Photography by Natalie Probst.
If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed planning, it’s so helpful to look to other couples who took an approach that was outside the box. Tara and Dan chose a loft space for their reception, decorated it with meaningful touches inspired by their UK heritage and European travels, and split their reception in two. First came a vintage tea party with family, followed by cocktails and dancing with friends. The one person missing from the celebrations was Tara’s dad, who was in Hospice at the time (and has since passed away.) The way she chose to honor him with butterflies is absolutely beautiful – be sure not to miss it.
Tara told us, “during our courtship, Dan and I have written each other hundreds of letters, cards, poems and little notes to one another. I wanted our invitations to showcase this and feel like a love letter to our guests. Emily Rose Ink did an incredible job bringing this vision to life. Our invitations arrived to our guests in the form of a calligraphed letter, folded into thirds and tucked inside a cover featuring a watercolor floral illustration and one of Dan’s favorite quotes by Maya Angelou. It was sealed with a wax seal and delivered inside a calligraphed blue-gray envelope with vintage stamps.”
Why did you choose this location for your ceremony? Dan and I got engaged in winter at the observatory at Northwestern University. We went back during the spring and stumbled upon the Shakespeare Garden, which was right next to where we got engaged. We knew it was perfect. It ticked all the dream location boxes; hidden, lush, romantic and reminiscent of a special English garden I spent many sacred moments in during my time in England. You can even see the Northwestern Theological Center in the distance which looks like a small castle. It is a quaint, hidden little spot. Also, we live in Evanston and it was very special to have our ceremony in our community.
Your ceremony in three words. Romantic, timeless, sentimental.
Who officiated your ceremony? How did you choose him/her? Dan’s childhood friend, Mark, officiated our wedding. He has married several other couples and is a dear friend to us. He was the first and only person we thought of.
Did you include any traditions in your ceremony? Yes. I thought it would be interesting if we could incorporate our Irish heritage (as well as my love of English/Scottish history) into the ceremony. I have heard of and seen a few handfasting ceremonies and thought it was terribly romantic. During my research, I learned that this used to be a fairly common practice when marrying in those parts of the world, and was recognized as a legally binding contract until the early 1900s.The tradition has come to be interpreted literally, as the symbolic act of ‘tying the knot‘. It was special to have my mom participate in the handfasting, tying the ribbons for us.
What were your vows like? We wrote our own vows to one another.
Tara: “I never knew my life could be THIS full… and here today, surrounded by our family and closest friends,
in this idyllic secret garden, I get to marry my best friend. Thank you for seeing me and encouraging me during
some of the most trying and overwhelming times in my life. Thank you for never giving up on me, even though
many times I wanted to give up on myself. Thank you for loving me so fiercely and fully that I feel it every
minute of every day. This life is glorious and I am so proud and honored to become your wife today.”
Dan: “I have been so excited for this day to come, the day that I can begin to call you my wife. Everyday I
spend with you makes me appreciate my existence a little more. When I think if you, I think of home. You are
more worthy of love than you know and I feel pride to have been chosen by you. Thank you for accepting me
for who I am. Thank you for challenging me to be the best person I can be. Thank you for believing in me when
I wasn’t sure how to believe in myself. You are my person. You are my life. I cannot wait to spend the rest of
my days with you by my side.”
Did you include any traditions in your wedding? I wore earrings left to me by my paternal grandmother (something old) as well as my maternal grandmother’s star sapphire necklace (something blue) and diamond watch, given to me by my Mom as a wedding gift (something new). I also had my something borrowed, her embroidered hankie which came in handy during our vows!
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? Oh man. That’s a tough question. I have a few! Marrying such an incredible, strong, empathetic, thoughtful man is top of the list. I also loved the handfasting. // We didn’t have chairs (apart from for a few guests who needed them) so everyone was tucked in closely and it felt very intimate with everyone so close. I loved our ceremony music. // We had a two-piece (violin, cello) and it was so beautiful. It set such a lovely tone for the ceremony.
Dan’s favorite part was “watching Tara walk down the aisle and saying our vows to one another.”
Why did you choose this location for your reception? DL Loft lent itself perfectly to our theme. Designed by Debi Lilly of A Perfect Event, the space features sourced objects directly from France, gorgeous natural light and all the charm of a French pied-a-terre. Interestingly, the Loft had a smaller capacity than we had guests on our list so we decided to break up our list and have two smaller cocktail parties, with an hour break in between. Everyone thought we were nuts for trying to do this but it actually worked out perfectly. We loved DL Loft so much that we just had to make it work.
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? Travel, fashion, interior design, cinematography, family heirlooms, greenery, topiaries & butterflies. My travels abroad absolutely inspired the aesthetic for our wedding as I attempted to add little European touches here and there. I was also inspired by a few of movies I watched during the planning process: The Secret Garden, Cinderella and Marie Antoinette. Color helped us tie all of our wedding elements together. French blue, regal gold, classic white and lush greens can be seen throughout the details, food and decor.
In keeping with the heirloom element of our rehearsal dinner, we incorporated small treasures that I have been collecting from our loved ones to honor those who have contributed to our lives, and also make the loft space feel like home. You will also see my dad’s old cameras, my grandpa’s hand-etched glass boxes and family photos throughout the space. From there, I filled in the space with my own brass decor, vintage pieces and tons of candle sticks. I also used butterflies throughout the space as a way of paying tribute to my dad, which became a meaningful and special symbol to us while he was in Hospice. Seeing them coming out of the sweets table arrangement made me feel like he was there, sharing in the joy of the day.
Please tell us about any other special details or moments from your reception. Being in the wedding industry has its perks and I knew right away that I wanted to work with Toni Patisserie in designing our sweets table. Drawing inspiration from Marie Antoinette, I envisioned three towers of goodies as the focal point of the table. We decided on macarons (my all time favorite, no matter how trendy they may be), meringues, and a croquembouche, all in white with golden butterflies. During tea time, we served: cookies with dried flowers, lemon blue berry tarts, mini eclairs (my Dad’s favorite dessert) and Cinderella blue petit fours with a fondant wax seal. Guests also had the options of our seafood station, passed finger sandwiches and brunch bites. Guests who arrived later feasted on charcuterie, passed apps such as Feast & Imbibes famous pulled pork cigars, wagyu beef sliders and lobster bisque and sipped on signature cocktails, wine and champagne.
Are there any DIY details you’d like to tell us about? I did invest a lot of time in collecting heirloom items from my loved ones, many of whom have passed, to use in the decor. Since our reception was in a space that replicates a pied-a-terre, it made more sense to have items you might find in someone’s home (framed photos, family china, little trinkets, etc.) to dress the space than rentals. I felt a strong sense of connection to our day doing this, both in collecting the items and then seeing them displayed in the space. Plus, this saved us a ton of money that we were able to invest in other things.
Tara told us, “another highlight of our day was having my brother, in his Army dress blues, walk me down the aisle and deliver a fantastic speech. We have gotten close following the death of my father and it was special to have him by my side, in every sense.”
What was your favorite moment or part of the reception? Taking a break with Dan in between our cocktail parties was much needed and really lovely. The day went so fast and it was very important for us to take a moment away and soak it all in. I also loved seeing how our vision came together. It was overwhelming and emotional to share the experience with our friends & family. People kept saying, “Everything is so you two!” which made me very happy. I didn’t want to decorate for the sake of decorating or celebrate in a typical venue space. I wanted it to feel like us, so hearing our guests say that was confirmation that it did!
What was the best advice you received as a bride? Take a few moments during the wedding to soak it all in because it goes by so fast. And it’s true! Be present and go with the flow.
What was your first dance song? Father/daughter or mother/son dance? For our first party it was Etta James’s At Last, and for our second party it was I Will Follow You Into the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie. We decided not do dances with parents, though I did display a very special framed photo of my Dad and I dancing at my aunt’s wedding.
If you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently? Nothing.