A few years back, I was talking to one of my couples about the timeline for their wedding day when they told me one of the things they felt strongly about was attending their cocktail hour. Their logic was simple: we’re throwing this big party for our friends and family, so we want to be at one of the best parts of the party. And honestly, I can enthusiastically affirm through observation that the cocktail hour really is one of the best parts – it’s this window of time when the bride and groom don’t have to be anywhere particular, or do anything particular, and everyone just roams and laughs and sips and hugs, and since then, it is often my favorite part of so many wedding days.
So as I watched Lauren and Marly’s cocktail hour unfolding, I knew I was in the midst of a special one, and let me tell you why. They had gotten ready earlier that day at Lauren’s grandparents’ farm, which is just down the road from her Dad’s farm. The guys had some drinks out in the driveway as the ladies pulled up from hair and makeup at the nearby salon, and Lauren snuck through the garage so Marly wouldn’t see her. Family members watched the Illini game in the living room as Lauren’s mom helped her into her dress in a bedroom, family photographs hung behind them. She and Marly saw each other for the first time that day in her grandparents’ yard, just out of sight of their wedding party, and then it sprinkled ever so briefly as they climbed into their party bus to head over to Lauren’s Dad’s farm for their ceremony.
The ceremony was held in her Dad’s backyard, which was full of decorations and wedding guests sipping drinks as they took their seats. Marly’s brother-in-law was their officiant, and he married the two of them in front of the rest of their loved ones. After that, they walked down the aisle and right into their cocktail hour, which took place at Lauren’s Dad’s bar, also in the backyard. It was the most I’ve ever seen a cocktail hour feel like home – friends and family members were sharing stories and mingling and grabbing drinks from the bar, and Lauren and Marly got the chance to simply hang out with the people they love, and the kids were playing on the swing set and pulling Marly’s hand to get him to come give them a push. All of the wedding planning and the anxiety that led up to this moment was entirely gone — they were married, and they were amongst their favorite people, in the middle of what they would soon talk about as one of their best days. Then Marly and Lauren hopped on a bus with their wedding party, and they made their way to the hometown bar before heading to their reception. Overall, they spent their afternoon and evening with all of their favorite people, and I don’t mean they just spent that time taking pictures with them and going through the motions of what we know wedding days to often be – I mean that they spent this time making real, true memories with their people, and savoring each and every second of their time with each other, too.
Ceremony: Brett Dynes Farms
Reception Venue: The Outer Edge Bar & Grill
Hair: Fringe Hair & Nail Studio
Makeup: Makeup and Lashes by Becca
Dress: Bridal Elegance
Catering: Annawan Hometown Market
Flowers: Wedding Flowers by Hannah
Cake + Cupcakes: Karen Anderson
DJ: 789 Productions