Kaitlin, Associate Creative Director & Javier, ICU Nurse
sum-up of the wedding vibe: We are weird and goofy, and we wanted our wedding to be a super fun, eccentric, and creative expression of our love that family and friends would enjoy!
Planned Budget: $15,000
Actual Budget: $14,000
Number of Guests: 84
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Where we allocated the most funds:
I am a hardcore thrifter and bargain-hunter extraordinaire, and my wedding presented a grand opportunity for me to put my skills to the test. I kept an in-depth, fastidious budget throughout the process to keep our spending in check. I also spent loads of time researching and hunting for the best deals on everything from invitations to disposable plates to catering.
We knew we wanted the reception to be an absolute blast, so most of our funds were spent on scrumptious food, an open bar, and our uniquely gorgeous venue space. We wanted a venue that was unique, interesting, and above all else, affordable. Our goal was to find one space for both the ceremony and reception, and I felt like we absolutely hit the jackpot when we discovered the DANK Haus.
The DANK Haus has a weekend rate for events, but they don’t charge extra for Saturdays. Additionally, their costs were significantly lower than most of the Friday rates at other Chicago venues and they offer so much flexibility, allowing you to make your wedding your own. It does require a lot of additional coordination on your part, though, which is important to be aware of. We had to bring in catering, rent linens, stock the bar, and provide cups, plates, and utensils. Also, and perhaps most importantly of all, the DANK Haus is beautiful. We rented the 6th floor outdoor terrace for our ceremony and the adjacent Skyline Lounge for our reception space.
We saved a bundle on catering by choosing buffet-style service from a favorite restaurant of ours, Irazu Costa Rican Dining. The food was incredible and super affordable, and our guests continue to rave about it to this day! For stocking the bar, we used Binny’s Beverage Depot, because they deliver and pick up the booze for a nominal fee, and they refund you for any unopened bottles or beer cases. We ordered about $1,300 worth of alcohol, and we were refunded for around $500 of unopened booze!
Where we allocated the least funds:
Flowers! We opted not to use a florist at all, and instead our bouquets and boutonnieres were made out of book pages. Our flower-less centerpieces featured candles in clear vases, tea lights in mercury glass votives, and even more candles in beautiful blue ceramic lanterns that my uncle (an art teacher and sculptor) made especially for us! We also used some faux eucalyptus to add a little greenery. We also chose not to rent cups, plates, and cutlery (our venue did not provide these items). Instead, I spent hours hunting online for the prettiest and most durable disposable plates/cups/utensils I could find. The result was fantastic! The place settings were lovely and the cleanup was almost effortless.
What was totally worth it:
Our photographer, Dhani Laine, was absolutely amazing! We knew photography would be a fairly large expense, but we wanted photos that we would cherish forever. Dhani was collaborative, creative, and open to all of our ideas. She and her assistant came with us to multiple locations (The lakefront! A colorful mural! Under the train tracks!), and they even orchestrated an impromptu “first look” moment for my parents. Dhani was also able to get some shots that she used to create cool double-exposure images for us!
And our day-of coordinator, Shunda from First Comes Love Weddings, was totally worth it! Thanks to her, we were able to relax and take photos in the early afternoon before the ceremony. Shunda made sure that all of our vendors arrived on time and the ceremony was all set up. She also took care of cleanup after the wedding was over!
What was totally not worth it:
Stressing about the weather! Even though the reception space was indoors, I agonized about the weather forecast for our outdoor ceremony. I spent weeks wringing my hands and doing clandestine reverse-rain dances to ward off heavy clouds. In the end, we had misty rain during the ceremony, but it didn’t dampen our spirits: we held our short, meaningful ceremony outdoors and everything turned out fantastic! Plus, the rain cleared up afterwards—and we were able to keep the terrace open all night so our guests could enjoy the fresh air and stunning view.
A few things that helped us along the way:
I used Google Sheets to track even the most mundane purchases. I researched like crazy and sourced our decor from thrift shops, Amazon, and even Craigslist. Our friends and family also pitched in! My sister/maid of honor is a certified meeting planner, and she helped us by looking over our vendor contracts. (She was also endlessly patient and listened to all of my crazy ideas.) My mom and father-in-law helped with the spray-paint projects, and my uncle made the beautiful ceramic candleholders for our centerpieces. Our close friend (and talented makeup artist) Jess did my makeup. We also had two amazing friends help with the ceremony! Our friend Sarah acted as officiant, and our friend Richie gave a beautiful reading. We were so grateful for everyone’s help and enthusiasm!
My best practical advice for my planning self:
Take a deep breath, and remember that it will all come together one piece at a time. Keep an ongoing list of little “to do” items so that you don’t forget anything, and always keep a list with all your vendors’ contact info handy, in case you need to reach out to someone right away. Also, don’t cheap out on the cake-cutting utensils! I bought a cute-but-inexpensive set, and the knife snapped in half as we tried to cut the cake! All of our guests gasped, and my husband and I couldn’t stop laughing. We improvised and used the triangular part of the set (Is there a special word for this? The cake serving part?) to finish slicing the cake. It turned out to be a funny story and charming moment, but my brain was short-circuiting while it actually happened.
Favorite things about the wedding:
1. I loved our tiny ceremony! As I planned the wedding, the ceremony was the thing I was most nervous about (especially all those eyes staring at me!). But when I walked out onto the terrace (to the tune of “Mr. Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra), I saw the excited eyes of our closest friends and family members, and my nerves evaporated. I held hands with my husband, and our vows, our kiss, and our joy at that exact moment couldn’t be topped! 2. We had a “Guest Globe” for people to sign instead of a guestbook. 3. Our Dragon Ball Z cake toppers! 4. And our wedding party introduction! We came out to the Chicago Bulls “Starting Line Up” music, and I had the DJ announce us like a basketball team—complete with heights and naming my husband and me as “co-captains”!
I am an introvert and a worrier, and I have a hard time being “in the moment.” I was concerned that I would spend our wedding day feeling anxious that everything was going smoothly. However, when the day came, I was truly shocked by how calm I felt. Even though we had some planning hiccups early in the day, I was confident that everything would come together—and it did! It was a day filled with love and joy, and my husband and I held hands, danced, laughed, and soaked it all in together. It really was the best day ever!