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A Year After Their Civil Ceremony, This Couple Celebrated Their Wedding at the Chicago Botanic Gardens

By Cathleen Freedman | Photography by 

Liz Banfield

|Planning by 

Kara Superfine Events

Annie and Eric first met at an “uneventful” work training event on Long Island in 2012. Three years later, Annie relocated to San Francisco for a new job and reconnected with Eric at a mutual friend’s party. Annie clarifies, “Eric became intrigued after losing several games to me that evening.” Thus began a six-month period that Eric refers to as their “courtship.” He patiently waited while Annie acclimated to her new city and job, completely independent and distinctive from any romantic relationship. To avoid the commitment and pressures of a “date,” he would arrange group outings as a way to simply spend more time with Annie. After he attended one of her dance shows with flowers in tow, though, he and Annie officially began dating.

After three years together, Eric proposed on an easy Sunday afternoon at the Chateau St. Jean winery in Sonoma. When the couple returned to their apartment, their friends were there to celebrate the good news with them.

Annie and Eric originally planned a big wedding for the summer of 2020, but due to COVID, they had to postpone a bigger celebration to July 17, 2021. They preferred the idea of saying “I do” somewhere outdoors, only visiting one venue, the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Not wanting to wait another year to be married, they had a backyard wedding at home on their original 2020 date. Liz Banfield documented both fetes. “Her photography brings us right back to so many special moments. It’s amazing how she captures the feeling and emotion of the day,” Annie gushes.

“I never had a ‘dream wedding’ planned out in my head, nor did I expect to enjoy the planning process so much,” Annie confesses. Yet, she was completely surprised to discover that she truly liked this organizational stage. “It was honestly an incredible process, and I think that’s largely because we had an incredible team of passionate, creative, hard-working, and kind people to work and spend time with,” she notes. Working with Kara Superfine was what made planning so exciting for the couple. “She was fun, open-minded, energetic, professional, and always three steps ahead,” Annie says. “Everyone loved her—planners, guests, and vendors alike.”

Planning the wedding also brought new depth to Annie’s relationship with her mother. They’ve always been very “style simpatico,” as Annie defines it, but they had never collaborated on a project of this magnitude. Eric also continued to surprise Annie with his insight and vision. He thought of unexpected details like making sure there should be a dramatic pause before she would walk down the aisle.

The bride regularly expresses herself through her outfits, so the clothing choices were her favorite part of the entire planning process. It was made even more meaningful because the pieces she wore were found by those she loves. Right after she and Eric were engaged, her mom sent her a post of a Monique Lhuillier dress on Instagram and captioned it with, “This is so you!” Annie took one look at that dress and agreed. Her mom was right! “I loved how it would somehow be simultaneously unexpected by guests and also make perfect sense for my style and personality,” Annie tells. “It also worked perfectly for the garden setting we chose for the wedding. I never looked back on my choice, even though I wouldn’t get to wear it for another two years!” She wanted to pair the dress with sparkly Christian Louboutin high heels.

Annie’s mother designed and gifted Fred Leighton earrings to Annie on her wedding day. Annie’s mother completed the outfit with an Anya Hindmarch purse that showcased the message “To thine own self be true” in her mother’s handwriting. And Annie also used The Wedding Dresser to assist with the day-of sartorial preparation.

RC Beauty styled Annie’s hair and makeup masterfully. She wanted a soft and romantic updo for the ceremony but anticipated that she’d let her hair down a little for the reception. She asked RC Beauty’s Rachel Reiman for a high ponytail later in the night, an easy decision because that’s one of Eric’s favorite hairstyles of hers! RC Beauty’s Ashley Condron completed Annie’s naturally glowing and dewy makeup look.

Annie’s reception outfit was a short, shining Mira Zwillinger dress. Her dear friend from college had sent her a picture of the dress well before Annie was even engaged. The caption? “This is so you!” Annie certainly agreed and remembered the outfit for her big day. She slipped on glittering Kate Spade Keds for her second outfit change.

Eric wanted a wholly special outfit, so he enlisted the Knot Standard design team to create his custom suit. Just like his father, Eric has a penchant for bow ties—wearing one was a must for his wedding day!

The ceremony was short and sweet. “Since we were technically already married, we modified the structure and language of a more traditional ceremony a little bit, but you’d be surprised how much still applies perfectly,” Annie confides. “We really were all gathered there that day to celebrate our marriage, just one that was already going strong for almost a year.”

After the ceremony, the couple joined their bridal party for a quick champagne toast. They then joined the rest of the party in the English Walled Garden for cocktail hour and saw the sunset dip behind the treeline. This was the cue to visit the Rose Garden where a Marquee Event Rentals tent was erected for dinner by Culinary Landscape and a cake from Cake Chicago. The vintage HMR Designs tables and Nüage Designs tables were set with BBJLinen linens, Hall’s Rental chargers, and vintage glassware and plates from Festive Frog.

A round of toasts followed, complete with a special toast to thank and honor the couple’s parents. “It’s not something we’d seen at a wedding before, but felt right to us. We are both very close to our parents and with every passing day—and especially now that our friends have become parents—we grow increasingly more aware of just how much they have done, for so many years, and without nearly enough credit,” Annie addresses. “While it’s impossible to truly thank them enough for everything, we loved taking the opportunity to shout their praises to the rooftop that night. We’ll never forget it.”

After espousing their gratitude, the dancing finally began. Annie boasts about the incredible music band, asserting that “the Chicago Players stole the show!” The party ended just after midnight. Guests who weren’t too tired from the festivities adjourned to the Renaissance Hotel lobby for pizza, drinks, and good company.

“Looking back, you realize that the wedding weekend flies by, and what you’re left with are all the memories of the celebration,” Annie advises couples. Both Annie and Eric could not be more pleased with the memories they have from their magical botanical-inspired wedding.