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From Childhood Horse Rides, to Adult Wedding Bells: "One of My Favorite Places on the Planet"

Wedding Dance
You know those childhood memories that are gold starred in your mind? Sometimes you gotta revisit those as an adult.

In other words, do what Terry Tallen did: come back 40 years later for a surprise proposal and then a wedding.

“It’s truly one of my favorite places on the planet — that includes Italy, France, a number of places around the world,” Terry says.

We love to say that Traditions Live Here, and that’s definitely spot-on for Terry and his family. By his count, they’re going on five generations of family trips to French Lick.

His great-grandfather took the train here from Cincinnati, back in the day when it made a stop right in front of French Lick Springs Hotel. Terry’s first memories are the same timeless images that greet you today. The towering hotel façade. The beautiful front veranda lined with American flags. Climbing the big front staircase. And of course, the gold and marble that pop when you first step inside the lobby.

Terry Tallen, 3, with mom

Terry at about age 3, with his mother in front of French Lick Springs Hotel.

There were horseback rides and mule cart rides and swims in the old domed pool and family sketches to take home, courtesy of the caricature artist who’d be in the lobby on weekends. And those dinners. “The dinners were actually an event,” Terry remembers.

You’d dress up for dinner every night and head downstairs to the old ballroom. There’d be a card on your table with multiple options for every course — appetizers, soup, salad, entrees, desserts – and a little pencil to put a checkmark by what you wanted. The waiters, impeccably dressed, began bringing out the courses and the orchestra started playing.

“Even today, that’s pretty cool. But back then, being a boy, I thought ‘Oh my God, this is amazing. We’re living like the Kennedys here,’” Terry recalls with a laugh.

old family photos at French Lick Resort

French Lick trips were loaded with memories, from the pool to wagon rides and mule rides.

Fast-forward some decades — past Terry’s football career at Indiana University where he captained IU's nationally ranked Holiday Bowl championship team 1979 team, and later a move to California to create his own company, Tallen Capital Partners — and that itch for French Lick nostalgia resurfaced.

After West Baden Springs Hotel’s reopening in 2007, Terry saw the TV clip of Diane Sawyer raving about the West Baden experience when she visited the newly renovated hotel, which had been run-down and closed during Terry’s family trips in the 1960s and 70s.

“I gotta get back there,” went through his head.

The perfect opportunity came with a new relationship, as Terry brought Diane to see where those all those old family vacations had gone down. He hadn’t been back since about age 16.

Terry and Diane Tallen

“Walking into West Baden Springs Hotel, seeing that dome, it blew me away how magnificent it was,” Terry says. They sat together, just absorbing all the atrium views. Then it hit.

“It just came to me, it was like a lightning bolt from God: you need to get engaged and married here. One of those things where, I believe if something comes to you as a revelation that strongly, you should do it.”

So he did it.

One year later, Terry proposed to Diane by the West Baden Springs Hotel fountain after a carriage ride. And a year after that, a destination wedding and a reception celebration in the West Baden lobby.

Terry and Diane on the day of their engagement, prior
to dinner together at 1875: The Steakhouse.


Terry and Wife at Wedding table

Terry's emotional investment in the French Lick community has grown into an investment of another type — purchasing 17 acres of land near the Pete Dye Course with plans to develop a luxury golf in/golf out residential community. It's come full circle from those family trips as a kid, proving French Lick is that place you can always keep coming back to.

“The whole setting just takes you back in time. It transports you back to the gilded age in many ways,” Terry says. “And that’s part of the charm. When you’re there, you can unplug, you can relax, there’s no traffic. It’s magical, it’s beautiful, it’s historic.”

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