Heather & Marty's six-guest cultural center and city tour wedding

By on Apr 26th Photos by Heather Eidson
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Photos by Heather Eidson

The Offbeat Bride: Heather, post-doctoral scientist

Her offbeat partner: Marty, editor

Date and location of wedding: Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL — June 11, 2011

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We had recently moved to Chicago and found out that most venue rental fees alone were much more than we wanted to spend for one party (especially since we wanted to honeymoon in Tokyo). After some online searching, we discovered the perfect option for us: the Marriage Court of Cook County performs civil ceremonies at the gorgeous Chicago Cultural Center on select Saturday mornings for the unbelievable price of $10!

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This choice meant our guest list was limited to our immediate families, which was a much easier decision than coming up with a guest list for a larger ceremony. Only six guests meant we were able to have a fantastic brunch after the ceremony at the Custom House with no need to worry about centerpieces and table assignments. I am not a crafty type, so the small ceremony suited me well.

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I loved perusing the vintage-themed weddings, and was inspired to choose a 1950s-style tea-length dress. Marty found a lovely fitted suit and tie to match, and was very excited to wear shiny black patent leather shoes. My sister served as our best person of honor, in charge of parent wrangling and bridal hair.

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We live about a mile south of the Cultural Center, so we decided to frame our ceremony with a portrait session walking to the venue and around the city afterwards. Our photographer, Heather Eidson, was very accommodating to our wishes. We chose locations that inspired us, such as next to the Shepard Fairey mural in an alley near our apartment, outside the Eleven City Diner (June 11, 2011, get it?), and in the beautiful lavender fields of Millennium Park with the bold skyline towering behind.

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Tell us about the ceremony: The ceremony itself was a simple exchange of vows and rings led by the judge at the Cultural Center. It took about five minutes. Many other couples get married each Saturday morning, so several groups were clustered around the G.A.R. Hall waiting their turn to enter the ceremony room. For me, it was nice to not be the only center of attention and I enjoyed seeing what the other couples chose to wear. Attire ranged from jeans to full gowns. After each ceremony was completed, the doors to the ceremony room opened, the newly married couple was announced, and the couple marched out to cheers from the entire hall.

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Our biggest challenge: I think both of our families would have preferred a larger event with extended family and friends, but in the end, both sets of parents appreciated the intimacy of our wedding day. We did compromise and have a reception in my parents' town of Lakefield, Minnesota a month after the ceremony, where we were able to celebrate with my extended family. We're hoping to have a similar event in London, where Marty is from, in the near future.

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My favorite moment: Walking hand-in-hand with Marty as we were making our way down Wabash Avenue to the ceremony site and having complete strangers congratulate us made me feel all warm and fuzzy. I realized that yes, this is a special day, and that I am so happy and excited to be marrying Marty.

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great?
Prior to the ceremony, Marty had placed our rings in his suit coat pocket. When it was our turn to enter the ceremony room, his ring was still in his pocket, but mine was not. There was no time to search for it since we were next to go. My mom offered her wedding ring for us to use in the ceremony, which we did. After the ceremony, my dad found it on the floor! I was so happy to find the ring for the sentimental value, but there was also something touching about using my mom's ring in the ceremony.

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My advice for Offbeat Brides: Choose what is most important to you and be honest about it. We are not afraid to admit that for us, the ceremony itself was not as important as the photography and the honeymoon, so that's what we spent our money on. We are just as married now as we would be if we would have had a large ceremony, and that is what matters.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!



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