- 6520 S. Cicero Avenue
- Chicago, IL 60638
Well, our big day is finally here. If you haven’t figured it out over the last couple days, September 26, 2009 is the day J and I got married.
Everyone told us the planning process would be stressful. In a way, it was, but we decided right away that we didn’t want to drag it out a year. The longer the engagement goes, the more you have to think about. We didn’t want that. I proposed in May. We’re married in September. We got the fall wedding we both wanted even though it took me so long to man up and buy the ring.
When it came time to pick a venue, we both knew we wanted it in Chicago. We really only had two criteria. It had to be a hotel (we didn’t want people to have to drive anywhere) and it had to offer or let us bring in a “late night snack (more on that later).
At first, I had my heart set on the Hilton on 94th & Cicero in Oak Lawn. They have a top floor banquet room with a beautiful view of the Chicago skyline. J called them…they STILL haven’t called us back.
I went to work one Saturday and J sat on the computer looking at venues. She came across the Marriott Chicago Midway and instantly fell in love. They had all their prices listed in a .pdf file on their website and the pictures of the place were beautiful. J put in a call right away and was told she would get a call first thing Monday morning….and she did.
The process started with one person who sold us the package. J’s mom met with this lady and was given a tour of the facility and they put together a proposal. When the number was first shown to me, I almost had a heart attack. It was more than 75% of the budget J and I set, but it included almost everything. The ceremony location. The reception. All the food and liquor. The thing is, we both really liked the place and it had everything we wanted.
J’s mom signed the contract later that week and we started filling in the rest of the plans. On a trip home in June, we had a private tasting. This scored huge points with us because we had heard horror stories from other friends who had to go to a tasting with other clients. Some places only do tasting four times a year and everyone who’s getting married at the venue has to go to one of those tastings. It’s like a big, uncomfortable banquet. We didn’t have that. We had myself, J, her mom, the wedding coordinator, the sous chef and head waiter.
The way we were treated that day was amazing. The items we chose from the menu were delivered to us, explained, and then served. The sous chef stood there through the whole tasting asking questions. Do we want it spicier, cooked to a different temperature, different dressing, different sauce, etc. We were able to ask questions about things and then mix and match entrees with sauces.
As the meal was wrapping up, the sous chef asked what cut of steak I prefer. I said of the ones on the menu, I actually prefer the flat iron steak. He said, if I could choose any cut of meat, what would it be. I said New York Strip. He said my plate will be a NY Strip. He then noticed I didn’t really touch any of the potatoes. After a little questioning, he finally got out of me that I prefer my potatoes cut into strips and deep fried. He assured me there would be a plate of fresh cut french fries on my plate. He also started describing a new salad they were working on, but hadn’t put on the menu yet. J said that sounded good. He told the wedding coordinator to write down that she was to get that salad.
The final part of the meal, and a big reason we chose the Marriott was the late night snack option. It’s a kind of newer thing at weddings, but it’s the part we’re most excited for.
Last fall, we went to a friend’s wedding at the Crowne Plaza Metro in downtown Chicago. As we were drinking, we started talking about finding a 24 hour restaurant after the reception to get something to eat. Then, about 10:00, the staff started bringing out hamburgers, hot dogs, and pizza. We didn’t need to find a 24 hour restaurant. More food, near the end of the reception was being provided to us.
Since we have a lot of out-of-town ers and some coming to Chicago for the first time, we really wanted a Chicago flare to the late night snack. Lucky for us, the Marriott offered up a “Windy City Option.” It includes mini Italian beefs, Chicago style hot dogs, and mini Chicago style pizza. The food at the tasting was delicious and we both knew it was going to be the thing everyone was going to be talking about at the reception.
The day of the wedding went so smoothly neither of us can believe. We owe a lot of that to the wonderful staff at the Marriott. From the time we checked in on Thursday, we were treated like we were the only guests in the hotel. We were given early check-in’s and later than normal check-outs, and the manager went above and beyond to make sure the weekend was going to be perfect.
When Saturday finally came, neither J nor I were nervous. Everyone kept telling us it would hit us right before the ceremony, but it never did. We were excited and looking forward to the ensuing celebration. Our photographer showed up around 1:00 and that’s when the fun started. No stuffy pictures in front of an altar. We rented a limo bus and went downtown. We took pictures in front of Buckingham Fountain, on the Michigan Avenue Bridge, at the bar at the Billy Goat Tavern, and in front of “The Bean.” All my buddies kept saying these were going to be the coolest wedding pictures ever and our photographer was having so much fun with us we can’t wait to see how they turn out.
Everyone kept saying we would never make it back on time…that something would go wrong. Nope. We wanted to be back by 5:00 for family pictures and we were back by 4:50.
The ceremony was in the garden at the hotel. At 6:03, the music started and by 6:23 J and I were back in the holding room embracing as husband and wife. The ceremony was a blast. Both of us are criers so we did what we could to keep the mood light. When her parents were walking her down the aisle, I pulled out my digital camera and took picture of her. That got a pretty good laugh and kept everyone from crying for a few minutes.
After that, it was on to the reception and just like we hoped, the food was a huge hit. The cocktail hour (half hour actually) went over real well. I only got my hands on a couple of the buffalo chicken skewers, but they were delicious. Everyone was raving about the mini beef Wellington’s, but I never got one of them. The other hors d’evour we had was spanakopita which most people also seemed to like.
At 7:00, we did intros and cut the cake. By 7:20, everyone had at least a salad in front of them. The wait staff was amazing. They were quick which was one of the most important things to us. I hate when I go to weddings and the meal takes hours. We wanted all three courses in under an hour and they did it.
The first course was the salad. J got the Apple Tower which isn’t on the menu yet. It was something the sous chef was telling her about which sounded good, so he made one for her. The salad was sliced apples with walnuts and dried cherries with a raspberry vinaigrette. She loved it, but, as would be a theme, there was so much she couldn’t eat it all. A good problem to have and one you usually don’t have at a wedding.
The rest of us just had a salad of mixed greens, but it was wrapped with a cucumber strip. My brother looked at me and asked how he was supposed to eat it. I told him to undo the cucumber. The salad was good and a great start to the meal. Our plates didn’t have a whole lot so you didn’t fill up on salad before the entrees.
The next course was awesome. I don’t know how many people stopped us and said it was the best wedding dinner they had ever had. Mine came out first. It was a NY Strip cooked medium-rare with hand cut french fries. I was in heaven. The steak was perfect as were the fries. My brother was jealous even though he had a steak too! My cut was easily a restaurant size portion and one of the best steaks I had ever had.
The rest of the guests got to choose from a flat iron steak with three mushroom sauce and onion straws or oven roasted herb crusted chicken breasts with a fennel cream sauce. Both entrees came with garlic mashed potatoes and honey glazed baby carrots.
I had a bite of Jessica’s chicken. It was delicious. My brother raved about the steak as did everyone else at the reception. I can’t tell you how many people I had come up to one of us and say it was the best wedding food they had ever had. It was more like eating in a restaurant than at a reception and I agree.
For dessert, the cake was served. The very first Christmas I went to at her house, one of her uncle’s was running around with a collection of Rambo knives for people to open presents with. J jokingly asked if we could get one and he said yes, so that’s what we cut the cake with. I really don’t know even know what kind of cake it was, but my brother said it was the best he had ever had.
After drinking and dancing for a few hours, they brought out the late night snack. Since we had so many people from outside of Chicago, we wanted to treat them to some Chicago favorites, so we had mini Italian beef sandwiches, mini Chicago-style pizzas, and mini Chicago hot dogs. The pizzas and Italian beefs were great. They had a bowl of hot giardinara and gravy for the beef which I took full advantage of. My brother was really disappointed with the hot dogs. They weren’t Chicago style at all. They were just regular hot dogs. Still, everyone who was left at the reception scarfed down the late night food.
In what is forever going to be THE story from our wedding…J invited the Toronto FC MLS soccer team to crash the wedding. It just so happens the team was in town to play the Chicago Fire and they were staying at the hotel. After the game, they were lounging in the bar/lobby area. A few of the bridesmaids wanted them to come down and party with us, so J went out and practically made them come for a beer and a picture. How many weddings have you been to that were crashed by a professional soccer team?!
When all was said and done at midnight, J and I had a wonderful day. Everyone kept saying something would go wrong. Our timing was too strict and everything was too close together. Nothing went wrong. Our limo was on time. We were back from downtown on time. We did family pictures on time. We started the ceremony on time. We did cocktail hour on time. Dinner was on time. The whole day went off without one set back and a big reason for that is the amazing staff at the Marriott. We couldn’t have been happier with how we were treated by everyone from the General Manager to the waitresses. It was an absolutely perfect day and I can’t think of one thing that I would change.