Everyone wants to make a good impression on a first date, but for Caroline Scholes and David Eshelman, the stakes were a little higher. “David saw a picture of me with a mutual friend and asked to meet me,” Caroline says. “He flew into San Antonio, Texas, and took me on a dinner date. The next day he left to be deployed for three years.” Talk about pressure! Luckily, as an F18 TOPGUN fighter pilot, David clearly has nerves of steel, so one date was all it took to know they had found something special. After enduring three deployments and a very long-distance relationship, the two got engaged in Tokyo during a break in David's 2015 deployment, proving that some couples are simply meant to be. “He took me to an island overlooking the night skyline of Tokyo and got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife!”
After beating impossible odds, the two were ready for a big celebration, and the Drake Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, was the perfect place to host the culmination of their fairy-tale romance. On October 17, 2015, 250 family members and friends were there to support the couple as they said “I do,” while Julia Dragomir of You Me Photography captured every last important moment.
With Kate Middleton as her bridal inspiration there was no way Caroline's look could go wrong — even if her first shopping trip didn’t go as smoothly as planned. “I was slightly disappointed because I had a vision in my head of what I wanted my wedding dress to look like and wasn’t able to find it. It wasn’t until my mom and I went downtown dress shopping, just the two of us, that we found the dress together. We both fell in love with the dress immediately,” she says.
Her Pronovias wedding dress proved a bride really can have it all in one style. Caroline's gown combined delicate lace and silk to create a timeless look for this elegant bride. The empire waist dress originally came with sleeves but Caroline had them removed and instead wore a custom-made lace bolero for the ceremony.
She accessorized with a floor-length veil and the garter her grandmother wore 63 years prior on her wedding day. While the bride started the day in sparkly heels, she later changed into cowboy boots — the same beloved pair she wore on her first date with David. We adore how these kinds of personal details were incorporated throughout the day. Even with 250 guests, these two found a way to keep their love at the center of it all.
With her princess-worthy wedding dress found, Caroline and her seven bridesmaids continued the day’s regal theme by getting ready in the Princess Diana suite. But the morning’s outfits weren’t just for a cute photo op: “Since David was stationed in Japan while we were dating, part of the bridesmaids’ gift were navy robes with a kimono feel,” Caroline says. Once beautified, the bridesmaids changed into classic floor-length navy gowns that one of Caroline's own attendants had suggested. Talk about being a go-to girl!
While the bride always steals the show when it comes to the day-of fashion, this groom certainly held his own. Dressed in traditional military uniforms, David and his groomsmen carried swords instead of boutonnieres — an accessory, that surprisingly enough, came in handy later on.
Designed in gothic revival style, Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church served as a gorgeous location for the couple to exchange vows. Light poured in from large stained glass windows as Caroline walked down the 332-foot aisle with her father. She carried an all-white bouquet of roses and lilies, the first flower her groom had given her when they started dating. A string quartet played "Canon in D" during the processional, and guests got a glimpse of our favorite ceremony detail: a misty-eyed groom.
With all the sacrifice of being a military couple comes some well-deserved perks, like a spectacular exit from your ceremony. After Caroline and David were pronounced husband and wife, all of the military personnel in attendance, including the groom’s father and brother, created a sword arch for the newlyweds as they emerged onto Michigan Avenue.
From there, the party headed just a few blocks over to The Drake Hotel, a city landmark that did not disappoint guests, who were greeted upon arrival by white-gloved butlers baring glasses of champagne. When it was time for the reception, everyone entered the Gold Coast Room; a massive, ornate ballroom with floor to ceiling windows overlooking Lake Michigan.
With dazzling chandeliers and gold trim throughout, the room was stunning. And with gold stripes on their uniforms, the groom and his fellow military men fit right in! Centerpieces contained various types of all-white flowers with trailing vines and greenery, alternating between high and low arrangements on each table. Candles were placed around the room and on the tables to add a warm glow that contrasted nicely against the glowing moon above Lake Michigan.
After a steak and lobster tail entrée some guests may have been stuffed, but when it came time to select their desserts, this couple still went big. With options as fun as these, who could disagree? Guests chose between three options, each of which had special significance to the bride and groom. First up were mini mason jar apple pies inspired by the groom’s Nashville roots. Then, Auburn cookies as a nod to the groom’s alma mater. Finally, red, white, and blue macaroons were arranged as a perfectly patriotic treat. But it was the elegant three-tiered, monogrammed wedding cake that set the stage for an unforgettable moment as the bride and groom cut it with the sword from David’s uniform — a gift given to him by the oldest living naval aviator.
As for advice for her fellow brides, Caroline had this bit of wisdom to impart. “Enjoy it! Everyone sees the wedding as the finish line but in actuality it’s the starting line for your marriage.”
Ceremony Venue: Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago || Reception Venue & Catering: The Drake Hotel || Bride's Wedding Dress: Pronovias || Hair: Le Bella Salon and Boutique || Flowers & Invitations: The Tree House || Music: Charizma Entertainment || Cake: Cake Chicago || Videographer: George Street Photo & Video || Photographer: You Me Photography