One of my favorite parts of a wedding day is the reception toasts – partly because I love hearing more about the couple, but mostly because I get the chance to hear that from the perspective of some of the people who know and love them most of all. As Karie’s father welcomed the crowd and proposed a toast to his daughter and new son-in-law, he spoke of a lot of things (in the way you practically must when a day has come that you’ve been envisioning for the past twenty something years). He talked of who Karie was as a child and the woman she’s become, as well as all of the things he loves about Ryan and the way the rest of the La Valle family now feels like relation to the Millers, too. He also spoke of the way he admires Karie and Ryan’s commitment to the relationships in their lives, and I realized that was exactly what I had spent the day witnessing.
I hung out and snapped photos that morning with Karie and her girls as they did hair and makeup at the hotel, and it was chill and fun and full of the calm happiness you hope for when hanging out with a bunch of women getting ready for a big day. Just south of the hotel where the girls were getting ready, the guys were cheersing together and checking out the view of the city from the balcony of Ryan and Karie’s home. Old friends and new friends and family made their way across Loyola’s campus to the church to see these two get married, and then they hopped on a party bus with all of their best friends and made their way to Big City Tap, which they lovingly referred to as The Big Shitty. As soon as Karie and Ryan walked in, a couple turned and pointed at the two of them in their wedding day attire with a look of surprise on their faces, and as Karie exclaimed, “this is where we first met!” to the couple, hardly a second passed before the woman could excitedly say, “us, too!” The two of them and their wedding party ordered drinks and shots and simply hung out, and Karie and Ryan laughed as they pointed to the spot where they first danced together years ago, while simultaneously in the midst of making new memories in this place.
We took more photos along the way, sure, but the parts that stand out to me from there were the moments when I was simply a bystander. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I hope for my couples to get to spend more time with their people and less time posing in front of my camera on their wedding day, and it really felt like Karie and Ryan made the most of all of this. We took a quiet moment in the courtyard prior to the arrival of their guests for the two of them to simply be together as I photographed, and then as their people trickled in and grabbed drinks, I had the chance to watch as the two of them greeted all of their loved ones with the biggest open arms. In his toast, Karie’s dad went on to tell the crowd about how intentional Ryan and Karie had been in making the invite list for their wedding day – these were the friends and family who not only meant the most to them, but also had played a part in who they had once been, and who they are now, and have blessed them with not only their relationships, but also their presence on one of the biggest days of their lives thus far. And there I was, watching it all first hand, and remembering once again that this is really what it’s all about.
Wedding Coordinator: Naturally Yours Events, Kristen Wilfinger
Ceremony: Madonna Della Strada Chapel
Reception Venue: The Ivy Room
Makeup + Hair: Rare Bird Beauties
Florist: Chicago Flower Company
Band: David Rothstein Band
Cake: Alliance Bakery
Dress: Marie Gabriel Couture Bridal
Lighting: EEL Lighting & Decor