Due to my being back in school and in a class that thinks it’s the only class that exists and requires hours and hours of homework, I am going to keep my posts short and sweet. I have so many things to say, though, so I must post! I must!
If you take one piece of advice from this entire blog, let it be this: GET A VIDEOGRAPHER. This is something that I am sincerely begging of you. After all of the money and time you’ve spent working on this very important event, and after all of the hype and excitement on the big day, you will treasure having a video. Similarly to photos, the video is something that will be around long after the day itself.
I didn’t even know I wanted a video. In fact, I would have opted out, but my lovely sister-in-law and her boyfriend are theater/video/tv graduates that wanted to start getting into wedding videography here in Chicago. This was their fabulous wedding gift to us. They did such a wonderful job and didn’t bother me at all with their set up or with any details at all. They took care of it and let me handle all of my other worries (ice! bottle opener! etc). When they were finished editing it and we threw a viewing party, I CRIED. I mean, I cried at the ceremony too (I’m like that), but this was so touching. It added a whole new angle to the day for me. Not only did I get to relive it a bit, but I got to see it from a different perspective. It’s like watching your favorite characters get married on tv – except it’s you. And that is way more awesome.
I wish I had our whole video hosted online somewhere to show you, but I don’t. What I DO have, however, is the wedding reel the videographers have created from my wedding and another couple’s. The reel is a bit outdated in that he has updated his equipment to provide for better lighting and audio equipment (the latter of which doesn’t apply to this reel necessarily). My wedding starts around minute 3:50.
The video consisted of a full version of the ceremony and 3 video montages of dancing with speeches shown in full (because those are important!). We didn’t have them filming as we were getting ready, but I kind of regret that a little. Anyways, please get a videographer for your big day or hire a service that will mix your personal videos and pictures into a nicely edited show that you can watch every year on your anniversary and show your family (Storymix Media does this well and cost effectively). I treasure my video and can’t imagine not having it to look back on.
In our original wedding budget, we had about $350 set aside for photography and hadn’t even considered a videographer. Today, almost six months after our wedding, those two aspects are the most important to me. In retrospect, I would have cut our guest list in half to take the photography and videography seriously in our budget. Luckily, we have amazing friends and family that came to the rescue to give us these treasured mementos.
*I’d like to note that none of my vendor write-ups come with any perks for me. I write it like I see it and my praises and complaints are genuine.*
I blogged about losing our photography “friendor” and about how my brother-in-law offered to take her place. When I found out 3 days before the wedding that my brother-in-law would probably get called into work and wouldn’t be able to make it, I was almost not surprised. I mean, I think I probably cried about it eventually when the panic really set in, but at first, I just sat there. I was in a “wedding zen” mode those last few days and the news just kind of glided right over me. I think it took until later that night or the next morning for me to realize, “Sh**. I need a photographer. And I need one this weekend.”
At our place of work, we have a creative department. In that department is a man who is indeed creative. He’s great at his job as a graphic and web designer/user interface expert and is also a musician and photographer on the side (and probably has other talents of which I am not aware). He had done some photography for a client at work and I remembered thinking how great of a job he did. So naturally, I thought to ask him to please, please, please be our photographer. Please. In 3 days. Of course, I had no backup plan if he happened to have plans for the weekend already. It was a shot in the dark but the only thing I could think of as a viable alternative.
I lucked out. He made himself available on EXTREMELY short notice and gave us an amazing price for shooting the whole day. It was definitely an unexpected cost in our budget, but ended up being well worth it. (You can’t plan for everything, right?) He stuck it out through the wind and annoying mist/rain that we had going on that morning and managed to get some great shots through all of our heavy squinting and visible hostility towards Mother Nature.
We had to get at least one at “our spot” – Adler Planetarium.
And now my hair is ruined. Awesome.
We had two “photo locations” lists titled: “Nice Weather” and “🙁”. We had to use the latter. We stopped by Union Station and the Cultural Center. We stopped by the Rookery, but there was a private wedding in there already (lucky kids). The photos turned out great even though we had to work through the less-than-desirable lighting in those buildings and dreary weather.
Checking our lists.
Some of his great work:
(In our office, where we met.)
Thanks, Jon! We love our photos! (visit him here!)
I will post our video information tomorrow – this post got long fast. Cheers!
On your wedding day, you want to look your absolute best. It’s probably the one day in your life that you will have the most photos taken of you ever. Not only do you (usually) hire a person (or two) specifically for the job of taking photo records of the day but your guests will be clicking away too. For this reason, it’s easy to justify spending WAY too much on a dress you will wear for one day (albeit, a very special day) and shoes that you will end up taking off after an hour or two. The following are my suggestions to look your very best and save as many budget dollars as possible.
I think I only need a few sentences about the Groom, really. And I’m not going to go into the personal style of it – wear a top hat, chain, penguin suit, etc if you so choose. As far as the budget goes, I obviously advocate wearing a suit/tux you already own if you have one. Take it to the tailor to get fine-tuning if you need it and buy a new tie or vest if you need to spice it up or match wedding colors.
My handsome Groom in his rental and Chucks (looking a little too serious).
A fitting gift from his best friend.
If you don’t already own a suitable… err, suit, then renting is probably the way to go for you. My Groom rented his from Mens Wearhouse (cute play on words there that I didn’t realize until wedding planning). The total for everything – including tie, jacket, vest, and pants – was $154.94. The Groom bought a brand new pair of Chuck Taylors that he needed anyways to feel comfortable and match his style.
Taken in Mens Wearhouse.
To read about my wedding dress saga, see this post. However, since then, I have discovered that the awesome shop has closed down! Sad sad me. That shop was a treasure chest of awesome vintage wedding gowns at Budget Bride prices. After you take your moment of silence for the loss of a bridal gem, join me in exploring these other budget-friendly options.
That’s me! The Bride!
David’s Bridal I’ve said it once (or twice) and I’ll say it again: David’s Bridal is your friend. For some reason unbeknownst to me, DB has gotten a bad reputation in the wedding world. It’s synonymous with “cheap” or somehow “not chic”. Well, my DB naysayers, I couldn’t disagree with you more.
In the beginning stages of dress hunting, David’s Bridal is your best friend. Make an appointment well before you intend to buy just to try on different styles to see what looks good on your body. Is it strapless? Cap-sleeved? Long-sleeved (a la Kate Middleton)? Sweetheart? Empire waist? Grecian? So many styles to choose from!! You may think you know what looks best, but wait until you try on others before you settle on a style. David’s Bridal is the best place to do this, in my opinion. I definitely prefer them to the stuffy, pressure-filled high-end boutiques.
Look familiar? The Kate Middleton replica at DB for $849.00.
Once you’ve narrowed down your styles, you can either take that information to the web (outlined below), to other boutiques, OR you might find that you absolutely love one of the DB dresses you tried on. Their new Vera Wang line is absolutely gorgeous and I am still grieving their poor timing on its release (that is, AFTER I purchased my own wedding gown). Warning: Most of the Vera dresses are still pricey according to my standards. But boy oh boy, how prettiful. See some of the less costly ones…
Vera Wang at David’s Bridal. $400.00
Another Vera at DB. $500.00. Swoon.
The Web Simplybridal.com – After you’ve chosen the best dress style for you (and reviewed the photos of yourself in it 100 times), one amazingly affordable option is to take that information straight over to simplybridal.com. This website allows you to choose the elements that look best on you and get a gown CUSTOM made for you. Browse through the A-line gowns to find your favorite or check out the organza options then take your measurements and find the right size for you. The prices on these dresses are seriously jaw-droppingly reasonable. They make the gown AFTER you purchase it (so it’s not just a stock dress), they ship it for free, and I couldn’t even find one for over $400.00. Most are in the $200 and $300 range and not pre-worn, pre-owned or even pre-made.
The Penelope Gown at simplybridal.com – $379.99
So, before I decided to recommend them on my blog, I thought what you’re thinking, “…but what if I don’t like it ON and it’s not THE DRESS?” A little digging showed that the dresses are 100% refundable within 10 days. If you try it on and don’t love it, return it! And get this, they will even reimburse up to $75 worth of alterations if they didn’t get it quite right. How is it that I find out about these things AFTER my wedding? ::sigh::
The Charlotte Gown at simplybridal.com – $279.99
Etsy.com – I’m an Etsy fan. I totally dig trying to support the individual artists in their crafts and Etsy is one of the easiest places to do so. They are generally a little pricier than the options above but I still found plenty of drool-worthy options for under $800. And if you don’t find your gown here, check back for accessories and even wedding rings!
RecycledBride.com – If you have no aversion to wearing a pre-owned or pre-worn gown, this is a great site to find designer dresses at a fraction of even the sample cost. You can be in contact with the seller directly and they are usually pretty quick to answer questions (in my experience). Each seller will have his/her own return policy and it’s probably not very flexible, but find a gown at the right price and “splurge” on the alterations. This is also a great way to be environmentally friendly and reduce the footprint of your event! Find decorations, shoes, veils, wedding rings and more on this “green” site.
Oleg Cassini on RecycledBride.com – $300
Last but not least, Oncewed.com – Among many other resources, this website offers a huge inventory pre-owned and pre-worn dresses. It has a similar set-up as Recycled Bride above where it’s kind of a “craigslist” for wedding gowns. There are some real steals on here with Jcrew, Vera Wang, and Jessica McClintock dresses for $100 in some cases. Be sure not to get a size TOO big otherwise you’ll be stuck with a huge alterations bill and you might lose some of the structural integrity of the dress. If you stay within 3 or 4 sizes though, you should be ok. Ask your seamstress what she recommends!
This GORGEOUS Vera Wang dress on OnceWed for $99.00!
JCrew dress on OnceWed for $99.00. I love the back of this one!
As noted in previous posts, I got my pre-worn dress at a designer consignment shop for $250.00. It was $200.00 for alterations, making my dress grand total $450.00. I bought a simple veil from a craft store for about $25.00, my black necklace from an ADORABLE boutique (francescascollections.com) for $30.00 and my “glass slipper” shoes from Aldo for $45.00. My diamond earrings were borrowed from my sister and I wore a black sweater over my dress while I was outside in the nasty weather that was also from Francesca’s. My total look cost $550.00. Right on budget.
One of the things about me that changed the most during wedding planning was my opinion on the importance of the ceremony. Since neither my husband nor I had any religious customs that we wanted to include, the ceremony was just a legal formality at the beginning. Once I came to this point in my planning, however, my whole outlook changed.
My awesome cousin stepping up to help with the aisle runner.
If you start Googling (really, Blogger? You red squiggly “Googling?”) “ceremony scripts” or “ceremony wording,” the vast majority of your results will conform to the layout of a religious ceremony. Don’t get me wrong, every wedding I’ve been to has used one of these layouts and has resulted in a beautiful and moving ceremony. But for us, these didn’t work. And to be frank, I didn’t really care all that much what the Officiate even said.
That is, until I realized that he had to say something and that that something was going to have the attention of everybody in the room and, in a way, define our marriage for us and to our family and friends. It was our one chance to let everybody in on how we felt about what we were doing that day and how we felt about one another. All of a sudden, VERY important. And since Google was not able to produce the perfect ceremony for us, we had to start from scratch.
My flowergirl nieces in the yellow dresses they picked out and pink Chucks.
Choosing the Wording Our extremely awesome Officiate, Reverend Adam Robersmith from Second Unitarian Church in Chicago (where I started attending shortly after our engagement), met with us to talk about our relationship and get to know us a bit as a couple. At our consultation, he gave us some example scripts from couples that had similar feelings about marriage as we did/do and they all sounded great, but they just weren’t…. us. What we did get from these examples, however, was a solid outline of the points that are typically included in wedding ceremonies regardless of religious affiliation. A starting point = progress!
Our ring bearer and nephew. Quite possibly the cutest kids I’ve ever seen… and, rightfully, the show stealer.
For those of you going through the ceremony writing process yourselves, here is the rough outline of key elements that we worked with:
b.Moment of silence
III.Message from the Reverend
a.Meaning of vows
b.Exchange of vows
c.Affirmation of Intentions
V.Exchange of Rings
VI.Declaration of Marriage
Short, sweet, and to the point!
Once we got started with what we wanted to say, the exact words were very difficult to find. It got us thinking about what our relationship really did mean to us and what the point of us getting married was. Big picture things.
We chose not to have my dad officially “give me away” as I am not property, but we did have him…drop me off. 🙂
The meaning behind what a wedding and marriage is varies for each couple, I’m sure. But for us, there was one glaringly obvious point that was being missed in all of these talks: if you are discussing what to put in your ceremony, you are among the group of couples allowed to have a recognized ceremony. Some couples with feelings like ours don’t have the right to fulfill these feelings through a lifelong marriage! We were going to invite guests to our wedding that weren’t able to have a wedding of their own?! That’s a bit of a slap in the face, no? It has become a touchy subject in our nation – what is marriage and who is allowed to enter into one – and, being the outspoken individuals my husband and I are, we decided to put in our two cents with our ceremony. Putting ourselves in the shoes of those that can’t get married helped us realize the “why” that is so hard to put into words.
So, here you have it; our millionth revision after searching and searching for the absolute best words to describe our feelings towards each other, about marriage, and about love in general.
I think we nailed it.
Wedding Ceremony of Crystal and Rafael
6:30 pm, Saturday, May 7, 2011; Chicago, Illinois
Rev. Adam Robersmith, Officiate
Introduction Family, friends: we have gathered here today to celebrate the union of Crystal and Rafael. For them, this marriage is the pinnacle act of their adoration of one another. It is both the ultimate expression of their love and commitment, and their public pledge of a love that will endure their lifetimes.
Love is what unites us on this day. It fills the seats in this room. A wedding is a day-long celebration of love. A marriage is the lifelong commitment to it and to each other. This commitment joins more than hearts. It unites everything that was solely his or hers before -including the families that raised them.
Mark Twain once said that “a marriage makes two fractional lives a whole. It gives to two purposeless lives a work, and doubles the strength of each to perform it. It gives to two questioning natures a reason for living.”
I invite you to simply breathe for a moment, so that, as we gather to witness and celebrate, we may all be completely present to the commitment which Crystal and Rafael make today.
Reading Crystal and Rafael have chosen a passage as inspiration for their love on this day. This passage, read by Susan C., is taken from the Majority Opinion of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling in the historic case of Goodridge vs. The Dept of Public Health in which the court held that denying same-sex couples the right to marry was in direct conflict with the Constitution of Massachusetts’s promises of due process and equal protection to all residents. This reading displays Crystal and Rafael’s awareness and gratitude of the privilege they have to choose one another today…
Susan: “The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support. Marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family…The right to marry means little if it does not include the right to marry the person of one’s choice. Because it fulfils yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.”
On Love – by Rev. Adam A union of love is one of the most remarkable, most courageous, most daring and hopeful human acts: the promise to share life together on all levels – physical, economic, spiritual – a promise made in the face of the certainty of death, the certainty of change, and the uncertainty of everything else.
For those of you gathered here today, family and friends, I ask that you continue to show your support to Crystal and Rafael as they begin their life together. No marriage exists in isolation. In moments of happiness and achievement and celebration, rejoice with these two as you do today. Stay a part of their lives. Call, email, visit. When you see them lose track of their best natures, remind them of this moment and of the best you know in them. Remind them of the promises you witnessed today and of their tenderness and of their declaration of love. By being here today, you are part of the community that will enable their marriage to thrive and be a source of delight and strength to them and to you. Feast with them, celebrate with them, and thank them often for being who they are. You are part of this covenant, these promises, too, and I ask you to take up your part with joy and love.
Vows To say what we feel most deeply to our partners, in front of the people who love us, makes our feelings tangible. By making vows, we are changed.
In this moment, you will be transformed by offering your truths, dreams, and promises to each other. What was once held in private, will be known by friends and family. You will give yourselves to each other in a way that cannot be forgotten, cannot be mistaken. In this moment, through your love and your willingness to speak it aloud, your lives change through your commitment to each other.
Let us all take a moment in stillness, as a time to cherish the love we have experienced, the love and commitment which is shared here today.
[Moment of Silence]
Now, I invite you, Rafael, and you, Crystal, to exchange your vows.
[Groom] – I, Rafael, choose you Crystal, to be my best friend, my partner, and my wife. I promise to love you from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live.
[Bride] – I, Crystal, choose you Rafael, to be my best friend, my partner, and my husband. I promise to love you from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live.
Affirmation of Intentions Officiant – Do you, Rafael, take Crystal to be your lawfully wedded wife? [Groom] – I do.
Officiant – Do you, Crystal, take Rafael to be your lawfully wedded husband? [Bride] – I do.
The Exchange of Rings These rings are a symbol of the unbroken circle of love. May these rings remind you always of the vows you have taken here today. [Groom] – This ring symbolizes my commitment to you from this day forward. [Bride] – This ring symbolizes my commitment to you from this day forward.
Declaration of Marriage May the love and affection you have for each other on this day, sustain you both today, at the start of your new life, and throughout your journey together. Share with each other the laughter and adversity that comes your way. May your lifetimes be filled with love and joy.
Rafael and Crystal, having witnessed your vows for marriage with all who are assembled here with you, I announce with great joy that you are from this time on, husband and wife.
You may now kiss the bride!
::Cue “You’re My Best Friend” by Weezer:: We did it!
We also affirmed our commitment to the rights of the LGBTQ community by making a donation to the Human Rights Campaign on behalf of our wedding guests in lieu of wedding favors. The announcement was printed on the back of our programs.
Mr. & Mrs.!!!
We learned a lot about our relationship and the meaning of what we were doing on our wedding day. Our ceremony ended up saying exactly what we wanted it to in exactly the right way and went from being just a formality to the most important and memorable part of the day. It is the one part that we each contributed to equally, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
I’ve been married for over 90 days now, friends! An annulment is now officially not an option. He’s stuck with me unless he wants to file for divorce. 😉 (Can you even joke like that on a wedding blog?) Anyways, married life is totally rockin, and I’m heading back to school to finish up my degree in Justice Studies from Northeastern Illinois University. It’s been 6 years in the making so I’m very excited to graduate next year! Wish me luck!
Ringing in our 3-month mark at a Lollapalooza after party at The W.
I am also taking on my first two day-of coordination “jobs” in October. The first one will be at a beautiful downtown location right on the river and is complete with trolley service from ceremony to reception – fancy! I’m so excited for these two lovebirds and I can’t wait to help keep the day running smoothly! For the second one, the Bride and Groom are planning their reception in an awesome pavilion in Barrington Park District’s Citizen’s Park. It will feature a DIY photobooth and outdoor s’more station! The couple has DIY’d many elements of their wedding and I’m so excited to be there to make sure the day goes exactly how they imagine it! It’s really neat to see each couple’s style reflected in their wedding day choices.
With all of that business, I give you my vendor review for our venue, Kitchen Chicago. It’s not a secret that I’m a Kitchen Chicago fan. They are located in the “Fulton Market” district on the west side of Chicago. It’s an industrial area that has become a haven for artists because the lofts and studios are fairly reasonably priced and always HUGE. I get quite a few inquiries on my experience with this space, so please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment or email me for more info. I’m happy to help!
Kitchen Chicago – Booking
I chronicled our venue selection experience in previous posts, but I’ll give a quick recap for those that missed it. I found Kitchen Chicago while searching the interwebs for a non-conventional, barn-like space within Chicago city limits. We love us some Chicago and we couldn’t bring ourselves to turn our back on the city for the biggest day of our lives. This is where we met, this is where we live, and this is where we wanted to get married. So, with a large dose of determination and some razor-sharp Google skillz, I found a short list of venues that fit the criteria and an even shorter list that fit the budget.
After visiting a couple of other similarly priced venues with a similar feel, we settled on Kitchen Chicago. Our interactions with Alexis at KC (if you don’t mind the abbreviation) were relaxed and professional. I really like what she does there with the industrial kitchen space and I think her heart and mind are in the right place. She’s sincere and her main focus is not to try to screw me over on prices and “extras.” The contract is very straightforward and protects both parties from bearing undue burdens if the other messes up. Nothing more, nothing less.
When we visited the space, it was like a dream come true. We knew that this was the space. The only hiccup we had with the booking was that we needed to get event insurance. Since the space is BYO everything and we were not using any one caterer per say, we had to protect her and ourselves with basic low-cost event insurance to cover incidentals that are normally covered in a certified catering contract. We got this insurance from theeventhelper.com for a total of $130.37.
The Day Before
When it was finally time to see the space come to life for our wedding, the Kitchen folks were very helpful. When my rental furniture arrived before the time I was technically allowed (per the contract) to use the space, Alexis kindly let them (and the gracious Charlene from Sweetchic Events) in so that I could have my tables and chairs! What would I have done if they would have left?!
When setting up shop, Alexis helped my friend Michelle move some of their beautiful wooden tables around for me so that I wouldn’t risk hurting myself the day before my wedding. (Good thing too because Michelle had bruises the next day!) When the rental chairs arrived dirty, Alexis tracked down some cleaner and rags for us to wipe them off so that we didn’t have to waste time running out for cleaning supplies! Since all of this ran so late, she was very accommodating in allowing my coordinator to stay to decorate past the time outlined in the contract. I don’t want to say that you should always expect this type of bend in the contract because I don’t want her to get taken advantage of, but I do want to stress that she was flexible and accommodating to the unpredictable schedule changes that arose for our event. She won’t try to nickel and dime you for your time!
Love the industrial details
My only issue with setup was that the floors were not cleaned yet when we started our set up of the chairs for the ceremony. This may have been a miscommunication or something else on the back end, but I wasn’t too terribly concerned about the cleanliness of the floors – I wanted a barn, didn’t I?
It’s a tiny bit difficult for me to review the management of the space on the wedding day since my wonderful coordinator took care of everything that day. I do know that there was a person staffed for the evening, Nicolle, and that she helped the coordinator and bartender make the day go as smoothly as possible.
Decor The space itself looked pretty spectacular on my wedding day thanks to the help of my coordinator and amazing friend Michelle. Like I’ve said before, the space is simply beautiful and I didn’t want to take away from the organic prettiness that already existed. See this post for more details on the decor.
Accessibility Since KC is a bit difficult to find hidden in a tall building set off from the street, I had my parents pick up some yellow and silver balloons along with balloon wedding bells to tie to the fence at street level. I also had directional signs made up to get to the second floor where KC is located but these got lost in the day-of shenanigans. Everybody found their way in regardless. We also kept the bottom door propped open and manned while guests were arriving. I wouldn’t recommend leaving the door propped, as I’m not sure the building’s rules on this. Check with Alexis to figure out the best way to handle accessibility for the stragglers that are running late.
I get a lot of questions about parking at this place too. All of our guests found street parking within short walking distance with no problems. During the weekend, this industrial area is pretty much a ghost town so all of the street parking is wide open. There are no permits necessary on most of the streets here either. We even had more than a few guests park where it was clearly marked “No Parking” and they drove away ticketless (phew!). Obviously, follow all posted signage to be sure but just note that it’s not a difficult parking area and there are no meters or fees to deal with. Win!
For those concerned with guests being physically unable to make it to the second floor, there is a fully accessible, albeit slow, elevator that will drop you off right into Kitchen Chicago. For those that are able, there is a staircase that will get you there much faster.
After the Party Aside from my coordinator being the best lady in all the land, Kitchen Chicago really rocked it out for me post-wedding. They let in the rental company to pick up the furniture on Monday, and this went so well that I’m not even sure how it happened – I was getting my tan on in the Dominican Republic for our honeymoon. Thank you to the people behind the scenes on that one!
Relaxing on the beach while our stuff is patiently waiting for us in the closets of KC.
In addition to housing those rentals for me over two nights, KC also let my coordinator stash the leftover decorations, wine, and other randomness in the closet of the event space until we got back from our honeymoon. Can you believe that?! Alexis contacted me via email on our last night in the DR to ask about picking up the things in the closet because they had another event that weekend. I had no idea there were things in the closet and I quickly arranged for my (new) sister-in-law to pick them up for me. But how nice was that? It was a relief to work with this venue to say the least.
Kitchen Chicago is a beautiful spot for a slightly off-beat wedding or for other events. The management is easy to work with, the paperwork is straightforward, and you won’t end up with surprise expenses. It’s also extremely flexible with no restrictions on catering or rentals. This can help keep costs down and allow a wide variety vendors to choose from. My total for the rental space for a cumulative total of 12 hours (over Friday & Saturday) was $1,500.
I would suggest for any event space that doesn’t include clean-up after the event to hire a cleaning crew to come in and mop the floors (sticky beer!), take out the trash, and stack your rental furniture for you. Our two-man crew was $135.00 and helped make sure that we got our full deposit back from Kitchen Chicago. A sound investment, in my opinion.
I have some other venues hidden up my sleeve that I can’t wait to post about! I’m glad so many of you have found your venue with Kitchen Chicago and I hope my other gems prove to be just as awesome… but I’ll be relying on all of you for reviews on those! Good luck in your search!
Happy Monday! To continue my Vendor Review series, I am covering our DJ, One Stop DJ Service, based out of Chicago, IL (but they have a 630 area code, so it must actually be the suburbs somewhere). You might recall my great joy in booking a DJ early in the planning process – a DJ that I had heard at a company party holiday party in 2009 and liked very much. Oh boy. How did things go so wrong?
Booking One Stop DJ Service
I booked One Stop DJ Service after getting their information from our HR department at my husband’s and my place of work. We liked them so much at our holiday party and their pricing was the best we could find, so it was an easy choice for us. Booking so far in advance, we made it very clear that we were hoping to get the same DJ from our holiday party. They assured me they would do everything they could to get us our requested DJ. Ok, I guess that should have been a warning sign. I should have been guaranteed (unless there were unforeseen circumstances like a wreck or change of staff – I’m a reasonable lady).
Moving on through the booking process, we were given a sheet called “Bridal Formalities” and one or two other various documents that we were to fill out. In these sheets it asked for the basic reception information – names of the wedding party, which traditions we would do, how to introduce the bride and groom, etc – and offered 4 or 5 pages of song titles. I filled everything out accordingly and when asked, “How involved would you like the DJ?” I answered, “Not at all.” Basically, we didn’t want the DJ to talk except to announce the bride and groom. I circled songs on the lists that I particularly liked, crossed out the ones that I didn’t want played at all and left the ones I was impartial to untouched. Pretty straight forward.
One Month Before the Big Day
Fast forward to a month before the wedding when they started to actually make time to speak with me. (Every time before that when I called, I got told that it was still too far away and details for my event “weren’t organized yet.” I was at the end of the list.) So a month before, I find out that the DJ we requested (young, hip fellow that would be a good fit for our group) was “unavailable” and the owner himself would be our DJ. Shit. I could tell on the phone that he was older and probably not a good fit for us.
I panicked and immediately made a supplemental document with exactly what songs I wanted played and when to play them. The ONLY part that wasn’t 100% mapped out was the dancing portion of the night. I mean, I’m paying a DJ for a reason. He should be able to feel a crowd and keep us dancing. That’s his job. So I simply gave him 3 songs that I really wanted played and 2 examples of artists that we love to dance to (Lady Gaga and Lupe Fiasco for the curious ones). The rest of the event was basically a minute-by-minute song list. There were 13 songs on my list that they didn’t have in their inventory (including our first dance song). So my husband put all of the mp3 files online and gave them a link to download them for free. This was a foreign concept to them, but they eventually figured it out. They are still using CDs. Remember those? Yeah, me neither.
CDs. Looks like my car circa 2003.
One Stop DJ Wedding Day Services
Not only was the DJ undoubtedly the worst part of our wedding, it almost ruined the whole event. There was no other “bad” part of the day, and without our DJ, our wedding would have been damn near perfect.
The Good The DJ showed up on time and was ready to go on time. He also played all of the processional songs that we gave him at the proper times with almost no awkward pausing. I walked down the aisle to the guitar version of “Here Comes the Bride” that we provided, and we got married. <— The important part.
The Bad Let’s start in chronological order. During the recessional, just after my new husband and I left the room, the speakers made a VERY loud “gun shot” type of noise. The guests were all standing and clapping for us after just hearing our beautiful (if I do say so myself) ceremony. Way to ruin the mood, DJ.
Next up is the cocktail hour. On the document I gave the DJ a month in advance, I clearly outlined 16 songs to play during this time – some mood-setting jams like John Mayer, Feist, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Sara Barielles, Taylor Swift, etc. I also noted to fill in the gaps with those types of songs if there was time left over. You can imagine our surprise when we were eating some of our pizza and mingling with guests to hear Lady Gaga. Two or three times in a row. No, I’m not kidding. I DID have Lady Gaga on the list to play, but it was clearly marked in the “Dance Music” section. So, he ruined the mood AND I didn’t get to dance to Gaga at our reception…because it had already been played.
Our first dance was to “The Only Exception” by Paramore. It was very lovely except for the super bright flood light and flashing green laser-type light that the DJ had set up without our knowledge. Our guests couldn’t really watch us because they were squinting at the brightness of the light. Why would a “professional” DJ think that strobe lights were appropriate during an intimate first dance? Why????!!! Because of these crazy lights, we also were not able to get good quality photos or video of this once-in-a-lifetime event.
Annoying lights during our first dance.
More of the crazy lights. You should see the video, it’s worse than it looks.
Time to dance! I gave fairly loose directions for this part of the evening. I gave 3 song titles as “must plays” (one of which did not get played), 2 artists that you couldn’t go wrong with (Gaga and Lupe, as noted above), and a list of merengue songs to choose from for the Groom’s family. They can’t help themselves but to dance when they hear merengue and I love them for it! You shouldn’t be surprised to hear that the DJ was playing basically whatever he felt like playing. Remember above when I mentioned that we noted on the instructional documents that we did not want the DJ involved in our festivities at all? Well, this was blatantly ignored and he proceeded to yap away at the microphone all night. He even GOT ON THE DANCE FLOOR with our guests at one point. I had our day-of coordinator speak to him multiple times during the night to ask him to please not talk on the microphone. One of the times he replied to her with something like “I’m the professional. I’ve been doing this for X number of years. I know what I’m doing.” Ha! It was all I could do to not turn Bridezilla on this guy and make him pack up right then and there.
Follow this with 2 or 3 additional loud “gun shot” noises that frightened my happy, dancing nieces and nephews to tears. I was this close to feeling like the night was ruined. I ended up cutting the party short by almost an hour because I couldn’t handle him being there any longer.
Happy nieces and nephew dancing right before one of the loud gun-shot noises made them all cry.
I know hind sight is 20/20, but I would have 595 more dollars in my pocket and nothing but fond memories of my wedding if I would have had the “dreaded” Zune wedding. I know if I had paid more, I could have possibly gotten a DJ I was pleased with. But I also don’t think that more money is the answer on this one. In retrospect, the Zune/iPod option wouldn’t have been more of a burden than the paid DJ I ended up with.
My suggestion to the couples planning your weddings right now would be to either allow room in your budget for a DJ service that you have researched ad nauseum and/or have a great recommendation for or take the plunge and do it yourself (with the help of a musically-inclined friend). I learned the hard way that music is one of the most important aspects of the wedding and also one of the easiest things to mess up. If you do choose a DJ service, make sure you meet with your actual DJ in person once or twice before the wedding to be 100% clear about your expectations. Don’t EVER assume that because somebody is a “professional” or has years of experience that they are good at what they do. Please learn from my mistakes!
Hi friends! To start off my Vendor Review series, I am covering our rental furniture vendor, Abbott Party Rental, based out of Lombard, IL. One way to save money on your wedding is to find an event space that is a la carte. This means you get to shop around for the best deal on chairs, tables, linens, etc, but it also means that you are responsible for finding a good company within your budget limitations that can provide quality service and products.
My First Choice
I researched and compared prices for what had to be every rental vendor that worked in the city of Chicago. I made a spreadsheet with all the different pricing, offerings, delivery charges, restrictions, etc. At the end of my exhaustive research, I decided on Party Central. They had the best pricing and a huge selection to choose from. I called to set up my reservation with them and they were totally nice and courteous on the phone. However, during our phone conversation, I found out that they do not pick-up or deliver on the weekends during non-peak dates. My date, May 7, was just before the start of their “peak season.” BUMMER! I needed Friday delivery and Sunday pick-up. No bueno.
Abbott Party Rental – Pricing
The next-best pricing I could find was for Abbott Party Rental. They were able to deliver and pick up on the days/times I needed, so they were the winners. I ordered the following:
110 White Wood Style Chairs with Padded Seat
10 36” Round Tables – 30” High
12 36” Round Tables – 42” High
10 90” Round Tablecloths in Charcoal Gray (for lower tables)
12 132” Round Tablecloths in Charcoal Gray (for highboys)
12 Sashes in Charcoal Gray (to tie highboy tablecloths)
The total for the above before tax, delivery, tip and fees was $837.00. Phew! Who knew rentals were so darn expensive?! Heads up, ladies! Make sure you plan for this to take a nice chunk from your budget if you are not choosing a venue that has rentals included.
Delivery was $90.00 (nice!), plus a “damage waiver” of $50.05, fuel surcharge of $16.74 made my grand total $993.79 – coming just shy of my $1,000 rental budget! That was a close one.
Quality & Service
It doesn’t matter how much you save if what you get is shitty. This is now my mantra as a budget-wife. Don’t get the wrong idea, though. Abbott was not THAT bad. (Just remember that mantra for the future.) On a five-star scale, I give them a 3.
Customer Service I have very little to complain about their customer service. I had pleasant phone calls with my representative and it was easy to set up and make changes to my order. They still use fax, which is a little irritating in 2011, but it’s not a deal-breaker. They were fast in their responses to me and kept up with email surprisingly well!
Delivery / Pick-up Here is where they definitely lose the first star. I had the day before my wedding scheduled out perfectly: pick up people from the airport, get a mani / pedi with a girlfriend, meet the rental delivery people, set-up the chairs and tables, etc etc. You can imagine my surprise when I got a phone call while relaxing in the pedicure chair saying, “Hi, Crystal? It’s Abbott Party Rental. We are here with your delivery.” Ummm… no. You aren’t there because you aren’t scheduled for another hour. And you aren’t scheduled for another hour because I don’t have access to the event space until then.
Ha! So, I panic and start calling my DOC, Hollie, over and over and over and over again. She, of course, is on a conference call (because she’s not technically working for me for another 4 hours) and can’t answer. I call Alexis at Kitchen Chicago – no answer. I call Charlene (from Sweetchic Events) and HOORAY! She answers! Not only does she answer, she says she’s not far from Kitchen Chicago and will go meet them right now and take care of it. Bless her heart! I got my toes polished up and took off before they were even dry so I could let Charlene get back to her day. The delivery guys were still there with her when I got there, and I was informed that 2 tables were missing from the delivery. In addition to the added stress of arriving early, I was short some tables! I don’t even know if they ended up bringing them at a later time, but I do know that I paid for them!
Rental Quality To start on a good note, the linens were exquisite! They were a nice quality and color and they were all accounted for. I know the linens really helped dress up the space and they were well worth the $336.50 that we paid. I originally contemplated making them myself with wholesale fabric and some quality time with my sister and her sewing machine. After doing the math, however, it was actually just as expensive and was going to take up way too much time. If you plan to use your linens again, then doing it yourself is probably more economical. But for one day, I was better off renting.
Highboy table with tablecloth and sash.
The other star was taken away for the furniture quality. Not only did the delivery guys not open the straps for us so that we could get the chairs off of the dolly (my dad almost snapped a finger off trying to help us!), once we got to them, they were dirty! They honestly looked like they had just been dragged down a dusty dirt road. It took so much extra time to find cleaning rags and detergent and to wipe them down that the whole rest of the day’s schedule was falling way behind. I’d also like to point out that while the description says “wood style”, they are not actually wooden chairs. I was mislead, but I suppose not entirely lied to. I was disappointed to find that they were plastic resin chairs in the style of wooden garden chairs. They still looked nice once they were all set up (and cleaned up), but I was a little disappointed.
You can kind of see our chairs here.
Thank you to my mom, dad, nieces, nephew, Michelle, and Hollie for the extra chair cleaning help! 🙂
If I had a wedding during peak-season (summertime) or had flexible delivery/pick-up dates, I would go with Party Central for rentals. I can’t attest to the quality of their furniture or linens, but my dealings with them were stress free and their pricing is extremely competitive.
Make sure you give yourself enough time for room set-up if you are doing it yourself! I could have used an extra 2 or 3 hours. Cushion your schedules, girls! Please leave any suggestions you might have in the comments for other readers to use!
Hey everyone! Sorry I’ve been MIA for an unforgivably long time… I was starting to feel just a tad overwhelmed with work, wedding planning, and guest preparations. I’m sure some of you can relate. But worry not! I made it through alive and am now a happily married lady that is ready to get back to blogging for all of you who are just trying to have a wedding in the city without putting yourself (even further) in debt.
Since it has been so long, I don’t even know the best way to cover everything so I’m going to break this up into multiple posts for the next couple weeks. I’ll start with pictures of our wedding venue though because I have received emails and comments from some folks that are dying to know what Kitchen Chicago ended up looking like! So to get this party started, I give you a set-up/decoration post. I hope you all like it! Leave me some comments if you have any questions about anything!
The Venue – Kitchen Chicago
Kitchen Chicago filled with our guests (100 of them) and a whole lot of love.
I’d like to start this section by giving a huge shout-out and “thank you” to Alexis and Nicolle from Kitchen Chicago for being so helpful and accommodating with my non-traditional wedding. Every request and inquiry was given a response quickly and I don’t believe there were any requests that were denied. (Of course, I only asked things within reason…)
A nice view of the ceremony setup before people took their seats.
When the rentals arrived before I got there, Alexis was able to buzz them right in and oversee the drop off (along with the fabulous Charlene from Sweetchic Events, but that’s a-whole-nother post). When the chairs were dirty (again, this deserves another post as well), Alexis was right there to help me and my friend find some rags and cleaner and wipe them all down. When the night was over and some decorations were still lingering, they found a welcome home in the closet until she had another event scheduled. The rentals couldn’t be picked up until Monday and guess what? She let me leave them there! (Originally, there was an event scheduled for the next day but the solution was to house them in the garage until pick up! How accommodating!) I have to say that when you are down to the wire in planning, a vendor that is willing to work WITH you instead of against you is so very helpful and much appreciated.
You can see our bar table set up in the left corner.
Beautiful details like this keep decorating to a minimum.
I love flowers very very much. They are nice to look at, brighten a room, smell nice, and generally make me smile. But when it came to choosing flowers for my wedding, well, I was stumped. I had a very small budget for these pretty things and I put them near the bottom of my List of Things to Worry About. I did, however, know that my bouquet, along with boutonnieres and corsages for our parents and grandparents, were a necessity. The decorative ones took a backseat. After doing some very complicated and intricate investigating (read: Yelp searching), I found a place near-ish to Kitchen Chicago called Adams and Son Gardens on Western.
With my Mom, sister and hydrangea bouquet after our First Look.
I went on location to scope it out and was greeted with friendly, smiling faces and a ton of beautiful options to choose from. The lady there that does the arrangements (forgive me as I forget her name!) was actually already booked for my wedding day – May 7. After explaining that I didn’t need arrangements for the whole place, just the bouquet, 3 pin corsages and 3 boutonnieres, she said she thought she could squeeze it in for me. Yaaay! I was so excited! I requested a hydrangea bridal bouquet (cheap!) and anything yellow for the rest that would fit in my budget. She made them all up for me well within my budget for a grand total of $143.33. My (now) sister-in-law graciously picked them all up for me to save delivery charges and dropped them off at my sister’s where I was getting ready on the day-of.
Walking down the isle with my dad and his boutonniere.
While I was setting up the space on Friday before the rehearsal with my dear friend, Michelle, and amazing coordinator, Hollie, I realized that there was something missing. By the way, not a great thing to think the day before your wedding. Michelle foolishly asked me before we headed out to our rehearsal dinner, “Is there anything else I can do at all?” to which I replied in a last-minute decision, “I think I need flowers.” Eeek! Now, Michelle has a degree in Interior Design so she knows a thing or two about color and form and I trust her style completely. This, however, does not mean she is a florist. Instead of protesting, she kindly accepted with a smile, asked me what “feel” I wanted and said “I’ll take care of it.” What a friend, huh? My clumsy description of what I wanted was something along the lines of: wild flowers, yellow, rustic, pretty. Ha! How “bride” of me. Anyways, this is what I got:
Exactly what I was hoping for!
She went out the next morning to begin her search and ended up hitting the jackpot at Whole Foods. For $160.00 she was able to give me an arrangement for every guest table and for the food, cupcake, and welcome tables!!!! The Ball jars were lent to me mostly by Hollie (some were Michelle’s) and made the whole thing come together.
As a Welcome/Guestbook/Gift Table, I used one of the big, beautiful wooden tables that Alexis has in the event space. She helped carry it out of the doors to the hallway with the elevators. There is a nice little alcove there before the doors to the event space that was a perfect spot to keep large gifts and a greeter if you have one. On the table, I also set up a dedication section with photos of our parents and grandparents at their weddings. All 6 of those couples are either still together or were together until death, which was really inspiring for us on our wedding day and something special that I think is pretty rare these days.
Welcome Table – that’s my maternal Grandma’s wedding book!
I also purchased a plain white, wooden cutout “G” from the craft section of Joann Fabrics (for our last name) and a wooden planter box to use as a card box (with plastic lining removed and turned around to hide the “Fleurs” lettering on one side). Total for those items was about $10. The photo prints were about $15-$20 and the frames were $1 each from the Dollar Store.
Hollie from Sweetchic was absolutely fantastic with helping keep my decoration costs down by lending me her Ball jars (used for flowers), Christmas lights (for the banister and staircase, seen below), and the cupcake stands and platters (also below). At the suggestion of Hollie and Charlene, I bought 72 candles and holders from Quick Candles to place on tables and around the event space to create a mood and make the place look more “decorated.” This cost me a total of $50 after shipping and was well worth it. I also had a banner made to put above the cupcake table that read “Love is Sweet.” That was a gift from my friend Cathy that was made by her disgustingly talented sister. She also threw in some cupcake flags she made that matched the banner which were supplemented by my mother-in-law with wedding ring toppers and Martha Stewart food picks from Joann Fabrics.
Borrowed holiday lights.
Borrowed cupcake stands, homemade and store bought flags.
So you can see our layout.
We had the above setup for the ceremony and with the help of Hollie and some willing guests, the chairs were moved around and tables (high and low – 36″) were brought out from the area through that door to the right in the photo above to look like this for the reception:
Chairs around the low tables and cloth to the floor on the highboys.
I think that covers everything for the decorations! I had some balloons tied to the gate outside to mark the location since it’s tucked away a bit from the street and put up a sign that said “Gomez Wedding” on the door. I think it turned out great and ended up looking just decorated enough but not overdone to compete with the beauty of the space. A post about our rentals (tables, chairs, and tablecloths) is on it’s way.
Let me know what you think in the comments! And if you have any suggestions for other readers or questions, post those too! Can’t wait to fill you in on more of our budget wedding!
I know, I know. I have many graphic designer friends and lovers of all things paper, which is totally cool! I can fall in love with beautiful letterpress invitations at a stationary shop or on Etsy as fast as the next girl, but here is my hang-up: snail mail is SO 2001.
Some people say “… but there’s something so pure and special about mailing a letter these days. It’s so exciting to get a piece of mail that isn’t bills or junk!” I say it’s just a pain in my rear. I get all these extra pieces of paper cluttering my house and it costs MONEY to mail things. Emails are free! And then when you get the paper invitation in the mail, you usually have a paper RSVP along with it that will just sit and sit and sit in your house until you finally stop being lazy the day before the due date and take it to the mailbox. At least in the city, it’s not always the most convenient task to mail a letter. I’m lucky because I have an outgoing mailbox in my condo building AND my work building – a rarity.
The 2011 Invitation
So now that I’m done going off on how I think letters should be phased out, I’d like to introduce a new trend. (Maybe it’s not new, but I don’t hear about it very much on the grapevine.) Electronic invitations!!!!! And no, not E-vite. Bleck! I think the times need to change to make sending electronic invitations the norm. Etiquette people, can we talk about this, please? It just makes more sense. People are on their computers and/or smart phones every day! This is part of their daily routine at this point. Get an email that isn’t spam? Respond! It’s so easy. You click “reply” and write back. And then you’re done! It’s magic!
I must say, I’m being a tad hypocritical. We sent paper save-the-dates, on my request. My fiancé insisted on doing it online and I said “absolutely not!” Some part of me just REALLY wanted to mail the save-the-dates so our friends and family could get one, put it on the fridge, be happy for us… I think I had a “put my ‘A’ paper on the fridge” moment. They turned out just how I wanted them to, but they may have been a little too good. Many people that got them in the mail overlooked them (at least at first) as junk mail since it was printed professionally postcard-style. It looked like a marketing piece to them. Meh, oh well. Lesson learned.
The person who really changed my mind about the whole thing is my (fairly) newly engaged friend Michelle (from this post). It went like this: About 1 month after she said “yes,” I got this email in my inbox with the subject “Tyler and Michelle’s Save the Date.” First of all, I was impressed that she was able to nail down a date so quickly. Secondly, that took NO TIME at all. She didn’t have to choose the stationary vendor, choose the colors, go back and forth on designs, wait while they printed, and wait for the shipment. Michelle has some graphic design skillz (the z is necessary) that she put to work to design a JPG that she simply attached to the email.
(The attached save-the-date edited by me for privacy, of course. How perfect?!)
There was a nice message to the recipients in the body of the email letting us know that the save-the-date was attached and she took the opportunity to let everybody know that it was ok not to come. Most of their invited guests are from out-of-town. She worded it in the best way ever (I’m not going copy and paste here simply for privacy’s sake but if you want to do the same and need help, just email me!) to let out-of-town friends and family know that they shouldn’t feel pressure to make the trek to Chicago and that they will still love them no matter what. Also attached to the email were 2 lovely engagement photos of the couple, which gave it a nice personal feel. For the older folks and select others on their guest list, they took the design to a local printer and got some to snail mail. Everybody wins!
I immediately regretted not going this route. My fiancé was right for a change. (Kidding, dear!) This was the best idea ever! Since Rafael wanted to do electronic everything from the start, I gave in and we met in the middle for our invitations. Since our budget is quickly depleting with various other wedding needs, I decided that print-at-home DIY invitations would be the best for our budget and time restraints. We headed off to Michael’s and picked up 2 boxes of 40 of the easiest-to-assemble invitations. I didn’t want to bother with ribbon and glue and all that mess. I also didn’t want the recipients to open like 50 envelopes and ribbon ties just to get to the message. We picked out some from the Brides Magazine line that they have out now. It only ran us about $80 = $1/invitation.
(Our Brides Magazine invitations. Not too shabby.)
I know, I just said that online is the way to go. Before the invitations went out, we made a Facebook event with one of our engagement photos and the exact wording from our paper invitations. The people that responded on Facebook before we went to address the envelopes did not get a paper invite (so as to not bother them a million times and waste postage). Also, on the paper invitation, we asked that responses be given at our wedding website. On our *free* website, it allows you to import your guest list from an Excel document and it will organize this lovely RSVP feature for you (projectwedding.com). We didn’t have to pay for all of the stamps on the return envelopes and we don’t have to rely on the USPS to get our responses. Chicago’s postal system is inadequate, at best.
Since the invitations came with response cards, I decided to use those as rehearsal dinner invitations. All labels (and rehearsal dinner wording) were printed on Avery shipping labels and printed at FedEx/Kinkos for a total of about $21.
(Our rehearsal dinner invitations – shipping labels on response cards.)
The responses are rolling in on both Facebook and our wedding website and we’re so excited that it worked! I have so much more to share now that I’m getting things in order! I’m off to the wedding of my fiance’s best friend in Florida this weekend and I’m so excited to see what they did! And to visit with my future in-laws and fiance’s friends! Many pictures, coming soon.
It’s that time, ladies and gents! My fellow bridal bloggers are getting MARRIED! Congratulations to my beautiful friend, fellow blogger, and former college roommate, Mallory from 11eleven11 and Moxie Missives and her new husband, James. She’s not just a bridal blogger but a truly captivating writer. I know she has been working her little tush off to move a wedding up 8 MONTHS and to begin working for herself in the direction of her dreams and ambitions, and I am so proud of her. Even though we haven’t seen each other in person in years (to change next month, yay!), I feel like we’re closer than ever because of this shared time in our lives. It’s been so helpful to have a group of people who know exactly what you’re going through in life and to share your triumphs and disasters and to feel their excitement with them and their worry with them and to have helpful and encouraging words at just the right times… It’s like reality TV circa “Real World: Seattle” – when it was actually real! (Anybody else have a crush on Nathan?)
CONGRATULATIONS, MALLORY & JAMES! May you have many many fabulous years together!