Ashley & Eric's Wedding in a Bar

By on Jan. 10th
Sears Tower

Photos by Mike Killion

The Offbeat Bride: Ashley, teacher

Her offbeat partner: Eric, web developer

Date and location of wedding: The Bottom Lounge, Chicago, IL — October 8, 2011

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We wanted to have fun, but still treat the day with some level of gravity. We ditched some things (flowers), while going completely overboard on others (fancy craft beer). We designed and assembled children's book pop-up invitations. We opted out of wedding formal wear and designed our own outfits instead. We picked colors, then let our wedding party wear whatever the hell they wanted. We rented a bus with skulls and demons painted all over it. Our friend got ordained via the internet and gave us a surprise ceremony that was funny and thoughtful. Handmade and personal touches really reflected our personalities, and we had a ton of fun! We drank beer and ate Chicago-style pizza for dinner with our friends and family.

Colorful!

Pizza

Tell us about the ceremony: We decided to hold our ceremony in the same bar where we were having our reception. Since we were planning on a short ceremony, we provided chairs for our immediate family, and had everyone else stand. Our guests parted to create an aisle for us to get to the stage. The ceremony was easily the funniest I've ever heard (which I take no credit for; it was all our clever officiant). Our friend Chuck read "I Like You" by Sandol Stoddard Warburg and our friend Jessica did a fabulous interpretation of Taylor Mali's "Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog."

Eric and Parents

Ashley ad Parents

In a moment of drunken genius at a party months before the wedding, we paid for our friend TJ to get ordained online so he could officiate. Beforehand, we shared our vision and preferences with him, and let him do his own thing as far as what he would say. We had no idea what he would talk about during the ceremony — it was a complete surprise! It was funny, involved hilarious and obscure nerdy references, veered into Comedy Central Roast territory for a few terrifying moments, and was cute without being cloying. Best lines:

"You belong together like Bill & Ted, Wayne & Garth, Batman & Robin. May your lifelong partnership be filled with success and joy, especially if it involves the two of you fighting together in a zombie takeover, nuclear wasteland, or other post-apocalyptic scenario."

Ceremony

High five

We played rock, paper, scissors to decide on who read our original vows first. We did a wine box ceremony — Eric's mom chose a wine, my mom chose wine glasses, and Eric and I wrote letters to each other to include. Our dads started the screws that hold on the lid of the box. We'll open the box each anniversary and drink our wine while reading our letters. Then we will put in a new wine bottle and a new set of letters, and seal it until the next year.

Spinny!

After we exchanged rings, TJ, our officiant, announced, "Do you feel it? Ashley and Eric's relationship has just gotten stronger. It's as if…they've just gained a level! By the power vested in me by the internet, I now pronounce you husband and wife. May the Force be with you."

Seating Cards

Marlon Vando - rear view

Our biggest challenge: We live in Pennsylvania, but got married in Chicago because we are both originally from the midwest, and have lots of good memories in Chicago. With our schedules, it is difficult to travel back and forth, so we did most of our planning online and via phone. We were masters of group emails, Google Docs spreadsheets, Flickr, and Evernote. This allowed me to stay in touch with my seamstress (we had exactly TWO in person fittings before the wedding) and our venue coordinator (whom we met with ONCE in person before the day).

Gift table

My favorite moment: We chose to write our own vows. Eric's were funny and adorable, "On those days we are both too hungover to move, I always promise to go get you KFC." He got choked up during his vows, and the audience audibly and collectively went "awwwww." During my vows, I also promised to bring him KFC when we were hungover, which was hilarious since we hadn't shared our vows with each other beforehand.

Family Jagerbombs

My funniest moment: Chuck, one of our readers, seemed unsure whether the reading was about my relationship with Eric, or Chuck's relationship with one of us. The way he interpreted it made the reading seem like we were tricking him into hitting on one or both of us. This made the reading 100% funnier. I have hilariously awful pictures of me laughing so hard at Chuck that my tonsils are visible in the picture.

Best picture EVER

My four-year-old niece (who was onstage as a flower girl) yelled "Banana Pants!" during the ceremony while doing a dance.

Bus

Bride and Groom

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? Unbeknownst to us, the Chicago marathon was the same weekend as our wedding. We discovered this when we had trouble finding blocks of hotel rooms for our guests. I had visions of booked hotels, traffic jams, and a destroyed schedule. We managed to find a hotel in the suburbs (silver lining: much cheaper). Luckily, we left the transportation to a pro (the coolest punk-rock bus driver EVER), and he dropped us off at a nearby corner when traffic downtown was too packed to get us closer to the park we were taking pictures in.

Occupy our wedding

Millennium Park

Once we were off the bus, we couldn't get across the street due to an Occupy Chicago parade/demonstration. Instead of stressing me out (which is what I expected), I actually found it really hilarious, and we got some memorable pictures. After about ten minutes, we managed to cross between an anti-war group and a herd of police. We couldn't get a shot of ourselves with the bean (aka Cloud Gate) without a swarm of tourists, but our photographer made it look intentional. The rest of the day magically went off without any delays!

Cake!

My advice for Offbeat Brides: Sit down with your partner and come up with things that are important to you and things that aren't. There were things I didn't care one way or another about that were extremely important to him, and if I had planned without his input, I would have left them out (and vice versa). Similarly, get some input from your families. You don't have to implement everything, but we found that our families really wanted certain things that we weren't opposed to, but would have definitely gotten dropped if we hadn't made an effort. The only thing my mom cared about for the entire day was that we didn't smash cake in each others' faces — Eric and I didn't have a preference between eating and smashing, so it was one less decision we had to make, and it was easy to make my mom happy.

Socks

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? People are unbelievably generous and helpful. I'm guilty of being a pretty hardcore cynic most of the time, but even I had to admit that the love, help, and support we got was incredible. Our family, friends, and even relative strangers who became our vendors were willing to go the extra mile to help us out. We had an army of friends and family who assembled invitations and decor; a friend who gifted the design and labor in creating my wedding dress; family that baked, decorated, and transported a wedding cake; friends who did hair and make-up; a friend who designed, sculpted and painted our cake topper; family that surprised us with an extra special engraving on our wine box, friends and family who traveled several states away to attend our wedding, vendors who gave deals and came up with creative ways to save us money, and countless people who put up with our whining, obsessing, and constant emailing in the days and months leading up to the wedding.

Couples shot

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!