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More than just a party

Reception planning reflects the personality of the couple in their celebration

Published: Monday, April 28, 2014 11:50 a.m. CDT

The birds are chirping and spring is reminding us that this is the season when weddings are in bloom. Couples across our communities are preparing to launch their commitment with fanfare, friends and family.

Michelle D’Andrea at The Holiday Inn and William Tell Banquets in Countryside has been getting folks married for 14 years.

“I joke with [couples] that they’ve never been married before but I’m getting married every weekend.” Karen Garlough at My Chef in Naperville says while online idea-sharing sites, like Pinterest, are growing in popularity for DIY wedding planning, she has her apprehensions.

“Pinterest makes everything look simple and beautiful, but it’s really not. It might take hours to put together… I would say to trust your caterer or your wedding planner because they have so much experience and they know what works and doesn’t work and what’s realistic and what isn’t realistic.” Another thing that’s really trending in weddings, D’Andrea said, is a country-theme or “natural” style. Items such as wildflowers, chalkboards, mason jars, twine, and candles create a home-spun atmosphere, as opposed to the more traditional glitz and glamour.

 “I had a bride who went out into a prairie and picked her own flowers and that’s what she made her centerpieces out of,” said D’Andrea. “It’s been brought down and is more comfortable.” Favors, she adds, are becoming less popular.

 “A lot of people don’t want to invest a lot of money into something that’s left on the table,” she says. “They choose a charity and they make a card and they say ‘In lieu of favors we made a donation to Paws of Chicago.’ It’s less stressful for the couple and it’s a set investment.”

As for food, Garlough says stations often are replacing the traditional sit-down dinners.

“What’s nice is the group mingles more, and you can get much more creative,” she explains. “You can have, for example, a burger bar with portabella mushroom burgers, tilapia burgers, and all kinds of creative burgers.”

Garlough adds couples are providing personal touches in their wedding menus.

 “We’re seeing people incorporating regional favorites. It might not be the whole menu but maybe just a portion of it,” she says. “Say you’re from Philadelphia, then you might bring a Philly Cheese Steak sandwich as a late night snack.” Some Chicago favorites can include a Chicago-style hot dog station or Italian Beef sandwiches. Those touches are being expressed in the drinks, too, Garlough says, “In terms of beverages, we’re seeing a lot of craft beer. That can be a regional favorite as well. From Wisconsin they might say ‘Hey – we want to bring some Spotted Cow.’” There’s not as much of an emphasis on a full bar as there once was, she says. “There’s more of a beer, wine, and soda bar with some really neat craft beers.”

D’Andrea says that while wedding planning can get stressful, it’s important to remember what the day is about.

“A lot of things that I see about the stress level is that it’s not the couples, themselves, but the pressure from everyone else,” she explains. “But it’s not about everyone else. It’s your day. That’s where I see people going off the beaten path when it’s supposed to be a fun and happy moment. ”

Garlough suggests delegation to reduce stress.

“Let’s say a big money saver is designing your own centerpieces. But centerpieces need to be done on the wedding day or the day before, and you are bound to run out of time. The brides will be in tears because they’re stressed out, and a wedding is stressful enough. If you’re going to do your own centerpieces, give that task away, maybe to your bridesmaids. Delegate those kinds of things.” Budgets are stressors for a lot of couples, as well, D’Andrea says.

“Know what’s important to you and that’s where you invest your money,” she says. “If photography is something that’s important to you, then don’t go cheap on photography. You have to decide where to penny pinch.”

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