Heather & Tim's tiny fall guerrilla wedding in the park

December 11 |
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Photos by Emila Jane

The Offbeat Bride: Heather, Attorney

Her offbeat partner: Tim, Retail

Date and location of wedding: Contemplation Point in Lincoln Park, Chicago, IL — October 25, 2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: It was important to us to keep our wedding low key and comfortable both for us and for our families — which of course ended up being a bit of a balancing game. We had our hearts set on getting married outside, ideally overlooking Lake Michigan. But we also had our hearts set on keeping the ceremony very very low key, and keeping everything flexible, comfortable, and cheap.

We didn't want to have to involve any vendors or professionals besides our photographer (the incomparable Emila JaneThey ♥ OBB; we ♥ them). To keep costs low, we decided we would definitely not rent a large tent or party area, or arrange for parking. To keep things simple, we did not want to have to carry a lot of things with us.

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We ended up selecting Contemplation Point, a little spot in "our park" (Chicago's Lincoln Park) for our Thursday afternoon ceremony, and hosting our families back at our apartment for champagne and beer and snacks afterward.

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Contemplation Point is a piece of public art: it has 13 large stone blocks forming a circle for seating, and looks out onto Lake Michigan, with a lovely view of the Chicago skyline. It would work for our older relatives who needed seating, but it was in keeping with our desire to be casual and to travel light.

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No booze at the park - they saved the celebratory champagne for their apartment reception!

We didn't need to bring a tent or a floor or even chairs, though we did throw down some thick placemats on the stones to keep everyone's backsides comfortable. We didn't need to book it with the park service because we weren't planning on having amplified sound or serving alcohol (and because we took the gamble that no one else would be there on a Thursday at 3 pm, and that it wouldn't rain or be freezing cold).

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One of the best parts was walking to the ceremony location. Our families and Tim gathered in the courtyard of our apartment building, and Heather waited upstairs for a few minutes. Then she made her grand entrance outside the front door, with beaming family looking on.

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We held hands and led a tiny parade of our family on a five-block walk to the park. It was so fun to see the smiling faces of crossing guards, joggers, and pedestrians as we made our way to the park. We are new to Chicago, but in love with the city and with our neighborhood, and it was so exciting to have such an important day take place right in our new home.

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It was also lovely to have our families over to our apartment to celebrate after the ceremony. We love good food and good beer, and it made us proud to be able to treat our families to some of our favorites, in our home. The only decoration we did was about 200 coffee filter flowers Heather made, strewn across the bookshelves and held up in bottles.

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The celebration was intimate and comfortable, and above all casual, with our siblings sitting on the floor and laughing over beer and cheese, and our little nieces and nephew sharing crayons and making a mess, just being happy kids.

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We even got to sneak away for a quiet portrait in our finery with our beloved cats. After a few hours of chatting and snacking with our families, we ducked out to get an intimate sushi dinner around the corner, just the two of us.

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Tell us about the ceremony: We kept the ceremony that we prepared mostly secular, without express references to god. But we encouraged our relatives who did readings to select anything they wanted, and it was sweet that Grammy selected 1 Corinthians in keeping with Christian traditions. Tim's mom read from the Dali Lama.

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We also had nods to traditional Jewish wedding ceremonies, reflecting Heather's family's traditions. As we exchanged rings, we repeated lines from the Song of Solomon:

"Wear me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is infinitely strong. Many waters cannot quench love, no flood can sweep it away. I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine."

We shared a glass of wine while our brothers read a blessing from Rumi:

"May this marriage be blessed.
May this marriage be as sweet as milk and honey.
May this marriage be as intoxicating as old wine.
May this marriage be fruitful like a date tree.
May this marriage be full of laughter and every day a paradise.
May this marriage be a seal of compassion for here and hereafter.
May this marriage be as welcome as the full moon in the night sky.
Listen lovers, now you go on, as we become silent …"

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While they read, we each sipped wine from the same glass. As they finished, we wrapped the glass up in a bag and stomped it together… and the crowd went wild with shouts of Mazel Tov!

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Our biggest challenge: The elements were our biggest challenge. Because we were determined to have the ceremony outside without a tent, in late October in Chicago, we were taking a risk. The weather called for rain to start between 3 and 4 pm, and our ceremony was slated to start at 3pm. We had a backup plan: get married in the kitchen. It still would've been intimate and lovely, but it was definitely not our first choice.

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We ended up just barely skating by. We managed to wrangle even our chronically late relatives to meet at the courtyard right at 3 pm, and things started just on time. The ceremony was quick, and good thing! It started to rain about 15 minutes after the ceremony ended, so we had the chance to take a few pictures on the shore before running inside. By the next day, the temperature had dropped about 30 degrees, and it would've been too cold for an outdoor ceremony. We lucked out!

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My favorite moment: For us, the ceremony was all about family. Heather's mom brought her guitar and sang the Magnetic Fields' "The Book Of Love" to open the ceremony. She began her musical career in the '60s folk tradition, so it was lovely to see her with an acoustic guitar, playing in the park under the trees.

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Tim's brother Chris and Heather's brother Will were ordained online, and officiated the ceremony together. They only had to say one line in unison: "We now pronounce you husband and wife." When we rehearsed, they couldn't quite get it in unison, and it became a bit of a joke, with them elbowing each other to try to get the timing right. It was sweet to see our brothers, who'd never met one another, coming together in the wedding as family: it really was about more than just the two of us.

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My advice for Offbeat Brides: The most lovely thing I want to share with Offbeat Brides is this — You CAN do that thing you want to do! The "offbeat" thing you do doesn't have to be a wild theme or location, an over-the-top decorating scheme or elaborate costuming (though for those of you who love that — please don't stop! I love the pictures of your creative endeavors so much!). For us, we bucked tradition by what we did, but also by what we didn't do. I really believe that with prioritizing and thoughtfulness, you CAN pull off your dream wedding.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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They ♥ OBB; we ♥ themThis post features Offbeat Vendors! Check out their vendor listing to see how they cater to Offbeat Brides:
  1. I love, love, love this! From the location to the dress to the super intimate feel, everything is just perfect.

    1 agrees
  2. This is SO what I want. Well, not in Chicago, but I love the simplicity, the intimacy. The "parade" to the park pictures are amazing!

    1 agrees
  3. Your lakeside wedding in a park. GOR-GEOUS.
    Also your shoes. GOR-GEEOUS.
    Cheese platters. YUM.
    And don't you love how "Keep It Simple, Silly!" spells KISS?? :P You got your day right.

    4 agree
  4. This is what love is all about. Simple ceremonies is truly all about the two of you. I had a very simple ceremony too, totally untraditional, we bough flowers an hour before and after the ceremony and photos my new husband and best man went off an organized a table at a suitable restaurant. We were together from the start of the day, had very little to worry about, in fact nothing, and just spent the day pretty much gazing at each other. I love the fact that you bucked tradition and took it back to what a wedding should be about, love and nothing else.

    1 agrees
  5. You guys are brilliant! Just what I needed to see right now!!

    We have just cancelled our 150 people, expensive, ridiculous wedding because I had a massive mental melt down about it and we are now going to do just this kinda thing instead.
    A quick outdoor ceremony (on top of Calton Hill in Edinburgh) then a small gathering of the people we love back to our wee house.
    Seeing your lovely wedding has got me back to being properly excited about my own!

    2 agree
  6. Wow! This is the second wedding on OBB I've seen lately that's used Song of Songs for the ceremony. Must be more popular than I thought. Damn, I need to get out and go to more weddings like this. And you guys JUST gave me a great idea on what words to say during the ring exchange on the day I get married.

    1 agrees
  7. This has so much in common with what we're going to do (outdoors, public park, champagne back at the house, low key overall), it made me so happy to see someone else pulling it off so beautifully :) Mazel tov to the happy couple!

    1 agrees
  8. I know this will expose me for a lover of chickflix, but, I'm pretty sure that's the same apartment building from "While You Were Sleeping". sigh.

    2 agree
  9. That's my old neighborhood! I miss it so! (And my best friend used to live in your apartment building!!)

    P.S. Edgewater Beach, where Contemplation Point is located, is a few miles north of Lincoln Park, but I personally think that it's much better. What a great spot to be married!! Congratulations to you both :D

    1 agrees
    • I'm apparently wrong! I lived there for five years, and I had no idea that Lincoln Park was the main name for the park – I just took the little neighborhood signs to their word. Sorry! (Either way, my original point remains the same – this is an awesome, awesome wedding :) )

      1 agrees
  10. Yaaay, this is my neighborhood, too, and I love that part of the lakefront so very much. Beautiful, heartfelt wedding. Love the dress, love the bouquet and the easy-going family party afterward. I very much want something like this when my man and I tie the knot. Maybe we will see this couple lounging on a blanket under the trees in that park this summer. Congratulations, you two, and welcome to Chicago!

    2 agree
  11. I love the reading that was chosen from Song of songs- I chose that one for my wedding- Traditional catholic- and my priest commented that people would not understand that reading! but it spoke to me, about our love!! 2 thumbs up!! it is an amazing piece about love!!

    1 agrees
  12. The portrait with your kittehs? So. Awesome. Congratulations and best wishes!

    1 agrees

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