COLD HANDS, WARM HEARTS
By Meda Kessler
Photos by Michael A. Hubatch
A historic church, even without heat, helps create meaningful memories at this winter wedding.
The groom wore a sharp black suit with a three-quarter length wool overcoat with velvet collar; the bride wore a trumpet-style White by Vera Wang gown with chapel-length train and vintage fur stole with a brooch from her great-grandmother pinned on one side. She also had on winter boots. The 28 or so guests? They were bundled up in wool hats, sweaters and parkas. The guitar player wore fingerless gloves.
When you choose to marry in a building that isn’t heated, you dress for the weather. “It was a very short ceremony,” says Anne Clarrissimeaux, 41, who wed Adam Spears, 45, in Elgin, Illinois, on Dec. 14, 2019. The temperature was 34 degrees, with a wind chill factor in the 20s.
But it was also a moving one, a wedding where the 1844 building more than adequately filled the slot of the traditional “something old.” The Memorial Washington Reformed Presbyterian Church, a one-room wooden building, has been a part of Anne’s family since it was built. Her maternal ancestors emigrated from Scotland, settled in surrounding towns and, together with other Scots, bought the land and built the Greek Revival-style church.
“I was christened at the church,” says Anne, who grew up in nearby St. Charles. “And many of my relatives are buried there. I took Adam there when we visited my hometown after celebrating New Year’s Eve 2018 in Chicago.”
It was the first time she had shown him the church in Elgin, and it was where he proposed. “We sat on the front steps and drank Champagne,” says Anne.
The couple had dated for several years, bound by their love of sports — especially cycling — travel and dogs. Adam hails from Kansas City, Missouri, but had moved to Fort Worth to manage a bike shop. Anne is a longtime resident of Grapevine and works in sports television. She had to skip a few hockey games to fit in the wedding.
There was no question where Anne and Adam were going to get married. “I love cold weather, so it had to be a winter wedding. The fact that the church did not have heat or plumbing didn’t matter,” says Anne. She chose her dress partly for the way the soft organza would look against the original wood floors.
While a destination wedding can pose logistical challenges, Anne relied on family and friends to make it happen. Her mother, Patricia, who also lives in Grapevine, worked with floral designer Margaret Hardin on coming up with the simple but elegant use of evergreens, eucalyptus and white flowers to decorate the church.
They coordinated with a local florist to pull it all together; Patricia and one of Anne’s cousins decorated the church. For Adam’s boutonniere, meaningful additions included fly-fishing lures and pheasant feathers, both a nod to his late father’s passion for fishing and hunting. Anne’s great-grandfather also ran a wild-bird game farm that included pheasants.
Friends and family from around the country traveled to Illinois. Anne’s border collie named Loulou made the trip from Texas to the Midwest with Evan, Anne’s brother. Adam transported Happy, his boxer, and Max, a schnauzer belonging to Anne’s mother.
The wedding officiant, Christopher Cudworth, was running buddies with Anne’s brother in high school. Both were on the cross-country team, and Anne’s grandfather, a sportswriter, covered their meets. Chris also is a cyclist and became ordained in order to wed Adam and Anne. After the ceremony, everyone gathered at the Hotel Baker, also a historic property, in St. Charles for a Champagne toast.
“We really believe in connections with people and places and having a real sense of ‘home,’ ” says Anne. “Everything about the wedding came back to that. We even bought my vintage engagement ring and our custom wedding bands at a little shop in Minneapolis called Filigree Jewelers; they were designed and handmade by the owner.”
Anne’s only disappointment was that it didn’t snow for the wedding.
But this past March, she got her white stuff. Anne splits her time between Grapevine and Minnesota, where Adam works in the bicyling industry. A plus is that she now gets to enjoy real winter weather.
“We had gone for a hike after he got off of work. It was dumping snow. The wedding gown was at the house, so we walked back home, I dried my hair and we hiked back to the trail. Adam took photos of me with his camera phone. And yes, I have winter boots under my dress.”
Anne says it may have worked out better that way, because she wasn’t crying like she did at the wedding. “It was so quiet, too. The reverence of that moment was huge for me.”