Are You Prepared for the Weather?

November 25th, 2013
Photo by Peter Coombs.

Photo by Peter Coombs.

Here is something I always tell my clients:  If you are planning an outdoor celebration and you have a good, solid rain plan, you won’t need it.  But if you don’t have a plan, that’s when the trouble starts.  I had this truth illustrated to me again just this summer.

There were two very similar weddings at opposite ends of the summer.  Both were small weddings with ceremonies planned for the Shakespeare Garden in Evanston, followed by a reception at the Orrington Hotel.

Next to the Shakespeare Garden is a lovely small chapel.  To reserve it costs a couple of hundred dollars.  My clients early in the summer decided that they would save the money and just hope that the weather was good on the day of their wedding.  That turned out to be a mistake.

The day of the wedding was not only rainy but also cold and windy.  Up until the last moment, they hoped to have the ceremony outdoors, but the weather was too bad.  This left me calling the hotel catering manager the night before to see if they could accommodate the ceremony somewhere in the hotel.  Fortunately, the hotel staff at the Orrington is terrific.  They said the ceremony could be on the 9th floor terrace if the weather was good at the ceremony time, or they would find us a place indoors if necessary.

Thirty minutes before the ceremony, the weather still looked threatening.  I decided that even if the weather held, it would not be comfortable for the guests to sit out in it wondering all the time if they would be poured on.  After I persuaded my clients of this, the catering manager, my assistant, and I had only about 30 minutes to set up the furniture for the ceremony in the wide hallway near the reception room.  It actually turned out looking lovely and as if we had planned it that way all along, but it was not the smoothest ceremony set-up I’ve ever seen.  And the sky opened up and it poured as the ceremony was starting.

I related this experience to my client later in the summer.  She took it to heart.  She also did not care to spend the money to rent the chapel, but she did have enough foresight to check with the hotel in advance to reserve a back-up room for an indoor ceremony if it was needed.  Sure enough, the weather the day of her wedding was perfect for an outdoor ceremony, and it was held in the garden, as planned.

It never fails:  If you have a rain plan, you won’t need it.  But watch out if you don’t!

Same Sex Marriage Legal in Illinois

November 18th, 2013

The Illinois legislature has finally passed a same-sex marriage bill for the state.  It is only a couple of years since the passage of the civil union act.  Personally, I never expected them to act this fast–but I am very happy that they have.  This is a big step forward for civil rights in our state.

It's a day to celebrate!   Photo courtesy of Artisan Events, Inc.

It's a day to celebrate! Photo courtesy of Artisan Events, Inc.

The short version of what this means is that as of June 1, 2014, almost any person may legally marry almost any other person in the state of Illinois.  (You still can’t marry your sibling, for instance.) The devil, of course, is in the details.

If you want a comprehensive guide to the new bill, you can download a .pdf from Equality Illinois with all the ins and outs of the new bill.

My favorite part of the new law is a provision that allows couples who currently have an Illinois civil union (and maybe civil unions from other states, as well) to convert their civil union to a legal marriage.  The conversion is a matter of mere paperwork, and for the first year after the law takes effect, the state will not charge a fee for the conversion.  Also, after the conversion, for legal purposes, a converted marriage will be retroactive to the date of the civil union.

Between this new law and the Supreme Court’s striking down parts of DOMA, it seems that civil rights have taken a big step forward this year.

Everyone Loves a Back Yard Wedding

November 11th, 2013
This was a very suitable back yard for a wedding reception.   Photo by Light on Life Images.

This was a very suitable back yard for a wedding reception. Photo by Light on Life Images.

In the last year alone, I have worked on more back yard weddings or receptions that I did in the previous eight years combined.  I’m starting to think this may be a trend.

There is a lot to be said for back yard weddings.  There are also some cautions to keep in mind. Here is what I know.

If you or your parents or someone else you know has a suitable yard for large-scale entertaining, it can be a wonderful place for a wedding or reception (or both).  If it’s your childhood home, it can have a very warm emotional resonance for you and those who love you.  It’s also an inexpensive location, which may be very attractive if you are on a budget.  It also can count as an eco-friendly venue.

There are things to think about before you jump in, however.  Yes, the location itself is free, but there may be some rather large expenses that go with it.  First, you may need to put up a tent in case of bad weather.  June in Chicago is not only the rainiest month of the year, but it can also be cold.  And any month around here can have freak weather.  Fortunately, there are many reliable tent rental companies that offer quality products, good service, and extras like flooring and heaters.

The next consideration always on my list is the question of bathrooms.  Does the house have enough to accommodate the number of guests you anticipate?  Are they accessible for those guests who can’t take many stairs?  If not, you may need to rent portable restrooms–and find a place to put them.

Another thing to think about is the stress a back yard wedding puts on the owners of the house.  Make sure both you and they know what they are getting themselves into.  They may need to move the first floor furniture.  They will probably feel obligated to do extra cleaning and yard work.  They will have their home turned topsy-turvy for a weekend.  If they are willing to do the extra work and have their home turned upside down, be sure to thank them a lot!  They are doing something very special for you.

One more (non-glamorous) thing to plan for is garbage disposal.  If you are serving dinner to 100 guests in your yard, you will have a larger-than-usual amount of garbage and recycling.  Make plans to have extra receptacles, and figure out if your usual disposal service will be able to remove the refuse after the party.

With a little planning, a back yard wedding can be a wonderful way to get married.

Backyard Wedding

November 4th, 2013

I have the professional shots from the backyard wedding I coordinated in the spring.  Click on the photo below to go to the photo gallery for this wedding.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of