Crafty Broads: Wedding Stage Managers & Custom Wedding Dresses

Today is the best kind of day because I get to do a sponsored post for a brand new business that sprung from the APW community. I’m beyond thrilled to introduce Cindy and Julia (who you’ll remember from their APW Pride Week Wedding Graduate post), in their brand new wedding stage manager and custom wedding clothing business, Crafty Broads in Chicago.

As a theatre person, I’ve been hammering away at the idea of wedding stage managing as the no-nonsense alternative to wedding planning for years. I sold the APW Book partially based on the concept of Wedding Stage Managing, for goodness sake. So when I found out that Cindy and Julia were honest-to-god professional stage managers who were pondering going into wedding planning, I jumped up and down until they caved and officially started their business. And they’re also making custom wedding clothing, so they outdid my idea. Yayyy Crafty Broads!

Wedding Stage Managing

Already, Crafty Broads has worked with three APW couples, and they love you guys. Cindy said, “Planning weddings is something I’ve thought about doing for probably a solid ten years, but I was afraid of, well, crazy brides. A big part of the reason why we decided to go ahead with it now is because at APW there is a community of excellent people we want to work with. APW couples have their priorities right. The marriage is the thing that really matters, and the rest is details, and how we spend our money on those details matters. And also they are awesome people.”

And they know what they’re doing. Cindy says, “We’re stage managers. And because of that, we have technical and organizational skills (like we’ll be making an anal retentive timeline for your celebration, and we’ll be making sure people stick to it, and we can also run your light-board and troubleshoot your microphone), but we are also artists, and we know how to execute other people’s designs flawlessly, while still knowing how to tell you nicely when things are impossible. And we know how to work with difficult people, because hellooooo directors. And actors. And designers. And…  you know what I’m talking about.”

But here is the amazing thing. I knew that Crafty Broads had stage managed long-time-APW-er Ms. Bunny‘s wedding, so I asked her opinion on twitter. And this is her totally unedited email:

When I hired Cindy as our stage manager, I had no idea it was one of the best wedding planning decisions I made during the whole process. Immediately she took the reigns. The woman knew what she was doing and she was ready to execute. So much of my stress subsided once I realized the coordination was in competent hands. 

 She reminded me of little things I overlooked like reserved seating for our family. Together she and our priest ran the rehearsal as smoothly as possible. Her suggestions about staging the outdoor courtyard were brilliant. On the day of the wedding, I couldn’t believe how hard she worked and how little I needed to worry about running the show. She cued our entrances perfectly, kept me calm when I started to worry about small things, and executed the setup of our chairs, tables, and the wedding wish table perfectly all while maintaining a cool head. She ran interference with our servers when the food wasn’t coming out quickly. The moment my feet cramped up in my high heels she was kneeling beside me helping me out of those monsters and into my comfy flats. The woman literally slipped shoes off and onto my feet. I don’t think you can ask for better service than that!

 It was like having a good friend watch out for you and anticipate your needs. To top it all off, Cindy was celebrating our new marriage alongside our community. In fact, she had become part of our community. Cindy is worth every penny to help keep you sane and keep the event running without any bumps. 

So for those of you in Chicago and the greater Midwest, book Crafty Broads now, now, now. They are just getting started and their rates are crazy-affordable, given their experience and talent. Day-Of Coordination prices start at just $300, partial planning starts at just $1,000, and full planning starts at $2,000. They expect to raise rates at the end of this year, but they are honoring these low starter rates if you book now, no matter when your wedding takes place (plus they offer a 10% discount for members of the theatre community and a 5% discount for non-profits, and 50% off their rates plus the cost of travel if you take them out of the US…)

Custom Wedding Clothing

And then… they started doing custom wedding clothing, too. Cindy says, “Honestly, we had zero intention of getting into the wedding dress business. And then Sarah saw our grad post, and emailed us. She said she hadn’t gone into any bridal shops and she just didn’t want to have to have that experience ever at all. She wanted to spend her money getting exactly what she wanted, and having the bulk of it go to pay small business owners a fair wage. So now we are doing this whole ensemble for her because she’s getting married in the winter—dress, sheer jacket in case she gets cold inside, and a winter coat that she’ll be able to wear all the time after the wedding, all within her original budget for just a dress.”

And again, theatre has given them crazy skills, “As costumers, we have made garments to fit all sizes of people in many different styles and periods from ancient Rome to modern times. And as a pair of two very different-sized and -shaped ladies, we have personally experienced the fit issues that abound at both ends of the spectrum. We are committed to making quality garments that fit you perfectly, no matter your size or shape.

In short, they are not doing wedding clothing for anyone else, except for APW-ers. They’ll work on your clothing, bridesmaid, or flower girl clothing, or make alterations to wedding dresses you already have. So Chicago? Why would you go anywhere else?

So go check out Crafty Broads, Chicago. I can’t wait to see your crazy-amazing collaborations.

Photos: First Photo Justin Runquist/Studio Verite, other wedding photos Timmy Samuels/Starbelly Studios, clothing photos by Cindy.

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  • This totally makes me wish I had a bigger budget and was getting married in Chicago. You ladies rock!!

    • 1) We don’t care what your budget is.
      2) We travel.

      Just sayin’.

  • YAY!!! I love Cindy and Julia and I’m SO excited to see where their business goes from here!!! Hire them!!!

  • As a Chicago bride-to-be who used to be involved in theatre in college, I just have to say: Yay Chicago! Yay theatre people! Yay wedding sanity! Yay APW!

  • Aww, this makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Especially that email from Ms. Bunny, because we didn’t see it until right now. APW readers rock, we can’t wait to celebrate your weddings with you!

  • Rowany

    Just went to their site, and I love it. Everything is written in an honest, straightforward and reasonable way. Regarding travel: “Whatever we pay for those things is what you pay – we think marking up costs is wrong and we won’t do it.” Custom clothing prices: “We promise to give you the lowest possible price while paying ourselves a decent hourly wage in line with going rates in our area. We think that’s fair and we hope you do too.”

    So tempted! Why am I not in Chicago?! Or rather, why can’t everybody lay it out like this?!

    One question: If it takes 6-8 weeks to make a dress, and you charge $15/hr in labor, how many hours/week do you normally spend on one dress? Since I’m assuming you’re working on more than one at a time.

    • And they both also have super-full-time jobs! I don’t know how they do it all!

    • Hey Rowany!

      We are so happy to see that comment about our website. Basically, we thought, “What would we want to know if we were the customer?” – and there you have it. We don’t like feeling ripped off, and therefore we’re not going to rip anyone else off either. And we hate it when people don’t post their prices!

      Kinzie is right – we do both have full-time jobs at the moment. Julia is a professional stage manager and is usually doing anywhere from 6-14 shows per week, and sewing costumes for 3-4 shows a year. I (Cindy) am also a professional stage manager, but I’m currently opting for a steady paycheck working as a full-time nanny. So as you might guess, we’re doing this in our “free time” – which means evenings and weekends.

      The 6-8 week estimate is not necessarily because it takes so many hours, it’s because there are a number of steps involved, and multiple meetings with our clients need to be scheduled, which can be tricky. It’s detailed on the website, but for each garment, we have an initial meeting to talk about what the client wants, then we will work out a design and present some options, the client gets a few days to decide on those. Then we make a mockup, have a fitting, and make changes. We pick out fabrics, make the real thing, have another fitting, make any final adjustments… so although it may take less than a full week of work-hours to get it all done, all these steps take time. (And of course we’re juggling with our other projects and our jobs and personal lives and our client’s jobs and personal lives…)

      As for the number of hours per week, it depends on how many projects we have going and what the deadlines are, but suffice it to say we are working during pretty much all hours we are not asleep. We hope that this business will eventually (soon!) replace one of our salaries, so that we can both do this as well as keeping theatre work in our lives.

  • Anne

    Yay — I like hearing stories about people following their dreams! Go Crafty Broads.

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  • This is so cool! I’m a professional stage manager who has been thinking about getting into wedding planning since I started planning my own wedding a year ago. Now I’m all married up, and I have a full season of shows (and a honeymoon too!) so I’ve been researching exactly what I need to do to get a business license, thinking of business names and ideas….

    It’s so great to see other SMs taking this step, and reassuring to know that you CAN in fact do it in your ‘spare’ time. Weekends? We get Mondays!
    I don’t have the costume construction skills you do, but I’ve dressed enough people that I’ve got some repair tricks up my sleeve, and I’m not afraid of sweaty clothes.
    Oh, and our bridal party of 6 was 3 SMs/3 technicians, there were 4 more SMs in attendance as guests, and one there as our wedding-SM. :)