One Reason to Get Married in a Firehouse: Your Reception Entrance Will Be Lit

And y’all, please make sure you glimpse their cake topper


Andrea, college admin & Yusuf, prototype dev

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: An intimate, laid-back day where our closest family and friends gathered to celebrate love, eat amazing tacos, and dance!

Planned budget: $12,000

Actual budget: $15,000

Number of guests: 80

Where we allocated the most funds:

Venue: We picked the things that were the most important to us and that’s where we put our money. My husband really wanted an outdoor wedding, and I wanted to make sure our guests didn’t have to travel. Firehouse Chicago provided us something unique that ticked off both of those needs.

Catering: We also knew we didn’t want a formal sit-down meal, and we didn’t want to have to do a seating arrangement. Tamale Spaceship provided a great menu—tacos and tamales!—with a cool dining experience for our guest and let us customize our open bar to the things we liked.

Photography: The last thing we spent a good chunk of our budget on was our photographer. I have known Justine for years and she shot my best friend’s wedding a few years ago. We knew she would make us feel at ease, allow us to be ourselves, and give us the gift of looking back at images and memories of the day. All of those things were well worth the cost!


Where we allocated the least funds:

Flowers and decor: We decided early on not to have a bridal party and that cut down on our flower costs immediately. We were able to use the floral department at Mariano’s, a grocery store in Chicago, to do our boutonnières, corsages, and my bouquet. We also went with flowers that were in season and larger blooms so we didn’t need as much. We also didn’t do a garter or bouquet toss, which eliminated some extra cost. We both love greenery, and since the garden at Firehouse Chicago is so lush, we did not have any decor costs for our ceremony. We went with inexpensive white pots and a variety of plants, cacti, and succulents that served as decor for our reception space as well as our favors.

For our larger arrangements, my husband made the wooden flower boxes, and we had friends help us with arranging a variety of silk flowers. This wound up being very cost effective and more sustainable than real flowers, plus lots of our guests got to take these home with them as well. It was our goal to not have to bring a lot of things in to our venue nor take a lot of things with us after our event, and we were very successful!


What was totally worth it:

Our photographer was by far the best money spent, as we love our photos and will have those memories forever. We also thought our venue was worth every penny. It was beautiful space that did not need a lot of extras on our end. It provided us outdoor space, a great dance floor, and room for our taco truck. Bonus, I don’t know many other couples that get to slide down a fire pole to enter their reception.


What was totally not worth it:

Our venue was a beautiful space so we didn’t need a lot with regards to decor. We also did not want to spend a lot on favors. We wound up getting beautiful pots and an assortment of succulents, cacti, and potted plants to mix with the flower boxes that Yusuf made and Andrea decorated with silk flowers. The mix of real and faux flowers and plants looked great, and each guest had something decorative to take home.


A few things that helped us along the way:

We stayed really organized with everything that was done and what still remained on our to-do list leading up to our wedding day. We also trusted our vendors so that the day of we could be as relaxed as possible and enjoy ourselves.


My best practical advice for my planning self:

Stay on top of receipts and expenses. By the week of the wedding, I was over budget planning and had to really dig through things after everything calmed down to get a handle on our total spent.


Favorite thing about the wedding:

There are too many to pick one! Our first look was very memorable, as was our entrance to the reception. We loved our personal cake topper made by a close friend.


Anything else to share:

We weren’t sure of a theme or vision for our wedding day. We picked out the colors we loved, outfits we felt comfortable in, food we wanted to eat, and the people we wanted to share the day with. We spoke to everyone, soaked in every moment, and ended the night feeling full!

Also, we met in July 2013 by pure chance, and after exchanging numbers, had a car picnic on our first date. We’ve been enjoying the city of Chicago together ever since. We decided early on in the wedding planning process that we wanted a day that was relaxing and intimate, and so we focused on the food, the people joining us, and the personal touches that were heartfelt.


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  • Sara

    I love the Tamale Spaceship! Their food is fantastic!

    You guys are gorgeous and this looks like it was so much fun. The cake toppers are adorable.

  • Sarah

    We’re also getting married in a firehouse! As a tip for folks looking for budget places, a lot of firehouses also have social halls attached. We only knew because fiance is a volunteer EMT there.

  • Another Meg

    OMG this is gorgeous!

    PS I live in Chicago and I’m looking for Tamale Spaceship right now!

  • AmandaBee

    I never would have considered a firehouse for a wedding, but this is gorgeous! I particularly loved this line:

    “We weren’t sure of a theme or vision for our wedding day. We picked out the colors we loved, outfits we felt comfortable in, food we wanted to eat, and the people we wanted to share the day with. We spoke to everyone, soaked in every moment, and ended the night feeling full!”

    That’s exactly what we aimed for on our own wedding day, and that’s roughly the advice I’ve given to anyone who asked for wedding planning advice since. Pick things you like, enjoy the process, and it’ll all be great.

  • Laura

    This looks like a really relaxed, down-to-earth wedding. There’s so much joy in the photos… from everyone! Congratulations, you two!

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  • Em

    This looks so beautiful and relaxed and fun – what a perfect combo! I love it all.

  • Gina

    I love everything about this! Be honest, were you nervous to slide down the fire pole in a wedding dress?!? That’s so badass!

    • Jane

      I was just thinking that! So amazing – but I would have been afraid to have Bridget Jones moment. Serious congrats on your go-for-it-ness!

    • Andrea Bangura

      So nervous! We practiced in jeans/tshirts but the day of, I went down much faster because of all of the beading on my dress meant no friction to slow me down. It was one of our fav moments and a pure adrenaline boost for the evening.

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