Thursday, July 16, 2009

Searching for the Picture Perfect Venue

M and I were engaged on Friday, March 27. On Saturday, March 28, the research began for the perfect wedding venue. It's funny how when you call your friends to tell them the great engagement news, the first questions are when and where are you getting married. No matter how soon after you are engaged they receive that call (even within minutes). I know -- I'm guilty of it as well. But I wanted to have an answer so I began researching online and planning a trip to Chicago to see the venues in person.

We went to Chicago the next weekend and had several venues on our itinerary to see. I knew I wanted June wedding in a unique space. Something other than a hotel ballroom so that helped narrow down our search. I also knew that I would need a venue that would have two distinct areas - for the ceremony and the reception. So we began bright and early on Saturday morning.

Our first stop was the gorgeous Harold Washington Library in the South Loop. It was my dad's suggestion (a wealth of Chicago venue knowledge) and I was prepared to be wowed after we looked at pictures online. We had to navigate through the library stacks to actually get to the venue space. When we arrived in the reception hall, I was in awe of the high glass atrium ceilings and the large space. Yet underwhelmed by the seafoam green and blue tile and paint. We went to see the ceremony space which was a small rugged room (I'm not a fan of rugs) which would probably not fit more than 50-100 guests. We checked out the bathrooms (I've learned - ALWAYS check the bathrooms) and they were like any public bathroom...kind of gross. Most certainly did not go along with my vision of a spa like bathroom experience for my guests. Don't ask me why I even think about this stuff.

So we were off to our next stop, The River East Arts Center. I was excited to see this space as I had gone to a work event here previously and remembered how pretty it was. Also, with my art history background I thought it would be so fitting to get married in an art space (with disregard to the fact that M is an engineer and not at all artsy). The River East Arts Center was as pretty as I had remembered and the coordinator we met with was great. We had some concerns upon leaving though. One there were not two distinct spaces, instead the ceremony would have to transition to the reception space during cocktail hour. Not ideal but was it a deal breaker? Also, the issue of price. It was by far the most expensive venue we were looking at and we had heard rumblings of foreclosure. And finally there was only one catering option and I was not sure that I was ready to close that door as well.

I was secretly giddy about our third stop of the day. A small but truly uniquely Chicago space called The Ivy Room @ Tree Studios. It was a historically restored building that is mostly used for artist galleries but has a spectacular courtyard that could be used for the ceremony and cocktail reception. The venue did not disappoint. It was thrilling to see the courtyard and I could imagine M and I saying our vows there. The reception space was hardwood floor and we looked through many inspiring pictures with the coordinator, Donna (she was fab) and were picturing our wedding there. Until we asked about the rain plan. Duh, duh, duh....

The rain plan would relegate our guests to the ceremony in the reception space and cocktail hour in a windowless rugged basement. It wasn't terrible. But picturing almost 200 of our nearest and dearest crammed into the tiny windowless space was uninspiring. So we left...feeling slightly less hopeful than we had upon arrival.

So what did we do next? My mom had one final suggestion that we visit on a whim...more details to come.

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