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How to Have a Fabulous Chicago Wedding for Under 5,000

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Earlier this year, our own Rea Frey through much research and a creative mind was able to give us the scoop on how to have the most fabulous downtown wedding costing under $5,000. For Weddings Week, we bring you a recap of how this feat can be pulled off.

What better way to start off spring than with a wedding? If you are in the throes of wedding planning (or simply planning to attend a wedding), discover wedding trends for less. Already wed? Don’t store those accessories or that suit forever. Use the bridal accessories (shoes, hair combs, and earrings) to dress up a simple outfit. Men, opt for a charcoal suit instead of the traditional tux, so you can mix and match pieces all year long. Your loyal Racked reporters have investigated the best ways to have a lavish Chicago wedding for less. The result? You can have a lush, intimate wedding at the Sofitel in downtown Chicago with alcohol, food and exquisite attire, all for under $5,000. Don’t believe us? Follow our tips for wedding trends for less.

1. Have your ceremony and reception at the same venue. Weddings don’t have to be traditional. If you don’t feel comfortable in a church, seek out exquisite hotels, where a lot of decorations aren’t needed. For instance, the Sofitel always has fresh cut flowers, dim lighting and floor-to-ceiling windows, which makes for a perfect event and stunning photographs. Not to mention, the staff is wonderful. Ask about their banquet rooms, normally used for conferences. On the day of a wedding, they can be transformed with chairs, votive candles, and gorgeous lighting. The room rental cost? $300. Included in that cost is the gorgeous bar and an entirely separate room where people can mingle before the reception. So, do your research and find venues that are beautiful on their own, so they don’t need a lot of fancy decorations. If you decide on a smaller wedding, you can get creative with your space, which frees up your budget.

2. Have a dessert reception. Dark chocolate baguette bread pudding, triple chocolate brownies, dark chocolate mousse with cocoa nib tuiles, assorted chocolate chunk cookies, Mexican hot chocolate, coffee, tea, chocolate milk? who wouldn’t have fun picking these items out? People love desserts. Not only is a dessert reception romantic and intimate, it’s so much more affordable at just $15 per person. For alcohol, choose wine and Champagne only. If you are at a hotel, people can pop downstairs to the bar and order a mixed drink. For a small wedding (around 25 people) with food, alcohol, tax and gratuity, you are looking at a bill of around $1000.

3. Find affordable attire. Men, instead of heading to the nearest tux shop, pop into Macy’s and check out their charcoal gray Theory suits. The fabric stretches, doesn’t wrinkle and can be worn for years to come. Since their suits are around $700, pop into Nordstrom Rack for an inexpensive shirt and tie. Top off the look with shoes from Cole Haan for a versatile outfit that can be worn for years to come. Ladies, if you are looking for a dress on a budget, check out WhiteChicago. A stunning wedding shop downtown, its pristine runway and startlingly white décor are accentuated by the incredibly friendly staff. You can look through the racks yourself, and all dresses are 30-40% cheaper, as they are either samples or once worn. You can also sell your dress back to them (or sell it online) once you are done, so another bride might benefit. The best part? You can take your dress with you the day of purchase, and they have a fabulous alterations woman.

4. Purchase inexpensive accessories. Brides, for jewelry, go to Forever 21. They have fabulous earrings, as cheap as $3 (worn on the bride in the photos). For shoes, head into DSW and spend around $40 for the perfect bridal shoe. If you hate high heels, pop into Walgreens and purchase the new Dr. Scholl’s inserts for high heels, which work like a charm.

5. Wed with a Tungsten ring. If you still love a bit of sparkle, but don’t want to spend a fortune on diamonds, aim for a Tungsten ring. This hard grey metal has a high melting point and won’t tarnish, scratch, break or dim – ever. Couples can search amazing, innovative designs for around $30 on In so many styles and colors, the options are endless.

6. Get your bouquet at Whole Foods. Forgo the fancy flower shops and purchase a gorgeous bouquet of white hydrangeas with a few white roses for around $15. Don’t be afraid to look in normal, everyday stores for your bouquet.

7. Hire a “friendly” photographer. Have you ever noticed that some wedding photographs seem forced? Or too posed? And the cost can be astronomical! Don’t be afraid to ask around to see if you have any friends who are really good with a camera. Chances are, someone will take the pics for free or a reasonable price. (It’s also good to search for brand new photographers who are trying to build their portfolio. They will often give you a great deal and still take amazing photos.) The photographs featured in this post were shot by husband and wife team, Nikki & Eli McFadden. Browse photographers in your area and try to find someone you really admire. Do you have any services you could barter with to make the bottom line cheaper? If you want something beyond the typical wedding album, upload your photos to a great book making company like Lulu or Blurb to make an actual coffee table photo book. All for the cost of around $50, you can have a beautiful photo book that lasts forever. You can even “publish” the book, so relatives can purchase it directly from the site, or you can give it as a gift during the holidays (or to those family and friends who couldn’t attend).

8. Get the right wedding officiant. The person who marries you should have some sort of personal connection to you, or know you as a couple. There’s nothing worse than when your name gets mispronounced or the ceremony becomes about anything but you. Looking for the best wedding officiant in Chicago? Seek out Tyler Dean Kempf. A writer and actor, he personalizes the ceremony to each couple, adding only what you want and nothing else. He will definitely make it a personable night to remember.

9. Take a local honeymoon. A honeymoon is extremely important for a new couple. However, after a wedding, no matter how small the event, you can be exhausted. You might have family in town, so to go away immediately can sometimes feel a little rushed, especially if you are seeing people you haven’t seen for quite some time. If you are tight on cash, you can still have an amazing honeymoon in town. Plan a trip for a few months down the line, and then spend a few days at a Chicago hotel that offers honeymoon packages. The Sofitel has an amazing Prestige Suite, sometimes as cheap as $250. The W Hotel also offers a laid back, ultra modern feeling with tons of perks for new couples. However you decide to spend the days after the wedding, make sure it’s something you both want, and don’t be afraid to plan a bigger trip down the line!

As you can see, a wedding is a personal choice. Regardless if you want a big wedding or a small wedding, relish every single moment and have the day of your dreams. If you have the budget, go for it to make it everything you desire. If you don’t have the budget, realize you can still do it affordably and beautifully by using the connections that you have. Have fun thinking outside the box in terms of your own special day. -Rea Frey
· Sofitel [Official Site]


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