Catholic Ceremony + Timeless, Elegant Reception with Modern Touches

Tessa and Jacob

Photographed by: Ann & Kam Photography & CinemaLocation: Chicago, Illinois, United States

As her relationship with Jacob Aptekar progressed, Tessa Harrison knew a proposal was on the horizon. She had just one condition for his potential plan to pop the question: she did not want to be sweaty during the big moment. So, when her beloved took her on a trip to Pinnacles National Park as a detour on the way to San Francisco, she was not at all suspicious. After all, they were going to be camping. Little did she know, Jacob had arranged a surprise hotel room and an outfit change for his beloved. It was the romantic proposal of her dreams. 

Both medical students, the newly affianced couple knew they’d need a longer engagement so they could take breaks from planning in order to focus on their studies. An event consultant was also hired to help with vendor decisions, which was especially necessary since Tessa and Jacob were organizing their Chicago wedding while living in Los Angeles. The venue, however, was an easy choice. The parents of the bride had been members of a prominent social club in the city. “It is a very special place and I have always known I would have my wedding there if I ever got married,” shares Tessa. In fact, her father remembers her saying so when she was only four or five years old.

In accordance to the faith of the bride’s family, the ceremony was held in a beautiful Gothic Catholic church, modeled after the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris – which the newlyweds visited on their honeymoon. No decorations were needed, though the bright purple hue the bridesmaids wore did complement some of the stained-glass windowpanes. 

The aesthetics of the reception space allowed for the couple to have some fun with the décor. “We jokingly called what we were going for ‘castle chic,’” laughs Tessa. “I really wanted candelabras and feasting tables with tons of greenery to capture a sort of modern medieval feast vibe.” White flowers, ivy, ferns, and gold candleholders were among the elements to bring the vision of the bride to life. 

During the father-daughter dance, Tessa’s three brothers surprised her by cutting in during the verses of “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder, while her father always returned for the choruses. “It was one of the best moments of my life and I will remember it forever,” she muses. Dancing continued through the night, which led to the one thing the bride would change about her big day. “I would have scheduled the rental people to come later!” she exclaims. “They arrived to pick up the chairs at 1AM and that is the only reason the party ended.” In addition to reconsidering the cleanup schedule, the bride advises those planning their own weddings to not worry about it being a perfect expression of the couple. “Focus on making it as fun, smooth, and memorable for your guests rather than trying to impress anyone,” she recommends. 

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