A Sophisticated Rustic Wedding at Chez in Chicago, Illinois

High school sweethearts Mary Willoughby (33 and an AVP of business applications) and Javier Berlanga (32 and a social studies teacher) could have panicked when the catering company that owned their reception venue called a month before their wedding to let them know the facility would not be ready by their wedding date because of city permit issues. Instead, they relied on their caterer to help them find a new venue—one that felt, according to Mary, fancy enough for guests to get “dressed to the nines” yet comfortable enough to “kick off their shoes and dance up a storm.” The caterer helped them secure Chez in Chicago, Illinois, covered the cost of the notification postcard to guests and picked up any price difference between the two spaces. “The new space, while still a loft, had a very different feel,” Mary says of the white-painted brick walls, white columns, white drapery and contemporary glass staircase. They were able to stay with the original navy blue, silver and green color scheme but changed the floral arrangements and linens to create a city vibe with a rustic yet sophisticated feel. Personal elements included exchanging vows in the same church Mary’s parents were married, incorporating a Spanish reading during the ceremony and hiring a mariachi band to play during cocktail hour to honor to Jav’s Mexican heritage, and creating a memory wall and special song in honor of the Jav's late mother. The reception focused heavily on great food (with vegetarian and vegan choices) and music that appealed to all ages. What could have been a planning disaster was kept under control, thanks to the Mary and Jav's easygoing personalities, the assistance of their pros and never losing sight of what was important—their commitment to each other. Plus, Mary says, it helped that they were pretty good at making fast decisions without driving themselves crazy second-guessing. In the end, “Our wedding turned out beautifully, so we can’t complain.” —Chrissy Sorenson