Shakespeare in Love

 In Culture, Feature

Forest Park sets the scene for a romance of epic proportion.


THEIR STORY The bicoastal love affair of Rick Dildine and Stephen Hayes began four years ago when the couple met through Rick was new to St. Louis, having just been hired as the executive director of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis. Stephen, an STL native, had recently moved back home after completing his degree at the George Washington University School of Business in DC. Their first date took place at Pi Pizzeria. “It was somewhat of a pity date, because I couldn’t say no,” Stephen says jokingly about the evening, which took place on Rick’s birthday. The twosome immediately hit it off, forging a strong bond that held even after Stephen left St. Louis to work in Los Angeles for a year.

The couple got engaged in May 2012 while Stephen was still based in LA. The two often flew back and forth to see each other, and Stephen was back in St. Louis for opening weekend of the Shakespeare Festival when Rick popped the question. “I had been thinking I was going to propose for several months,” Rick explains. “Once the Festival opens, I basically live in Forest Park, so I knew it was going to have to happen there. Forest Park is very special to us….We have walked the park, taken our dog there and had many picnics.” With help from his then-assistant, Carl, Rick found a nice, quiet place near Shakespeare Glen overlooking the Grand Basin, where he placed candles in mason jars to create a romantic atmosphere. The Festival opened with “Othello,” and it was during the second act that Rick asked Stephen if he wanted to go for a walk. “We had seen the show a couple of times by that point, so he wasn’t too surprised that we weren’t watching,” Rick remembers.

“I walked him over to the area, and we noted how beautiful the setting was…then I looked him in the eyes, told him how much I loved him and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, and I got down on one knee and proposed. He said yes and never noticed that he was surrounded by candles!”

TO HAVE AND TO HOLD The couple planned every moment of the reception together. “We knew we wanted a modern, simple, clean aesthetic that was intimate and special,” Rick says of planning the evening. “We spent a lot of time thinking about things we loved and hated about weddings.” Stephen and Rick were inspired by their bicoastal lifestyle and knew they wanted to incorporate that sense of adventure into the reception. Invites were sent postmarked with meaningful locations from the couple’s time together. As a gesture to include friends and family in the ceremony itself, guests were encouraged to include vow ideas in their RSVPs.

ON LOCATION Although the couple was officially married in New York, the reception took place at St. Louis’ Ferguson & Katzman Photography, a studio located in an exquisite, historic space in Midtown. Several decorative touches focused on their bicoastal theme. Placecards were written on perfectly crafted paper airplanes that elegantly rested on bark-inspired chargers. And guests were invited to sign a beautiful vintage globe, as opposed to a traditional guestbook. Local musical ensemble The Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra perfectly complemented the artistic ambiance.

MATCHMAKERS With friends and family coming from all corners of the country (out of 50 guests, only five were from St. Louis), it was important that the evening was packed with activities and conversation pieces. Guests were seated not according to family or location, but with whom they might have the most in common. The placecards at each setting let guests know who they were seated by and their commonalities. Quirky pop quizzes full of trivia about the couple were also placed on every table, giving guests talking points they could use to get to know one another.

MUSICAL CHAIRS Each of the six beautifully set tables was equipped with two extra place settings at which the newlyweds would sit—a different table for each of the six courses. At the start of each course, a different guest from each of the tables gave a toast with the help of one of six talking points that were meaningful to the couple: adventure, joy, friendship, humor, commitment and family. Each term represented a different facet of what it means to be in a marriage. Following dinner, the couple kept things intimate, hand-serving artfully decorated cupcakes from The Cup to their guests.

ADVENTURE SEEKERS Rick and Stephen plan to continue their romantic journey with more world travel. For example, a 10-day honeymoon in France is on the horizon. As usual, the couple has figured out a perfect arrangement for their personalities, starting off in the busy streets of Paris for Stephen, who loves an active vacation, and finishing up with a rejuvenating stay in beautiful southern France for Rick, who can’t wait to relax.









Photo credit: Meghan Balcom and White Klump Photography

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