Just 10 People—and One Dog—Attended This Micro Wedding on the Chicago Waterfront
As freshmen at Vanderbilt University in 2008, Danny and Emily found themselves hanging out when his friend met her roommate, but the pair had an instant connection. "From the beginning, Danny was always 'my person,'" says Emily. The relationship continued through college and beyond, as both Emily and Danny stayed at Vanderbilt for medical school. "I can't imagine doing it all without him," she says. Nearly a decade after their first meeting, Danny proposed during a low-key walk in Chicago with the couple's dog, Hank. "After asking Emily's parents for her hand in marriage, her mom helped me find the perfect ring," he says. "When it came time to propose, I knew that Emily wouldn't want a scene. With Hank beside me, we got a 'yes.'"
Emily and Danny began planning a 200-person black-tie wedding at The Ivy Room in Chicago for 2020. "Just three months out from our wedding date, we cancelled the entire celebration," the bride and groom say. "COVID-19 made us reevaluate everything. We knew that risking the health and safety of loved ones was not an option." After a month-long break from planning, the couple pivoted their plans to include a smaller ceremony—for just 10 immediate family members—and an intimate dinner at their original venue. "We knew our wedding was just one special day in the span of a very special lifetime together," the couple share. "We had the support of our families from day one, and they remained open to new ideas as our vision changed."
The couple and their family wore masks during the ceremony and other indoor parts of their day, but planned an outdoor meal that allowed them to safely interact without face coverings. Danny's immediate family drove to the wedding—instead of flying—and the smaller guest list allowed the couple to incorporate heirloom votives and glassware on their table. "When you think about your wedding, focus on what really matters to you and make it happen in a safe, special way," they say. "If you can't have it all right now, just remember there will always more reasons to celebrate in the future."
After choosing letterpress save-the-dates from Steracle Press for their first event, Emily and Danny asked the same designer to create a small batch of keepsake wedding invitations. "She incorporated small ivy details throughout, which was a nod to the ivy-covered church and courtyard at the reception," the couple explain.
The ivy-covered Fourth Presbyterian Church where Emily and Danny said their vows was steeped in family history: It was the same spot where the bride's parents were married 35 years before.
Lovely in Lace
Emily's lace Monique Lhuillier wedding dress—already purchased for her original ceremony—included long sleeves, a tailored silhouette, and a low back. "We kept the same church and venue, so even when plans changed, there was never a doubt in my mind that this was my wedding dress," says Emily. "Find the dress that feels right, even if it's not super trendy right now. Don't be afraid to commit to a more classic, timeless style."
Emily wore diamond jewelry—passed down from her grandmother—and carried the same beaded clutch her mother used on her own wedding day. "It was surprisingly hard to find beautiful silk pumps, but the shoes from Harriet Wilde were just what I was looking for—classic and comfortable!" she says.
Light and Bright
An asymmetrical bouquet from Life in Bloom included roses, ranunculus, astrantia, and lisianthus in shades of white and peach accented by draping leaves and foliage—a prime example of the couple's color palette, which they describe as "light and bright with soft, interesting textures."
Man in Black
Danny's formal look consisted of a black Alton Lane tuxedo with polished shoes and a black bow tie.
The groom also chose several accessories with sentimental history: "Danny wore baseball cuff links—a gift from a friend and tribute to his baseball playing days in high school," says the bride. "He also wore a new watch that was gifted to him by my brothers on our wedding day."
At the Altar
Both Emily's mother and father walked her down the aisle to meet Danny at the altar for the couple's traditional Presbyterian ceremony. "We wanted everyone to feel safe and special," the couple shares. "Out of respect for older guests, we wore masks at the church and in all enclosed spaces, then took our masks down in the outdoor courtyard for cocktails and dinner."
Happily Ever After
The newlyweds made the most of their classic city location, posing for portraits by the water and in front of some of Chicago's most iconic buildings.
After the ceremony, the couple's dog, Hank, joined the party in black-tie attire "and made everyone smile."
The Right Notes
A trio from Gold Coast Events provided background music during the cocktail hour and dinner. "They offered to play everything and anything, but we left the selections entirely up to them," the bride and groom say. "The end result was a great mix of oldies, classic rock, and new hits."
Raise a Glass
An upstairs balcony, decorated with a floral garland and surrounded by the courtyard's signature ivy, provided a photo-ready spot for the couple to share a toast with their guests. "We looked at a lot of different venues in Nashville and Chicago," the couple explains. "We chose The Ivy Room because it felt like a peaceful oasis in the middle of a bustling city."
The secluded courtyard offered a memorable spot for an al fresco reception. "With the guest list downsized by 200 people, we reimagined an elegant, outdoor dinner," the bride and groom say. "The end result was a beautiful, relaxed garden party with incredible food, spectacular music, and lovely company."
Low, lush arrangements of roses, sweet pea, ranunculus, and snowberry in stone footed vessels adorned the center of the long farm table. To complement the compotes, the duo incorporated votive holders from Emily's mom.
Glass chargers, silver flatware, folded napkins, and sprigs of fresh olive sat at each place setting. "We really just wanted to get our families together in a safe, meaningful way," the pair says. "There were so many uncertainties during this time, so we invited only immediate family. We knew the rest of our family and friends would understand the change in plans and help us celebrate from afar."
The four-course menu included a salad of spring greens, pickled ramps, wild strawberries, and goat cheese; potato leek soup or crab cakes; and an entrée choice of salmon or filet—plus an ice cream sundae bar to complement the wedding cake. "The food was delicious and the Ivy Room accommodated every special request!" the couple shares.
The chefs prepared a filet and crab cake for Hank, who joined his family during the intimate meal. "During a dark time, it felt even more special to get our families together," says the couple. "Everyone was so happy to celebrate our love."
A two-tiered cake from Alliance Bakery, decorated with a lace pattern in a nod to the bride's gown, included lemon cake with lemon curd and dark chocolate cake with chocolate ganache. "We also used vintage champagne coupes passed down from Danny's grandmother," says the couple.
Photography, Kristin La Voie
Venues, Fourth Presbyterian Church (ceremony); The Ivy Room (reception)
Flowers, Life in Bloom
Stationery, Steracle Press
Cake, Alliance Bakery
Music, Gold Coast Events
Bride's Gown, Monique Lhuillier
Bride's Shoes, Harriet Wilde shoes
Hair and Makeup, Nika Vaughan Bridal Artists
Groom's Attire, Alton Lane
Wedding Rings, Ed Jara
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