The Chicagoland area is perhaps one of the country’s most versatile locations for a wedding. There are all kinds of hotels, lofts, restaurants, museums, and parks that host beautiful weddings. A short drive north of the city is the Chicago Botanic Garden, home to a whopping 385 acres of land and 81 acres of water, and one of our favorite versatile wedding sites. We had the pleasure of speaking with Connie Bolle, Director of Sales & Special Events at the Botanic Garden, to find out just how green this garden really is!

Stitely Entertainment: What makes the Chicago Botanic Garden different from other event venues?
Connie Bolle: Our outdoor and indoor ceremony locations are the most photographed wedding spots in the entire Chicagoland area! Our Garden has over 385 acres and we host only one wedding an evening, so 100% of our attention is focused on the bride & groom, wedding guests and the amazing evening. Our location is easily accessed from major highways and the large complimentary event parking blows away the city competition with their required valet or expensive downtown parking rates. Fresh air, fresh views and privacy await just miles north of downtown Chicago.

SE: Why should people choose Chicago Botanic Garden for their events?
CB: Our Garden couples tend to be very focused on being environmentally friendly—we grow our dinner’s salad greens here at the Garden, we compost at the conclusion of your perfect wedding day, and recycle everything we can get our hands on! They love that we are a one stop shop—book your venue, your wedding menu and your linen—all with just one experienced and focused event planner, who is actually here on your wedding day! They really love that their wedding venue will be here for years and years to come, not a hotel ballroom with a new corporate name and horrific carpeting. We are a space you can bring your family and friends to 365 days a year and come back as a couple year after year to enjoy our incredible vistas.

SE: Can you please describe the different rooms and/or services?
CB: Our favorite space is our McGinley Pavilion, our waterside tented private location with an adjacent large patio that literally takes your breath away. With willowy white lanterns and the breeze from the basin, your guests are transported to a dreamy reception. Paired with our English Walled Garden for your wedding ceremony or cocktail hour, it simply doesn’t get any “greener.” For those brides that crave a contemporary LONG wedding aisle, our Rose Terrace is a photographer’s dream ceremony space. For winter and early spring weddings, we have our Nichols Hall and Krehbiel Gallery, two very posh spaces where nature shines indoors.

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Photo by Jeremy Lawson

SE: Do you have different wedding packages? If so, what do they include?
CB: We have three different level wedding packages, though we tend to customize almost all of our weddings to fit our unique couples and their history, loves and ethnic origins! The traditional wedding packages include tables, chairs, china, linens, bar, service and more! Just show up with your favorite florist and orchestra, and we are ready to go! With our incredible gardens and views, you really can’t ask for a better backdrop for your wedding day.

SE: What are some of your favorite ideas from recent weddings?
CB: A stunning July wedding with Tamina and Leo included their two dogs in the ceremony! Puppy Love and Couple Love can’t be any cuter! For food, my favorite was Amy and Eric’s September wedding, where we re-created actual family recipes for their custom Sweets Table, complete with recipe cards for the guest to take and a family photo of the recipe author! It brought tears to the eyes of so many guests!

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Photo by Robin Sloan of Riverbend Studio

SE: Have you recently hosted any particularly interesting events or organizations?
CB: We always attend the Wish upon a Wedding Gala and hope to host a wedding for a couple here very soon! It is a heart warming charity with a chapter here in Chicago, granting wishes to those who are terminally ill or who face extreme hardships. We also participated in the Special Event Show hosted here in Chicago in January and LOVED seeing the new Wedding Trends for 2013 and beyond. Romantic Garden weddings are so on TREND.

SE: What three words do you think best describe Chicago Botanic Garden?
CB: For the location: Expansive, Lush, Peaceful. For the food: Organic, Fresh, Delicious

SE: Anything else you would like to include?
CB: People always ask—but what if it rains? Our tented Pavilion with clear sides walls to pull is already set to go—and the day of the wedding, should sprinkles arrive, we effortlessly whisk your group into our indoor back up spaces! Don’t worry; we are experts at keeping the rain dancers away from our summer weddings!

Andrea Dunsirn and Luke Benrud were married last August and celebrated with an amazing reception at the North Shore Golf Club in Menasha, WI. Alliey from Sash and Bow managed the details of the day, Megan from Branching Out prettied things up, and Kim Thiel captured it all on camera. Here, the new Mrs. Benrud shares her and Luke’s vision for the wedding and how music played a starring role!

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Stitely Entertainment (SE): What kind of style or vibe did you want for your wedding? What role did music play in your vision?

Andrea Benrud (AB): I like to describe our wedding style as “romantic fun”. We opted for muted pastel colors with a touch of silver sparkle and many fun touches for guests such as a photo booth, wish tree, custom cornhole toss, and fireworks. Music was one of the top priorities of our wedding. We wanted everyone out on the dance floor having a good time – even the grandparents! To do this, we opted for many classic rock-and-roll songs. Songs that our parents would know, yet still be fun for people our age. We also mixed in a little pop, country, and hip-hop!

SE: Why did you choose the Stitely Orchestra for your wedding?

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AB: Luke and I wanted a band that would keep the crowd on the dance floor. My parents had been to a wedding where The Stitely Orchestra had played and had nothing but good things to say about them. They said the music was wonderful and they kept people on the dance floor all night.

We liked that Jeff Stitely worked with us beforehand to learn more about our music preferences and overall wedding theme. Jeff and his band had an extensive song list from almost every genre we could think of. They were also willing to learn a few songs we wanted played that weren’t on the song list.

SE: What kind of music or which artists do you and your partner enjoy?

AB: We are all over the board with our music selections. You can find us dancing around the house to classic rock, rap, alternative jams, country, pop, etc! We really enjoy going to concerts which is why live music at our wedding was very important. Since we planned to have different generations at our wedding, we selected music that most people would know.

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SE: What was your favorite wedding memory?

AB: Luke and I made a point to pause and enjoy the moment many times throughout the day. We chose to have a sweetheart table at dinner, not because we don’t love our wedding party, but so we could enjoy dinner together and have that memory between us.

SE: Please share any stories or special significance behind your song selections for the special dances!

AB: First dance – “You & Me” by Dave Matthews. We chose this song because the first time we heard the words they really summed up how we felt about one another. We’ve been to multiple Dave Matthews Band concerts together and it reminded us of those times.

Mother/son dance- “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts. Luke’s mom chose this song because she felt the words really described what she felt for Luke.

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Andrea and her Dad getting the party started!

Father/daughter dance- “In My Life” by The Beatles, followed by “Get This Party Started” by Pink. I let my dad choose our songs. He chose a really sweet song by The Beatles. We then busted out some crazy moves to “Get This Party Started” to get the party started!

Luke and I took dance lessons beforehand and choreographed them to our first dance. It was necessary to learn how to properly dance together since Luke is almost a foot taller than me! I also took dance lessons with my dad for our dance. My sister (a dance major) choreographed a silly dance for us for “Get This Party Started” – I think it was a crowd pleaser!