When Alexandra Daniels came to her fiance, JR Headley, with the idea of planning a fall wedding, Headley’s one requirement was that no dates coincided with University of Iowa football games.
Daniels obliged and planned for the weekend after the regular season ended, one with an available venue and without a Hawkeye game to worry about. Or so they thought before Iowa’s unprecedented undefeated season.
Iowa (12 wins, zero losses) will play Michigan State (11-1) in Saturday night's Big Ten title game, with the winner advancing to the national semifinals. Hawkeye fans' expectations were generally modest going into the season.
“The funny thing is, I didn’t even realize the Big Ten Championship was on the fifth (of December) until a co-worker came up to me and said, ‘Hey, you know the game’s going to be on your wedding day, right?’ I was like, 'Oh no,” Headley said.
“There was no reason to think Iowa was going to make it. I wasn’t expecting this to happen.”
Headley and Daniels, of North Liberty, were not the only couple expecting Dec. 5 to be an off week for the Hawkeyes. Chris and Sheena Bahls and Nathan Muench and Stacy Henson also will celebrate their big day during the Iowa game.
The Bahls eloped in Australia in October and have had their Dec. 5 reception booked since May. The Bahls are a house divided, with Chris a graduate of Iowa State and Sheena growing up a Hawkeye.
“My brother’s a pretty big Hawkeye fan,” Sheena said. “He was on the football team around 1998 and he still volunteers for them. He texted me and said, ‘Would you be upset if I went to Indianapolis on December 5?’ Good thing he was joking.”
The Bahls have decided to bring the game to their guests. The reception venue, located at The Teachout Building in Des Moines' East Village, sits on top of a bar that will be playing the game for wedding guests.
Headley and Daniels also were worried about the attendance of their wedding decreasing after the Hawkeyes clinched a spot in the conference title game. Daniels’ mother, Candace, decided to be proactive to keep even the biggest fans from leaving the reception early. Candace spoke with officials at the couple’s reception venue, the community center at South Slope in North Liberty, and worked out a way to let fans watch the game during the reception.
“My mom went out on Black Friday and she bought a 50-inch TV specifically to take to our reception,” Daniels said. “We will set it up over by the bar area so the guys can drink beer and watch the game.”
After receiving 50 text messages from friends after Iowa beat Purdue to win the Big Ten West Division on Nov. 21, Muench and Henson knew they had to do something for their wedding guests.
“I know my immediate family,” Muench said. “I'm sure that half of them would miss the wedding if we didn't play the game. After we got those messages we were both like, 'What did we get ourselves into?'”
Daniels and Headley took advice from their DJ and scheduled important events before kickoff.
“We’re hoping to get some of the stuff out of the way, like the first dance and cake cutting first,” Daniels said. “Our DJ said it would be nice to do the stuff in the first half of the game, because people are going to want to watch the second half without interruption.”
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While some couples might melt down after hearing their favorite team is playing in the middle of such a monumental day, the Bahls are taking recent events in stride.
“We understand that people want to see the game and enjoy our reception at the same time,” Sheena said. “We really just want people to have a good time.”
Muench and Henson, whose reception will be at the State Fairgrounds, said they are pretty confident their wedding and reception will be “the largest Hawkeye tailgate in the state” and believe they’ve got the things that matter most:
“We've got family, we've got friends, we've got beer and we've got the Hawkeyes,” Muench said.