Lucky In Love: Vendor Report

I always found vendor reviews helpful to both learn about other experiences and find vendors. I had a positive experience with (almost) everyone, so I’m not going to rank them–I’d use them all again!

Hair & Make Up: Mario Tricoci Salon, 900 N. Michigan

My stepmom set this up, including trials–it wasn’t a priority for me and this worked well. Its in the same building as the hotel and across the street from the church so there was no chance of delays. We didn’t get to all hang out together, but it did mean it was quick. We didn’t start til a couple hours before, which meant we had time for a leisurely breakfast together first. Kylie, who did my makeup, was especially awesome. She was getting married the next month and was super fun to chat with. I actually had some issues after my trial and she had me come back in to make sure everything would be perfect for the wedding.


Hotel: Four Seasons

I stayed there the night before the wedding. When I made the reservation I asked about getting guaranteed late check out of 1 pm (instead of 11 am) and the guy said it was probably fine but they really couldn’t guarantee anything. I explained that I was getting married next door and kind of needed to know for sure. He said he could charge me $200 and guarantee it. Seriously?! It’s two hours. Then he called back ten minutes later (I assume someone told him that was ridiculous–it was two hours and not like I just wanted more shopping time) and told me all was well. And it was. The room was beautiful, they sent chocolates, the view was great.


Church: Fourth Presbyterian Church

Fourth knows weddings. I’m actually on a committee with Kathy, the coordinator, so I knew her personally, and she did a great job. They have a staff of four for every wedding and ask that any outside coordinators limit their services to the reception. They have weddings down to a precise, perfect, relaxed science. Its quite pricy but includes all the staff people, the officiant and the organist. (We paid extra for a singer too.) And its beautiful.


Florist: Westgate Flowers

They were very easy to work with and affordably priced. Our flowers were beautiful–this was something else that wasn’t a big priority but it was for my mom and they were very organized to make sure nothing was missed. There were two mistakes–Mike’s bout was smaller than anyone else’s, including the 5 year old ringbearer, and the bridesmaids bouquets were wrapped in ribbon I had said could be used for anything BUT that since it would clash with their dresses. The first one is definitely on them (and the bouts were labelled, so it was intentional) but I think my mom may have mixed up the message on the second. We’re still married and all, so it turned out fine.

Photographer: Caili Helsper Photography

Are you sick of seeing her pictures yet?? Probably not! Caili did a fantastic job. She was so fun and easy to work with on the actual day. I spent more time with her than most of my guests, so I’m so glad she and second shooter Amanda was good company. BM Blondie got married this summer and was really disappointed when both Caili and Amanda were already booked. I got a great deal on my package because I booked when she had only shot a couple of weddings, but she would be worth it at any price.

Catering: Twomaytoz Catering

Our food was excellent and their prices are great. I looked at a ton of caterers and the big difference seemed to be that their menu was smaller–but ultimately your guests are only going to have a couple of choices no matter how big the menu you are choosing from is (and there was plenty extensive) and people told me the food was great. I have a friend with severe food allergies and there was a little trouble handling that request, but the owner stepped in and all went well.

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Cake: Reuters Bakery

The cake was good. The cake tasting experience wasn’t quite what I anticipated, but they were the preferred vendor for our caterer and it was included in our package. I like cake but never find it memorable at weddings (and people try to get too creative and then I don’t like the flavor combo) so this was all good for me. They executed what we asked for perfectly and it tasted delicious.

DJ: DJs for You

I am so, so sorry DJ. Other than my vision, our poor DJ was the major victim of the weather. He set up all of his equipment, soundchecked, and was ready to go outside on the patio. Then they decided for sure we had to be inside, so he got to take down all of his equipment and move it to the third floor. Via a small staircase, because there is no elevator. He was great though–he listened to our request and mostly did his thing which is good because we were not one of those couples who wants to micromanage the music. And don’t worry, we tipped him well.


Venue: Cheney Mansion

They were awesome. They let us come the day before to drop our stuff off and because there were no events in the morning the next day, we were able to set up our photo display, card box and put our candy in the dining room. And then when the candy bar had to move (*tear) they carried the whole show upstairs. I’m still sad we didn’t get the cocktail hour and dancing I was hoping for, but overall it was lovely and they were a pleasure to work with.

Tuxes: Jos A. Bank

STAY AWAY. Not one persons tux fit at all. Too tight, too big–they didn’t fit in all kinds of weird ways. They were a huge hassle for Shamrock to deal with (he spent hours on the phone over multiple days before the wedding simply getting the details of the order straightened out). Every single thing I don’t like about our wedding pictures is their fault–Shamrock’s tux was so ill-fitting that it looks ridiculous in some of the pictures. We should have done suits. Oh well.

And I think that’s everyone we used! (It’s probably not, but I can’t remember the rest.)


All photos by Caili Helsper Photography


Lucky In Love: All About the Money

Way back when, I estimated our wedding would cost about $33,000. I always found other peoples budget posts helpful, but I didn’t feel like researching exact amounts. (Sorry.) So these numbers are close but not exact and probably do not add up precisely. Total math teacher fail. Anyhow. How did we do?


Ceremony $2250 (estimated $1000, but this was a flat fee)

My church is really expensive, but it wasn’t like we were going to get married somewhere random. It included the coordinator and three assistants, organist, officiant, rehearsal etc.


Flowers $1200 [ish…mom paid for this too] (estimated $2000, but I think I based that off their estimate)

My mom wanted lots of pretty flowers. I think we got a great deal since this included our bouquets, bouts, 13 centerpieces and a cake topper arrangement. Mistakes were super minor and probably wouldn’t have happened had I bothered to follow up about anything.

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Invitations and Paper Products $391.45 (estimated $1000, but I knew it would be less)

This includes most of the supplies to make our own invitations, minus the cost of the Cuttlebug (owned for ages, use for lots of stuff) and the L Letterpress platform (which was a Christmas gift). It also includes postage.


Apparel $3490 (estimated $3000)

This is entirely due to Shamrock’s wedding band being way over my estimate. My alterations were a lot (and only sort of included because it was due the day before the wedding and my mom paid it) but my dress was quite inexpensive, so I consider that one even. Shamrock still wears the ring and all, so whatever.

Photography $2500 (estimated $3000, but including some albums which I haven’t done yet)

Obviously totally worth it and we got an amazing deal by booking Caili when she was just starting out. Win.


DJ $825 (Estimated $1200)

We decided to reduce the standard package ($1000) to have less lighting because it would look better outside (there were cafe lights and it was the longest day of the year). Oops? The full package would have been better since we were inside…

Transportation/Hotel/Rehearsal Dinner ? (Estimated $4000, and I think that’s probably right?)

Transportation was $540 for the limo to take us to pictures and then the reception. Wedding night hotel was ~$200, but the night before and the rehearsal dinner my father also paid for. Our rehearsal dinner was half the size of our wedding, so I think this number is probably about right.

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Decorations  ? (Estimated $500)

Probably less than $200–paper is my preferred medium, and its not expensive.


Gifts $1000+ (Estimated $800)

We bought gifts for our wedding party, parents and officiant. It was not important to me at all to stick to budget here.


Reception $16371 (Estimated $16000)

(I don’t actually know if that number is accurate, but thats what my spreadsheet says.) This includes both the venue rental and the catering.

Total: Right over $30,000.

Not bad, I’d say. We definitely saved by having our reception in the suburbs and doing so many things ourselves. Our goal was to spend as little as possible to have the wedding we wanted, and we definitely met that goal. We could have saved a little bit more here and there (or a lot more having an entirely different wedding) but this was exactly the wedding we wanted (well, maybe with less rain).

We could have paid for our wedding ourselves, but it was very important to our parents (especially my father) to help us out. My father paid about half the cost, we paid a quarter and our moms paid the last quarter between them.


Plus One Plus None

Everyone’s heard the story of someone who brought their entire extended family to a wedding. Or the guest who assumed their five children were invited, or the one who brought some guy she met the night before.

We had no such extras, but I did find the case of the plus ones to be so interesting. For everyone’s wedding.

I know there are those who think you really should know the bride & groom to be invited (or even that you must be living together, engaged or married) and others who can’t imagine not allowing people to bring a guest. That has nothing to do with this post (and brings out a lot of strong feelings, so I’ll stay away!)

Our policy was pretty simple: you can bring a plus one.

We didn’t really have much in the way of new relationships, so when we did our invitations people were either in a long term relationship or not dating anyone. For our purposes, a plus one is literally a plus one/”and guest”, not my sisters boyfriend of 2 years or someone I’ve actually met–they’ve either just barely started dating or are just coming along as a date. If you could write the invitation using a name, that doesn’t count as a “plus one” in my book.

So here’s my question: Who BRINGS a plus one? Not who gets one…but when you give people a plus one, who actually brings someone?


I did bring GM BFF to a wedding once. I was MOH so I didn’t sit with him–this is his “me & my date” picture. Ha. ha.

Here are our stats:

0/5: Older widowed or divorced women (I’m not sure I wrote anything explicit on their invites since I figured they didn’t want to bring a guest–no one did although one woman did consider “using her plus one to make Son come so he can drive me.” which we thought was funny. Son really didn’t want to attend, so I guess he dropped her off and picked her up.)

3/9: Singles. This was the one I was really interested in as we planned our guest list. Who would actually bring a guest? We had one person rsvp with a friend and then change it to their super brand new boyfriend two days before. Two friends waited til the day rsvps were due so they had time to find a date. No local cousins brought dates, and several friends didn’t either.

My out of town 20 something single cousins didn’t get invited with dates but also booked their tickets solo well before invites went out so I knew they had no plans to bring anyone anyhow–they’re all a flight away. So I won’t count those. Had someone asked, it would have been fine. Actually, the belly bands were blank unless I thought people needed clarification–since we only invited children of family, our friends belly bands said “M & B” and a friend who didn’t live with her boyfriend had “N & C” so it was clear he was invited. And then those who were single got “T and guest”–but everyone else I figured we’d all be on the same page about who was invited and I let it be. We had no exciting surprises.

My favorite “and guest” is from Mini Me, who invited a friend who had a baby to her wedding ” & Family” because she couldn’t figure out how else to word it–she rsvped for 5: herself, her son, her parents and one of her several brothers!

As for me? Other than taking GM BFF to a wedding, I’ve never just brought someone, although I really wish I had once–the only people I knew remotely well were the groom and best man. I should have skipped the cocktail hour but instead spent it circling between the bathroom, the bar (more water please!) and the windows wishing someone would talk to me. As long as I know people though, I personally would fly solo–I think its more fun.

I’m so curious…who actually BROUGHT a plus one to your wedding? Would you bring a plus one if you were single?

Lucky in Love: And We Danced

Even though I spend a lot of time on the details (even the ones that weren’t), what really matters are the people. We were so blessed that we had so many family members travel to celebrate with us and so many friends come to support us.

After dinner, we headed upstairs for dancing (remember, it was supposed to be outside, but sometimes rain happens).

We danced together. (Ahem, to “A Whole New World” because you already know how cool we were. And yes, we know all the words.)


Then we each danced with our parents:



And then our guests took over.


In between dancing, we found time to socialize with our guests, take a routine sorority-girl picture (Anchors Aweigh!) and enjoy the evening.


Our DJ did a great job. At one point, the dance floor was packed and we were all having a great time. As the song ended, he put on something different and people rapidly started fleeing. He cleared the dance floor! And then my dad came up, so proud that he had found the song “Mary’s Wedding” and the DJ was playing it for him. Oh. Well, at least that explained it and the DJ was able to get the dance floor going again right away.



Obviously, my mini-me and I found some time to do the Slope Dance (I never said I was cool–key refrain is “positive, negative, zero, undefined”)


But people still had fun!



Shamrock’s cousin’s son must have slept so well that night…he never left the dance floor!


And before we knew it, the night was winding down. It was almost time to go.

Did anyone request any random music for your wedding? Anyone else pick a super-uncool first dance song?


The Clovers Return

Um, hi.

I got thisclose to finishing my recaps and then vanished. Sorry? Life got busy, no pressing deadlines, etc.

But I’m back! And ready to wrap this show up. It’s been, um, almost a year, so here’s a quick refresher:

I’m a high school math teacher and Shamrock’s a consultant in Chicago. We got engaged after just a year of dating and started planning our wedding for 14 months later (teachers on summer break!).


Photo by Caili Helsper Photography

We got married at Fourth Presbyterian church in downtown Chicago–choosing my church was an easy decision, making our Presbyterian-Catholic marriage work for both of us was a bit trickier (but don’t worry we’re doing fine!).


Photo by Caili Helsper Photography

We (I) spent forever trying to figure out which venue was right for us, deciding that a change in location was worth it for us. Of course, then I over-researched catering and got way too into choosing a photographer.


And of course, there were projects:

By the end, I started getting a little anxious, but I finally realized you can’t please everyone (and you’re probably doing a better job than you thought!)

And before I vanished, I kicked off my recaps. Wanna catch up?


Up next? The candy bar! [aka the post I wrote but dragged my feet on just adding photos to for almost a year.]

Lucky In Love: And They All Lived Happily Ever After

I left you hanging one last time with my “final” recap.

At the end of the night, we had a picture perfect sparkler send off.


Exactly like I hoped, although the guy with white hair right next to me is saying very loudly “This is so unsafe!” which was hilarious. (He still had his sparkler up though!)


We went to a cute little local hotel, The Carleton, so that we could attend breakfast with my out of town family in the morning.

And then we went on our honeymoon, and then we came back and closed on our house.


Which we had to do so much work on, but that’s only part of the reason I’ve been a slacker blogger (I know I was vague before, because who wants to hear my excuses). I was sick. My immune system completely left the building. Because sometimes that’s what happens when you get pregnant, especially if you get pregnant with twins (?!?!).


These two lovely girls arrived a bit earlier than expected, but were completely healthy. We are both so in love! Just one more with a bit more personality…


And with that, I have nothing more (wedding related at least) to say. It’s been so much fun blogging for Weddingbee and I can’t wait for our next adventure! Thanks for reading along! I won’t promise much, but I’m still trying to blog over at On My Mary Way*. Hope you can stop by and say hello!

All wedding photos by Caili Helsper Photography | Photos of girls by Jamilla Yipp Photography


Lucky In Love: Strike a Pose

Fair warning: If you remember from my post on our engagement pictures, we are most definitely not models. So, we’re awkward. But we tried!

We left off outside the church, where we had just been announced. We headed right back inside to take extended family portraits (3) (I’ll spare you the family ones, since they look just like everyone else’s but with my family in my church.)


There were great casual shots…


And adorable posed pictures…


(These were all taken before the ceremony, which is why they don’t have bouts yet.)


These shots were taken in the Garth (a courtyard) at the church…the same place where we got engaged! (Oh hey, ushers! Glad someone’s suits fit!) (Also, every short person in this picture is related to the two of us. All of the tall people are not. Apparently we are only friends with tall people?)


Then we made a couple quick stops on the way to the reception…the first at a bridge:


And the second at Buckingham Fountain. It really is pretty, and Shamrock used to live right nearby so we would walk over there all the time.


There are plenty of fantastic pictures from all of these places, but I’m trying not to bore you here. Our final stop was a very quick one in my mom’s church garden (previously seen here–where Mrs. Stiletto had her first look. She got married in the church I grew up in!)


The rest of the wedding party stayed in the limo for this one; Mama Clover just wanted one or two pictures. Immediately after this picture, as they started to tell us to do something else, and I said, “Nope, that’s fine, she only wants a couple and we have to go. I think its going to rain.” Famous. Last. Words. I made it inside the limo, followed by Shamrock, Caili and Amanda. And by the time the last person got in, ready for our four block trip, it had started to rain.

All photos by Caili Helsper Photography


Miss something?

Lucky In Love: Ceremony Details

And with that, we headed over to the church.


We didn’t decorate the church since its so pretty on it’s own, but we had some sweet details I loved. Although the ‘maids flowers weren’t what I expected, mine were perfect.


Flower Girl enjoyed her pretty flower ball. For Ringbearer, my mom found a fairly plain ringbearer pillow at a resale shop (OMG you guys…it was originally over $50?!?!). Shamrock’s dad (Ringbearer’s Grandpa) passed away before we met. We wanted to do something to honor him, so his mom gave us his military pin and his service pin from the steel mill. It was a really nice way to keep him a part of the ceremony. Ringbearer took his job representing grandpa SUPER seriously, too.


My mom’s parents were married at the same church sixty some years ago, so I wore the pearls my grandma gave me as a graduation present. We were really close, and I know it would have meant a lot to her to see me get married in the same church they did.


Our ushers escorted guests to their seats and passed out programs. They were pretty simple, mostly just the order of service and a list of the bridal party. We mentioned our relatives that couldn’t be with us in these as well.

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We tried to carry over the look of our invitations, which I will now show you a picture of because Caili’s pictures are way better than mine and I spent a ridiculous amount of time and effort on these suckers.

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As part of our parent gifts, our three parents got a parent of the ___ hankie. Our moms are sentimental, so they loved it, and my dad’s impossible to shop for anyhow (I’m not kidding myself that he’ll use it again, but it was a nice gesture). I procrastinated bad on this one, but Mrs. Gloves & her hubby helped me out and did them super quick…guess who does the embroidery!


Shamrock surprised me with a gift—Ticket to Ride Germany, for our honeymoon (I love Ticket to Ride; to date I have had nine friends or family buy the game after playing with me—it’s awesome and you should get it too!).


And then the pastor gathered us for a prayer, and it was time to head downstairs.


It was almost time to go…

How did you remember the family members who couldn’t be there? Anyone else obsessed with Ticket to Ride (sorry couldn’t help it)?


Miss something?

Lucky In Love: Getting Ready

Bright & early on June 21, MOH Sis, Crafty and I headed downstairs for breakfast with MC, BM Blondie and BM Mathlete. MC was in another wedding at the same time as ours, so it was great to be able to hang out and have breakfast with her and get our hair done.


Personal Photo–writing a quick note to Shamrock| All others by Caili Helsper Photography

The Four Seasons is on top of the 900 N Michigan mall, so we didn’t have to leave the building for breakfast (Oak Tree) or to get pretty (Mario Tricoci salon). I ended up giving my girls gift cards to get their hair done (I coordinated the appointments but let them pick which services they wanted), along with a more personal gift for each girl. I really struggled with if that was ok or not, but after a long discussion with another friend, we determined we both have bridesmaid gifts we never use—a smaller personal item, showing I put some thought into it, combined well with a higher value gift. All of us are over 30 and don’t need knick knacks, so I think this was a good decision and they were all grateful.

MC headed off to the other wedding (she was at a coworkers wedding, and a third coworker got married on the same day—there are 8 teachers at our school getting married this summer!) and we headed upstairs to get ready.


Meanwhile, our second shooter Amanda was hanging out with the guys.


Getting ready isn’t the most exciting process, but most bridal party members make the best of it. Our ringbearer tried, but…. NBored

(These pictures crack me up!) Being a grown up is boring, guys! He did see some action when he demonstrated his new shoe-tying skills for his uncle though.

Did you have friends getting ready with you or just your bridal party?


Miss something? Up first, we rehearsed.

Lucky in Love: We Rehearse

I’ve been waiting a long time for this…14 months of planning, doing projects, getting showered and making big decisions finally came together on June 21. And now it’s time for the recaps (with special thanks to Mrs. Goat for the awesome logo!)….


The night before the wedding, I stayed at the Four Seasons right across the street from the church. So once I got changed, I headed downstairs to meet my bridesmaids in the lobby and cross the street.

My church is big and pretty and they DO weddings. The coordinator is a full time staff member and every wedding has three additional assistants: brides, grooms, runner. They keep strictly to their schedule and everything runs like clockwork. They actually told us all we needed to do was show up at the right place and they’d make sure all the rest happened. So they walked us through our ceremony, starting with everyone in position at the front, going through the ceremony, recessing and then practicing the processional (once we all knew where to stand).


We finished the rehearsal pretty quickly and people started heading over to Gino’s East for our Chicago pizza rehearsal dinner. It was really important to me to invite all of our out of town family to the rehearsal dinner, so it was a pretty big group. There was a ridiculous amount of food, and then Shamrock (who isn’t a big speaker, public or otherwise) wanted to talk.

You guys…he talked & talked & talked! He was so nervous (I stood up at the front with him and he was shaking at first) but he did a great job. And then he told me had something for me. Remember when we got engaged? He had a piggy bank and he told me it would make a mess and I was convinced it was glitter? But we got engaged instead, so that was good too?


Caili Helsper Photography | all others by Crafty

He glittered piggy (he still didn’t know where to find glitter; he had to google it). And then he put piggy under a glass dome. Tangent: When we were registering at Macy’s there was a cloche that I wanted to register for, but it was on clearance so instead we just bought it for me for Christmas. Shamrock did not get it at all and thought it was silly, but I told him everything looks classier under glass. See Piggy up there? When he finished, he turned to me and said, “You were right. Everything does look better under glass.”

And with that, our rehearsal dinner was over. We signed the wall (Gino’s big thing is graffiti). (Apparently our ringbearer is hiding behind me in the picture.)

Mary and Mike Rehearsal Dinner

BM Mathlete and GM BFF joined MOH Sis, Crafty & I for a quick stop at Cheesecake Factory for a little more dessert. Shamrock felt strongly about not seeing each other until the church, so he headed off to a bar with his crew. The five of us hung out for a while in my hotel room, enjoying our cheesecake and a treat from the Four Seasons, until it was time for bed.

Surprise chocolate at Four Seasons

Stuffed and happy, MOH Sis, Crafty and I went to bed.

Where there any surprises at your rehearsal dinner? Has your other half ever glittered anything?