Kate and Mike Oliver's big day had all the staples of a traditional wedding reception — music, food, loved ones and fun.
But with a live performance by Rick Springfield, ribs on the menu and grandma riding the Tilt-A-Whirl, their celebration strayed a bit from the norm.
The newlyweds surprised their families with a wedding reception at Ribfest in Naperville Saturday, a week after they eloped in Spain.
"For having as large a family as we do and everyone having as traditional (of) weddings as they've had, I don't think anyone will forget this experience," Kate said.
With Kate, 33, growing up in Bolingbrook and Mike, 45, growing up in Woodridge, the couple who now lives in Naperville have been going to Ribfest for years. They also had a long-running inside joke about having their wedding reception at Ribfest, Kate said, because she likes to tease Mike that she is his rib, as the Bible says Eve was created from Adam's rib.
Since the couple's engagement in August, they have continuously declined to tell family and friends a wedding date, instead saying they were enjoying their engagement.
In April, they sent out invitations for loved ones to join them at the Ribfest skyboxes for an engagement party.
What their guests didn't know, was that the couple would be getting married in Ibiza, Spain, the week before and the party would really be their wedding reception.
Fortunately, enough relatives took the professional invitations as a strong hint that it was important to attend. The couple celebrated with roughly 100 guests including some from places like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Missouri, Tennessee and Canada.
When they arrived at Knoch Park Saturday, they were greeted at the skybox with a large "Just Married" banner and pictures of the couple's wedding including one that was turned into a large cardboard cutout of Kate in her gown and Mike in his tuxedo. For the Ribfest reception, Kate wore a sundress and Mike donned a tuxedo T-shirt.
Holding the event at Ribfest, Kate said, meant the 30 children who came could run around and play, adults could enjoy the live music and food and the couple could spend more time visiting with guests than they would have at a traditional reception.
"For everyone to have something that kept them happy was perfect," she said.
Kate said she also likes that proceeds from the annual festival go to programs that help eliminate child abuse and domestic violence. Skybox packages range in price from $6,500 for 43 guests to $52,000 for more than 400 guests over the five-day festival.
"Rather than just giving it to a typical banquet hall venue, to use (the money instead) for a good cause for kids, everything just fell into place," she said.
Ribfest Marketing Chairwoman Julie Lichter said there have been marriage proposals at Ribfest, but she was not aware of there ever being a wedding reception.
"We think it's just great," she said. "We certainly encourage all people to enjoy our event in any way they can. It's special to think some people think our event is a good backdrop for their wedding reception."
Lichter said the wedding was one of several highlights of what Ribfest organizers from the Exchange Club are deeming a successful event.
Fourth of July fireworks and Sunday night's Lynyrd Skynyrd performance drew the biggest crowds during the five-day festival, Lichter said, but the crowds never got so large they had to close the gates.
Emergency responders said it was a relatively quiet event on their end. Paramedics treated 12 patients throughout the five-day event, six of whom were sent to the hospital, according to Deputy Fire Chief Rick Sander. Meanwhile police made one arrest inside the gates after someone trespassed in a sponsor area, and they made one arrest outside the gates when a juvenile tried to enter with a knife and cannabis, according to Sgt. Lou Cammiso.
"We had huge success and really nice crowds but not overcrowded," Lichter said. "I think for the majority of people they had a very nice experience in the park and we had lots of compliments on the layouts and the concerts and the whole experience. We feel it was a big success for our customers and our community."