Real Wedding | Kris & John

There is a lot I like about this wedding.  (The amazing venue, men in kilts, Kris’ fabulous dress….).  But my favorite thing is how they replaced the God -awful bouquet toss with something better and more fun.  Here’s to that really good idea!

Kris & John | October 11, 2008 | Indianapolis, Indiana

How he proposed
John proposed on my birthday on the steps of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, in downtown Indianapolis. He convinced me to get dressed up for dinner, and we went to a small Italian bistro in the city. After sharing a bottle of wine to settle his nerves, we walked to the top of the stairs. Since it was my birthday, I was convinced he had a plan to embarrass me with a singing clown or some sort of public humiliation.

Since I am known to spoil surprises, I spent the entire evening trying to guess what he got me for my birthday. His only hint was that is was ‘a very big gift.’ I racked my brains the entire evening. Could it be a new camera? A cornhole set? A new piece of furniture? I just couldn’t figure it out.

When we reached the top of the Monument steps, he asked me to close my eyes so he could hand me my birthday gift, and when I opened them, he was holding a ring. He proposed as the sun set, and it was an unbelievable surprise. I obviously said yes, although I still don’t remember much from the shock of it all. I later found out that John had already asked my parents for their blessing and planned the entire proposal for quite some time.

The ceremony
After giving up on our plans to elope in Ireland, we decided to go for an fall wedding that would celebrate our love for the outdoors. We decided to have our wedding at the Indiana History Center, located off the beautiful White River Canal. I also work at the History Center and truly love the architecture of the building.

It was quite a site being married in such a public outdoor setting. Instead of walking down the aisle, I had my father escort me down the grand steps from above, which was a fun surprise for the guests. As I walked down the steps to Ave Maria being played on the harp, I remember having a feeling of complete happiness seeing John smiling back at me. My dad’s one responsibility was to tell me a stupid joke before we made our way down the stairs. It was a great way to ease my nerves and stop being so serious.

Real Wedding | Kris & John

The most bizarre part was looking out at the Canal, seeing countless onlookers stop to watch the ceremony … in paddleboats, on gondolas, having picnics, taking photos with their cell phones. I suppose it was a spectacle since all the guys were dressed in kilts and we had a bagpiper!

The reception
The mood of the reception was truly elegant in the Eli Lilly Hall with its prominent floor-to-ceiling windows, grand staircase and marble floors. I remember peeking down at guests from the balcony before making our entrance and being so humbled to see a room filled with all the people we love. We had guests from all over the country as well as parts of Europe there to attend our wedding.

The food was fantastic, the weather was uncharacteristically gorgeous for October and the guests had a blast. Once dinner was over, we danced the night away. It was such a hoot to see which guests really kicked off their shoes and shut the party down, ha. People came to have a good time, and I truly think they did.

Real Wedding | Kris & John

The moment Kris will never forget
Instead of having a bouquet toss (which I always hated doing when I was single) we had all the married guests dance on the dance floor. The couple that had been married the longest received the bridal bouquet. It felt really special to honor a couple who obviously knew the secret to longevity and happiness.

The wedding theme
Our overall theme was family and heritage. John and I really tried to incorporate our family into every aspect of our wedding. We went with traditional Scottish kilts to honor his heritage, had vintage photos  displayed of our grandparents who had passed and delicious mixture of Italian food at the reception. I made thank-you baskets filled with homemade cookies and treats for our out-of-towner family. Our guests also danced to a traditional Scottish ceilidh dance, which was a lot of fun!

Real Wedding | Kris & John

My favorite detail honoring our heritage were the guest favors. John’s uncle provided a variety of mini bread loaves from their family bakery in Michigan. We absolutely love their bakery and were tickled to share this simple family treat with our guests. It was a huge hit.

Real Wedding | Kris & John

What was it about your wedding dress that made the “the one”
I had a really negative dress experience prior to finding ‘the one.’ I ordered a preowned Jim Hjelm dress off of Ebay that I fell in love with, and the former owner never returned my phone calls and didn’t send me the dress or any sort of explanation. I found myself consumed with bitterness, and hated myself for letting my emotions get the best of me.

When I found the Alvina Valenta dress, I knew it was ‘the one,’ because it made me forget everything else I had tried on and all the opinions about which one I should get. This dress brought out the best in me, and it made all my other decisions much easier once I found my gown.

Real Wedding | Kris & John

Advice for other brides
Gosh, advice. Okay, here goes …

I am a firm advocate in buying little black dresses for the bridesmaids. I bought cocktail dresses from JCrew for $72, and I thought they were magnificent. Famous last words, but I truly hope they were able to wear them again!

Pick and choose what your big budget items are and penny pinch on the rest. Since I am a designer, I designed and printed my own invitations and programs. I also went with the most fragrant dried lavender for all the centerpieces and bouquets from They were incredibly cost effective and still quite beautiful. Our cake was also quite the deal – only $400, and it was delicious! – an amazing website that I hope all brides take advantage of. I had an Etsy vendor custom design my jewelry for my wedding, I bought gifts for my bridesmaids,

Do have a receiving line in which you thank guests. We didn’t want to eat into people’s time at the cocktail hour to thank them for coming, so instead I found us rushing around to our guests at the reception when we should have been enjoying ourselves. It’s worth it to get that part out of the way, so you can relax and not feel guilty about saying hello to everyone.

Make the projects leading up to the wedding a family affair! We spent an entire day having family over to help us finish off the final details; place settings, centerpieces, photo slideshow, you name it. It was a great time for both families to decompress, bond and make memories!

Learn to delegate to people you can trust. Know that people who love you and your partner want to help you, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. This was a lesson I am grateful to have learned. It’s hard to take it all on yourself, and you have to be strong enough to trust others and ask for help.

Real Wedding | Kris & John

Photography: Laura J. Gardner
Kris’ Wedding Dress: Alvina Valenta 9700