Adventures of a (Second Time) Bride-to-Be
March 8, 2011
With Chicago as my hometown (well, it adopted me when I moved here after college), venues are plentiful, but planning and scheduling usually are months (if not years) out. Certain locations are not large enough for both the ceremony and the reception to be held in one area, others had minimum headcounts that I did not intend to invite. Many have weekends booked 12+ months in advance. I was not looking forward to this; the work had to be done by me and I did not have a vendor list from a friend that I could use as my own personal Rolodex. I was already exhausted and I hadn’t even started yet…
Racking my brain for ideas, I spoke with a few potential places, but none excited me. A boat on the Chicago River would be great, but what if guests are prone to seasickness? A ballroom overlooking Lake Michigan would be extraordinary, but I didn’t want the formality that type of setting required. My visions had been around an outdoor ceremony on the Gulf of Mexico; I wanted to recreate that somehow. Finally, it came to me.
Chicago has a beautiful outdoor garden that was created specifically to cultivate many different kinds of flora (flowers and plants ). Certain flora are located outdoors, others in hothouses, still others just inside buildings. It is a stunning display, and very large at that, but I had no idea if they also hosted weddings.
I thanked God once again for the Internet, went out to Yahoo!, and quickly found what I was looking for. I called the events coordinator at the garden the following morning; Connie and “clicked” instantly. I told her the story about Key West, the need for a new venue, that I knew the garden was beautiful, and inquired about a summertime wedding I mentioned the information from the website; in turn, she gave me a whole lot more, and I scheduled a weekend afternoon to come look at it in person.
Between that telephone conversation and the actual visit, Connie emailed me a lot of paperwork, pictures, and ideas. A garden viewing during a Chicago winter wasn’t going to be the best representation of what it would be like in the summer months, so she made sure to send me as many pictures as she could so I had something to look at…yes, THAT truly did wonders for me…if the venue was half as perfect as the photos, and they do many events at the garden (not just weddings), it would be *perfect*.
Lawrence and I made plans visit one of their onsite locations, an outdoor pavilion, that Saturday and then would go to dinner afterwards. Saturday came and we were running errands all day, so we didn’t get there until after sunset. It was COLD (so VERY cold!), but decorated for Christmas with all the lights, and a nice clear night. We walked to the pavilion, through the hothouses to warm up at the suggestion of a nice tour guide, and came out into the structure like a grand entrance. It faced a small lake that, in the summer, had a fountain in the center (at least from the pictures Connie sent me it did!).
It was all open, floors of large brick, a solid structure that would have a white tent beneath it in the summer, and the water I’d been looking for. We walked around a bit, talked very little, and walked back out with smiles on our faces (frozen in place by the time we made it to the car!).
Most importantly, we agreed that this was our place…I’d found it, a floral paradise in my urban setting…the Chicago Botanic Garden. I would have all the flowers I could wish for and then some. I would have the water I envisioned being married in front of. We would have the evening sun to warm our faces as our vows warmed our souls.
Yes, this wedding was going to be magnificent!
Even better, as we warmed up in the car, we were headed into the city for dinner at one of my favorite places. If you are not from Chicago and enjoy fondue, you MUST go to Geja’s Café. It’s romantic, aromatic (!), and has a wonderful wine list. It’s also fun, has a great atmosphere, and people are truly enjoying themselves when they are there…it’s infectious. I have been there an untold number of times and I go back as often as I can. It is always fun and is something I never tire of doing…
We found our wedding venue and were going to my favorite place for dinner that Saturday. It didn’t get much better, in my mind, given where I’d been a few short weeks earlier when I had to cancel my Key West plans. I was ready to spend a few hours relaxing with wine and various foods cooked in hot oil, fabulous cheese, and melted chocolate. Fantastic. I felt like it was a celebration!
And, until next time…