Just a quick note about friendship that I have witnessed today...

I had a bit of reunion today on Twitter with my Freshman year roommate in college. Her name is Mallory, and reuniting with her is exciting for the following reasons:
  1. We got back in touch rather randomly after I saw an @ reply to her by a fellow wedding blogger, The Knotty Bride. Exciting because The Knotty Bride posts some of the most awesome and inspirational wedding photos. She also is open & honest on her Twitter account, which I truly appreciate. If our paths ever cross, this is the kind of person I could see myself sitting around with on a lazy Saturday afternoon sipping margaritas on a patio somewhere.
  2. She's also getting married!!!!! Congratulations, Mallory & James!
  3. She blogs too!!! Please read her work at www.11eleven11.net and www.moxiemissives.com. (Don't miss the story entitled "Reasons to say, 'Yes!'" and the groom's version "Reasons I'm Hoping You Say 'Yes'." You will cry. Have tissues.) She is a skilled writer, to say the least. Finding someone with this much care for words is not easy these days. Mallory and my fiance. Those are the two people that could write an instruction manual that I would want to read from cover to cover.
  4. She is an all-around good person. Kind-hearted, grateful, loving, determined, ambitious, and passionate. Mallory saved me from a horrible roommate placement my very first semester of college by offering me the extra spot in her double-occupancy room. Anybody else would have kept the room to themselves! If I remember correctly, I was a bit of a bad influence on her studies from time to time, but those nights always ended with laughter and smiles. She is one of the first people I met out of high school that I considered a strong, independent female- something that has stuck with me through the years.
In fact, I'm so excited about this that I may take an impromptu weekend trip to NY in the near future to catch up over a cocktail (or two or three). I never thought when I started this blog that I would meet (and reunite) with so many fantastic people - some already married and some in the same boat as me. There is a whole community of brides out there that I never knew existed. It's like a little secret society and it's fabulous!

Three cheers for Twitter, old friends, wedding planning, and (one that often gets left out) the wonderful men who live on the other side of these blogs.

P.S. I looked all over for a digital photo of Mallory and me, but the only ones I have are paper photos. I shall scan and update tomorrow!


The Space is Booked

If I thought it wasn't 100% tacky to post our signed agreement on here, I would do it. I'm so excited to have this massive piece of the puzzle in place. The weight of an elephant is off my shoulders and the rest will be smoooooth sailing. Right? HAHA! Kidding. But really, it feels good.

We had it narrowed down to the last 2 locations that I featured in my previous post: Westgrand Studios Loft and Kitchen Chicago. They both have the feel I was hoping for and for the price I was hoping for.

Westgrand Studios Loft

This space is really beautiful. However, the experience was a little rocky right from the start. As I mention in my previous post, getting a hold of the owner was a bit of a challenge. He doesn't have a staff member to follow up on leads and take people on tours. He should.

After a couple awkward conversations with him on the phone, I finally got an appointment set up for my fiance and I to see the space. He had us meet him at his personal apartment down the street to get the keys from him. (His apartment is really awesome, btw. An old firehouse. Gorgeous.) I thought this was a little bit odd.

Anyways, we got the keys from him, went to the building down the street, and let ourselves in. We searched the 3rd floor, per his instructions, for the door to the event space. I couldn't find it for the life of me. We were all turned around, and I was sure that we were in the wrong spot. I called him and he walked me through it, the key wouldn't work right away, then I opened the door. Wow. It was spectacular. I mean, really really above my expectations for all that I went through to get there. Large space, neat vibe, beautiful city view, lovely skylight, industrial touches...swoon!

Westgrand Studios Loft
(all pictures taken by me)

The lovely skylight

Good view of the brick walls & skylight

After getting sent the wrong contract a couple times long after I requested it, I started having big time doubts. If this is the person I will be working with for my wedding day (the biggest day of my life to date), this isn't going to work out. His emails were written in all caps and with broken sentences. Maybe it's just me, but that stuff matters.

So the winner is....

Kitchen Chicago!!!!!!!!
The space is just as, if not more, beautiful than Westgrand. The event space itself doesn't have a view of the city, but the kitchen does! A GREAT one! So it's still there, you just have to work a little harder to get it. The ceilings soar to the sky and the exposed brick is rustic, home-y, and welcoming! It also comes with really great solid wood benches/tables that we can use at our discretion for seating and/or for display purposes.

Tables & benches at Kitchen Chicago

I won't have to do much at all to this place as far as decorating goes. The owner is super friendly,accommodating, and approachable. I love her passion for the kitchen and for her business. There's also extra washrooms and a little private area that my groom and I can retreat to during the night if we need it. And one last thing about this space that I love: the location. Not only is it blocks from our apartment, but the industrial landscape should make for some really awesome photos!

I love this place!

The loft within the loft at Kitchen Chicago
(will need help brainstorming how to maximize that space)

My fiance, standing where we will be saying our vows. :)

I also did some research into the Chicago Park District buildings and gardens. That deserves a separate post as they are great options for tight budgets!


Location, Location, Location

We know that we have to book an event space as soon as possible for a number of reasons.
  1. We want to get our first choice spot. If we fall in love with a place then find out it's not available on the day we were really hoping for, sadness ensues.
  2. If we book far enough in advance, we may be able to cut a deal with the venue if their calendar is still wide open.
  3. I want to know what the space looks like and how big it is so I can plan rental furniture and decorations accordingly.
Naturally, our first choice was the Adler Planetarium (see first post). It's a really special spot and has unreal views of the city, Navy Pier, and Lake Michigan. Unfortunately, once I started looking into it further, I discovered that event rental space is about as much as our total budget for that time of year. We did consider getting married in the low season - dead of winter - so that we could have this space but decided that we couldn't put our families through a visit to Chicago in the winter. That's just mean.
Wedding at the Adler Planetarium.
(photo from here)

Since that was out of the question, I decided that I want a venue off the beaten path a little. Not your typical hotel space with 4 walls and bad carpet. (No offense to those that choose hotels. There are many great reasons to go that route. Easy set up, experienced staff, room to get ready, often less expensive, etc.) I want a unique space. And hopefully, if I can find a space that isn't necessarily popular for weddings, I can get it on the cheap.

The following are the spots I am considering or did heavily consider:

Salvage One
This place is AWESOME. It's full of unique, vintage furniture, has hardwood floors, tall ceilings, and an outdoor garden area - not to mention this extremely swoon-worthy Chicago art piece pictured below. Basically, I would consider this spot to have everything I could ever want in a wedding venue. Here's the bummer: it's $6500 for the day. Unless we don't eat or drink anything and dance to the radio at our wedding, we can't afford it. SAD FACE!
Salvage One
(photo from here)
Garfield Park Conservatory
Ok, so here's a nice alternative spot. The conservatory! The price is right - $2,500. Plus, no need to buy a lot of decorations or flowers. The place is basically already styled for me. I just have to add tables and chairs and maybe some mood lighting. I foresee a problem with sound since the ceilings are so high and I know that places like this have weird acoustics. The other possible problem is that they have a restricted catering list which means that I must use one of their caterers. Caterers = $$$. Most of them have minimum packages that can quickly put me over my budget. More research needs to be done here. Very good possibility, though.
Horitculture Hall at the Garfield Park Conservatory
(photo from here)
Westgrand Studios Loft
We found out about this spot from a coworker. The website is terrible, but I sent them an email anyways since the photo looked nice and it is right down the street from our apartment. The price is very competitive for what the owner is offering. $2,500 gets the space for the full day, Friday set-up (if nobody is booked that day), a kitchen prep area, a rolling bar, no catering or alcohol restrictions (bring my own! yay!), and a beautiful view of the city skyline. I'm only a little hesitant because the website is so disorganized and the phone number I called had a full mailbox.

Westgrand Studios Loft
(photo from here)

Kitchen Chicago
I have no idea how I found this space at all. Kitchen Chicago is exactly what is sounds like - an industrial kitchen on the west side of Chicago (about 4 blocks from our apartment) that is available for hourly rental by area chefs without their own kitchens. Fortunately, the kitchen has an event space attached that is available at the unreal price of $1500 for the whole event day. The space is BYOB and I can bring any caterer I want, but they do have a list of caterers that use their kitchen. I'm sure the managers would love to get them some business.

Kitchen Chicago loft space
(photo from here)

Time to set up some appointments, ask many many questions, and take many many pictures. :)


The Guest List

By reading all the lovely and helpful wedding blogs that I happily discovered almost immediately after I accepted my fiance's proposal, I found out that the guest list is the foundation for the rest of the planning.

Therein lies the problem. Did I mention my fiance has the BIGGEST family I have ever heard of? We joke (but in a semi-serious fashion) that he may have the largest family in the United States if somebody were to actually start from the oldest living and count all the way to the newest baby. His dad has 17 brothers and sisters. That's 17 aunts and uncles - not to mention his mom's side with another 6! Add their husbands and wives and families and.....you get the idea.

This is just us at the Planetarium being idiots on the day he proposed.

After organizing it all out on a spreadsheet (thanks, Google Docs!), we decided that our guest list was going to have to include - drumroll please - 150 people! Yes, I am going to have a wedding for 150 guests for $8,000. Ok, so I know not all 150 will show up but better to over-plan than under-plan.

I have a pretty specific idea of how I want our wedding to feel aesthetically. I'm thinking vintage and rustic but still classy, clever, and put-together (see a couple images I love below). I really want to embrace a simple color palette and a simple decor. I'm hoping to have the "wow" factor in the smaller details - that don't cost as much to pull off! We only get to have this day once in our lives and I want to love every bit of it!

DIY Bouquet of hydrangeas & peonies
(image from acreativelifestyle.typepad.com)

Simple & beautiful tribute to family.
(image from joannagoddard.blogspot.com)

Next stop: a ceremony/reception location!


Long Story Short(ened)

I met my future husband at my (our) place of work in April of last year. After some pretty intense coaxing, I got him to date me and in April of THIS year, he asked me to marry him. :) :) :) We got engaged out by the Adler Planetarium in Chicago - the same spot he first asked me to be his girlfriend. It was perfect! Not a lot of fuss, nobody watching, just us and our beautiful city skyline watching in the background.

About 5 minutes after he popped the question.

After an impromptu engagement party, I got straight to planning. Much to my dismay, I just as quickly discovered how expensive a wedding really is. It doesn't matter how simple you are willing to go (I'm pretty willing), it is NOT CHEAP. Since I have a mountain of college debt, our budget became our top priority...well, second in the priority line after becoming husband and wife, that is. ;)

Here are the things we are not willing to budge on:
  • must be in Chicago, not the suburbs - the city has played a big role in our relationship
  • must have family present (you'll see why this will be one of our biggest financial challenges later)
  • must have an open bar
  • must have a blast!
Everything else is flexible.

I know that I can come in at (or under) our budget of $8,000 for a lovely, unique May 7, 2011 ceremony & reception. Hopefully, with enough crafting and bargain-hunting, I can even fit the honeymoon in for that amount! ::crosses fingers::

Being that I have only 10 months and some change to figure this out.... LET'S PLAN!
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