We did it! We got married! With all of the festivities that went along with this, it was a pretty busy summer filled with love, gratitude, family, friends and, of course, (positive) stress. After getting engaged January 22, we ended up with a wedding date of September 23. We really tried not to do too much over planning. I honestly did not start to feel stressed until about two weeks before the wedding. Of course, life didn’t slow down. We, unfortunately, ended up treating bed bugs (again, thanks city living) a month before the wedding (great timing!). This, combined with my little DIY projects for the day of the wedding, made things a little stressful. I figured this post could be a good guide for others who may be planning a wedding, looking to spend a little less, and/or are just curious about what we did during our engagement/planning the wedding.
First of all, neither of us had ANY IDEA of what we wanted in a wedding, but we had a budget and a general idea of a guest list. We were curious if we would be able to plan a wedding in about 8 months…some people talked about how ridiculous the wedding scene is in terms of needing to book years in advance for venues, DJs, photographers etc… Since neither of us are picky or had our “dream wedding” planned, it seemed like aiming for the fall was realistic.
We found our venue in February. After visiting a few different spaces (everything from big banquet halls, to rustic outdoor venues where we could have been married and had our reception in a big ol’ tent, to restaurants) we decided on doing an outdoor ceremony in the gardens of Pilcher Park and to have our reception next door at the Barber & Oberwortmann Horticulture Center. This place had everything we were looking for. We were able to get married outside and there was a decent pretty back up (the greenhouse) just in case of rain. They cooked the food for the reception on sight, the reviews for the food were that it was unpretentious and delicious. Everything was included at a price per person rate (including open bar)…So we booked our venue!
Our photographer was awesome–Agnes from Visual Etiquette did a fantastic job (as you’ll see throughout).
After booking, I asked my bridal party to stand by my side for the wedding. My sister Sarah, cousin Lauren, and life-time friends Emily, Sara, and Monica stood by my side as I married the love of my life. I asked Matt’s super cool niece Jill to be a junior bridesmaid and his other awesome nieces Kenzie, Emma, and Nola to be flower girls. This is how I asked:
Essentially, I found the oldest/dorkiest pictures of us that I could and sent it to them with the “ask” in the mail. All said yes, all was well. I cannot thank what these awesome women (and my mom!) have done for me over the past 10 months. I’ll get more into it later, but they were INCREDIBLE.
For their dresses, I just asked my bridesmaids to wear long dark purple dresses and ivory flats. It ended up looking great and everyone was able to find something that was super flattering. These ladies were beautiful!
Matt asked his brothers Kerry and Mark, his cousin Kris, and life-long friends John and Rob to stand by his side.
Everyone looked amazing!
We, of course, could not have done any of this without our families:
My Dress and Accessories:
I found my dress in March on day one of the David’s Bridal $99 dress sale. It was the first dress I tried on. I tried on other dresses afterwards, but went back to this one. It’s true what they say about finding a dress that you wouldn’t pick off the rack yourself. I thought I wanted more lace, but I just looked a little frumpy in those dresses. I was so glad that my mom, cousin, and sister were able to come with to help me find “the dress”:
I decided to wear flats the day of our wedding. I’m already tall and I wanted to be comfortable. My “something blue” was painting the bottom of my shoes with blue nail polish. This meant that I need a 2″ hem in front and bustle points in back, but otherwise no other alterations. My awesome friend Paige gave me the hairpiece she bought for her wedding and ended up not using. It went perfectly with my dress and “theme” so I used it! I ended up changing it to a red carnation (symbolizing the transition from single life to married life) for the reception to include a bit of my Slovenian heritage into the wedding.
One of the few traditional things I did–Something old: my great-grandma’s watering can for our unity ritual. Something new: my dress. Something borrowed: pearls that my dad bought for my mom. Something blue: the bottoms of my shoes. The pearls were important to me to have a piece of my dad with me. I also wore my rose bracelet in remembrance of my amazing Aunt Nancy who passed away last year. They were both with me the day of our ceremony.
For flowers, we chose to go with Floral Events. They were able to deliver the flowers the day of to the hotel, were very reasonable, and the flowers turned out gorgeous! I chose Eucalyptus, lavender (looking, since it wasn’t in season) and babies’ breath. Simple, as our venue was full of gorgeous flowers:
For the flower girls, I made the baskets with supplies from Michael’s and my mom and sister pulled petals off of roses.
The person that did my hair was someone that I grew up with in my neighborhood, Polly. Styles by Polly did an awesome job! She suggested a hair trial, which I so appreciated:
She did both my hair and make up the day of, as well as my Bridesmaid’s hair:
Missing Jill and Monica! But they looked awesome too.
We decided to save wine bottles for centerpieces. We bought this bottle cutting tool and cut 1/3 of the bottles in half and 1/3 of the bottles short. We put the full bottles on a stick and spray painted them, then used chalk board stickers and a chalk marker to write table numbers on them. We set them on slices of wood (with bark) and added a sprig of baby’s breath. Centerpieces for under $100!:
For wedding favors, we did not want to do something that no one would like or that folks would throw away. However, we also wanted to thank everyone for coming. Matt and I love to cook and planned to take our honeymoon to Croatia and Slovenia. The islands in Croatia are where some of the best olive oil in the world is produced (my biased opinion). So, we decided to make an infuse our own olive oil as favors. We purchased 3.5oz jars that were onsale for $.12 a bottle at the Glass Bottle Outlet. We purchased the corks from Amazon. We used basil, thyme, rosemary, sage, and some chives from my mom’s garden to infuse the oil and filled with bulk olive oil that was on sale for $15/101oz from Tony’s Fresh Market. We made our own labels with leftovers from our seating chart. They were totally a hit! I love how they turned out.
After we did the puzzle that is assigning seating for our guests, we made a chart (inspired by Pinterest). We bought tags, twine, and mini clothes pins from Amazon and a chalk board from Hobby Lobby. My mom had tack nails, an easel, and vines to decorate and set the chart up at the hall. We printed clear labels (which were a PAIN IN THE BUTT to figure out formatting for…but Matt did it!) with guests’ names on them from OfficeMax:
Gifts for the Bridal Party:
For my girls, I gave a single pearl necklace with drop pearl earrings (I realized too late–the day AFTER the wedding–that there were no backs to these earrings…whoops) from Etsy store RBJohnson, a bath bomb from Lush (I’m sure they all needed to relax after all the work I made them do 😉 ), a personalized bag (I painted with fabric paint and a roller–spray paint was NOT a good idea without the rest of the bag being covered!), and a personalized bridesmaid/junior bridesmaid tank to wear the day of–a friend of a friend Kim made them and put the date and a ring on the back. They turned out so cute! I also decided at the last minute to make lavender candles out of the bottom halves of the wine bottles from the centerpieces for each bridesmaid. I purchased wicks and wax from Amazon and used my mom’s essential oils to create them:
Matt gave his groomsmen particularly nice multi-use tools and a small bottle of Jack Daniels:
For my mom, I decided to get her a nicer version of the pearl necklace and earrings, a mother of the bride shirt to get ready in, and a mother of the bride handkerchief (since I KNEW she would be crying all day haha).
We can’t say thank you enough for everything that our bridesmaids and groomsmen not only did on the day of the wedding, but all the sacrifices they made to be in the wedding and participate in all the festivities. My heart is so full because I have you in my life!
For our ceremony, we asked one of our friends from college who is now a Unitarian minister, Nic Cable, to officiate our wedding. Nic lived in Munroe Hall at DePaul with both Matt and I (before we were dating) our freshman year of college. Nic. Was. Amazing. We were so lucky to have him officiate! He offered counsel and structure for our ceremony while having us call the shots. It was the perfect balance. We wrote our own vows with the help of a vow writing exercise that Nic gave us. This ended up being so intimate and offered us time to reflect (individually and together) on our relationship and what we wanted to promise each other with our marriage.
We had two readings and were able to include Matt’s Aunt Donna and my Uncle Buddy. Uncle Buddy read “This Marriage” by Rumi and Aunt Donna read “The Third Body” by Robert Bly. I’d read Rumi towards the beginning of college and fell in love with the poetry that was his words. Matt and I were only dating for a few weeks when we celebrated his birthday, so I purchased a book of Rumi poetry for him. We chose The Third Body because we believe in the here and now and embracing life in the moment. We felt the poem did a great job describing the realistic nature of relationships while simultaneously expressing the happiness and love that marriage brings.
Matt and I love nature and decided that we would choose an element for our unity ceremony. We chose “earth” since we love nature and being outdoors together. We chose an indoor plant, as we currently rent in an apartment and other plants would not be able to survive until we have the sunlight or space for it. We had each member of our bridal party and our parents water the plant to symbolize that relationships take a community to work. Matt and I sealed our marriage by watering the plant together.
At our reception, Matt and I had our guest book as a painted tree from Etsy store WeddingTreePrints. Guests signed the leaves and we plan on framing the tree. We were able to customize the color of everything and it was printed on high quality canvas:
My awesome sister, Sarah, gave the sweetest speech wishing us a life time of happiness. Matt’s brother, Mark, gave a hilarious and thoughtful speech welcoming me into the Zarobsky clan.
Matt’s Uncle Dick gave a blessing before we had our delicious family style meal.
I thought it was hilarious that, sitting at a sweetheart table, Matt and I were given a full serving of each dish (like every other table). We didn’t do a cake cutting, but we did a sweets table. We wanted children to attend the wedding. In our opinion, kids make weddings fun! We weren’t wrong. The kids were hilarious and awesome dancing the night away.
There was an outdoor space and it cooled off quite a bit by the evening. This space was definitely used! The greenhouse was open for most of the reception and provided a space of respite and a moment of peace for me with my mom. I’m so glad we did that.
We decided to have fun with the music throughout the day. I walked down the aisle to Can’t Help Falling in Love by the Piano Guys. I couldn’t make a decision and started tearing up when this came on while I was trying to decide. I trusted my instinct. Our watering ritual was to “Sparkle” from Great British Bake Off. We love that show and wanted simple, clean cut music for this section. Our exit was a song that I grew up with at St. Joseph Church and is not available as a YouTube video or recording.
Our bridal party entered the reception with “(It’s a) Departure” by The Long Winters. This is the My Brother, My Brother and Me Podcast introduction. We’ve spent hours on roadtrips listening to these podcasts together. Our first dance was to “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys. Love Actually is a feel good movie for us and this song has always resonated. Matt danced with my mom and I danced with his dad to “I’m Happy Just to Dance with You” by The Beatles. I wanted a piece of my dad at our wedding and this was it. He loved The Beatles and left me with that love too. It was a feel good song and we rocked it on the dance floor. Shout out to Men in Black DJ Entertainment for being awesome! (Yes, this was another kids from the old neighborhood referral).
Even though there was record breaking heat, I am so happy with the way our wedding went. Having our loved ones with us was a huge deal to me. I am happy to have formally and legally joined my life with my partner. The generosity (both in time and gifts) was incredible. We are so lucky to have you all in our lives. Our honeymoon was amazing and you can read about it here. I hope this was an interesting enough read!
Until next time,