When I look back at my wedding pictures and watch our wedding video, the happiness and energy from our guests is palpable. When guests still comment years later that ours was a standout event, it warms my heart. I can undoubtedly say that my whole wedding process- from planning to closing the venue out- was 100% enjoyable and memorable.
The day before the wedding, my sister and I were getting our nails done- she wanted to remind me that I was, in fact, getting married tomorrow. She felt she had to remind me because I was so calm, happy, and collected, without a care or stress in the world. I had everything going for me and all the love and support from my family and friends that made my engagement so exciting and my wedding so overwhelmingly magical.
Even as I was getting my hair done on my wedding day, I knew it was a special day and I knew I was a key player in that day, but it just felt so easy and normal, despite all the fuss. Little did I know that every detail of our romantic lake wedding would truly go just as planned.
Our Romantic Lake Wedding
I became so enamored with all the pretty things that surrounded weddings through the planning process and wanted to share that special day with you.
Location, location, location
With so many of our friends getting married in the Chicagoland area, Justin and I knew we wanted to plan a truly unique and special wedding. Growing up spending my family summers in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, I was immediately drawn to the classic, beautiful lake life that exists just an hour and a half north of Chicago.
After Justin and I visited our one and only venue, our hearts were sold on The Riviera ballroom, an elevated ballroom on the glistening shores of Geneva Lake. We were married at the church across the street from my family’s summer home, where I got to enjoy walking the long, beautiful aisle of St. Benedict’s church.
Afterwards, our bridal party and families took an adorable red and green trolley around the lake to The Riv. With ceiling to floor windows on three walls, all of our guests would have the best seat in the house, no matter where their table was placed.
It was never a question to me that I would have both of my parents walk me down the aisle. You can read more about that and other wedding traditions to reconsider here.
Also, instead of a ring bearer pillow, I found this beautiful Antique Silver Chest Box. Not only did it keep the rings safe, but it added a unique, small detail to the wedding. Now, the box sits on my daughter’s night stand and holds my pearls and her rosary.
Cocktail Hour on the Lake
Feeling inspired by the lake scenery, we decided to have our cocktail hour aboard The Grand Belle of Geneva, designed after turn-of-the-century steamers, including brass furnishings and pine decks. The Grand Belle offered generous space with a cozy atmosphere for our guests to enjoy.
I particularly liked that it was enclosed and climate controlled on the main deck as well as a portion of the upper deck. When you ventured upstairs, guests got to feel the open, fresh air and enjoyed the beautiful lake mansions. We used this opportunity to walk around and mingle with all of our guests instead of a traditional receiving line.
Ever since I was a young girl, our family enjoyed the amazing music of Tom, a talented local musician who played at a nearby restaurant. I recall requesting songs throughout the years- everything from Disney classics to boy band hits, and Tom knew them all. He played them effortlessly on the piano in addition to bringing in trumpet- yes, that’s right- he can play the piano and the trumpet at the same time. Tom joined us for cocktail hour to astound our guests with live entertainment as we enjoyed champagne, delicious appetizers, and the breathtaking scenery of our hour and a half ride. Thanks to Justin’s groomsmen for constantly bringing us appetizers so we were able to enjoy everything.
When our boat docked, the Riviera reception was just a pier’s walk away. Soft, golden uplighting started to glow as we enjoyed the sunset around dinnertime.
Before dinner though, Justin and I performed a choreographed dance and had the traditional cake cutting. My dad and I learned a few fun and basic dance moves that paired well with our song choice, Pink’s Please Don’t Leave Me. I much preferred our humorous song choice and upbeat moves for the father daughter dance because I don’t like being overly sentimental or emotional.
We also had two special stations: a lemonade station with specialty lemonades and a make-your-own ice cream sundae table open at dessert time. Also, I find guest favors a waste of money. Not that I don’t want to honor and thank my guests, but I can’t think of one wedding favor I have A. actually taken from the wedding or B. ever used. We opted to serve a small Bailey’s shot inside an edible chocolate glass in lieu of a traditional favor.
Tip: try a choreographed dance to add some interest to your first dance.
Bridesmaid Dresses & Flowers
Our guests were introduced to our lovely bridal party; and when I say lovely, I truly mean it. My bridesmaids are all special to me in different ways, and I wanted their dresses to reflect their individual styles. Each of my girls had different dresses and styles within blush, gold, and champagne tones that matched the soft, romantic feel of the wedding. For tips on how to coordinate different bridesmaid dresses, click here.
My mom has a funny obsession with taking pictures of people with their faces near flowers; it has actually become a bit of a joke in our family, so when she suggested the strange bouquet head shot above, I rolled my eyes and agreed, but now I look back on that picture and laugh.
The lush, soft flowers consisted of peonies, hydrangeas, and English garden roses, with several tall centerpieces (think 4-feet tall) with natural Manzanita branches and tea lights hanging from the branches.
Tip: choose different bridesmaid dresses that suits your girls in the same palette.
While I understand that some venues have space constraints that are only conducive to a head table for the wedding party, I knew I did not want a traditional head table. I loved that my sister did a sweetheart table and let her bridal party sit at tables with their guests, but Justin and I went a different route. We were at a sweetheart table centered between two adjoining rectangular tables where our bridal party sat with their dates. That way, Justin and I got to spend dinner with our closest family and friends- I love that I had my husband on one side, my sister at the other, and all of our best friends surrounding me. What could be better? I urge you to consider an alternative to a traditional head table (blog post on this to come!). It can be an extremely awkward, unnatural, and uncomfortable configuration for your bridal party and their dates.
I am an English teacher and a lover of literature, so as a special touch for table numbers, my mom printed romantic quotations from some of my favorite books. We used beautiful 4 X 4 golden-jeweled picture frames that matched my colors perfectly. Instead of the traditional individual place cards, we displayed an enormous, elegantly printed page with everyone’s names and table numbers in a large, beautiful displayed on an easel. To me, spending money on lots of little place cards that just get thrown away seemed silly, so this was a great alternative. I use a few of these frames throughout my house and have given others away as gifts!
I was lucky enough to receive a present from my Gram – my “something old” for the wedding. My grandma is extremely dear to me- in fact, my daughter is named after her. Look how cute my Gram and Grandpa are?
She gave me my great-great grandma’s three string pearl bracelet that I proudly wore, representing such wonderful history of my family.
TIP: if nobody is offering, don’t be shy! Ask family members for your ‘something old’ to incorporate a truly special piece with lasting sentimental value.