Early in our planning process, I took a survey from my wedding planning organizer called “Your Couple Style Questionnaire.” Of course, after I wrote down my answers, I read the questions to Adam so I could hear his answers, too. 🙂
When asked what we envision for our wedding, we both chose “modern/contemporary” over “classic/traditional” and “somewhere in between.” With our modern/contemporary vision in mind, we set out to find a ceremony location!
Outdoor Parks: We would both love to get married outside, and nature isn’t even on the “traditional to modern” spectrum. Grass and flowers are timeless! But the weather is too chancey, and the flowers and leaves may not be out until May.
Cantigny Gardens in Wheaton
Concert halls: The ones we looked into are definitely modern. I’ve never seen a wedding on stage in person, so I liked how unique and grand it would feel! But a concert hall would be too big–our guests would be swallowed up in the space, and we’d be little ants on stage!
Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville
Churches: These are on the “classic/traditional” end of the spectrum, but honestly, we were running out of ceremony venue ideas. My mom and I visited a few churches in our area. We saw exquisite stained glass, magnificent pipe organs, and ornate altars. One of the churches on our list happened to be my childhood church. When we walked in, I looked down at the humble tiled floors I used to run across and looked up at the wooden balcony that my friends and I used to sneak into and hide. I smiled. It felt familiar. Homey. Warm.
My childhood church (picture by me)
I hesitated when telling Adam about it, trying not to sound like I’d made a decision. I showed him pictures. I told him I knew it didn’t match our vision for the wedding. It’s not grand or special in any way, except that I spent every Sunday there in my formative years. He stopped me and said that he only meant the “modern/contemporary” description for our reception. He said if I wanted to get married in my childhood church, we should get married there. 😀
And so, we ended up with a modern, contemporary reception hall and a classic, traditional church. Isn’t it funny how life moves in circles? I never expected to end up making vows for my future in a place of my past.
Does your ceremony or reception location have personal significance to you?
I have a slight issue with the walls of our most-likely venue. Their ballroom is handsome, but it’s much too dark for the bright, cheery wedding I’ve always imagined. Happy citrus colors against all-white walls, tables, and chairs? Not gonna happen here. As a quick reminder, here’s what the space looks like:
Because of the deep, dark walls and decor of Signature Events, I’ve been doing a ton of brainstorming on how to brighten up the place! I don’t want to hide everything in the room, but I do think it would look worlds better with our colors if we did a little covering up. I’m really excited to share my ideas here, because when I talk about them in person, it ends up being a lot of words and hand motions but no real communication of ideas. 😛
First up: Fabric draping! Not the frilly or window-curtain-y kind. Something classy, perhaps made modern with some uplighting. Here are some pictures that inspired me:
The above pictures are from Details Details. The walls are heavy on fabric, but they’re broken up by the gorgeous lighting. I do want to reveal some of the details of the room. One way to do it is with smaller panels, like below:
I would space out the panels to show off the dark wood on the walls. Adam’s not a fan of the colored fabric, so we’d probably use white with colored lighting.
The two pictures above are from a guest blogger on Weddingbee. What do you think of my first idea for hiding, while still revealing, parts of our ballroom? Any suggestions of things you’ve seen and liked at special event spaces?
I’m back with more thoughts on Signature Events at Seven Bridges! The pictures below don’t do the place justice. I either failed to use flash or my flash wasn’t powerful enough, so I had to lighten the pictures until they turned grainy. Pro-photographer, I am not!
Signature Events is the one and only venue that had beautiful hallways. I saw many hallways that were too wall-papered, too pink, or too glitzy. I love seeing brick and wood indoors, and they used both in bold amounts with such clean lines. Will anyone else notice the handsome hallways? Who knows, but I’ll have a little smile on my face while walking (skipping? sashaying?) through them!
The lobby is to the left of the ballroom, and this room is to the right. Another aspect I like about Signature Events is that everyone would be in the ballroom together. A banquet hall we visited placed the bar in a room across the hall; a country club gave guests access to the whole building; and a hotel gives guests an excuse to leave the ballroom and run up to their hotel room for as long as they want! I don’t want to trap my guests, but I’d love to see them all together in one room. The lobby and this area outside the ballroom are perfect for stepping out for air and a quieter conversation.
Mmmm, a wide open space for our big celebration! I adore how the ballroom looks with fabric draped across the ceiling and thick, baby blue sashes. Usually chair covers make me think of ghosts (silly, yes, I know), so I try to avoid them. But here, they look cute, harmless, and not overly fabric-y. Maybe the dark wood panels on the walls will be fine. It actually looks like it would be very bright and white in this room with the lights on!
I think Signature Events has become a front-runner because of its proximity to home, contemporary style, and our awesome contact. I still need to find out a few things before we move forward with it. Like what can we do about the giant picture frames on the walls? And while the food looks artistic, what does it taste like? Are their gardens large enough to take outdoor pictures there? And how much would it cost to have fabric draped across the ceiling like in the picture above? I wonder what questions other brides feel it’s important to ask before deciding on a venue!
Oh, be strong, my fragile heart. I think I’ve lost Danada House.
I just couldn’t get the combination of outside catering + rental fees to work. It started at several thousands of dollars out of my league, and try as I might, I could only get it down to a few less thousands of dollars out of my league. The beautiful atrium was definitely worth trying for.
It’s time to move forward and consider our other options. We’ve visited tons of places, and the first one that really felt like “us” was Signature Events in Woodridge. The pictures below are from their website.
The picture above shows where we could have our ceremony. I’m secretly hoping the sun and clouds will let us have an outdoor ceremony! This spot definitely looks like…well, the outside of a building. But I have a fruitful imagination and can already envision a silky aisle runner lined with pink petals and large candles…colorful programs lying on each seat with a cone of petals or bright strands of ribbon hanging from the back of each chair.
I love the clean, classy ballroom. The above picture actually shows the parts of the reception room that I feel uneasy about. The wood panels across the walls are so dark…would they take away from our light, cheery color scheme? Also, I’m not a fan of the framed pictures on the walls. I’m assuming they’re photos of old-time celebrities. I’d love to cover them with photos of our parents and grandparents…it’d be even cuter if we enlarged and framed their wedding pictures! We’ll have to ask if we can do this.
And what is this cuteness, you might ask? It is our soup of choice: the tomato soup shooters! I love thoughtful food presentation, and we’d definitely get that at Signature Events. I’ve seen pictures of their artistically plated entrees, and they all look divine. Hopefully I’ll get to share some of those when we go in for a tasting!
…keeps the debt away!
*Fists up* Right now, I’m having an all-out brawl with our budget. Meanwhile, Adam is having a Super Soakers war with his little cousins. I think that means we’re pretty much in sync today 🙂
This morning, I created a budget worksheet to keep track of our future expenses. I made four columns: Item, Percentage of Budget, Expected Cost, and Actual Cost. I put in the numbers for catering (food, drinks, cake), and it came out to 70% of our budget! That basically leaves tiddlywinks for the dress, suit, photographer, dj, florist, invites, gifts, rings, ceremony, reception site fee, and the 20+ other items on the sheet.
So I ask myself, while typing intently at my laptop, Carrie Bradshaw-style:
Is it possible to have a weekend evening reception for 200 guests
on a reasonable budget?
We could buy a shiny new car with this money. Instead, we’re offering it to caterers and venues. Alas, it’s not enough.
What are my choices?
- Switch from evening to daytime. Goodbye, sunset, stars, and moonlit glow. I would’ve loved to see you through the gloriously large windows at Danada House.
- Switch from a weekend to a weekday, which may be troublesome for our guests.
- Skip dinner and have a late evening desserts-and-cocktails reception.
- Cut down our guest list. I just tried this. I could cut down my side from 123 to 100 of our closest relatives and friends. Adam has 125 on his side.
- Have an alcohol-free wedding. That’s what I always wanted, and at $20/person at most places, it could save about $4000. Whoa mama.
If I were being smart-Hannah, I would make any of the above changes lickety-split! However, the wedding brings out the hopeless romantic, dreamy-Hannah who shyly shakes her head at doing any of the above. I don’t think dreamy-Hannah’s going to get me anywhere in this battle.
Say hello to my new friend, Marie’s Catering!
Their menus are divine; they’ve been around forever; and they are dedicated to quality and fresh ingredients! Their prices are not extreme, but the wedding package we wanted was out of our reach. My goal was to find a package price that, when added to the rental and venue fees, would be comparable to the packages at all-inclusive venues. After a series of emails back and forth with one of Marie’s sweet, professional, and understanding event coordinators, we created a wedding package that will be good to our tummies and to our budget!
When I received the latest package proposal in my email, I was jumping around the room! I called Adam immediately! He’s happy, but we both know that even with the new and improved catering deal, Danada House will still cost significantly more than our other top choices.
I’m sure Adam and I will spend lots of time discussing venues over the next few days. The venue is such a big decision. I hope we choose one that makes us both happy 🙂
Oh, I love our potential venue.
The more I think about it and look at pictures, the more I hope for a Danada House wedding. But it’s not coming easy. I’m concerned, because we’ll need outside catering, which is significantly more pricey than in-house catering. Adam’s concerned, because we would need to pay a biggie-size venue fee on top of catering costs…and rental fees on top of that for linens, china, glassware, flatware, and anything else not provided by the venue.
It turns out, a banquet hall or hotel is a much better option for our budget. But that just won’t do for my dreamy little heart. So what’s a girl to do, but work her tush off all week to find an amazing caterer with a delicious menu at a budget-friendly price? 😉 More on that next time!
Above photo from Bella Pictures.
The Danada House is located in Wheaton, and I’m partial to it for several reasons:
- I only have to drive on one road to get me there and back. No turns, no directions needed…amazing!
- It’s nature-y—colorful gardens and giant trees.
- I used to take horseback riding lessons there!
- The ballroom is beautiful with its big windows and hanging lights.
I went for a visit and looked through some photo albums of previous Danada House weddings. I didn’t want to forget all the fabulous images, so I whipped out my camera and snapped shots of my favorites. These were all originally taken by Fred Fox Photography. Please don’t mind the obvious picture-of-a-picture-ness.
I originally did not like this venue, because it seemed a little too country. Modern, chic hotel ballrooms appealed much more. But now, I’m thinking about the ambience and pictures I want on our special day and realizing that maybe I’m more of an outdoor bride! Well, not entirely outdoor. I don’t love the possibility of inclement weather, insects, or mud stains. But I do want to see nature around us, not just wallpaper and dividers. And I’d rather take pictures by trees and flowers than by the grand entrance of a hotel.
My only concern is finding a caterer. This is the only venue I visited that didn’t have in-house catering. Outside catering is a whole new realm of the wedding world that I’ve never explored. What do you think—could it be worth the trouble for my perfect setting?
I have so many ideas for our wedding. Many of them are outlandish. I don’t care. 🙂
If we had a magical venue that could transform every hour, this is the wedding we would have:
- Ceremony on the beach. The softest white sand beneath our feet, delicate strands of tropical flowers hanging from the trees, his eyes bluer than the bluest ocean.
- Reception at Disney World! Dinner and dancing in the castle; Adam and I leading a boisterous parade; and all our loved ones together on a carousel! Only our guests would be allowed to enter the parks. In lieu of cake, we’d eat Mickey Mouse-shaped ice cream bars…I love those chocolate-y ears! 😉
- Post-party bonfire. Preferably on a beach or in someone’s huge backyard. We’d have a table with a glorious display of marshmallows, graham crackers, and a million types of chocolate bars. I’d make s’mores all night long for everyone.
Who wouldn’t love to host a wedding in their hometown? I would happily walk, bike, or take a 5 minute drive home after the ceremony and reception. After checking out some venues in surrounding towns, I wanted to find some options in our hometown: Naperville!
The first Naperville venue we visited was Hotel Arista. We loved their dedication to being a sustainable hotel and the glossy new ballroom.
The prices were too steep for us, and we guessed that the price tag had to do with the all-local and organic menu. If that’s the top priority for a couple, I’d highly recommend Hotel Arista–it’s really beautiful and new, and the staff made us feel very welcome. Up next, I did some research on a restaurant across the street from the Hotel:
Another teacher at school told me that her son is hosting his wedding reception at Riva in Naperville. Riva is also very classy and contemporary. Although it’s in town, this developing area was out of the way for us. We actually had to take a highway to get there!
I’m wishing and hoping for a venue in downtown Naperville with in-house catering and room for 200 people and a dance floor……so far, no luck. Now I’m looking into country clubs and golf clubs in residential areas. I’ll be checking them out tomorrow and this coming week. There must be a hidden gem someplace in town!