When searching for a wedding venue, it is important to find one that is authentic to you and your fiancé. Wesley and August did just that, when they wed last fall at the WMS Boathouse at Clark Park. Wes and Gus swam together at Eastern Michigan University and instantly hit it off. They have been together ever since. Having a shared mutual love of water, their wedding venue had to be heavily focused on aquatics, sports and the outdoors. Enter WMS Boathouse. This hidden gem is actually a Chicago Park District rowing facility! Recently, CPD began hosting weddings and corporate events at their boathouse. Honestly, Wes and Gus could not have found a more perfect venue.
When I asked them what their priorities were, they said “each other!” They wanted to be fully present to and for each other. While they wanted their friends and family to have an awesome time, they were not super concerned with any “formalities” they just wanted “to be”. I told them over and over that they truly had it figured out. It is not about the “stuff” (the napkins or the color of the chairs, etc.) it is about making sure their marriage was strong. Weddings can be fun, but marriage takes work. Wes wanted to have several periods of time carved into the day where she and Gus could spend together. Not having to smile for photos or mingle with guests. Just be. As a matter of fact, Wes and Gus focused so much on togetherness, they skipped the wedding cake entirely! It just wasn’t important to them.
Clark Park WMS Boathouse is home to the Chicago Rowing Foundation. This was the perfect wedding venue for Wes & Gus who have a love of water. If you are looking for a venue that has scenic views and can be both indoor and outdoor, check out Clark Park.
However, they did not miss a beat when it came to their all star vendor team! These A List vendors made sure that everyone ate, drank and danced the night away.
I knew I couldn’t leave you hanging for long. Here is the second part of my top 10 tips for planning a successful wedding. Before we dive into the details, let’s recap the first 5 from last week. Step 1. Get engaged. 2. Discuss with your fiancé what season you both want. 3. Discuss your budget. 4. Use Pinterest to find your vision. 5. Back away from Pinterest and narrow down your vision. Okay, let’s dive right in to step number 6!
Step 6: If all of the budget creation, vendor research and contract negotiation has got you feeling a little overwhelmed, perhaps it is time to consider hiring a wedding planner. Wedding planners are not just for the affluent. With proper planning, everyone could potentially hire a wedding planner. There are different packages that offer different amenities and come at different price points. Do yourself a favor and don’t assume you can’t afford help. Help might just be your saving grace.
Step 7: If you have heeded my advice, you hired a wedding planner. Good for you! If you didn’t, that’s okay. You can still rock this! Take your budget, your vision and your priorities and select your top 3 venues that incorporate what you’re looking for. From these three venues, chat with them to see what options are available, what bundling (if any) can be done and what the guest count would look like at each space. Are you required to use their preferred vendor list for everything? Can you bring in any supplemental desserts? Do they have space for both a ceremony and reception? Where would guests go for cocktail hour? Based on these (and other) questions you review with them, you can narrow down your options to your best choice.
Step 8: Once your venue is booked (which should be your first vendor selected) start reviewing all of the other vendors you will need to hire. Why book the venue first you ask? Well, dear friend, because all other vendors hinge on the venue. Can you bring in an outside caterer? Most venues do not have stipulations on photographers, videographers or bakers. Based on what the cost of the venue (including or excluding F&B) revisit your priority list and determine from there where the rest of your money should be allocated. Some vendors include but are not limited to: florist, dj, band, caterer, photographer, videographer, linens, rentals, photo booth, transportation, hotel accommodations and bakers. If you both really value great photography, then clearly you would want to spend more money on a really fantastic photographer. If you maybe don’t necessarily care about linens, go with the house linens and don’t upgrade. Will the standard chairs work for you or do you need to rent prettier options? All of these come out of the specific allocation in the budget. Easy peasy.
Step 9: At this point, you should be noticing a common theme: budget. I know it is not super sexy, but it is oh, so important! The key to making the budget work is being realistic about your expectations. If you are expecting to feed 200 guests filet mignon, waldorf salad and soup for $3,000 this is an unrealistic expectation. If you could expect this same meal to run upwards of $28,000 this is a more realistic expectation. This same concept applies to wedding cakes, Djs, bands, photographers, videographers etc. If you expect a professional to work 8-12+ hours (just on the actual wedding day) not including all of the pre/post wedding work for minimum wage, these are unrealistic expectations. This is perhaps one of the most important days of your life and in turn, there is extra pressure applied to each of these services as you want it perfect, the vendors also want to exceed your expectations. These services do not come with a dollar store price tag.
Step 10: After all of the large pieces have been researched, hired and deposits paid for, it is important to remember why you are doing this. You love someone and that someone loves you. Never lose sight of the why. The wedding day is important, don’t get me wrong. What I am more concerned about is the day after the wedding and the next thousand days after the wedding. Building a life together, sharing in each other’s joys and sorrows is the goal of this entire process. Being a life partner is the ultimate goal and one responsibility as a planner that I do not take lightly.
Congrats! You made it through all 10 of my easy wedding planning steps. If at any point, you think you might need further clarification or help with a specific area of planning a wedding, anniversary, birthday or other special day, feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly. Let’s briefly recap these 10 steps. 1. Get engaged. 2. Discuss with your fiancé what season you both want. 3. Discuss your budget. 4. Use Pinterest to find your vision. 5. Back away from Pinterest and narrow down your vision. 6. Consider hiring help. 7. Find a venue that fits your style and budget. 8. Research and secure your other vendors (the good ones book quickly) 9. Be realistic about your expectations and last but not least 10. Remember why you are doing this in the first place.
Marissa met James through a good friend when she was just the tender age of 16. She remembers pulling up to her friend’s house and seeing James on the patio in a Chicago Bears Cutler jersey with an orange cast on his leg up to his thigh with crutches. From the moment she first met him, she could sense an energy about him, that he was accepting, easy going and sweet. Marissa was able to be a total goof ball that night and James still wanted to see her again. Love comes and goes in high school. but when you find the “one” you know that your search is over.
Marissa chose Independence Grove because it was an unbelievably stunning venue. When you enter Independence Grove’s property, you drive into an open area of beautiful trees, flowers and jaw-dropping scenery. Marissa loved that the venue itself had floor to ceiling windows, allowing guests to see the beauty outside during the ceremony and reception.
It was important to both Marissa and James that they find a venue that allowed for complete customization. Independence Grove is one of the only Chicago wedding venues I know of that actually allows shots! (shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots…everyyyyybody!) This certainly kicked off the night on an upbeat note! They wanted to have a warm, romantic, candlelight evening that celebrated love, life and friendship.
Looking back at the process of planning a wedding, Marissa learned that everything can’tbe perfect (which is hard for her, since she is a self professed Type A personality). She is quoted as saying, “You think in your mind that you spend all of this money that everything will be perfect and exactly what you envisioned and it never will be, but that’s the beauty of it. Nothing in life is perfect, even supposedly the most magical day of your life, but that’s what it makes it beautiful and real (just like your love for one another)”. **Side note from the planner…everything went really well on my end that day! 😉
The biggest piece of advice Marissa would give future brides would be, “Do what makes you happy and not what everyone is telling you to do. Weddings are expensive (realizing that on the backend) and if you want to get married in a courthouse and have a backyard wedding with a pig roast, you do that! The thing that matters most about your wedding is how you and your loved one feel and your love for each other, not what anyone else thinks on how your day should have been done. By doing what makes you happy and comfortable will ultimately make you a happy bride.”
Marissa and James left on a honeymoon two days after the wedding and spent a beautiful week in Cancun, Mexico at the Royalton Riviera. They can not speak more highly of the resort and staff. They currently live in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and have adopted the most adorable German Shepard named Kairi.
Every once in awhile, two wedding planning firms team up to create epic wedding celebrations. This is one of those occasions. Ashley Nicole Events and The Escandar Group collaborated on this once in a lifetime experience for Abby and John. Please watch the recap of their wedding day. With love, Ashley
Day of Coordinator Want to handle all of the details, but don’t want to be bombarded with questions the day of? Day of Coordinator package is the perfect option for you. I will be your point-person. All game-day questions and decisions will go through me. I work with your plans and am there to make sure everything goes smoothly. Rehearsal coordination is included.
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