‘Tis the season for marriage proposals.

To anyone in Southern Illinois celebrating a recent engagement, congratulations. Now the fun — and stress — of planning the wedding begins.

After I got engaged — I proposed the day before Leap Day in 2016, not knowing Leap Day is traditionally a day when it’s socially acceptable for women to propose to men — I was quickly overwhelmed by the planning process.

There were a few things I knew I wanted — live rockabilly music, homemade Italian wedding cookies, to wear anything but a white gown, and of course, to see everyone I love in one room at one time — but some things — like local wedding venues and caterers that could serve something unique — were a complete mystery to me. I didn’t know where to start.

I scrolled through wedding websites like The Knot and tried to organize my thoughts. I made deadlines for myself according to timetables offered up in bridal blogs. I asked my (extremely organized) sister-in-law for any planning documents she had used for her and my brother’s wedding. And of course, I trolled Pinterest, scrolling through endless beautiful photos showing beautiful couples in beautiful clothing in beautiful scenery with beautiful place settings and beautiful cakes, but … none of it was local.

I was getting married in Southern Illinois, and all of my inspiration was coming from destination weddings and big city ceremonies. I didn’t know where to go for tangible party-planning advice from local people. I wanted to know what other Southern Illinois couples had done: What caterers had knocked it out of the park? What were the pros and cons of particular venues? Was our perfect venue one we hadn’t heard of? How could I find a DJ I knew wouldn’t dream of playing “The Chicken Dance?”

So, let’s try something. Recent brides and grooms, we want to hear from you.

We want to know: How did your Southern Illinois wedding go down? Where did you walk down the aisle? Who fed your guests? Where did you go dress and suit shopping? What made your special day spectacular, right here at home in Southern Illinois?

We’re compiling a collection of (at least) 20 real Southern Illinois weddings, to give couples in the planning process a jumping-off point, a cache of great ideas for local weddings that went off without a hitch. Think of it as the ultimate Pinterest wedding board — but everything you’ll see happened here.

We’re looking for real weddings that happened within the past year. We’ve got a form on our website where you can give us the details: We want to know the story of your wedding day, and we want to know the thing that made your wedding unique. We want to know where you got married, who catered and which bakery you used. Who was your photographer? Who did the flowers? And, most importantly (to this recent bride, anyway), who provided the tunes? There’s also a place to upload a photo from your big day.

Don’t be shy. If you were married in Southern Illinois in 2017, we want to hear from you. We’re hoping to end up with a collection of weddings as diverse as Southern Illinois culture. The only requirements are that it happened locally in the last year.

Visit thesouthern.com/RealWeddings to access the form.

And if you’re in the throes of wedding planning bliss, look for the complete collection to go live on our website in February.

ALEE QUICK is digital editor of The Southern. Her columns include her own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinion or editorial position of The Southern. She can be reached at alee.quick@thesouthern.com or 618-351-5807. Follow her on Twitter: @the_quickness

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Digital editor

Alee Quick is the digital editor for thesouthern.com, and the editor of weekly local entertainment guide Scene618. She is an opinion columnist and a member of The Southern Illinoisan editorial board.

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