The best decision we made was hiring Sara O’Shea of So Chic Events. Between finishing grad school, job searching, moving to a new city, and starting new jobs—I knew that wedding planning was not going to get the attention it deserved. Sara loves her job, plans wonderful events, and is a pleasure to work with. Initially I faced a lot of resistance about hiring a wedding planner—it can sound pretentious or “Father of the Bride”-esque, I know. But I was relieved to hear my parents praise Sara throughout the process, and the day after the wedding say things like “we couldn’t have done it without her” and “money well spent.”
The whole rental situation alone made it worth hiring Sara. I didn’t know, or care, where or how to get wedding stuff. There was just so much STUFF. And there were separate places where you had to get lights, tables, the dance floor, tablecloths, candles. If I was responsible for coordinating rentals, we would have just cut the guest list to 25 people and gone out for a nice dinner. So, thank goodness for Sara. I was pretty much like “here are photos of what I like, you know the budget.” And she did a wonderful (WONDERFUL WONDERFUL) job. I don’t call her “Saint Sara” for nothin’.
It seemed like people wanted a very specific answer to “What kind of flowers will you have?” and were very disappointed when I replied “Erm…white ones.” I had a look in mind—lush, soft, romantic—but wasn’t sure what kind of flowers would fulfill that vision and stay within our budget (basically, something that had the lush/romantic look of peonies, but were not as expensive…because peonies in October? Ouch!).
We ended up going with three cakes, three flavors. A lot of people want classic white wedding cake, the Ellenas don’t have a party without chocolate, and I love fruity goodness (lemon cake with raspberry curd filling? A DREAM). It was awesome, except I don’t know if everyone realized there were three flavors because each flavor was set out in a separate location around the space…it was a little chaotic, and the bakery seriously underestimated cake per person…so instead of having enough cake for fifty extra people, we had exactly enough cake. Why is this an issue, you ask? Well, leftovers would have been handy because 1) breakfast the next day and 2) The Moms, who were busy chatting and counting on leftovers, didn’t get any that night. But, the cake was delicious and it’s pretty easy to get more from Hy-Vee.
We knew from the beginning that we wanted Mike & Carrie to be part of our reception. Their combination of live performance and DJ was perfect—especially since we weren’t sure how “dancy” our guests would be. They kept the dance floor full, and even fulfilled my request for the last songs to be “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift, immediately followed by The Golden Girls theme song (thank you for being a fraaaaand).
The thought of wedding favors made me uncomfortable. It seems like no one really cares about them, and this element feels especially “We’re doing this because it’s what you do at weddings.” So, our “favors” were handwritten notes to each guest. We knew it was going to be hard to spend quality time with 150 guests that night, but wanted each of them to know that we were truly grateful that they were part of our lives. I hope that came across.
The details and decor at the Cornerstone building really transformed it from a cold, empty former church to an inviting and elegant reception space. Throughout the process, trying to maintain sanity, we repeated a phrase from this wonderful book, “It’s not about how the day looks, but how it feels.” That’s what I’ll treasure forever—how it felt sharing in a special day with the people I love, the people made me who I am.
photography: Seth Morris Photography // wedding planner: So Chic Events // venue: The Cornerstone Building in Peoria, Illinois // florist: Create A Scene (reception florals) // rentals: Create A Scene and Morton Rentals // favors: notes on Mara-Mi paper // catering: On The Go Catering // cake: Hy-Vee in Peoria, Illinois // dj: The Mike & Carrie Show // lighting: Prospect Sound & Lighting // décor pieces (vases, linens, candles): Create A Scene