Planning a wedding from afar can be stressful.
Just ask Lexi and Joel Takacs of Philadelphia.
Lexi grew up in Gallitzin and Joel grew up in Ebensburg, so the couple, who met at Bishop Carroll High School in Ebensburg, decided to return to Central Pennsylvania to get married.
They were married May 17, 2013, at Holy Name Church in Ebensburg, within walking distance of Joel's parents' house, and the reception was at The Casino at Lakemont Park in Altoona.
"I thought it was great having it back at home. It was convenient for all our family and friends to have the wedding down there, and it would have been exceedingly more expensive to have it in Philadelphia," Joel said. "It wasn't even a question of whether we would have it back home. We love the area. It made a lot of sense to have it there. Eventually, we want to end up back in the area."
Though Joel and Lexi met in high school, they didn't start dating until after college, when Joel finally "professed his love" at a Penn State football game. He proposed in 2012 at his favorite childhood vacation spot in Indian Lake. Joel took Lexi out for a pontoon boat ride, and when they pulled up to the dock, "Will You Marry Me?" was spelled out in paper plates. "It was a big surprise. It was just awesome," Lexi said.
They decided to get married in May 2013 right after Joel graduated from veterinary school.
The location was a no-brainer, especially since most of the 275 guests live in Central Pennsylvania, but planning the wedding over long distance wasn't easy. There were meetings with vendors crammed into holiday breaks, constant phone calls and emails, and a lot of travel from Philadelphia to Altoona and back, as the wedding date approached.
"It actually was pretty challenging and stressful planning the wedding from Philly, especially because we were only engaged for less than a year," Lexi said. "I tried not to be such a perfectionist and get caught up in the little planning and decorating details. I tried to place more attention on what the day was really about, Joel and I beginning our new married life together and celebrating it with the people we cared most about."
Because Joel was finishing veterinary school, most of the planning was left to Lexi. Her mother, Diane Kos of Gallitzin, helped, but Lexi did most of the work. Lexi, a registered nurse in Philadelphia, remained sane by keeping the wedding fairly simple. She also left her florist in charge of the flower arrangements, and the general manager at The Casino at Lakemont Park, Victoria Mirenda, helped with a lot of the reception details, like decorations, centerpieces and organizing the celebration. Mirenda also came up with the idea to display the wedding dresses, veils and gloves of Joel's and Lexi's mothers and grandmothers.
"We want to make it as easy as possible for them," Mirenda said. "We write the contracts usually six to eight months ahead of time. At that time, they have a good idea of what they want the room to look like, what their colors are, whether the wedding will be romantic, classic, vintage. They can bring in their personality, and we can bring all of their ideas to life."
Lexi and Joel chose spring colors as their theme, with an emphasis on lilac. Tall vases with flower arrangements were placed on tables throughout the reception, and bridesmaids carried pink and purple flowers.
Lexi and Joel also changed the Central Pennsylvania tradition of hosting a sit-down dinner reception. Instead, they opted for a cocktail reception, which is popular in big cities, Mirenda said. At a cocktail reception, there are no assigned seats. Instead, there are tables scattered throughout the room, and guests can mingle and eat or drink wherever and whenever they choose. There were appetizers, drinks, meat carving stations and a traditional wedding cake. A photo booth, which has gained popularity in recent years, was also a highlight of the reception.
"It was so fun. You could just sit and mingle," Lexi said. "It was really easy, and everyone really seemed to like it. There was no pressure."
Joel agreed that the cocktail reception was the right choice.
"I'd rather maximize the amount of partying and fun. A lot of times, you lose a lot when you sit down for an hour and a half to eat," Joel said. "With this, there was more conversation, and you could just bounce around and you weren't held down to a table."
Diane Kos remembers spending most of the reception greeting guests and making them feel welcome. Because there wasn't a formal sit-down dinner, Diane said she didn't get a chance to eat.
"It was a lot of hosting. I don't think I recognized the responsibility until I was actually there. It was making sure people were welcome. It was a Friday event, so people took vacation days for this. It was important to recognize their efforts for being there," Diane said. "Everyone had a really good time, and Lexi and Joel really enjoyed their day."
While Joel and Lexi wanted to celebrate with their guests, it was important to both of them to cherish their big day together. Joel said his favorite moment was dancing with Lexi during the first dance to "The Luckiest" by Ben Folds.
"I think, looking back, having the dance with Lexi was really nice," Joel said. "It was such a busy day, so it was nice to have a few quiet moments just to talk to her."