured his hometown for everything from the jewelry, DJ and catering companies to the ceremony site and reception venue. They chose to have their ceremony at the Dixon Riverfront amphitheatre and to house the wedding party at cabins inside Lowell Park. But choosing the reception venue – Post House Ballroom, 100 W. Second St. – was the easiest choice of all.
The former site of the city’s post office, built in 1911 and restored in 2000, the Post House has beautiful old woodwork, original post office features and two grand chandeliers, rumored to be from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. The spacious ballroom, a former mail-sorting center, holds up to 250 guests. The facility is owned by the Lee County Council on Aging, and all profits from ballroom rental support local senior services.
Throughout the Lumzys’ year and a half of planning, ballroom manager Cathy Reglin went out of her way to help. The day of the wedding, Cathy helped Kimberly and the bridesmaids prepare at the ballroom, and photographed the ceremony from across the Rock River.
Dixon holds special meaning for the couple, who met just a few weeks into their freshman year at Monmouth College, Monmouth, Ill. Because Dixon is halfway between Monmouth and Kimberly’s hometown, the couple often visited Peyton’s parents, friends and neighbors. “After awhile, everyone started to know my name,” she says.
The couple is especially close with the family that owns Venier Jewelers, 117 W. First St., Dixon, and purchased an engagement ring and wedding bands there. The Veniers also offered DJ services for the ceremony and reception.
Just before the ceremony, the city closed part of River Street, to keep traffic away from guests – a true expression of small-town charm. “Everyone really went out of their way to make it a dream,” says Kimberly.


Ceremony: Dixon Riverfront, Dixon, Ill.
Reception: Post House Ballroom, Dixon, Ill.
Catering: Sandy’s Restaurant, Dixon, Ill.
Cake: How Sweet It Is, Sterling, Ill.
Gown: David’s Bridal
Florist: Flowers Etc., Dixon, Ill.
Jewelry: Venier Jewelers, Dixon, Ill.
Photographer: The Ginn Family, Dixon, Ill.
Music/DJ: Mike Venier, Dixon, Ill.
Hair: My Alter Ego, Dixon, Ill.

Mark & Jessica Lewis (photo provided)

Girl Next Door: Pinecrest Grove Community Center • Mount Morris, ill

When Mark Lewis rented a home in Mt. Morris, Ill., in the fall of 2008, he had no idea that he would be marrying the girl next door two-and-a-half years later. In fact, he didn’t even know they were neighbors, when he met her inside a bank, where she was working.
“I took my paycheck in, and our eyes just met,” he says. “A few days later, I sent her and a hand-written note that said, ‘Let’s get dinner and get to know each other.’”
Mark was born and raised in Byron, Ill., and works as a Lieutenant/Paramedic with the Mt. Morris Fire Protection District. Jessica was born and raised in Mt. Morris and works at Oregon SuperValu.
After they were engaged, a year after they started dating, the couple knew they wanted a small “down home” wedding. “We wanted to use our parade engine to go from the Methodist Church to the reception.” Mark says. However, they weren’t quite certain where their reception should be.
On their short list was Pinecrest Grove Community Center, a large new activity center separate from, but on the campus of, Pinecrest Community, a Mt. Morris continuing care retirement community. Mark was already familiar with the facility because of the graduations which were held there for the MABAS Division 18 Fire Academy.
When they visited the community center together, the couple admired the high ceilings and generous windows, and knew their decision had been made. The center is home to a large auditorium with a stage that the couple knew would be perfect for seating the wedding party. The auditorium accommodates seating for about 200 people comfortably; its vaulted ceilings and spacious windows allow the auditorium to be transformed into either a country style or elegant wedding venue.
Convincing their friends of their choice was another matter. At that time, wedding receptions weren’t a common event at the community center. “When we told people it was at Pinecrest, oh, you should have seen the looks people gave us,” Mark says, laughing. “‘You’re doing it at a nursing home? Is it because you’re a paramedic?’”
While the couple planned details, the Pinecrest staff made everything easy for the May 21, 2011 wedding. The staff arranged for tables and coverings, chairs, and room setup and offered good advice. Staff members stayed late so the couple could double-check the space and ask questions. Mark has wonderful memories of the food, which was catered by the Pinecrest kitchen staff. “The catering was just phenomenal,” he says. “The food was amazing.”
Mark also appreciates the service. “They made it so we could focus on our special day,” he says. “Our parents sent us on our honeymoon and they stayed to tidy everything up and commented how the staff really made it easy.”
June Jacobs, community center manager, knows why this place is special to Mount Morris. “There’s not another place in this area that can provide a venue so versatile. Our building, in general, just carries a comfortable and cozy feeling.” she says. “We’ve seen the building used in so many ways and we just love being able to provide such a place for families to create long-lasting life memories.”


Ceremony: Disciples United Methodist Church, Mount Morris, Ill.
Reception/Catering: Pinecrest Grove Community Center, Mount Morris, Ill.
Cake: Mother
Florist: Wedding Whims, Dixon, Ill.
Jewelry: Kays Jewelry, Rockford, IL
Photographer: Catherine Mahon, Belvidere, Ill.
Music/DJ: Illusions Audio, Polo, Ill.

The Galena Room at Eagle Ridge Resort, Galena, Ill. (Richard Remington photos)

Destination: Hometown: Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa • Galena, ill

Many couples choose the all-inclusive Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa, 444 Eagle Ridge Dr., Galena, Ill., as a destination wedding because of its many amenities. But for Daniel and Laura Allen, their “destination” is close to home.
Laura’s family is from Galena, and many of her guests lived nearby. Given the grand ballrooms, variety of overnight accommodations, and easy access, it became the couple’s top choice.
“One thing I really liked was the setting,” says Linda Kirst, the bride’s mother. “We could view the lake, there are lots of windows and it was really intimate.”
Achieving that intimate feeling was small feat, given the crowd of nearly 230 guests, who fit comfortably in the long, window-swept Galena Room. Decorated with ivory linens, the ballroom was bright and cheerful. Each year, nearly 100 couples celebrate their weddings in any of the three adjustable ballrooms: The more intimate Galena Room, the expansive window-covered Eagle Ballroom, or the summertime tent at the Point Patio.
Many couples also hold their ceremonies on the resort property, but Laura chose Galena Bible Church, 11108 Hwy. 20, Galena, where her father’s been the head pastor for 22 years. “He had a role in the ceremony, but he didn’t want a big role,” says Linda. The ceremony was led by Daniel’s childhood pastor from Cincinnati.
Faith has played an important part in the couple’s relationship; they met in a church setting during their college years at Olivet Nazarene University, in Bourbonnais, Ill. For three years, the couple built their friendship, and this past Christmas, Daniel proposed to Laura at their alma mater.
“They went back to the campus and he had a scavenger hunt,” says Linda. “He took her to all of the places that were significant to them and their relationship, and then it ended with roses and Daniel on his knee.”
A newlywed herself, wedding coordinator Kelsea Brown worked closely with the Kirsts to plan a fun, carefree event. She arranged for Chef Randy Hoppman’s delicious menu of chicken alfredo and pasta with garden salad. Even though Laura had just seven months to plan the event, everything came together flawlessly. “She’s a sweet, kind person,” says Brown. “She deserved a beautiful wedding, and being close to home, Eagle Ridge’s beautiful accommodations and views were perfect.”
Thanks to the Eagle Ridge team’s personal service, the couple, their family and guests enjoyed every bit of the special day. Setup crews managed most of the decorating, from the linens and cake table to the chocolatey dessert table. “I didn’t have to think about anything,” she says.
Just a few days after her daughter’s July 21 wedding, Linda is enjoying the memories, and a carefree experience. “I’m still on a high,” she says.


Ceremony: Galena Bible Church, Galena, Ill.
Reception/Catering: Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa, Galena, Ill.
Cake: Sweet Street Bakery, New Glarus, Wis.
Music/DJ: Carl Droesslor, East Dubuque, Ill.