It's becoming cool for Illini grads to get hitched at ... Wedding U
The groom arrived on horseback, carrying a sword.
In the Punjab/Sikh tradition, the groom, Amandeep Gargi, was a prince. His wife, Supreet Kahlon, was every bit the princess.
With 200 dancers, almost 400 guests and a flock of musicians, Gargi says the wedding seemed, to many of his University of Illinois friends, something out of Bollywood.
"It took us almost six months to plan the wedding," Kahlon says.
Weddings of this size are not rare in northern India, but this one was in Champaign, at the iHotel.
The couple, whose passions include skydiving, scuba diving, ballooning and most of all dancing, had found their most important passion here as students.
Many of the Illini couples come back here for their weddings because their early romance took place on the Quad, in an eatery or bar, says Sam Santhanam, general manager of the iHotel.
The iHotel works in partnership with the UI catering service at many weddings.
The weather doesn't always cooperate here, but somehow it all seems to work out.
July 26 was a day to remember, even if you didn't get hitched. The afternoon was one of the super-soakers this summer.
Elizabeth Emanuel called the event "wonderful."
She and the groom, Lee Stuck, had a reception planned at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center on Lincoln Avenue, and the wedding outside.
"It ended up being a lifesaver (having the indoor space) because there was a crazy storm. It started to rain buckets with strong winds 10 minutes before the ceremony on the patio. The groomsmen hurried up and got all the chairs inside," she said.
It was a well-attended affair in the showcase building.
"We even had unexpected guests, people coming in out of the rain to take shelter. They became part of the whole thing," she said.
Mallory Walker and Matthew Wassmann hit the trifecta July 19. They married at Lincoln Hall Theater and walked the Quad north to the Illini Union for the reception.
The night before, wedding guests, many of whom stayed at the Union, took part in the tradition of "chalking the Quad," writing "Matt and Mall" on the sidewalk.
When Steve and Emily Kehl got married in 2013, things couldn't have been much more Illini. Before they met, they passed each other at Memorial Stadium, where he was on the drumline and she a cheerleader. They decided to marry where they had worked out.
Paul Gormisky and Jill Horne were married Aug. 2 at the Illini Union Ballroom.
"We chose the Union because the university is the place that we shared both together and as individuals. Also, the ballroom is a beautiful room (the nicest we saw in town for this purpose) that was plenty big for 160 people and in a convenient location."
It's a tough choice with all the different places where people made memories.
"The university has many great places to shoot a romantic wedding," says photographer Bradley Leeb, who shot the Gormisky wedding.
He mentioned the Quad, Allerton, Memorial Stadium, memorable churches and buildings like the Illini Union where love was inspired.
All in all, it makes Champaign-Urbana a great background for the creation of a life spent loving.
"I shoot more weddings in Champaign than in Bloomington," says Bloomington-Normal wedding photographer Mark Romine.
Romine did the Alice Campbell wedding and has also shot recent weddings at the UI Arboretum.
At the Hilton Garden Inn in Champaign, wedding coordinator Jennifer Cougill said couples who attended the UI return for weddings from all over the country.
Paul Gormisky said he'll always have Champaign memories.
"Jill and I met in Urbana-Champaign a few years after she graduated with a math degree from the UI and while I was a Ph.D. student in chemistry there," he says.
Amandeep Gargi and Supreet Kahlon met through an Indian dance group here, I-Bhangra.
"I had to audition for her," says Garpi, whose wife was the "top dancer, president, recruiter" of the I-Bhangra team.
Their wedding videos are at vimeo.com/5609984 and vimeo.com/8685154.
Mallory and Matthew Wassmann met at his fraternity, Alpha Gamma Rho, where she had other friends. She made the wedding miraculous by rubbing Abraham Lincoln's nose and leaving a penny at Lincoln Hall.
"Everything went perfectly," she says.