I can’t believe I’ve been to 20 weddings over the last year! According to my calculations, that averages out to two weddings a month (even though most of them took place in the fall of 2017).
I actually got into a pretty good routine of leaving work on Friday, slapping on my favorite dress shirt and cruising across the Midwest in my Toyota Camry to spend a few moments with a friend on the biggest day of their life.
Over that time, I’ve been to some amazing venues. Spending an evening in New York City’s Central Park for my big brother’s wedding has to top the list. Being a groomsman for some of my best friends from high school was a true honor and privilege. I also can’t forget the weddings in Chicago, Springfield and St. Louis that reunited college friends together again.
I may not be a certified wedding planner, but I’d say I have a good grasp on the hot wedding and reception spots in Central Illinois. Here’s a taste of where I’ve been. …
The biggest trend of the past year has to be barn weddings, everybody is doing them! The most recent wedding I attended was Saturday in Rushville at The Old Homestead Barn. I’m putting this on my hidden gem list. The five-acre property features an updated barn to party in, a beautiful pond in the background of ceremonies and several vintage tractors and trucks for picture opportunities.
The Homestead Reception Center in Tallula may share a name with the Rushville location, but it provides a different experience. I could have sworn I was lost in the country when I rolled into the venue on a gravel road, surrounded by corn fields. Each ceremony takes place in the front yard of the family-owned farm, so this is your place if you want a down-home country wedding.
The Farm in Petersburg was my first barn wedding and it set the bar pretty high. The soon-to-be married couple would exchange their vows in a beautiful garden that gives the Botanical Garden a run for their money. Three things I loved about this spot: tons of space, a brick dance floor and an opportunity to pet the animals on the property. Definitely check out The Farm in Petersburg.
Western Illinois Valley Youth Camp, under the new management of Hamilton’s, encourages guests to build their own dream wedding. I can’t think of a better way to describe the venue. I’ve been to three weddings there and each has been a completely different experience. It’s a really cool view to see your friends and family get married with Lake Jacksonville in the backdrop. You really get a sense of nature here, regardless if there is a marriage involved. Rain or shine everyone ends up inside the barn for a night of good times!
There are plenty of religious venue options in Jacksonville and two of my favorites are MacMurray’s Annie-Merner Chapel and Illinois College’s Rammelkamp Chapel. These spots are extra special for the alumni, who continue to come back to the chapels for their big day.
My most anticipated reception venue this year was the Bruner Center on the campus of Illinois College. We were told by several people this was only the second reception held on the main basketball court, which made us feel like VIP. The 300 guests took up a fraction of the venue, which left plenty of socialize, toss bags and of course dance.
I’ve been to a pair of weddings at the Jacksonville Country Club and both have been awesome experiences. I’m a sucker for a beautiful golf course and a tasty meal, and here I got both. Once the toasts are complete the real party starts. The dance floor is located right next to the DJ booth, which allows for great acoustics and easy access for song requests.
I feel like Hamilton’s in Jacksonville has played a role in most of the receptions I’ve attended. Whether they are catering the reception or hosting it in the banquet hall, people trust Hamilton’s. My favorite part of Hamilton’s, besides the massive dance floor, full bar and vintage photos of the history of the business, is the location. At 110 North East you are literally steps away from the Downtown Jacksonville bars to continue the celebration.
I know my days of crashing weddings are far from over, but I don’t ever think I’ll have another year like this.
The most important part of a wedding is the people, but venues like this are sure to take that special day to the next level. Take my advice and check out these hot spots if you plan on tying the knot!
I’m always looking for secret spots in Jacksonville or exciting adventures in the area to take for future columns. Suggestions on where I should go next? Message Ryne Turke or The Source on Facebook.