Take Heart — Lovers prevail over all the detail

April 2012 View more


It’s probably safe to say that by the time an engaged couple reaches the mile marker on the road to marital bliss, where debates about reception halls and invitation paper stock and cake flavors come into play, they’ve already tackled the one decision in the wedding process that really matters—that being the selection of a partner, of course. Without this important first hurdle cleared, after all, it’s hard to imagine the rest of the party coming together in any kind of meaningful fashion.

So then despite all of the time and money and headaches that will be expended on getting everything else about the ensuing “perfect day,” well, perfect, all of the rest really just falls into the basket marked “details.” Still, those details figure to be many and varied as the wedding date bears down, and while inattention to any one of them in the planning stage probably won’t upend the big day altogether, it may turn out to be like the grain of celebratory rice that inadvertently hits you in the eye—hardly fatal, but supremely irritating. Here, then, are a few things to keep in mind as the decisions start getting made and the checks start getting written.

Party Time

After deciding to spend the rest of their lives together, from a practical perspective, one of the first major wedding considerations for most couples will be the reception venue. This is, after all, where a large chunk of the wedding day—and budget—will be spent. It can, however, be a fairly intimidating process. From locations to packages to catering to staffing to indoor/outdoor possibilities, the myriad decisions within this one selection can be overwhelming, which is why Laura Trahey of Naperville Country Club advises couples to narrow their choices early with two basic criteria.

“The best way for couples to get started is to decide on a budget and a few dates first,” she says. “This way if the site is too expensive or the dates aren’t available, they won’t have their hearts broken and can keep looking.”

With these overarching issues settled, couples can begin digging into the details of style, amenities, and extras. However, whether indoors or out, formal or casual, high-end or bare-bones, Trahey says that no matter where her discussions with brides and grooms range, almost everyone eventually seems to circle back to a couple of age-old, hand-in-hand concerns.

“This may sound silly, but couples always ask about the bathrooms and the booze,” she says. “People want to know that there are nice, clean bathrooms available and how can they stretch their liquor budget just that much farther.”

Calling Cards

Long before those church doors swing open or the first hors d’oeuvres tray is passed, the first impression of a wedding will be made months earlier when the invitation arrives in guests’ mailboxes. And although it’s unlikely that any friends or family members will decline to attend based solely on their assessment of that card, selecting the invitations is a step in the wedding plan that should not be overlooked.

“Invitations set the entire tone of the wedding and let guests know what to expect,” says Lesley Vesevick of Naperville stationery shop Papier Girl. “The invitation is the first glimpse into the couple’s big day and often ties in elements of the reception site, the bride’s dress and the couple’s personality.”

While the number of choices available (print types, paper stocks, bundling options, etc.) can make the process seem fairly complicated, Vesevick goes to great lengths to make it simple by matching a couple’s style to a short list of invitation possibilities that might fit.

“Our process is to first educate them to all of the different elements and then start narrowing things down,” she says. “Once we start to eliminate a lot of what they don’t like, the few that they do like come into focus fairly quickly.”

Let Them Eat Cake

Given its multiple photo opportunities throughout the typical reception, the wedding cake commands an inordinate amount of attention (and budgetary consideration) for a course of the meal that most guests will barely remember having tasted. Perhaps this is because the cake seems to be the one area where couples really try to go out of their way to be ambitiously creative and maybe even a little bit over-the-top.

While trendy sparkles and ribbons have found a place alongside traditional flourishes like marzipan bridges and edible flowers in her cake designs of late, Karina Kappel of the Artful Baker in Naperville says that one of the bigger shifts she’s seen recently is an attempt to have the cake do more than simply match the style and décor of the wedding and satisfy the guests’ collective sweet tooth, but to really help reflect the couple and their personalities or interests.

“Many couples are looking to personalize their cakes by choosing something to tell a story about how they met or things they like to do,” she explains. “For example, the topper may include the bride and groom along with their pets or feature their school colors.”

An even more encouraging potential trend may be the expansion of dessert choices and flavors for guests. After all, for as much of a fuss as people make out of the wedding cake, for most guests the lasting memory is often regret over how small the portion was.

“Many couples are choosing several flavors for the wedding cake to slice and present on a dessert table along with cookies, mousse, tarts, and more,” says Kappel. “Guests are free to pick and choose their desserts and can even have a late night snack too.”

Sound and Fury

The words “I do” may very well be among the most meaningful and romantic associated with a wedding, but when it comes to planning the big day, there are three others that can be just as crucial: Do. Not. Play.

When it comes to reception entertainment, while some couples still defer to the creative license of their DJ or give a pass to any and all requests from their guests, Jorge Munoz of Naperville-based Creative Sounds says that most brides and grooms these days aren’t shy about pre-nixing at least a handful of tunes that get under their skin.

“A do-not-play list doesn’t bother me at all,” says the wedding entertainment veteran of 15 years. “This is the bride and groom’s party—not mine, not the guests’—so I’d rather they help tailor it to their liking by eliminating certain songs or even genres. ‘The Chicken Dance’ seems to wind up on a lot of those lists.”

In discussing the notion of a do-not-play list, Munoz hits on one of the delicate but vital balances that couples need to strive for in planning the entertainment for the reception—finding a DJ who can keep the evening lively and interactive without completely taking over. It’s why he believes it’s so important to look beyond price.

“The DJ isn’t just about the music,” Munoz explains. “He’s also doing the announcements and coordinating things with other vendors and trying to maintain the flow. So you want to be sure you have someone who sees eye-to-eye with you on how the night should play out.”

Toast Points

It’s that time of year again when men and women who have spent most of their lives consciously avoiding the humiliation of public speaking will be handed live microphones and expected to recite something funny/heartwarming/wise/memorable to a roomful of hungry strangers. North Central College Professor of Speech Communication Dr. Richard Paine has a few tips for the on-the-spot best man or maid of honor to help keep a hot mic from turning into a flameout.


Develop a few techniques for monitoring and controlling tension and, most importantly, practice the speech ahead of time. “Take advantage of any chance to rehearse in advance,” Paine says. “That way it won’t be new or scary at the wedding because you’ve experienced it before.”

Be Specific

You were chosen for your connection to the couple, not necessarily for your technical polish as a speaker. So make sure the audience gets that feeling from your speech, above all else. “There shouldn’t be an exact A-B-C template for a wedding toast. The fun is in finding something unique to highlight about this couple and their personality together.”

Stay Focused

It may be your speech, but it’s not your moment, so keep the attention where it belongs—on the couple. In other words, funny is fine, but save your standup audition for another time. “People appreciate sincerity and respect more than they do a lame joke,” Paine says.