Laurel and Mark's Wedding

We had a beautiful wedding! By grace, our weekend had a sudden upswing in weather patterns, so that we had warm sun and a comfortable breeze to make it the ultimate experience in nature.

We orchestrated a wedding weekend so that everyone could be a part of the celebration and so that our wedding could be as personal as possible, so there were several venues on our list throughout the weekend. Wedding Mapper made everything clear and smooth for our guests. We included the link to our p=map on our wedding website and in our invitations so that everyone could check out what was going on all weekend and get all of the details even if they misplaced the invite or if they needed a visual.

Overall, our photos came out gorgeous and our wedding was tons of fun. We know that every guest had a memorable and enjoyable time where they felt appreciated for their support of our love and our new promise to one another. This was largely a result of the coordination of all these venues and vendors, which gave the wedding a consistent feel and theme throughout and made the guest experience pretty smooth.

Because we were on a small, tight budget, we shopped very hard, interviewing and researching over one hundred venues, visiting with fifteen different printers, negotiating with approximately twenty-five caterers, etc.

It was a lot of leg work and record keeping up front, but it guaranteed a beautiful day with perfect results--not because we were swept up in the romance of our new vows, but because we were completely at ease with everything that day without having to assign management tasks to our friends and family members. That's what made it totally worth it--everything was coordinated and inside of our budget so that we could just experience the day together with our loved ones.

Here's the kicker: the wedding being on the day of the Chicago Marathon in a prime neighborhood for the running route, and our family members being a little city-shy, we are six months out and people are still talking about what a day they had because it was an entire experience; smooth, fun, engaging, interactive, personal, and of course, beautiful for all of us.

Check it out!

Vendors & Venues Reviews

Admit One
Naperville, IL

Admit One is a consistently professional, personal, flexible company. They want your business and will negotiate special features into your night if that's what you're after.

They have pioneered a sleek and stylish, interactive alternative (guests can take pictures throughout the ay on their camera phones and upload them to a live, running slideshow at your reception in addition to taking part in posed photos there) to the photo booth fad, which is absolutely fantastic. After the wedding, they provided us with a keepsake book filled with the photos that people took at the photo booth and their personal messages and with a DVD slideshow of those and the uploaded pictures and messages from the wedding set to music. It's a great keepsake that shows us our guests' perspectives on the day.

Admit One also showed us that they know how to get everyone inspired to join us on the dance floor throughout the night and were very meticulous and effective in keeping the night well balanced with the special events, varieties of music, and generation/age appropriateness.

If all of this is not enough to make them a unique vendor with great value for the price, we thought that the best feature of their presence was the remote control system they have developed. They equipped the groom, best man, and bride's father with little remote control buzzers so that at any time during the reception and meal, if something was needed, DJ related or not, we could press a quiet button in a pocket to have it addressed. Admit One will coordinate with the rest of the staff at your event to get things done without the bride and groom or other members of the wedding party having to move back and forth across the party to the DJ booth or to other vendors--we were able to enjoy the party and be graceful, gracious hosts while also taking care of hiccups and keeping the special moments of our event rolling.

All in all, I really wouldn't go with any other DJ. This choice was a a great value for the price, and you're not paying for someone who just presses a button and sets up a playlist on a fancy speaker, you're paying for a holistic service to make the event smooth and reflective of what you're looking for!

View Admit One
D&R Press
Chicago, IL

D&R provided us with engagement announcements, save the date cards, our multi-piece invitations (made to feel like the discovery of antique artifacts), signs for the wedding day, marriage announcements, and thank you cards. All of their printing was top-notch. The quality of our print work was extraordinary, the paper was beautiful, the colors were vibrant, the typeface and design was personalized (we actually worked with them before it went to print, so that we were part of the design process--cool!) to reflect our day.

This is a family-owned company and an independent printer--nothing was outsourced. They have the capabilities to do modern style printing and authentic press printing, which gave our invitations remarkable personality. We wouldn't change our choice of printer at all.

View D&R Press
Victoria Flying Lady
Schiller Park, IL

Our driver, Stan, was funny, kind, sensitive to us in the flurry of activity on our wedding day, creative in finding some downtown locations for last minute photos, flexible, and professional.

We loved our experience with this company. Transportation was not originally a part of our wedding plan, our budget, or our priority list, but this company sold us.

They will negotiate with you and accommodate your desires! We were both very happy that we ended up hiring a car with some of the money we had saved in other areas of the wedding because it allowed us to have more captured moments as a couple on film and more quiet moments together to soak in our wedding day.

Not only do I recommend this company above all of the ones that we looked at and passed over throughout the planning process, I recommend that you look into some kind of third-party transportation to allow you time alone and photos you'll cherish when the rest of the day fades to a blur. The mobility that this allowed us versus our original plan (to drive ourselves) really cannot be priced.

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Jordan's Food of Distinction
Chicago, IL

We really weren't concerned with anything in catering except that the food be tasty, the menu be personalized, and things go smoothly.

Jordan's is a GREAT catering company in terms of their menu. They will cook for you in a studio kitchen as they interview you about your lifestyle and food preferences so that you can taste a varied menu of fresh dishes to see how your wedding might shape up.

This company will work with you to try to fit your budget.

This company will go to almost any venue and they are self-insured, so you won't have crazy outside overhead costs.

This company will help you to find eco-friendly solutions that will reduce the budget on renting tables and chairs, plates and silverware, and glasses if you are going to be in a location that would require rental of all these things.

We were also really happy with the fact that Jordan's is very familiar with the staff and facilities at Architectural Artifacts, so that they were able to plan for our event very easily.

The reason that we have rated them lower, though, comes down to a few issues that are pretty major for a bride and groom:

* Communication is spotty and inconsistent. This comment refers to both the frequency/interval of communications through email and over the phone and to the contents of the communications. We had a lot of issues with being contacted, receiving replies to emails and phone calls, and having Pam, the "front woman" for the company remember exactly what we were doing for our event. We think that this was mostly due to the fact that it's a family company and they have a small customer service staff, so they're probably just overwhelmed with the front end of things (again, the food was delicious, and we were very happy with that!) which makes it very difficult to plan financially and time wise as you try to get a picture of the day.

*There was a shortage of food in our buffet on our wedding day. Actually, what we really had was that some people took seconds before some tables had been called up to the buffet. The problem was, J.F.O.D. had assured us time and time again that a buffet line would work just fine for our wedding because they would have staff manning the table and directing people so that everyone would go up once and the crowd would be managed on the wedding day. Unfortunately, on the day of the wedding, this was not so, so we had two tables that did not eat during the dinner portion and had to wait for food to be prepared and brought to the venue so that they could eat. There also was not enough food to take care of people who might otherwise like larger portions on the dinner, even though we had paid a little extra to make sure that we had a larger quantity. So the problem was threefold: J.F.O.D. did not keep to their promises for management of the food service and did not meet our purchase for extra portions, and on the part of our guests with extra gusto, more food was taken than Jordan's had anticipated (despite our insistence that this would be an issue with our respective families). **IMPORTANT**Jordan's was very apologetic for this mishap, and they did order White Castle sliders as a late night offering to all of our guests. They also offered us a dinner party (which we plan to redeem for our anniversary) to make up for the hiccup. So they did show real concern for the issue, and tried to rectify it. The sliders came so late in the night that most guests had left, but it was an attempt and we recognize it.

*Up-sells on decor for the tables and buffet were not worth it. Pam provides some beautiful decorating for the wedding--and they really are gorgeous. In our case, she offered us the rental of some trees that she had created for another wedding, and she offered them at a discount because she claimed that the bride from the other wedding had not claimed any of these at the end of the night and "left them all behind". Unfortunately, we paid $300 for four decorations that stood about a foot tall AND we lost our own decorations (pumpkins we'd picked for the wedding and intended to re-use at Halloween, some floral arrangements, a bolt of tulle used to decorate the stairway entrance to the reception area) to Pam's collecting at the close of the night. So, we felt a little cheated in this way. However, if we hadn't accepted the offer for the decorating, we wouldn't feel that we'd ended the incident in the red (taking a loss) on the decor. The only reason that this matters to us is that it wasn't clearly presented to us or discussed openly with us before, during, or after the wedding.

In all, the food was fantastic and the menu was very personal, and we really had genuinely positive experiences with both Pam and Jordan on a few occasions, but when it came down to execution, we felt that they came in below average, and we felt that there were a few last-minute verbal digs, some interesting twisting of the plans back and forth that would cut corners for the caterer's decorating/event coordinating--but not for our payment, and some almost-underhanded behaviors (taking our decorations, taking flowers from our florist as he did our arrangements to take home bouquets, pulling us aside while we were dancing at our wedding to paint the food shortage, at first, as something that was totally not on the caterer's shoulders and that wouldn't be remedied for those guests (very stressful, we think it was done this way to fish around and find out how far it could slide) and negative reactions when we had decided to go with our own (hand made, cheap, and, by the way, stunning) decorations and florist over hiring on Pam's services)that made us very concerned about making a gleaming reccomendation of this company to anyone hosting an event.

View Jordan's Food of Distinction
Caputo's/Bella Romana Bakery
Chicago, IL

After paying several bakeries to taste their cakes and escaping some pressure-sales tactics at these same places, we decided to explore the possibilities at a bakery that we are familiar with for birthdays and other events in our families.

Caputo's provides high quality cakes and prompt delivery for weddings in addition to all of the other events that they bake for. We were happy to sit down with Jenny, their representative at the bakery in Addison, and sample the various types of frosting, custard, fruit, and cake that they have to offer.

Not only was the service friendly and stress-free, it included advising. Caputo's will mimic any design of cake that you request and will help you understand which fillings and frostings will best support your vision (so that the cake won't melt in a warm venue or cave under the weight of the layers). They also accommodated our request for a gluten-free cake that would serve those guests who cannot eat the regular one and they were willing to negotiate with us.

Our cake was beautiful, tasty, and affordable, and the customer service was very personalized. This was absolutely the best choice for us!

The reason that we reduced this rating by one star is that the cake estimate for number of slices was a little bit off, so at the actual event, about two hundred slices were served and we still had so much cake going home that some had to be discarded. Even splitting huge segments of cake among friends and family, we were overwhelmed with the leftovers. We froze a good amount of it, but it was too much to even keep in our freezers. We've been told that you can never have too much cake, but this quantity was immense!

Overall, we were very pleased with this vendor, and the appearance, flavor, and quality of our wedding cake.

View Caputo's/Bella Romana Bakery
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Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Chicago, IL
Ceremony Sites

A favorite date location for us, the Nature Museum was a great place to host our wedding! They helped us to coordinate with the zoo to set up parking, their fee allowed us to use their bridal suite, terrace, indoor terrace room, solarium area, and courtyard, and covered admission for all 280 guests to the ceremony.

The setting is picturesque, with the perfect blend of urban views and natural sanctuary. It made for beautiful pictures and allowed our guests to feel comfortable and special as a part of our event.

The event coordinators here are very easy to work with, flexible, and helpful. They try to accommodate the picture of the event that you paint. They were also very welcoming each time that we needed to visit to think out our plans and layout of the day, allowing us to bring in our families and wedding party to get them acquainted with the spaces that we'd be using, and the same went for setting up our wedding rehearsal.

Unfortunately, because this is a museum, there are some taxes and codes that cause caterers to have to pay certain premiums to host meals there (for insurance and other reasons), their prices here (and in other museum locations) were more elevated than their prices elsewhere. The numbers at the Nature Museum (with such a large number of guests) were really just beyond our budget, so we hosted our reception at another location with an independent caterer. However, we have seen a few receptions here (up close and from afar) and they all look very beautiful, romantic, and elegant. If you have less guests or a larger margin for catering in your budget, this is totally worth looking into.

View Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Architectual Artifacts
Chicago, IL
Reception Sites

Architectural Artifacts is a beautiful place to host an event, especially a wedding. For the two of us, it was a great fit for the nerdy, history-loving, antique-admiring, old-world-appreciating, offbeat personalities that we have. We wanted a place where guests could really get their own wheels turning, somewhere memorable, and somewhere incredibly affordable. In our book, with the photos and video being the only lasting parts of all our planning and of our day, we also wanted somewhere that would make for beautiful pictures that would really capture the entire event and all of our efforts in this hand-made wedding This place was the perfect fit!

An antique warehouse and museum, Architectural Artifacts is a four-level atrium completely filled with interesting pieces of furniture, fixtures, tomes, and trinkets from around Chicago and the world--all dated and marked with their origins--fun to explore!
While this location was perfect for us, but it might not be perfect for all. While we had a great experience at Architectural Artifacts, there were a few things that we could see being an issue for other weddings, so we've rated it a 4 for issues of inconvenience and technical difficulty. It was difficult to create a seating arrangement that would make us visible to the entire wedding--which ended up interfering with peoples' awareness of toasts and the prayer for the meal, for example. Electrical outlets were available, but not prevalent, which limited the placement of speakers. Because of this, announcements echoed through the atrium, but not the area where tables were located for dinner, so people could not make out what was being said--it came out sounding very muffled if you were in the area where the pillars underneath the atrium were. This was a plus, too, later in the night when the music was going, because people who needed respite from the music merely had to walk to this underneath section and it would fade out a little bit so that they could talk and hear one another. Finally, you should know that the space is not air conditioned, and because it is an atrium--all windows, open to the outside--it will be affected by the weather. Our pictures can clarify what I'm talking about here.

Some of the perks of this location:
*it is open all night for roaming and exploring
*they allowed us to use the antiques as our decor--so they became our centerpieces, our wedding card collector, and our accents on food tables at the buffet
* we were able to use the real antique bars and the old gazebo outside to set up a beer garden and bar section--the same went for the interesting furniture, which we were able to select for the decor of a lounge area and to provide seating throughout the venue for our older guests
* they open up the roof for the bride and groom to take photos
*they will negotiate on pricing
*Marie, the event coordinator, is very friendly and flexible and a great, prompt communicator--she made it easy to plan and to work on the wedding
*the staff is very welcoming, and we were able to visit the venue several times and bring our families to be briefed or to ask new questions--because this place does function as a store during the regular week, it is open to the public, and we were always welcomed and greeted, but what was unique was that if we did have wedding related questions, the people there made time for us even if we had just dropped in to scope things out.
*the venue has some of its own lighting--they will light up the stained glass windows and fountains and totems and murals in the reception area (underneath, where the pillars are)--lights are on dimmers as well, so they can be adjusted to your liking as well

View Architectual Artifacts
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The Neo-Futurists
Chicago, IL

Our wedding weekend experience began with the rehearsal dinner, which was a closed event, but expanded afterward for every guest to join us for "Too Much Light Makes the Baby go Blind". We had several people join us for this spectacular evolving show. It was hilarious! It was moving! It was nuts! What a blast! This is another favorite date location for us.

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Lincoln Park Zoo and Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond
Chicago, IL

This is a place that we love anyway, but it was a fantastic location to point out to our guests on the day of the wedding.

We wanted everyone to experience our day and to feel valued for taking part in it, so we tried to make our wedding convenient for them in terms of proximity between ceremony and reception and entertainment options between while we took pictures. The zoo and lily pond are right across the street from the museum where we had our ceremony, and just a ten minute drive from our reception location.

We also used this location for our post-ceremony photos because it is so picturesque and peaceful.

We originally looked into both of these locations for our wedding itself, but we found that the zoo was affordable until it came down to their bar package, which was required (no, you cannot have a dry wedding--not that we wanted one, but we wanted to keep the cost down on alcohol) and the Lily Pond allows only a total of 18 people, including the photographer, bride and groom, officiant, etc. because it is a plant and wildlife conservation area--which, with a wedding of 350 and a wedding party of fifteen (not counting our parents, grandparents, godparents, etc.) just wouldn't be an option for us.

We do recommend this for photos, though!

View Lincoln Park Zoo and Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond
Majestic Hotel
Chicago, IL

We used the Majestic as our pre-and post-wedding area. The girls used this as a common meeting place where we got our hair and makeup done, it is the place where the detail shots of the dress and rings and shoes were taken, and it was where we invited guests to stay as well. It matched the overall feel of our wedding because it is a small, old fashioned, boutique hotel that captures old Chicago at its best. It made for a great place to take photos and to get people into the mood of the wedding.

The service here is fantastic, as is the continental breakfast and the tea time service. We were welcomed warmly and our rooms were beautiful We took the Executive Suite for the girls and two queen suites with sun rooms for the guys.

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North Pond
Chicago, IL

The North Pond is a beautiful place to take photos and to stroll. It is adjacent to the Notebaert Nature Museum and our ceremony looked right out on the water. The rock formations here were perfect for photos, and echo the natural rock formations along all bodies of water amid the prairie--so our photos here aligned with the photos taken at the lily pond across the street.

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Regal Glen Stadium 10
Glenview, IL

Love this theater! It's quiet, it's clean, and it's in an area where you can stroll to shops or in parks to just enjoy a quiet evening!

View Regal Glen Stadium 10
Glenview, IL

Yet another favorite date location, Flight was on our list for the wedding weekend. What a classy place to have a little get-together before the wedding! We made a weekend of our wedding, especially because it was in the city and many of our family members rarely visit it. Saturday was our guys'/girls' day--so this is where we invited our female guests to join us if they were up for it.

Flight is in the northern 'burbs, but has easy access to the leg of the circle tour that runs along the lakefront down to Lakeshore Drive so that we could cruise and take photos along the skyline later in the evening.

We invited the ladies to join us here for some drinks and dessert foods--Flight has great service and fantastic foods. It is a wine bar with an upscale feel, but with reasonable pricing and generous portions. The specialty cocktail menu was completely written by one of their bartenders who is a mixologist.

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