Tips to Make Your Big Day the Best Day

A great wedding leaves a lasting memory for everyone involved. So, what’s it take to make everything perfect? We asked some of our region’s top wedding venue planners about the details and ideas that bring everything together.

(Sam Ann Photography photo)

Your wedding is one of the most significant days of your life. Everyone you know is going to have tips, hints and advice for the ceremony, dinner and reception, but some of the best advice comes from the experts who make a living out of helping dreams come true. So, we asked a few of our region’s wedding coordinators about what it takes to make a wedding memorable and stress-free.

(Unposed Photography photo)

Find a One-Stop Shop

Nestled high in the hills 6 miles outside Galena, Ill., sits Goldmoor Inn, a luxurious bed-and-breakfast with stunning views of the Mississippi River.

Birgit Radin, who owns Goldmoor Inn with her husband, Slobo, advises prospective couples to take advantage of venues that put everything in once place.

At Goldmoor, for example, couples find indoor and outdoor venues, an on-site wedding coordinator, fine dining service and overnight accommodations. Not only does this translate to less time shuffling guests from the ceremony to the reception, but it also means more time mingling with loved ones. On the backend, it means an easier time planning and fewer vendors to coordinate. That’s a big bonus when it comes to a destination wedding spot like Galena.

“The beauty of a Goldmoor wedding is that it’s a one-stop shop,” says Radin. “You tell us what you like and we will execute it for you. All you have to do is show up and relax on your big day.”

(Kathy Casstevens photos)

Shoot for Scenic Backdrops

Located just outside Oglesby, Ill., Starved Rock Lodge is beloved by many for its scenic backdrop: the beautiful Starved Rock State Park. It’s little wonder, then, that the venue is a 10-time winner of The Knot’s Best of Weddings Award and an honored member of the wedding website’s Hall of Fame.

Couples who choose to wed at the Lodge find stunning photo opportunities at several spots outdoors and in the Great Hall, with its log cabin feel and massive stone fireplace.

Kathy Casstevens, marketing manager at the Lodge, can often be spied with her camera in tow, so she’s closely attuned to the scenery around the Lodge and park.

She highly recommends couples take part in a first look photo, where the camera captures the moment they see each other for the first time.

“It gives the couple an intimate moment to remember for the rest of their lives,” says Casstevens. “The rest of the photos can happen later, and everyone will be ready to let loose and have fun.”

Because many couples choose to wander the park for additional photos, Casstevens has the inside scoop on some of the best scenery.

“Many couples rent the Starved Rock Trolley so the entire wedding party can capture amazing photos,” she says. “We can take them to places like Council Overhang, Ottawa Canyon and other scenic vistas in LaSalle County.”

(Nicole Vega The Still Life Photography photo)

Maximize Your Time

It’s easy to get caught up in the flurry of activity that happens from the time guests arrive until they depart. That’s why Maggie Truppa, wedding and special events manager for Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa, encourages her couples to slow down and make the most of the time they have. One tip she offers is to plan ahead for time to connect with guests and loved ones.

“Since they are always busy on the day of the wedding, they might not be able to see everyone,” she says. “We often help couples host a welcome party before the wedding and a post-wedding breakfast. That way, they have a chance to mingle with their loved ones, especially those who travelled hours to attend.”

Situated on 6,800 breathtaking acres in the Galena Territory east of Galena, Ill., Eagle Ridge has plush accommodations and amenities all on-site. Besides its four indoor and outdoor wedding venues, the resort has a luxurious spa, four award-winning golf courses, and plenty of options for other activities in, around and beyond the property. Through Truppa, couples can arrange for family meetups and group activities to help welcome their guests.

And once it’s time for the reception, Truppa encourages larger weddings to go with the plated dinner.

“Plated service will save time compared to a buffet,” she explains. “It also frees up time for those wedding reception traditions like speeches, toasts and, of course, dancing.”

As the resort’s chief wedding planner, she stays in constant contact throughout the planning process. She encourages brides to stay in touch as soon as RSVPs start rolling in.

“Confirm with your coordinator how many guests will be seated at each table and how many tables in total,” she says. “That will help you figure out how many centerpieces will be needed and make it easier to print place cards.”

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Ask Questions

Set upon the rolling hills along the scenic Rock River in Byron, Ill., is the pastoral Byron Forest Preserve District. The property contains a nature center, golf course, telescope and fantastic views of the landscape.

A setting like this may not be every bride’s first thought, but many couples enjoy the flexibility that comes along with the preserve’s multiple indoor and outdoor settings. Because it’s more out-of-the-box than a banquet hall, brides have lots of questions for Michelle Gerke, the preserve’s administrative services coordinator, who oversees social events planning. The best advice she can give, she says, is to not be afraid to voice your needs.

“We want them to know that their business is very important to us,” she says. “We want to make their day as special as we possibly can, and we hope that they will be comfortable enough to ask questions, so we can accommodate them.”

With a beautiful deck for outdoor ceremonies, and the ability to quickly shift to an indoor wedding, if there’s weather, the team at Byron Forest Preserve District are able to quickly respond to a couple’s needs. Gerke stresses that communication is key when it comes to planning your special day.

“Don’t settle,” she says. “You’ll never know unless you ask.”

(Susan Ryan Photography)

You Are in Charge

Nikki Rodgers keeps busy as the event coordinator at Copper Fox, in Geneva. As someone who has hosted weddings of all sizes and styles, Nikki recommends that couples present a united front on all major decisions.
“Advice is great from family and friends, but ultimately it’s your day,” she says. “Keeping those big decisions between you and your partner is the best way to give your marriage a strong start.”
Opened in 2020 in the heart of downtown Geneva, Copper Fox was the brainchild of K.C. Gulbro, chef and owner of FoxFire, the gastropub’s sister restaurant. With over 20 years of restaurant and event planning experience, the Copper Fox team can help couples customize delicious plated meals or family-style dinners for their big day.
When it comes to working with vendors, whether that’s a venue, a florist or a photographer, Rodgers recommends sticking to your vision and trusting your gut.
“Voice what you want,” she says. “If they don’t listen, other vendors will, and you’ll get the vision you imagined.”

Joy and Success

No matter how, or where, you plan your wedding, the most important thing is that you look back on it with joy. Our region is full of choices, and there are plenty of experts on hand to make your special day a success you’ll never forget.