Jen Martensen's Chicago wedding, with vows courtesy of Prince

By on Jun. 27th

weddin.jpgThe offbeat bride: Jen Martensen, Interactive Project Manager

My offbeat groom: Kevin Martensen, Research Project Director

Location & date of wedding: The Great Hall of Cafe Brauer, Chicago, IL June 26, 2005

What made our wedding offbeat: We planned our wedding as one big party that just happened to be kicked off by our ceremony. I wore mini battery-powered Christmas lights in my hair instead of a veil. My bridesmaid, maid of honor and I all have (and displayed) tattoos. My husband walked down the aisle to Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" and I walked to "If You Want My Love" by Cheap Trick. Halfway down the aisle my maid of honor (a huge Cheap Trick fan) threw her arms up in the air and rocked out the rest of the way to the "altar," which cracked me up and broke a lot of my nervous tension.

Our ceremony was non-religious (we wrote our own vows), performed by a dear friend who got ordained via the internet, and kicked off with him reading the intro lyrics to Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" (dearly beloved, we are gathered here to day to get through this thing called life…). Those who recognized it laughed and loved it. The older members of our families never knew it wasn't traditional.

Cafe Brauer is one of THE most popular places in Chicago for weddings. It's a beautiful prairie-style room that often hosts society-type events. The staff there all said our wedding was one of the most fun they'd hosted, and that they really enjoyed the wedding of "the rockers."

centerpiece.jpgOur biggest challenge: Money. We paid for the wedding ourselves, and the most important things were: a great venue, great food and great music. I didn't want to spend a ton on flowers, decorations, and other things that would ultimately just be tossed the next day. My maid of honor is a garden designer, so she got me several dozen roses wholesale and made the bridal party's bouquets with simple wire and ribbon. She also suggested we use a single monstera leaf and lots of tealight candles as each table's centerpiece — which was simple and inexpensive.

Guests took home all of the tealight holders (glass tubes from Crate & Barrel, about $12 each) from the tables as gifts. Part of the reason I fell in love with the Cafe Brauer hall was because the room was beautiful even with no decoration. It stood so well on its own that I knew I didn't have to invest time or money into transforming the space.

weddin-tat.jpgMy favorite moment: We found an amazing local band to play, and they worked up a tear-jerker cover of our first dance song, "Do You Realize" by the Flaming Lips. Even the band cried. It's the one aspect of our wedding that made us regret not having a video camera.

You want to remember what made you happy, not what stressed you out or upset you in favor of pleasing someone else.

My offbeat advice: Invest in great food, an open bar, and the best photographer you can find. We put together an extensive iPod music set to play during cocktails, between the band's sets and after they were done – having non-cheesy, "typical" wedding music was a major bonus, and cost us nothing. Don't sweat too many traditions — make your day what YOU want it to be, and just because your parents or others may be paying for it, doesn't mean they can or should dictate the day. You want to remember what made you happy, not what stressed you out or upset you in favor of pleasing someone else.

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn: Feast your eyes on eight pages of Chicago weddin' porn!

Tell me all about your offbeat wedding!