A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

August 22 2018 | offbeatbride  
Photos by: Kevin Monahan Photography
A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station
Photos by Kevin Monahan Photography

Offbeat partner: Rachael, Trademark Lawyer

Offbeat partner: John, Patent Lawyer

Date and location of wedding: Floating World Gallery, Chicago, Illinois — June 2, 2018

Our offbeat wedding at a glance:

Our main goal for our wedding was to create a meaningful ceremony with a super fun reception. I love crafting, so I handmade all the flowers (personalizing each bridesmaid's bouquet to her interests), boutonnieres, and signs, and DIYed my veil!

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

We had a loose beer and cherry blossom theme throughout the wedding. We had craft beer bottle centerpieces with fairy lights in them, a beer unity ceremony, beer coaster escort cards, and beer tasting at the reception itself. We did our first look at a brewpub that we've loved for our entire relationship.

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

The cherry blossoms in our cake design and table runners were a tribute to both Japan and DC; John and I moved to the Washington, DC area for new jobs during our engagement, and John speaks some Japanese and works in a law firm that works primarily with Japanese companies. Origami cranes were also peppered throughout the bouquets and on every boutonniere, as another tribute to John’s love of Japan and my own tendency to fold paper cranes and leave them wherever I go (which started 14 years before I met John!). The venue itself was a Japanese modern art gallery! Large photos of us throughout our relationship were hung up in the gallery.

We’re both lawyers and kept our surnames post marriage, so I made a sign that said “Dickson Lorenzen LLP: Founded June 2, 2018” for the front of the room as guests walked in.

The ceremony was livestreamed on YouTube; a lot of our friends and family actually did watch it live! That was so wonderful.

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

Tell us about the ceremony:

Our piano preludes were from Amelie and Labyrinth, Simon and Garfunkel and Modern English. John and most of the bridal party walked in to Ride of the Valkyries!

The flower girls scattered paper flowers and hearts that I made from glitter paper and DIY Shakespeare love quote stationery. My processional was “Sigh Not So” from the 1993 Much Ado About Nothing film, which I’ve loved my whole life.

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

Our officiant, John’s high school English teacher, spoke about the meaning of love and how well John and I work together. Our readings were from Carl Sagan and Henry V. We also used quotes from Julius Caesar and Richard III for our ring exchange.

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

We vowed that our hearts beat only for each other (a Klingon wedding quote) and that we’d put up with each other’s shit forever. We read traditional “to have and to hold” vows AND personalized vows that included loving tributes to each other’s best and worst qualities. John vowed to tolerate my two cats. I vowed to read his Cards Against Humanity cards for him when he laugh-cries.

We closed out with a beer unity ceremony, combining two bottles of beers brought up by our parents into one drink. We planned to jokingly forget the opener and have the best man pull it out, but then we actually did forget about a cork! The best man had to run to borrow an opener from the bartender. After, when our officiant said he could kiss the bride, John actually said “Hold my beer.”

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

Our recessional was a recording of 1812 Overture, with cannons!

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

Tell us about your reception:

Our cocktail hour featured giant soft pretzels and chips with salsa and guac. Dinner was a taco bar from a beloved Chicago institution, Big Star! Later, in honor of John’s famously milk-obsessed family, we had cookies and milk.

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

We skipped several reception traditions. My father is fairly introverted, so we asked John’s dad to give a toast instead. We also skipped the father/daughter and mother/son dance, partly for my dad’s comfort, and partly because John didn’t want everyone to stare at him for another song. Our first dance was to Elton John’s "Your Song" and then we moved directly into Toto’s "Africa."

For entertainment, we had dueling pianos. The piano players took requests and played a great mix of music. I have fantastic memories of dancing to “Be a Man” from Mulan with a ton of guests. John also put together a craft beer tasting at the last minute.

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

We had board games in a separate room for anyone who didn’t want to dance or listen to the music. That was really important to me, as I wanted to make sure there were options for our quieter guests. My mom and aunt played Scrabble. Fittingly, for our “guest book,” our guests signed Jenga pieces.

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

I put together a selfie station which included cutouts of my beloved cats, Mickey ears, and unicorn horns. Lots of the props ended up in photos!

I plotted with the piano player to sing Billy Joel’s “You’re My Home" to John as a surprise. We love that song and love making fun of a ridiculous lyric in it.

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

What was your most important lesson learned?

We made many nontraditional planning decisions; 98% of them worked out beautifully. We didn’t have a caterer but ordered a mix of foods. I took a chance on a new company and got to design and pick out the fabrics for my dress, which I adored. I imported our amazing photographers from Indiana so we could get a better price for Chicago. A stage manager friend of mine volunteered as my day-of coordinator and did a marvelous job; now she’s actually starting up her own business!

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

The 2% that didn’t work out involved the staff, who misrepresented their abilities (the “professional bartender” didn’t know how to make an Old Fashioned) and showed major disrespect for our wedding, ignoring my timelines and layouts and doing basically none of what we asked them to do. Fortunately, we have amazing family and friends who jumped in to help and make things happen. We did get a lot of our money back afterward, but it was very stressful. Because I was upset, I drank more than planned and have a few hours from the wedding I don’t remember too well. I feel guilty about that and about our guests having to work on our wedding day. We did see some warning signs from this staff the day before the wedding; I wish we had called them on their shit and hired someone else.

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

I also wish I’d hired a planner to handle a lot of the administrative details. I didn't even know how stressed out I was about it all until afterward; it was like a huge weight lifted from my shoulders.

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

A "ShakesBEER" cherry blossom wedding with dueling pianos, tacos, & a selfie station

Vendors

Day of Coordinator: Shellie DiSalvo • Photographer: Kevin Monahan Photography • Dress: Anomalie • Hair: Andrea Lents, Aria Salon • Makeup: June Kowalewski • Venue: Floating World Gallery • Musicians: Felix and Fingers Dueling Pianos • Taco Bar: Big Star • Pretzels: Prost • Cookies: Insomnia Cookies • Rentals: All-Star Party Rental

Gallery

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  1. I'd love to hear more about how you ordered food and your staffing issues, as I've thought about just ordering pizza and then hiring bartenders and waitstaff myself

    1 agrees
    • Sure! Honestly, I think we could have avoided the staffing issues by going with a more well-known company. The one we hired had very few reviews on the website we hired them through and gave us a suspiciously low price quote, but our venue coordinator (who we really liked) said he had worked with them and they were good, so we trusted that and went with them, even though there were a few warning signs early on I definitely should have paid more attention to (didn't respond to my emails and changed their email addresses during the process, talked to me on the phone and made a lot of promises that I documented, but then didn't actually follow up and confirm they were doing all that, tried to make me pay them outside the website's payment system – I'm SO glad I didn't do that, as that was the only way we were able to get money back from them). Looking back, I would have paid the extra money to go with a staffing company that was 100% totally professional and trustworthy, with lots of good reviews.

      As for ordering food, it was a little bit more work than hiring a caterer, but I basically just reached out to all the places individually and ordered them in the same way I'd order takeout, just for…significantly more people. Big Star, Alliance Bakery (who made our cake, I totally forgot to put them in our vendor list!), and Insomnia Cookies already were all set up for weddings, so they were easy to figure out. Prost was a little harder; I had to hire a guy from taskrabbit to go pick up the pretzels for us and deliver them to the venue (he arrived late at the wrong place, but…whatever, I had other things to worry about that day).

      I didn't mention it in the profile, but this also involved renting all the tableware, dishware, and glassware (except our wine glass favors). The rental company was super easy to work with though, and they had the best prices of any place I found in Chicago – would TOTALLY recommend them! (They were really nice on the phone about the fact that a lot of the stuff wasn't as clean as it was supposed to be when we returned it because…our families had to handle it instead of the staff we hired).

      Overall, I really don't want our terrible experience with our staff to take away from anyone else planning on hiring staff and food separately! We just had a bad apple crew that we probably could have avoided with a little bit more event planning experience; if they had done their damn jobs, we really wouldn't have had any significant problems with that part of the wedding (and everyone super loved the food). A few people told me it was the best wedding they've ever attended, which was extremely heartening given how terrible I felt about the staffing issues.

      2 agree
  2. Doesn't the 1812 Overture always have cannons? I guess I have never seen a recording of it without the canons, altho all my versions of it are on vinyl, so maybe it's hard to find that version from online music services….

    Your veil is amazing. A lovely and fun wedding. Congratulations.

    • True! My point with that comment was that our other music for the ceremony was live piano, but we had to have the recording so we could have the cannons. 🙂

  3. This looks like such a fun wedding! I love the cat cutouts, the cake (gorgeous!), the red shoes, and those tricky-looking bouquets – wish I had the skills to craft those!
    I love the idea of ordering separate food from a bunch of different places; it would be particularly handy to cater for the coeliacs, vegan and vegetarian guests. Adding it to the pondering list. And your honesty is awesome.

    1 agrees
    • Thank you! I had a lot of fun putting it all together.
      We had numerous vegans and vegetarians at our wedding and the taco bar made it easy for them to personalize their food to their needs. We also had vegan cupcakes for the vegan guests who couldn’t eat the wedding cake and as pictured above, my sister made awesome vegan cookies for the cookies and milk portion of the evening! (We had almond milk available) 🙂

      • Oh and the red shoes were actually bright red and glittery. 🙂 didn’t make it into my profile (that word count is hard!). I wanted ruby slippers!

  4. Hey internet friends! So many people liked and were interested in my wedding veil that I’ve decided I want to share it with other brides, a la Sisterhood of the Traveling Veil! If you’d be interested in borrowing my veil for your wedding, just email me at Rachael.M.Dickson@gmail.com with your wedding date and contact details! Only thing I ask is that you cover the cost of shipping from my house to you and back and get it cleaned if it needs it afterward. 🙂

    2 agree

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