A natural setting for weddings

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Serene ceremony: Many couples having their wedding at Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens in Palos Heights prefer a quaint spot near The Waterfall, with the serene sound of flowing water nearby. | Supplied photo

When saying “I do,” an increasing number of area couples are turning to the Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens in Palos Heights.

For some, there’s a personal connection to Lake Katherine – perhaps a memorable school trip or the site of daily walks with Fido. For others, it’s the scenic background that makes for compelling wedding photos. Still others discover the suburban venue in random ways: a conversation with a co-worker or at the suggestion of a photographer.

Whatever the reason that brings a couple’s nuptials to Lake Katherine, the result is often the same: a distinctive wedding experience buoyed by nature’s beauty.

“Couples choose to have their weddings at Lake Katherine for casual elegance. It’s a place where you can embrace nature, but still have all the urban and suburban conveniences you need to create a memorable and enjoyable event,” Lake Katherine development coordinator Cecilia Govrik said.

According to Govrik, Lake Katherine, a hidden gem located just north of Route 83 and west of Harlem Avenue in the southwest suburban community, hosts 40-60 outdoor wedding ceremonies each year.

Natural nuptials

The most popular wedding ceremony site in the 85-acre park is the Anniversary Garden, the park’s visual centerpiece that overlooks the expansive Lake Katherine. Developed by the Palos Heights Woman’s Club, the manicured Anniversary Garden features a cornucopia of colors that make for a vibrant natural setting.

“When you have your wedding here, you can save a lot of money on flowers because it’s so picturesque and full of colors,” Govrik said.

For smaller wedding ceremonies, Govrik said many couples prefer a quaint spot near The Waterfall. With the serene sound of flowing water, The Waterfall provides a destination wedding-type feel. Meanwhile, couples desiring privacy – or a woodsy setting – often choose the Children’s Forest and a ceremony located under the historic School House Arch.

“These are three distinct venues that each have their own unique natural features that add to each wedding’s character,” Govrik said.

In case of rain

As outdoor weddings come with the inherent risk of Mother Nature’s wrath, Lake Katherine offers plenty of alternatives to combat severe weather.

Couples wanting a firm contingency plan that includes four-walled protection from the elements and modern amenities can schedule one of Lake Katherine’s two indoor spaces in advance. The E.G. Simpson Clubhouse, which features a gas-burning fireplace and scenic views of the entire park, holds 100 guests, while the Brigid O’Malley Auditorium has a capacity of 130. Both spaces host kitchen facilities and modern restrooms.

Many couples, however, don’t want to venture inside and, instead, rent a tent to provide more modest protection for inclement weather. As it does with caterers and other vendors, Lake Katherine provides couples complete autonomy to find their own vendors and does not restrict couples to a defined list.

“We provide the ceremony and reception space and a streamlined process for couples to create the event they want,” Govrik said.

As a nonprofit educational organization, Lake Katherine uses its rental income to fund educational programs and the management of the park’s natural resources. In addition to weddings, Lake Katherine hosts hundreds of community events throughout the year, including a 5K run in May and fundraising events for various charities.

“Our mission is another thing that drives weddings to us,” Govrik said. “People see booking a wedding with us as a win-win: they get a dynamic setting for their wedding, but also know that their rental dollars will support a number of great community events and educational experiences throughout the year.”

More information about Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens is at www.lakekatherine.org.