Influencer Olivia Rink on Developing Patience While Wedding Planning
Like millions of couples, Olivia Rink and Conner Hempel's wedding was postponed. "When we first got engaged, our plan was to get married [less than a year] later in Chicago," says Rink. "It's a city that's really special to us. We spent a lot of time there when we were dating long distance."
Rink, an Instagram influencer and former Kentucky cheerleader, is known for sharing wholesome content on social media (her previous life in NYC during COVID and the heartbreak of postponing her nuptials, to cover a few topics). But it's her sweet relationship with 6-foot-1 Hempel (she's 4'11") that's often treasured by Rink's followers. "Five months into our engagement, we started pumping the breaks on planning anything. Eventually, we had to make the difficult decision to not only postpone the wedding, but to also change the location, vendors and everything else completely," she recalls. "With all of the uncertainty in the world, we called off the Chicago wedding and decided to push it back one year."
By then, the future Hempels had a backup vision to marry in the bride's hometown of South Bend, Indiana. "We both have big families and so many close friends and couldn't imagine the day without all of them there," Rink recalls. "We focused on the bright side and considered it all a blessing in disguise. Plus, I couldn't imagine anything more special than marrying my best friend in my hometown and getting ready in the house I grew up in."
Despite having to pivot her nuptials, Rink has a word of advice for couples who've either postponed their weddings well into 2022, or those newly-engaged pairs now grappling with a surge in demand for events: have patience, she says. Here's what Rink learned during the process.
Step Back and Remember the 'Why'
Like the industry at large and other to-be-weds, the stress of planning a wedding during COVID was exacerbated by the unknown. "Making plans for anything during the pandemic was impossible, let alone planning a wedding," she confesses. "But somehow, our day turned out to be even more perfect than we could have imagined. Navigating the planning process in such unprecedented times was stressful, but it constantly kept me in check about what the wedding day is truly about."
She says, "There were several times I had to step back and just remind myself that even if we had to cancel the whole thing tomorrow, I still got to marry the love of my life. The hard part was over. I found the one person I wanted to spend forever with."
Focus on Your Love Story
When the planning gets tough, it's worth revisiting the relationship. For Rink and Hempel, that love story started through a mutual connection. "My best friend from my cheerleading squad at the University of Kentucky grew up in the same hometown as Conner," she recalls. "Throughout college, she'd occasionally mention how cute he was, and how he was the quarterback at Harvard."
Rink, however, shrugged it off at the time and eventually moved to Chicago; Hempel, to New York. Persistence ultimately paid off.
"He got my number through the grapevine and texted that he'd love to take me out if I was ever in the city," recalls Rink. "Fast forward to my first New York Fashion Week in 2016. We met up for a drink after a show, and the rest is history… Oh and fun fact: Conner followed me on Instagram for four years before our first conversation."
Romanticize the Proposal Again
One feel-good way to deflect stress while planning is to look back at the proposal. Rink and Hempel dated for three years before their engagement and she still remembers that dreamy moment. "I had just returned to New York after a two-week trip to Europe, and Con had mentioned he wanted to celebrate by taking me to dinner when I got home," recalls Rink. "He planned a dinner at Terra where we had our first date. We even sat at the same table. We ended the night with a nightcap at one of our favorite Tribeca bars, then returned to our apartment for the night. We took the elevator up, and right before he opened the door, he stopped and said, 'Liv, I have something for you.' He opened the door and the entire room was glowing with candles, covered in petals, and our favorite Frank Sinatra playlist was on in the background."
Rink adds, "He got down on one knee in the middle of the living room of our first apartment together, and asked me to be his wife. That moment was so perfect and surreal, I'll never forget it."
After Hempel proposed, the couple traveled to Kentucky to see his side of the family. Rink didn't know he had planned for her parents to be there too. "I walked into dinner to find my mom and dad waiting for us to arrive at the table. I seriously cannot describe that moment," she says. "My heart was going to explode. Our parents all gave toasts and we had the best meal. Then, we all spent the entire weekend together."
Hire a Professional Planner
Any overwhelmed couple should consider turning to a professional wedding planner for guidance. Whether it's a day-of coordinator, a month of planner or a full-service pro, finding someone to navigate contracts and vendor relations helps diminish the stress factors that accompany the process. In Rink's case, she was lucky enough to turn to a family member.
"Our first decision after getting engaged was to hire my aunt, Susan Cordogan, and her incredible Chicago-based wedding planning team, Big City Bride," she says. "They were such a blessing throughout the crazy process of planning, postponing and re-planning. Susan kept us on track while pivoting quickly and professionally. I'm so thankful for all their hard work and can't tell you how lucky I felt to have someone helping me navigate the crazy changes while keeping things fun. Whether it's someone who guides you through the entirety of planning or just handles your day-of coordination, I truly believe hiring a planner you vibe with is one of the best wedding decisions you'll make."
Along with her planner, Rink asked another family member to help with the wedding checklist. "The programs, place cards and dinner menus were made by our family printing business, Rink Printing, which is owned by my dad," she says. "Our church programs were my favorite because we included side-by-side photos of us as toddlers (Conner in a tux and me playing dress-up in a wedding dress) with a note that read, 'We've been waiting for this day for what feels like forever.'"
Have Strong Opinions
Like many to-be-weds, the couple debated between sharing a first look or saving the moment for Rink's walk down the aisle. "This was one thing Conner had a strong opinion about," says the bride. "And I agreed that the moment would be more special to us if we did it the traditional way. I'm so glad we did because re-watching the video of his reaction brings me back and makes me cry every time. I will never forget that moment and the way he looked at me."
Have a Sense of Humor
After dealing with postponements and the uncertainty of a wedding during COVID, the couple found relief through laughter. "When we were engaged and living in New York, one of our favorite things to do together was put on our old classics playlist and cook dinner at home," she recalls. "'At Last' by Etta James was always one of our favorites, but this song became even more fitting for our first dance after waiting a whole extra year to get married. Our dance was so special and beyond worth the wait."
They also relied on their wedding party for good memories too. "It was 95 degrees on our wedding day, so everyone was avoiding going outside at all cost," she recalls. "When the party bus arrived at my parents' house to pick up the bridesmaids and bridesmen and bring us to the church, we all scurried out of the air-conditioned house to board the bus. Right as I stepped onto the bus and got my giant train all situated, I heard yelling, 'Liv, get off! Liv, get off!' One of my bridesmen accidentally kicked a hole in the large styrofoam cooler. It was full of melted ice water that was rapidly pouring out over the entire floor of the bus. We now all refer to this as 'The Great Flood.'"
Stay Excited About the Vision
Patience and possibilities are a beautiful match. While planning, Rink and Hempel knew they wanted to transport their wedding guests to a different era. "I like to imagine that if Frank Sinatra, Jay Gatsby, and Luke Combs threw a party…this would be the vibe. A little bit of 1920s glitz and glam, combined with that Old Hollywood feel, some Midwest spunk, and Southern charm," she pauses. "That's my kind of fairytale."
The ballroom of the Palais Royale in South Bend, Indiana, was transformed with floating candles, cylindrical vases and gold-brushed linens. "It all felt like a dream," says Rink.
Embrace the Struggle
In retrospect, the struggle was worthwhile for Rink and Hempel. Though challenging, at times, the couple made it through. "Love is patient," emphasizes the bride. "Your wedding day will eventually be here sooner than you know it. And when it does, you'll appreciate every minute even more."
Not only that, but the couple shared quite the exit at the end of the night. "Conner picked me up," she concludes, "and he ran me through the sparkler tunnel made by our guests that lined the ballroom."
Venue: Palais Royale | Planning: Big City Bride | Photography: Aesthetiica | Ceremony Dress: Berta | Reception Dress: Birenzweig & Bella Bianca Bridal Couture | Bridal Shoes: Bella Belle Shoes | Invitations: Bella Figura | Stationery: Rink Printing | Seating Chart: Grainwell | Bridesmaid Dresses: Adrianna Papell | Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands: Nicole Rose Jewelry | Florals: Poppies by Polly McCarthy | Videographer: Reel Special | Groom's Attire: BALANI Custom | Cake: Macri's Italian Bakery SB | Rentals: Burns Special Events | Favors: Scripted Candles | Music: Weddings by The Barnstorm | Catering: Navarre Catering and Events | Live Painting: Stephanie Hilen Art | Neon Signage: Echo Art | Welcome Bags: The Knot Shop | Registry: The Knot Registry