Any bride can tell you that planning even the simplest wedding can be overwhelming. Planning a big day that stands out from the crowd? Now that’s a Herculean challenge. But in a city as eclectic as Chicago, brides-to-be have a wealth of resources with which to create a unique union. Thanks to some innovative local vendors, we have six tips that will ensure your big day is one of a kind.
Choose an ‘entertaining’ venue
If you want your venue to wow, consider a space that offers your guests a new experience. Planner Katie Jackson-Meara of So Dressed Up often directs her brides to Chicago’s many museums. “If you have a wedding at the Chicago History Museum or the Field Museum, your guests get the added experience of dining and dancing next to a room full or artifacts or underneath a dinosaur,” she says. “The Museum of Contemporary Art is a blank canvas that really allows you to be creative, and the Shedd Aquarium has a gorgeous view of the city.” Catherine Lamb of wedding and event planning company Birch Design Studio also recommends the Chicago Lyric Opera as a wedding venue. “You can host part of your wedding on the actual stage, looking out over the house. It’s a stunning and rare view,” she says.
Ditch the standard save-the-date
“When guests receive an interactive and fun save the date, it gets them excited for the wedding,” Lamb says. “It should give a taste of what’s to come, but it can also be more lighthearted, even experimental, than the wedding invitation.” For one fashion-forward couple, the Birch Design Studio team sent out silk scarves with the wedding information subtly incorporated into the pattern. “It became a wearable memento of the wedding,” she says. If custom scarves aren’t in the budget, consider a video save the date. For her own wedding, Jackson-Meara enlisted the help of wedding photographers and videographers Studio This Is to create a clever short film of the betrothed couple painting a giant red heart and their wedding date. “I’ve seen so many grip-and-grin photos,” Jackson-Meara says of save the dates. “As a planner, I knew I had to do something different.”
Don an unusual gown
Rather than spend tons of money on a wedding dress that any other bride could buy, check out the vintage selection at Lulu’s at the Belle Kay (3862 N. Lincoln, Lulusbellekay.com) or Bucktown’s Silver Moon (1721 W. North, Silvermoonvintage.com), where owner Liz Myer stocks the largest collection of authentic vintage bridal gowns in the country (they start at $550). She also designs her own custom vintage-inspired gowns. “But my favorite thing to do is heirloom redesign, taking someone’s mom’s or grandma’s dress and making it her own,” Myer says. “It’s amazing to see the before and after. Those dresses tell stories.”
• If vintage isn’t your style, consider a stop at BHLDN (8 E. Walton), which has a laid-back approach to bridal gown shopping and a host of gorgeous dresses that ring in around $1,000. “The whole atmosphere clicked with my personality,” says Chicago bride Erin Kucka, who will say her “I dos” next December. “There was no cheesy conversation, no one was layering me with glittery pieces and I never felt pressured to try on certain dresses.”
Raise your floral budget — literally
No one does unique blooms better than Epoch Floral’s Mike Hines, who launched floral experience company Mike Hines Signature (Mikehinessignature.com) earlier this year; he believes flowers should be part of a wedding’s entertainment. “I’m bored of centerpieces,” Hines says. “Why not do nothing on the tables, but have your guests walk through a floral installation on the way into the reception? Or hang hundreds of birch beams in a stream overhead? Then you’ve spent your money on one big-impact piece that every person is going to remember and take a picture of. You have that ‘wow’ factor.”
Find a new way to groove
Let’s face it: Music can make or break the reception dance party. To impress your guests, and keep them on the floor all night, DJ Megan Taylor of Fig Media (Figgy.net) suggests hiring a DJ who can incorporate a live drummer or electric violinist. “I can layer the music on top of my music, and the live element adds a lot of energy,” says Taylor (shown above during a gig with live musicians). “People dance more when there’s a drummer.”
• For ceremony and cocktail hour tunes, Lamb suggests creating musical interludes that feel personal to the couple. “We usually recommend that couples incorporate music that reflects them, their families and their shared experiences,” she says. “We used a calypso band at the cocktail hour for a Caribbean family, and we had a Balinese gamelan play at the dinner of a couple who fell in love on a trip to Bali. Be creative, keeping in mind that it’s a good idea to increase the energy of the music [and usually the volume] as the night progresses.”
Deliver your food on wheels
If you want to make a lasting impression, consider jumping aboard one of the city’s hottest trends: the food truck. Nida Rodriguez of The Slide Ride (Theslideride.com) has catered more than 30 weddings since taking her slider truck on the road in June 2011. “We’ve done some casual backyard weddings, or we show up around 11 or 12 as a late-night food option,” Rodriguez says. “People have been drinking and haven’t eaten in a few hours, so they’re usually pretty excited to see the slider truck.” And while cupcakes have already seen their wedding heyday, they seem brand new when they arrive on the Flirty Cupcakes (Flirtycupcakes.com) van alongside mini pies, hot chocolate and cider. “We’ve served desserts as people leave the church, outside receptions and we were able to drive right into one hall in the city,” says owner Tiffany Kurtz. “That was cool.”
Story by Kate Stahl