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8.19.2011

I Did It!!! (Part 2)


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.
Our Ceremony
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:

I.                   Introduction
a.       Opening words
b.      Moment of silence
II.                Readings
III.             Message from the Reverend
IV.             Vows
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.

8.16.2011

Vendor Review: Kitchen Chicago


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.
Exposed beams, beautiful lighting, exposed brick. Yes please!
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?

Wedding Day!
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.

My Suggestions
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!

8.15.2011

Vendor Review: One Stop DJ Service

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.

My Suggestions
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!
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