Wedding Planning: Venue, Menu, Hotel Blocks, Stationary, Oh My!

This post is part of an ongoing series about “procuring” a wedding, Spend Matters-style. See the first part here, second here, and thank you so much for all of your advice and congratulations so far!

The date is set: November 2, 2013! Last night, I dropped off a signed contract and a sizable chunk of money for a deposit on the perfect venue. After looking at (and hating) more than ten possible places, a desperate late-night Google search brought us to…a cooking school that happens to have a gorgeous loft space and on-site (locally sourced and organic) catering.



It has everything we were hoping for:

  • A proper downtown Chicago location
  • Ample street parking, an affordable paid lot, and walkable proximity to CTA and hotels
  • Skyline views from the roof
  • A built-in day of coordinator
  • Passed appetizers, dinner stations, and dessert for an affordable per-head price
  • They will take care of all table, linen, silverware, glassware, etc. rentals at negotiated rates
  • Great lighting, and wired for sound (you’d be surprised at how many places make you source your own speakers, amp, etc.)
  • BYOB


I asked Jason, Pierre, Thomas, and Lisa look over the contract for red flags, and Pierre said the following: “Sometimes…after the fact, of course…you need to have a one-on-one with your supplier to let them know they should really raise their prices.”

Lessons learned on venue hunting? Don’t settle. Get a completely itemized contract that includes tax and gratuity. Check references (all glowing). And for how busy my fiancé and I are, all-inclusive (ceremony, reception, food, rentals) was the way to go. (Email me if you’re interested in the place - the wedding coordinator is incredible so far!)

Also checked off the list is my DJ for the evening. To match my 60’s vibe, I gave a call to my friend at Windy City Soul Club, a group of guys who collect and DJ rare soul 45s. They are incredible:

Currently in the works:

  • Photography (a good friend)
  • Stationary (Save the Dates are at the local printer - which was 20% cheaper than the “cheap” online printers like uprinting or Vistaprint and we saved the cost of delivery). We also chose 4x6 postcards, which can be mailed at standard postage - 5x7 cards require a first class stamp.
  • BOOZE (again, we’re calling in favors. One friend is a wine distributer and one works at a brewery, for kegs - any other ideas?).
  • Hotel blocks: I’ve called around and most places will do a negotiated rate for 10 rooms that doesn’t require a guarantee. Are there any other best practices around this?
  • Flowers: Help! I am 100% clueless. Bouquets, boutonnières: ?!??!!! Ideas?


So far everything seems to be somewhat falling into place with minimal stress, and it’s actually been a lot of fun (knock on wood). Beginning with a budget of zero and justifying every accumulated cost has really helped us build a base of things we need and truly want vs. things we're "expected to have."

Keep the ideas coming!

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Voices (3)

  1. Nick Drewe (Market Dojo):

    Well, thankfully nothing so far. But things do start to pile up before you know it. I’m in the midst of hiring three piece morning suits for 8 people, whilst finding envelopes for the invitations, whilst booking appointments with the florists, whilst thinking about seating plans. Then we have the speeches! Can’t be leaving them to the last minute. So yeah, doing 95% of the pre work in good time to leave a few months to do the final 5% sounds like a good way to stay sane when the time comes!

  2. Sheena Moore:

    You know, I received the exact same momentum advice from another friend who got married last year…and I can 100% see me settling into lazy summer days believing that everything is all taken care of!

    What are the top small things that you felt slipped through the cracks, so I can know to look out for them?

  3. Nick Drewe (Market Dojo):

    Congratulations Sheena! Sounds like you are off to a great start.

    I’m getting married this year as well as it happens, over the August bank holiday weekend here in the UK. I must admit that my fiancée has handled much of the planning so far! The most enjoyable part we’ve encountered so far has been the wedding invitations, which include a caricature of us, hand-drawn by a friend.

    We decided to host our wedding reception at my parents house, thinking it would be a money-saver. It totally isn’t! We have had to hire a marquee in case the weather is poor, then a caterer plus all the equipment. All in, I would say that by hosting at home, it has doubled the cost of the location + food. However, it’s a beautiful house and garden, and it allows us to span the party across three days with no closing time, which is a good benefit!

    Keep up the good work. My one piece of advice (although I think you’ve demonstrated that I should take advice from you!) is to keep the momentum going. Once you’ve ticked off the major items, the temptation is to slow down, thinking you have months to go. We are now in those final months and boy, there is still so much to do!

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