Weddings and wedding photography can be overwhelming and sometimes arguably quite nauseating, so pardon this extreme moment of narcissism on my part if it’s not your thing. Let it be known that you were fairly warned before this wealth of pictures pushes you over the edge into the murky waters of a facebook rant about how all your friends are pregnant, old, and boring.
So let’s get the gist of this whole affair. A little over two years ago, the coolest guy ever asked me if I’d marry him. As you assumed, I said yes. We had a year and a half long engagement, in which we both procrastinated getting everything in order, in our own true fashion. A traditional wedding was something neither of us wanted. After all,
My betrothed and I wholeheartedly agreed that all our hearts’ desired was good beer, good food, and good art to rule the day. And so begins the tale of how we made that happen.
Everyone has their own opinions on what a wedding budget should be. My advice is to take all that you’ve read on the subject and forget it. You’ll find a way to make the amount you have work, and you’ll always feel like you spent way more than you should have. Eamon and I decided early on that when it came to money, we would put the largest emphasis on location, photography, and the ever important beer. The rest we’d figure out along the way.
After a depressing tour of insanely expensive and flavorless venues around Chicago, a friend steered us toward Lacuna Artist Lofts, where he’d attended a rave a few weeks before. (Yes, much like you, I was totally unaware that rave locations and wedding venues would have any middle ground if placed in a Venn Diagram together.) Lacuna, situated right in the heart of Pilsen, fit so many needs for us. The neighborhood and venue are packed full of rich culture, wacky art, and glorious graffiti. I even rented out a studio on site for myself in the months before the wedding so I could work on the ceremony backdrop and get my art show together. (That’s right. We put on an interactive art show during cocktail hour. Complete with photography by yours truly and tap light wall display.) Lacuna also has a deck overlooking the Chicago skyline where we served Mama’s Nuts, Chicago hotdogs from Hubby’s, and killed a few kegs from Binny’s before the reception.
Our next step was to find the right photographer. I take photos for a living, so I had a pretty good idea of what I was looking for. After reaching out to a number of Chicago wedding photographers, I wasn’t all that impressed no matter how impressed they may have been with themselves. That’s when I stumbled across Q Avenue Photo on pinterest. I emailed Brad and Jen without realizing they were based out of Nashville. Jen called me back right away and we had the best conversation. This husband and wife duo carefully picks who they want to work with to make sure they feel a connection with a couple. To me, that ultimately means that the fruits of their labor are honest and moving pieces of art.
Then Eamon and I started the conversation on what we could live without. To cut costs we went flower free. (Take a look at the bouquets I crafted for myself and all the bridesmaids.) I designed the save-the-dates and invitations myself, and my mom addressed them in her perfectly mind-blowing calligraphy. All of the decorations were handmade by my mom and me. (That’s right—a crafty, selfless mom can go a long way!) Using my ever beloved WordPress, I created our wedding website for free (take a look at it here). And my dear friend, Paige, designed our wedding logo that appeared on nearly everything, including our custom mason jars from Barrel Maker Printing.
A common way people try to save money is to skip the wedding coordinator. I can see how that may be the answer for many folks, but not for this creative lunatic. I couldn’t have pulled off my lofty art dreams without my friend and coordinator, Katie, and her team at Jayne Weddings. It was such a relief to sit back and enjoy the day knowing someone else was making everything flow accordingly.
Another way we saved money was to orchestrate the food and booze ourselves. We hired out 3 Chicago staples and their best food truck crews. The roster included Big Star, 5411 Empanadas, and Doughnut Vault in lieu of cake. This route saved us some major bucks. On top of that, we brought in kegs of our favorite Chicagoland brews and a few nonlocal brews as well. A big nod to Revolution Brewing, Two Brothers, Lagunitas, Ballast Point, and 21st Amendment Brewery.
Eamon and I also threw in a few atypical events to entertain our friends and family. Instead of the normal procession of the bridal party into the reception, calling each person name by name, we all rushed the crowd to Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Iron Maiden and ran through a “Just Married” banner. Since we ditched the whole cake idea (in order to save money and because neither one of us care about that form of dessert), we didn’t have a corny cake cutting incident. Instead I made a few penguin piñatas for my Pittsburgh Penguins lover and we hacked them open with his lacrosse sticks. (Did I mention he’s a sports fanatic?)
It was really important to us both that our parents played a significant role in our ceremony. Both of my parents walked me down the isle (something that doesn’t often happen in Texas, where I was born and raised). Eamon’s dad, The Honorable Judge Conway, married us and Eamon’s mom read aloud. We wrote our own vows and cried like little babies. Later on, our first dance was to This Must Be The Place by Talking Heads. My cute little Cuban papi and I busted a move to Guantanamera while Eamon and his mom spun around the floor to the classic Beatles song, Till There Was You.
Let’s not forget what us love birds wore. Eamon had a custom suit and shirt made just for him at Balani Custom Clothiers. He picked out all of the fabrics and had monograms added to the cuffs. What a dreamboat! I got my dress at Bella Bianca in downtown Chicago, from designer Ines Di Santo. I didn’t think I’d find myself in a designer dress that day, but I fell in love with her attention to detail. Each bead and flower made up a extremely complex piece of art. I paired that with a custom made blue cathedral style veil from Weddings 826. And of course, who could forget the sneaks? I wore a killer pair of Nike Sky Hi Wedges. They’re made of a lovely tweed-like light orewood brown fabric with sail pink details. I even got all of my bridesmaids Nike Solarsoft Thongs to slip into once the dancing started, and boy did we dance! Thanks for the tunes, DJ Danny!