Winter Wedding at Hotel Arista in Naperville
Rachel and Teddy have been inseparable since the first day they met. Rachel was a Kappa Delta at the University of Illinois when she attended (or according to Teddy, “crashed” might be the better term) a party which she serendipitously arrived 2 hours early and met the then-19 year old Teddy who was setting up with friends from the football team. Since that day, nearly 5 years ago, a lot of incredible things have occurred in their lives.
Soon after the two graduated college, Teddy followed in his family footsteps and became the third generation Karras drafted by the NFL in 2016 to play for the New England Patriots – who went on to win Super Bowl LI later that year. The Karras legacy began with his Grandfather, Ted Karras, Sr., who played nine seasons with four different teams, ultimately culminating in winning a championship with the Chicago Bears in 1963. Teddy’s great uncles, Lou Karras and Alex Karras, played in the NFL during the 1950s and 1960s, and his father Ted Karras, Jr. played for the Washington Redskins during the 1987 season.
How did you two get engaged?
“Teddy and I had a whole weekend planned to the proposal! A little odd perhaps, but some things look a little differently with his career. We flew in for a weekend to visit my parents and it started from there. Him and my dad went to dinner alone that Friday so he could ask for my hand in marriage. The next day my mom, sister and I got glammed up and had a fun girls day! That night Teddy and I took a limo to Chicago where he proposed to me in Trump Tower overlooking the skyline and immediately following with champagne and celebration! We met my family for dinner at a fun restaurant and went out with our friends from college right after,” said Rachel.
The couple chose Hotel Arista, Naperville’s premier boutique hotel and wedding venue, for its proximity to family and friends living in Illinois’ western suburbs and guests flying into Chicago from around the country. I am honored to be trusted as the preferred photography vendor for Hotel Arista and was recommended to the couple by the hotel’s wedding designer, catering manager and coordinator extraordinaire, Katie Jones. From the moment I met with Rachel and her mom, Kristy, I knew I couldn’t wait to capture their wedding!
Rachel says hands down that the MVP of the McCool/Karras wedding goes to her mom, Kristy. “It is putting it nicely to say that my strong suit is not organization, details, design or planning. In fact, I would say I strongly dislike each of those skills that happen to be crucial to wedding planning. I am fully serious when I say I thank God for my mom. She was the life force behind my day. She selflessly sacrificed an uncountable amount of her own time preparing and planning. She would think of details and visions for me and brought them to reality. My mom is someone who understands me better than I do myself and her vision for me and work behind every detail made my wedding what it was from start to finish.”
Rachel’s mom confided in me that she “wanted to understand what was important to Rachel and Teddy as we planned for this special and sacred day. Both Rachel and Teddy are sentimental and they wanted their wedding to represent things that are important to them. It was my desire as I helped plan the wedding to reflect who they were as individuals and as couple in each detail. That meant doing some things a little different from tradition. For example, Rachel walked down the aisle to Hallelujah instead of Here Comes the Bride and their fathers read scripture verses that Teddy and Rachel had chosen for one another instead of the traditional 1 Corinthians 13 verse. Her wedding bouquet was created from brooches instead of flowers so that it would remain timeless and those brooches could be shared with future children. They even wrote their own vows to express their personal convictions the marriage covenant that they were entering into. Their family and friends have great value to them so after the ceremony they wanted a feeling of great joy and celebration so we came up with the staggered dance and invited everyone onto the dance floor.
What were you most looking forward to on your wedding day?
“It is definitely difficult to single out one specific thing that I could confidently say I was most excited about for the day,” confesses Rachel. “One thing I will say I was eagerly anticipating was walking down the aisle to Teddy in my wedding gown. I like to think I did not have many unwavering requests surrounding my wedding, but I did have one. That Teddy not see me before I was walking down the aisle right to him. I wanted that moment together and I’m glad we have that for the rest of our lives.”
Was there one person you’d like to give a shout out to that especially touched your heart?
I might have to cheat on this one and say there were two people that especially touched me and that was my sister, Alyssa, and my sister-in-law, Taylor.
A few months before the wedding Taylor offered to give a speech. Although Alyssa would have given a speech, public speaking would not be her first choice. When Taylor sort of arbitrarily offered I thought it would be perfect and for me her speech was just that. I was so moved by what she said and how she tied together our families. In that moment I felt such a united sense of joining families which is such a blessing.
Alyssa is the absolute best maid of honor and sister. There is something indescribable about her for me that when she is around me everything seems manageable. She made such an effort for me throughout the whole wedding process and was there every minute of the day for whatever I needed. We had planned for me to stay with just her the night before and it was the best decision. I was having trouble sleeping which resulted in me being very chatty to her and without realizing I kept her awake until well past 3am! You would never know she was exhausted, fighting back sleep when I would ask her “do you want to go to bed or can we keep talking?”. Needless to say, we kept talking.
What was the meaning behind your Unity Cross?
The Unity Cross was so symbolic and impactful for us (another MVP idea). The concept is of man and wife represented by a bold outer frame and an intricate inner cross bolted together by 3 pegs of Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. The man shown as the frame with strength and protection. This is only fulfilled when the inner piece of the cross is placed inside, showing the woman’s necessity in beautiful support of the foundation of the partnership. The two pieces join and become one maintaining their union through the pegs as God intended. This is a grounding and lovely memento that we will keep and bring along wherever life takes us.
You were fortunate to be married by another football legend: Ray McElroy, Team Chaplain for the Chicago Bears and six season cornerback for the Indianapolis Colts, the Chicago Bears, and the Detroit Lions. Tell us about Ray.
Teddy and I unexpectedly came to have Ray as our officiant. Around 3 weeks before our wedding our previous officiant backed out. It was a bit startling at first leaving us scrambling to find a meaningful replacement. Cue our MVP – my mom – to save the day again! Teddy had reached out to Ray and as a gift from God, Ray could do it! Ray did have a few requirements for us. Teddy and I really appreciated the premarital session times we had with Ray and his wife, Michelle, and had great, meaningful takeaways. Ray brought wonderful lightheartedness to the ceremony in addition to conveying the magnitude of the union.
What surprised you most about your wedding?
Rachel says, “Teddy and I actually talked about this question the next day! We were both shocked at the seemingly non-stop dance floor from start to finish. I haven’t been to many weddings but we had the expectation we would have to go from table to table greeting the seated guests for majority of the night. I’m so glad that was not the case because everyone was out dancing! Teddy continuously refers to it being a “shameless dance floor” and I definitely agree. What else surprised me, and a good surprise, was how well I perceived the progressive first dance went. We had no time to practice but I felt that it was a creative way to navigate all the first dances and created a great transition for everyone to start dancing.”
Rachel and Teddy opted for an abbreviated First Dance to The Rolling Stones song “Beast of Burden” which progressively transitioned into inviting parents then wedding party and finally guests out onto the floor. “[Beast of Burden] became our song when the summer we first started dating it would randomly always play on the radio or at a bar or restaurant when we would be together. I made him a CD with that being the first and last song and it always has reminded us of one another. It just makes us think of being happy and carefree and together. The lyrics are fun and fitting for us especially “ain’t I rough enough, ain’t I tough enough”
Though Teddy doesn’t consider himself much of a dancer, don’t let him fool you – the man knows how to cut loose on the dance floor. Rachel smirks, “Teddy’s dancing is nothing short of criminal.”