An Elegant Backyard Wedding Near Chicago


When Troy Volkel decided it was time to propose to Kelly Hellwig, he didn’t settle for just any old plan. “For months, Troy had been telling me about his aunt and uncle’s anniversary party in Los Angeles over Memorial Day Weekend in 2015,” says Kelly. “We’d visited his family there a number of times, so I didn’t think anything of it.” A few weeks before the trip, the couple found out there wouldn’t be room for them to stay at Troy’s parents’ home, after all. “They felt badly, so they booked us a room at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel,” says Kelly. The couple wandered the property, then grabbed glasses of champagne before heading to dinner. “We brought out drinks out to the cliff’s edge to enjoy the view, and that’s when Troy grabbed my hands, turned me toward him, and started talking.” Kelly immediately knew what was happening and started to cry before Troy even got down on one knee. The next day, they arrived at Troy’s parents’ home for an engagement party, and found Kelly’s entire family standing inside. “I still don’t know how he kept it a surprise!” Kelly says.

After an engagement surrounded by family, the couple knew they would have a wedding in the same style. “I’ve always loved my grandparents’ home in Illinois, and it was the perfect place for an elegant outdoor wedding,” says the bride. They spent almost a year and a half planning their September 10, 2016 celebration. “Having so much time made the process much less stressful!” Kelly emphasizes. With help from her mom, as well as planner Kristina Taheri, the couple put together a tented black tie party that was lush, homey, and totally sweet, photographed by Kristin La Voie Photography.

She didn’t have any luck dress shopping with friends in Dallas, so Kelly headed to Chicago to shop with her mom. “It was out of my price range, but I convinced my mom to let me try on this Anne Barge ball gown,” says Kelly. Neither could stop thinking about the pleated bodice and full skirt, so they went back to the salon that afternoon to say “Yes!”

“Our flower girl wore the dress I wore when my mother married my stepfather in 2000,” says Kelly. She paired the white frock with a flower crown, tied with white ribbons.

The couple upgraded the beauty of the existing garden with arrangements of hydrangeas.

When Kelly and Troy exchanged their personalized vows, the bride wasn’t expecting a surprise. “Troy and I had decided that I would only wear my engagement ring, and that we would get my wedding band for our next significant milestone,” says the bride. “But when it came time for the ring exchange, he opened his hand and the most beautiful eternity band was lying next to his ring!”

A tent was erected next to Kelly’s grandparents’ home, with greenery wrapped around the poles and chandeliers lighting the dance floor. “I’ve always envisioned a tent full of crystal chandeliers and lots of flowers!” says the bride. The head table, overlooking the dance floor, was topped with a mirrored runner and decorated with white hyrdangeas and roses.

“We had the best chance for an outdoor wedding near Chicago in September, but that didn’t mean we weren’t holding our breath!” says Kelly. “We had to decide whether or not to put up a tent for the ceremony two days before, and the weather kept changing!” They decided to risk going tent-free, covering the ground with a tarp to keep it dry. “It rained in the morning, but cleared up by the afternoon, and all evening was perfect—it was amazing!”

Wedding Team

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