For the past several years, we have had the honor of working with Jim and Linda on their company’s annual Senior Leadership Holiday Dinner, and were ecstatic when they asked us to help their daughters organize their 50th Anniversary party (originally scheduled to take place in June at Chicago Botanic Garden). Unfortunately, things didn’t quite go as planned, as the pandemic and social distancing led us to cancel the party.
Jim and Linda’s daughter Shannon didn’t want to cancel the celebration entirely, as 50 years of marriage is an occasion worth honoring! We decided to shift gears and try to incorporate some of the originally planned surprises into a special day celebrating Jim and Linda’s love. We also worked with Jim, the groom of 50 years, to incorporate a few grand gestures to really sweep Linda off her feet.
Rebecca Ickes of Rebecca Marie Photography was there to capture the day’s joy. She was in on some of the secrets and helped us lead Jim and Linda to various points on the property, keeping surprises hidden before they made their debut. Her warm spirit and love of LOVE made her an absolutely perfect fit for this special day.
When we arrived, Jim and Linda were out in front of their house admiring the festive sign that their daughters had ordered for their parents’ 50th Anniversary. The only clue they had been given by their daughters was to “dress nicely” for the day, and Jim certainly took that to the next level in his handsome tux!
Earlier that morning, we had dropped off two arrangements from Flowers for Dreams in the style of those that we were planning to have as centerpieces for their celebratory fête in June. We knew these large, brightly colored arrangements would bring happiness to their home as they celebrated their anniversary weekend!
We had a parade of cars lined up down the street, decorated and filled with people who love Jim and Linda and wanted to share in their joy. As Rebecca led Jim and Linda up the drive to take some portraits in front of the house, the cars started to make their way around the circle drive, honking and yelling well-wishes out the windows. Jim and Linda were completely shocked! Their reactions were priceless; we knew that the day was off to a great start.
One of Jim and Linda’s daughters who lives locally was there with her children, so we made sure to get in a socially-distant family portrait!
After the car parade, Rebecca asked Jim and Linda to show her their incredibly landscaped backyard. The grandchildren helped their grandparents search the grounds for small painted rocks, sent by some of Jim and Linda’s other grandchildren in Seattle, which they had hidden around the garden.
After the rocks had been collected, it was on to the next surprise! Jim had been planning a “re-engagement” for months — Linda always teases him that he never properly got down on one knee when they first got engaged. So… propose he did! Donning his tux, and with a pop-up surprise performance by Choice Music Chicago, Jim got down on one knee and brought tears to all our eyes, but most importantly — Linda’s!
The lovebirds sat and enjoyed a few snacks, some Prosecco, and listened to the live music, basking in the glow of their love and the beautiful sunny weather. They also learned that Heather, the violinist and owner of Choice Music Chicago, plays regularly at St. Pat’s Church, where Jim and Linda frequently attend services!
While Rebecca and I wiped tears away from our own faces, we snuck out and left the anniversary couple to enjoy their lunch and entertainment. I quickly made my way back home, to prep for the coming Zoom call!
The Zoom call was scheduled in two parts: the first part included only Jim and Linda and their four daughters to wish them a happy anniversary. Jim surprised Linda with an original song he had commissioned from the family’s longtime friend, Anne Heaton. She popped on the zoom to perform the song live — and we had Linda in tears yet again! It was a beautiful testament to Linda’s caring heart and loving spirit.
As that call started to wrap up, Shannon announced to her parents that a few more people wanted to pop in to say hello. Suddenly, the Zoom call went from six people to many, many more as friends and family from across the country called in to wish Jim and Linda congratulations. Fr. Jack Wall, the priest who was planning to renew Jim and Linda’s vows for their June celebration, made an appearance to give a surprise vow renewal and blessing. Needless to say, Jim and Linda were surprised and overcome with emotion.
Later that evening, we had a special delivery from Francesca’s Intimo, a local restaurant that Jim and Linda and their family frequent for celebratory dinners, arrive at their home for a quarantine-friendly meal. It was a lovely way to end a day filled with love, surprises, and socially-distant celebration!
Jim and Linda, it is always such a treat to work with you both! Your love and care for each other is an inspiration to us all. We wish you many more years of wedded bliss!