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Couple to Marry in Foyer of Lincoln Home Historic Site

The ceremony is thought to be the first for the Lincoln Home National Historic Site

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    Abraham Lincoln's home is seen Monday, May 14, 2012 in Springfield, Ill. Restored to its 1860 appearance, the house was Abraham and Mary Lincoln's home for 17 years from 1844 to 1861, before Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States.

    A dream wedding at the Lincoln Home for Lisa Foster and John Novak comes with historic restrictions this weekend.

    The suburban Chicago couple has been given permission for a ceremony Saturday in the foyer in what is thought to be a first for the Lincoln Home National Historic Site.

    But there are rules. 

    The ceremony just inside the front door is limited to the couple, Lincoln presenter Max Daniels presiding as Mr. Lincoln and a photographer. Two National Park Service staff also have been assigned to the proceedings.

    Guests and family must remain outside. The ceremony is scheduled for about 5:30 p.m., after daily tours have ended.

    "If you could put together the dream wedding for me, this would be it, though I don't think as a little girl I would have imagined it," said Foster, who is a marketing manager for a Crystal Lake public-relations firm.

    It is the second marriage for Foster and Novak, both of whom describe themselves as passionate Lincoln history buffs. Novak's passion for Lincoln extends to a tattoo of the 16th president on his right forearm.

    Novak said the couple has dated for about seven years. He added that the Lincoln-themed wedding request seemed logical. 

    "You never know unless you ask. We wanted to make the day special," said Novak.

    Family and guests are coming from as far away as Texas, Minnesota, California and perhaps Italy, according to the couple.

    Lincoln Home Superintendent Dale Phillips said the park usually hosts about a half-dozen weddings a year, including in front of the home and on the back porch. The Foster-Novak wedding, said Phillips, is thought to be a first. The Lincoln Home and neighborhood was added to the U.S. Park Service system in 1972. 

    "My way of managing is that I'm always willing to try different things. We always try to err on the side of what's best for the visitor because we're a public resource," said Phillips, who was named to the Springfield post in 2010. 

    In addition to the $110 cost of a special-use permit, Phillips said the couple agreed to the limits on the number of people in the wedding party and that the ceremony would not go beyond the front-door foyer. 

    "Two of my staff members will be with them, and they are compensating their overtime," said Phillips. "We've done them (weddings) on the back porch, we've done them in front of the house, we've done them in the Burch lot (a vacant lot)."

    Phillips said he would consider other such requests, so long as couples are willing to pay Park Service costs and to comply with restrictions. While weddings are common, Phillips said he turns down other not-so-conventional requests for use of the Lincoln Home.

    "I get asked some very unusual things -- overnight stays, paranormal usage, things like that," said Phillips.

    The ceremony also is a first for Daniels in his nearly 30 years of in-character work as Abraham Lincoln. His wife, Donna, joins him in historic re-enactments as Mary Todd Lincoln. Daniels said they have known Foster and Novak for several years, adding that he obtained an online ordination just for the occasion as a minister of the Universal Life Church.

    "They are extreme Lincoln buffs, and they are an adorable couple," said Daniels. "I ask them some serious questions, because marriage is very important, and they answered all my questions to my satisfaction. It's an honor for me to be a part of their ceremony."

    While Daniels will be in period-attire, Foster said she and Novak decided on a contemporary wedding dress and suit after looking into Lincoln-era wedding styles.

    "He said, 'Did you see how folks dressed back then?'"