How I went from pig roast at abandoned convent to my wedding

You may notice a HUGE difference in this post than in all previous posts since I started this blog three years ago. I’ve been doing something wrong for basically my whole life, ever since taking typing classes on those slick Commodore 64s in Chairavalle Montessori’s “lab” [it was more of a broom closet at that point]. Who knew?! Sorry future leaders of America, I steered you wrong. Luckily, I’ve only taught hundreds of kids over the years.

Anyhoo, onto more important things than education. My wedding.

Back in July, I posted “Our Ridiculous Wedding Wish.” The summary?

Fiancé and I ARE –

Fiancé and I ARE NOT –

  • hotel ballroom
  • swanky restaurant
  • church/synagogue/any house of worship
  • dry chicken breasts and limp green beans
  • anyone dictating we must use this caterer, this florist, this photographer…
  • this day has to be huge!, perfect!, a real spectacle!

We wanted a wedding that reflected our AREs and our ARE NOTs and that came nowhere near the average Chicago wedding price of $53,000. To be honest, a wedding that costs $10,000 is hard to swallow for us; the website design, the travel, the updated Quickbooks we could buy with that money!

So, we thought, a pretty house! A backyard wedding! Economical, little stress, comfy, us. We know a lot of folks, for sure we can find a pretty house backyard for free or a barter!

After the wedding wish post, amazingly generous offers of “I don’t have a house but I do have ______ which I’d love to offer you!” flowed in. And so did the pretty house. Two in fact. No strings. Just here, we like you, here’s our house.



But the more we discussed details and talked to people, the more it became apparent what we thought would be simple and frugal could actually turn into a ton of work and money. When you piecemeal, the time and money add up. Fast. Rent chairs from this place and plates from that place. Where do we put the caterers? Do we want people traipsing through someone’s home to use the bathroom? Do we need to rent a tent? An AV system? Get a special permit to serve alcohol? How do folks get to the house way out here in the ‘burbs? And on and on.

I curate events for a living. I did not want to clipboard, headset-mic, and armpit-sweat my wedding.

So we began to rethink our vision and investigate other venues. Too pricey. Too overdone. Too formal. Too inclusive. Too un-inclusive. The “Let’s just be done with it…” vibe began to reverberate.

And then, lo and behold, we got our Fairy Godmother wish. Just like that. It’s nothing like what we wanted and it’s exactly what we wanted.

Funny story.

An acquaintance of Fiancé told him months ago about a restaurant in Pilsen that had this cool outdoor space that wasn’t your typical ridiculously-priced wedding venue. When Fiancé described it to me, I didn’t go ga-ga. I had been to the restaurant – Honky Tonk BBQ – and while I had enjoyed the pork, coleslaw, and indoor ambiance, I couldn’t picture an affiliated outdoor space that fit our vision. So I told him to spreadsheet it and promptly forgot about it.

Sometime down the road, I recalled an event that I went to as part of my Solo Life, where I’d go to one thing a week by myself. The title of the event was what caught my eye – “Pig Roast at an Abandoned Convent.” Ohhh. That sounded intriguing. So I went. And blogged about it, in September 2009. Remembering the uniqueness, intimate yet large size, comfortable yet urban hipness, adventure-going obscurity, and fairytale white lights, I thought, hmmm, maybe. As a Plan G. And spreadsheeted it.

Fast forward four months. We were so ready to have an answer to “Where are you getting married?” “Have a venue yet?” “What’s the date?” I re-examined the now ridiculously long spreadsheet. “Uh Fiancé… I think that place your friend told you about and my pig roast place are the same. That’s small-world’y!” A few minutes later, on a Tuesday December night, we were driving down the highway to Pilsen. Dinner. View it through wedding-glasses. See what happens.

The waitress brought our check. Fiancé asked about the space, thinking she would just chat it up with us. A few minutes later, the event coordinator was sitting at our table. She was jeans, gym shoes, long brown pony-tail, ankle crossed over her knee as she leaned back in her chair. She oozed laid-back. As we started chatting details, she oozed laid-back professional. Fiancé and I started to fall a little bit in love.

Everything she mentioned was exactly what we wanted to hear —

  • brisket, mac ‘n cheese, mashed potatoes
  • easy parking
  • come in to decorate whenever you want
  • we’ve got vases, tubs, platters, lights, tables, chairs, AV you can use
  • capacity 200
  • we’ll handle all the food and service
  • sweet-tea and lemonade
  • feel free to bring in your own alcohol; we can serve it
  • only thing you might want to rent are linens
  • it’s never rained on any of our weddings
  • whatever you guys want, let’s do it

A few minutes later, we were walking to the Abandoned Convent a block away from the restaurant. It was as I remembered it. Fiancé loved it immediately. I loved the idea of not having to rent stuff or worry about set up and tear down immediately.

We were surprised to learn there were only three weekends left in the whole year. Labor Day weekend, our weekend, someone had already booked. Sad face. But she just booked the catering not the space, and multiple catering can happen! Happy face. We thanked Event Coordinator and said we’d be in touch. As we drove home, we went over the pros and cons, likes and dislikes. Pros and likes went on for awhile. Cons and dislikes, we had none.

A few minutes later, after running in the house to grab the checkbook, we were driving back to Pilsen. Thirty-ish minutes after we told her goodbye, we presented our deposit check to Event Coordinator in the overflowing basement of a neighborhood BBQ joint filled with mismatched vintage dinnerware and vases. She added us to the bulletin board of couples and we said goodbye. Again.

We finally have an answer! September 1st. The Secret Garden.



For environmental reasons [and perhaps one or two other reasons], I hope that’s the only check we end up writing. The way things are going, it very well may be. In exchange for what Fiancé and I do well, from social media marketing to teaching improv to non-improvisers to referral-giving to curating events, we’ve got some of the best talent in Chicago a part of our wedding day for a whopping price tag of $0.


  • custom-made invitations by Spilled Ink Press — holler Amanda! (See the invite!)
  • wedding photography by Angela Garbot Photography — holler Angie!
  • textual storytelling by Ruthie Kott — holler Ruthie!
  • videography by Media for Social Change — holler Shuling!
  • UPDATE > brunch venue by Enerspace — holler Jamie!* (*We ended up cancelling the brunch because the weekend was getting too packed, but want to acknowledge Jamie being on board since she and her space are so awesome, and she was so fantastic to work with!)
  • UPDATE > rehearsal dinner catered by Ambiente Chicago — holler Danielle and Mallery!
  • UPDATE > day of wedding coordination by Kate Buckner — holler Kate!
  • UPDATE > wedding beer by Hail to the Ale — holler Kim!
  • UPDATE > wedding childcare by Lindsay Muscato — holler Lindsay!
  • UPDATE > wedding childcare by Ellen Lekostaj — holler Ellen!
  • UPDATE >  wedding decor by Adrienne Zeak Brust — holler Adrienne!
  • UPDATE >  rehearsal dinner dessert by The Cooking Chicks — holler Vanessa!
  • UPDATE > wedding transportation by Uber — holler Nicole!
  • UPDATE > wedding beer by Powell Brew House — holler Josh!
  • UPDATE > rehearsal dinner beer by Circus Girl Beer — holler Jennifer and Renee!
  • UPDATE > wedding hair and makeup by Kristine Lorenzo — holler Kristine!
  • UPDATE > rehearsal dinner photography by Amy Boyle Photography — holler Amy!
  • UPDATE > wedding childcare by Christina Muscato — holler Christina!


Wedding is shaping up to be a powerhouse of local, independent, creative, socially-conscious, passionate, mostly-female Chicagoans.

Can’t wait to continue adding to the arsenal [Beer Brewer? BakerWedding Florist? Rehearsal Dinner Florist? Wine or Liquor Purveyor? Rehearsal Dinner Caterer? Day of Coordinator? We’d LOVE to chat!].

A fairytale wedding CAN be begotten without credit card debt, arguments, check one: chicken or steak, and constrictive under-garments.

A fairytale wedding CAN be low-key, non-wasteful, affordable, and fun.

A fairytale wedding CAN be nothing like what you envisioned and yet everything you envisioned.