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This must be the place, part I

My fiance and I got engaged at the end of August, 2006 (I can't believe it's been almost a year!), and we didn’t rush to start making any wedding plans, because we knew we would have a longer engagement than most. I’ve seen a couple of former coworkers planning weddings in less than a year, and it seemed really stressful to me. Plus, we are taking on much of the wedding expenses ourselves, and we needed some time to save! 

However, once we were engaged, I found that I couldn’t help thinking about the wedding. I was pretty sure that I wanted a spring wedding, and once we realized our April 26 anniversary fell on a Saturday in 2008, that became our tentative date. About six weeks after our engagement, we drafted wedding invitation list to see what size wedding we were talking about – we had guessed around 200, and we were amazed when the first draft of our Excel invitation spreadsheet turned out to be right around that number. Armed with this information, we started thinking about potential venues.

Despite the higher cost implications, we knew that we wanted our wedding to be in the city of Chicago. Both of us are very attached to the city, and we’ve been living here for many years. We’ve also been to a few downtown weddings that we loved – it’s just so cool to see the city from a terrace, through a window or even when you step outside for a breath of fresh air. That said, our first thought as huge fans of live music was one of our favorite venues, the Park West in Lincoln Park. The Park West is a beautiful historic theatre, built in the 1920s, and we’ve seen quite a few concerts there over the years. We loved the idea of having our wedding at one of our favorite concert venues, and we were attracted to the built-in audio-visual capabilities, since we knew that we wanted to do the wedding music ourselves if we could. The few pictures I found online make it look like they can do almost anything with the space:

Park West 1

Love the candlelit tables...

Hmm, not sure what sort of events would inspire the decor in that picture...

We met with their special events person, who we liked, and we thought about it a lot, but it was out of our original price range, and in the end we found other places that we liked more and offered better value for their rental fee.

In the beginning, I was highly enamored with the idea of an outdoor wedding – maybe it’s the hippie girl in me, but I loved the idea of being surrounded by the natural beauty of trees and flowers, and after all, part of the reason I wanted a spring wedding was the warmer weather and newly-blooming flowers. I had heard that the Chicago Park District rented their spaces at a relatively low cost, so I investigated their website and set off to check out a few of the spaces. We were firmly in the midst of autumn at that point, so I knew I wasn’t experiencing the gardens in their full glory, but I felt that I could still get some impression of the available spaces. 

Buckingham Fountain is fabulous...

And it looks awesome at night...

...but in my opinion, it's too much of an obvious choice for a Chicago wedding, and its central Grant Park location doesn’t offer much privacy from roaming tourists. It was also the most expensive of the Park District facilities to rent, and it appears that it’s become much more expensive since I first investigated – it’s now a whopping $30,000 just to rent the space!

I really liked the Lincoln Park Conservatory gardens though. I could see myself walking down the natural “aisle” between the large flowerbeds, and I could see us being married in front of the lovely fountain in the center of the garden.

But where would we have our reception? We weren’t sure it would be warm enough at the end of April for an outdoor reception – you just never know in Chicago – and we didn’t really like the idea of renting a tent and all of the necessary accoutrements anyway. The conservatory itself is very pretty inside...

...but there certainly isn’t a large enough open space for a reception. And anyway, where would people park? We'd almost definitely have to do valet.

The place I liked best was the Garfield Park Conservatory. I had only been to the conservatory once before I went to investigate it as a potential wedding venue, when they had a spectacular Chihuly exhibit several years ago... 

...and when I went back after our engagement, I was delighted to re-discover what I consider a real treasure. I love living in the big city, but sometimes I miss the more natural rural surroundings of my childhood, and I think it’s nice to have a place to immerse oneself in the natural beauty of plants and flowers. I find it both calming and rejuvenating...kind of like yoga that way. Anyway, your first steps into the Conservatory reveal the Palm House, an “idealized tropical landscape” of, well, lots of tall palm trees soaring up to a high glass ceiling, interspersed with lots of exotic tropical plants I didn’t recognize.

The Garfield Park Conservatory is much larger than its Lincoln Park cousin, and along with several display houses – the Palm House, the Aroid House, the Desert House, and the Fern Room, which fascinates me because it’s planted to show what Illinois might have looked like millions of years ago, and when I was in the edge of the indoor lagoon with nobody else in sight I almost felt like I had gone back in time.

It also has a perfect room for events, Horticulture Hall. Look how pretty!

And it has an outdoor patio surrounded by more gardens, which I thought could be a neat place for a ceremony. Unfortunately, my fiance wasn’t quite as excited about this place as I was – I think he appreciates flowers more than some guys, but he still wasn’t that excited about getting married at the Conservatory, although you could rent the entire space for $3,000! Honestly, it is a bit out of the way, and the surrounding neighborhood isn’t the greatest either. On top of that, it turned out that they already had something scheduled for April 26, and by the time we learned that, we had come across a couple of new places that we liked better, so we stopped considering it as a potential wedding venue.

Stay tuned for the second and final chapter in our wedding venue search, as we narrow it down to our two finalists…

Home - is where I want to be
But I guess I'm already there
I come home - she lifted up her wings
Guess that this must be the place

Talking Heads, "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)"



Jul. 29th, 2007 03:50 am (UTC)
Ok, so I think I know how this ends:) but I love hearing the thought process.


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