An Elegant Wedding at the Bride's Family Farm


When Carolyn “Dolly” Reese met John Kozlik, they were in a place that’s about as far from the bride’s family home in the rolling farmlands of Illinois as you can be “We were both attending Saint Louis University, but our paths didn’t cross until January 2011, when we were studying abroad on Australia’s Gold Coast,” Dolly explains.

After dating for five years, John proposed in Parc Monceau in Paris. And while the couple clearly loves to travel, they knew it was time to return home to the Midwest. “I knew it was time to move back home and be close to my family,” says the bride of their decision. “We wanted to start our new life with a celebration we’d never forget.”

Read on to see all the details from the couple’s meaningful church ceremony and epic reception at Dolly’s family’s farm in Geneseo, Illinois. Kristin La Voie was on hand to capture every detail planned by Kate Ryan of Gold Leaf Event Design & Production, with additional floral design by Rishi Patel of HMR Designs.

The couple worked with Emily Baird Design to create their custom invitation suite, which offered their 298 guests a glimpse of the wedding to come: a black-tie optional celebration with “a palette of jewel tones and gold details,” explains the bride. The suite included a foldout itinerary with suggestions of things to do in the area and information about the weekend's events. On the Friday before the wedding, the couple hosted friends and family for a welcome party that included bowling!

As a welcome gift, guests received boxes from Teak & Twine filled with craft beer and treats like chocolate and shortbread. 

Dolly wore an ivory silk dress designed by Martina Liana. “It wasn’t a style I expected to fall in love with, but as soon as I put it on, I imagined myself standing next to John at the altar, and I knew he would love it!” she says. She paired her wedding dress with her mother's engagement ring, a day-of gift from her mom. "It's aquamarine, which happens to be my birthstone, and I’ve thought it was the most beautiful piece of jewelry since I was a little girl," she says. "It served as my ‘something blue’.” 

John donned a custom peak lapel tuxedo, which had the couple’s married last name and wedding date stitched into the inside pocket. “He also clipped his grandfather’s Marine Corps pilot wings inside his jacket and wore his other grandfather’s cuff links,” says Dolly. “And he wore my wedding gift to him: a Longines watch!”

Groomsmen sported tuxedos rented from The Black Tux (“they made the process a breeze,” says the bride), while bridesmaids wore black gowns by Jenny Yoo and carried bouquets of David Austin O’Hara garden roses and white ranunculus. 

The 2:30 p.m. ceremony was held at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in nearby Bettendorf, Iowa, the same place the bride’s parents were married. Dolly and her father walked up the aisle to a live performance of the “Wedding Processional” from The Sound of Music.  

“There was no question we wanted to host the reception on my parents’ property in my hometown,” says Dolly. “The family farm holds a special place in my heart. I have so many wonderful memories from childhood and John, my family, and I continue to spend weekends there enjoying the beauty of the country."

“When we first began planning, I was struggling to articulate exactly what I wanted,” Dolly remembers. The couple decided to work with Kate Ryan of Gold Leaf Event Design & Production. “She asked John and me a few key questions, bounced ideas off of us, and—voilà! She presented us with a mood board that was spot on. Kate was able to bring my vision to life even when I couldn’t completely see it myself and made planning joyful and exciting.” 

“Hosting such a beautifully grand event in an often overlooked part of the country was a reflection of our appreciation for luxury, but also our love and pride for our families, friends, and the Midwest,” says the bride. For the reception tent, HMR Designs created floral arrangements housed in gold vessels, with blush-colored roses and delicate greenery set against deep burgundy-and-emerald hues.

Geometric chandeliers were suspended above the tent’s bar and lounge. During cocktail hour, guests were treated to a “Seafood Market” buffet where king crab legs, oysters, lobster, and jumbo shrimp with a trio of cocktail sauces were served.

“John and I wanted to incorporate our dogs into the celebration, and decided to name our signature cocktails after each one, based on their personalities,” said Dolly. “Coco is a vivacious, spunky little thing so we knew she had to be represented by tequila. Angus is an old soul and he loves to eat the berries off of our blueberry bush so there was no question that a berry old-fashioned would represent him.” 

Among the bride’s favorite reception décor elements were the custom helix-shaped brass chandeliers, created by Rishi Patel of HMR Designs. “They were inspired by my gown, made to mirror the way it moved when I spun,” says Dolly. “They took my breath away when I saw them for the first time!” 

Tables were set with abundant flowers, black tapers in cylindrical glass vases, and gold accents. Place settings featured single orchids and black-and-gold menus, which included an entrée duet of duck and sea bass. Cinnamon sugar churros and a variety of other treats were served via dessert carts throughout the evening.

The evening was marked by several surprises. “It seemed like everyone was on the dance floor when the band played Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’,” Dolly recalls. "As soon as the song ended, we heard loud 'booms' coming from outside. Everyone moved to the covered deck to enjoy the most incredible fireworks display set to our favorite songs. I think I cried through the entire show!”

Following the display, the couple moved back inside to find the band Collective Soul waiting to perform a private concert. “We have so many special memories of listening to Collective Soul with my family, so it was amazing to have them be a part of the celebration,” says the bride, whose father had one last surprise in store. “He commissioned my great uncle, who is a talented woodworker, to carve our names into the massive tree that the tent was centered around,” she says. “Now every time we are out on the farm and see the tree, we are reminded of our special day.” 

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