Vanessa & Nick's urban whimsy wedding

By on Dec. 5th

Photos by Michael Robers

The offbeat bride: Vanessa, artist and teacher

Her offbeat partner: Nick, computer guy

Date and location of wedding: Prairie Production, Chicago, IL — October 23, 2011

What made our wedding offbeat: Nick and I have been together for 13+ years. This wedding was just a formal, public expression of what was already in our hearts. The venue, Prairie Production, is a working photo studio that looks like nothing special from the front but inside is an urban haven. It was a blank, white canvas to work with. I made many of the details myself including the invitations, favors, signage, and photo gallery.


Our menu catered easily to vegans/vegetarians though we did compromise for other guests as well. But, cake, desserts, and snacks were all vegan.


Tell us about the ceremony: The ceremony was Ethical Humanist and very short. We're not religious people yet still wanted some kind of ceremony that seemed official. It was perfect for us.

Amazing Day

We had a close friend of mine read this excerpt from "Gift From the Sea" by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The first line of the quote is a quote by Antoine de Saint Exupery and was feature in our invitations by coincidence.

"Love does not consist of gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction."

bubblesFor, in fact man and woman are not only looking outward in the same direction; they are working outward. Here one forms ties, roots, a firm base. Here one makes oneself part of the community of men, of human society. And here the bonds of marriage are formed.

For marriage, which is always spoken of as a bond, becomes actually, in this stage, many bonds, many strands, of different texture and strength, making up a web that is taut and firm. The web is fashioned of love. Yes, many kinds of love: romantic love first, then a slow—growing devotion and playing these through, a constantly rippling companionship. It is made of loyalties, and interdependencies, and shared experiences. It is woven of memories of meetings and conflicts; of triumphs and disappointments. It is a web of communication, a common language, and the acceptance of lack of language, too; a knowledge of likes and dislikes, of habits and reactions, both physical and mental. It is a web of instincts and intuitions, and known and unknown exchanges.

The web of marriage is made by propinquity, in the day to day living side by side, looking outward and working outward in the same direction. It is woven in space and in time of the substance of life itself.

This bench is not comfortable

Our biggest challenge: Superficially? My dress. I ended up having to get two of them due to some quality issues with the first one. Luckily, they were both inexpensive. That's the risk of ordering online I suppose. Plus, I had to have some major alterations done.

The most important challenge was making sure the wedding and reception was ours while still remaining mellow and flexible with other people. The constant conversations about details I didn't care about and comments/suggestions that were not asked for or appreciated really burnt me out. I simply stopped talking about the wedding about three months before.

Bouquet flower

Flowers made from Vanessa's mom's gown and great-grandmother's buttons

In the end, I just went with the flow with things that seemed very important to family but I didn't care much about. I know it's supposed to be our day, but since we've been together so long and emotionally married already, I quickly realized the importance of seeing guests and family comfortable and happy.

First Dance

My favorite moment: The small moments that day with my new husband. The ceremony and how touched everyone was by it, including the groom who was in tears by the time I got up there to meet him (even though we had already seen each other in our outfits the entire morning already). A room filled with so many people who love us from different parts of our lives. My dad telling me he was proud of the wonderful wedding I put together for our family and friends. Our first dance, which was choreographed and super secret to all our guests.

Money Bouquets

Money bouquets!

Men & Money

My funniest moment: The groom's father dancing on the table was hilarious as was the "money bouquet" toss, especially watching the guys fight over it.

Lollipop Girls

The "girls with lollipops" photo shoot was funny as well.

Sweet & Salty Table

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? The 50-frame photo gallery was so obviously going to come crashing down to the floor! We weren't allowed to put nails in the walls, but miraculously, it stayed up with some last minute changes. (Plus, check out the aftermath of spray-painting all of those frames.)

The photobooth was a worry as well. I put in ad on Craigslist for a photographer two weeks before who was willing to set one up for a flat fee. Though the set-up wasn't what I expected, guests enjoyed it, it was pretty much hassle-free, and a great deal.



My advice for offbeat brides: Surprise your guests with something. Plus, keeping a secret from everyone with your groom is fun. Accept that weddings make people weird, but it doesn't have to be YOU that gets weird.

Vendors, family, and friends assume you are going to go all banana sandwiches just because you're the bride. You will handle the wedding planning and the day much like you handle anything in your life. Allow people to be a part of this time, even if it's not exactly what you had planned.

Wear comfortable shoes! Listen more, talk less and smile more.

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? Guests and family may think they know what they want for a wedding, but really they can be refreshed by new and fun ways of celebrating marriage. Wedding planning is a great and challenging exercise in self-trust and decision making. And finally, more than learning, I really FELT how much people cared about us. The thoughts and efforts of some people were simply overwhelming.

"where is my birthday" Guest Book Calendar

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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