Mary & Pam’s Chicago Elopement After 17 Years Together

Today, Mary and Pam are celebrating their first legal anniversary after nearly two decades together. And I’m celebrating the anniversary of the very first wedding I planned under my new brand. I couldn’t have chosen a better beginning to Aisle Less Traveled.

I’m thrilled to share some moments from their beautiful Chicago elopement today!

Pam, left, in a navy blue top and khaki trousers stands with Mary, right, in a navy blue wrap dress during their Chicago elopement. Pam wears a wrist corsage; Mary holds a colorful bouquet. Chicago Elopement Mary Pam Wedding 109 Evanston Ceremony

Meet Mary and Pam

One afternoon last summer, I was scrolling emails on my phone when a new inquiry popped up. “I think you might understand our unique situation,” it said, “Can you help us come up with a cool wedding that we will love to remember? And save my sanity???”

You see, after 17 years together, with marriage equality becoming law nationwide, Mary and Pam could finally be legally married. And like many LGBTQ+ couples, they’d believed they would never be able to get married, so they hadn’t spent any time dreaming up the perfect wedding in their heads.

Mary and Pam, both wearing navy, are seated on some wide, flat rocks at Chicago's Lily Pool

Family wanted a big, church wedding with a fun reception. As an introvert, Mary wasn’t interested in being the center of attention and not being particularly religious, a church wedding wasn’t really their style.

“After two years of angst,” Mary reported, “we’ve decided we are just going to elope.”

After our initial consultation, where we discovered that we get along splendidly, Mary wrote to me, “I am so relieved to have someone take care of the details.  My Facebook post yesterday was ‘Happiness is an elopement planner with rainbow hair.  #aislelesstraveled.’”

A Facebook post with white text on a gradient background of reds and purples reads, "Happiness is an elopement planner with rainbow hair!! #aislelesstraveled

Planning an elopement in Chicago

With about six weeks to plan, we began to pull together the details of their Chicago elopement. First up: a small space for their ceremony, preferably a historic building with an outdoor space. After investigating a handful of options, we settled on Stone Porch by the Lake, a lovely bed and breakfast just outside of the city limits in Evanston – with an amazing location right on Lake Michigan.

Two women, both wearing navy, stand along the rocky shore of Lake Michigan

Next, we secured Jeremy Lawson to photograph the day. As a fellow LGBTQ+ vendor who I’d recently loved working with on Sarah and Matt’s wedding, I had a hunch Jeremy would be a great fit for Mary and Pam – and he was. (All these photos? His gorgeous work.)

With the biggest pieces in place, the next step was to find a secular officiant who embraces LGBTQ+ couples as much as the rest of us – luckily, Chicago is blessed to have Anita Vaughan around.

We fleshed out the remaining details: flowers, hair and makeup, transportation, a reception dinner reservation, and a place to stay.

Mary, in a navy dress, and Pam, in a navy short-sleeved top and khaki trousers, stand in front of a low stone wall holding each other's hands during their wedding ceremony.

Pam and Mary’s Wedding Day

When their wedding weekend came around, Pam and Mary flew up from Arizona, their friends drove in from a neighboring state, and I hopped on the train from St. Louis so we could all meet in the Windy City.

Pam and Mary’s wedding day began early in the morning at the Blackstone Hotel, with Melanie and Bianca working their hair and makeup magic and coffees all around. Zenia dropped by with a gorgeous bouquet for Mary and corsage for Pam.

A woman wearing a navy dress holds a bouquet of flowers with bold blue and burgundy flowers and several shades of greenery.

Windy City Limo picked us up for a scenic trip along Lake Shore Drive to Evanston, where Jeremy and Anita met us for the wedding ceremony.

Two women, both wearing navy, stand at the back of a stone porch overlooking trees and greenery. In the foreground, officiant Anita Vaughan conducts the wedding ceremony. Two wedding guests stand and observe.

From the aptly-named Stone Porch itself, Anita officiated a heartfelt, personal, and funny lovely ceremony (as she always does!) while the waves lapped against Lake Michigan’s shore behind them.

Pam, right, wearing a navy blouse, places a ring on Mary's finger. Mary stands at left and also wears navy.

Once they were (finally!) married, we took a few photos around the venue and the lake.

Mary and Pam, just married and both wearing navy, embrace along the rocky shore of Lake Michigan in Evanston, Illinois.

Mary and Pam really love Chicago and wanted to capture it in their wedding photos, so we piled back into the limo and gave ourselves lots of time with Jeremy to make it happen.

Our first stop was the Lily Pond next to the Lincoln Park Zoo – a gorgeous and peaceful backdrop for these two newlyweds.

A woman in a floral dress stands with Mary, in a navy dress; Pam, in a navy blouse; and a man in a suit at Chicago's Lily Pond

Then we headed downtown to for urban architecture, Buckingham Fountain, and some classic Chicago lakefront and skyline shots.

Pam, left, in a navy blouse; and Mary, right, in a navy sleeveless dress, stand looking into each other's eyes against the Chicago skyline and lakefront.

Once the sun and heat really got to us, we headed back to the Blackstone to refresh before Mary, Pam, and their friends headed to Gene & Georgetti for their wedding dinner.

Mary and Pam, I’m so honored to have been part of your wedding day. I’m wishing you a happy first legal anniversary and many more years of love, laughter, and joy!

Pam, left, Cindy Savage, wedding planner at Aisle Less Traveled, and Mary, right, stand together outside at the Stone Porch B&B after their wedding ceremony.

Mary & Pam’s Kickass Event Team:

Wedding Planner: Aisle Less Traveled (that’s me!)
Stone Porch by the Lake
Photography: Jeremy Lawson, Jeremy Lawson Photography
Officiant: Anita Vaughan, Anita Weds
Florist: Zenia Ruiz, Flor del Monte
Hair: Melanie Peltier, Thomas West Salon
Makeup: Bianca Sansosti, Bianca Sansosti Artistry
Wedding Dinner: Gene & Georgetti
Transportation: Windy City Limo
The Blackstone Hotel

All photos in this post were taken by Jeremy Lawson Photography and are reposted here with the photographer’s permission. Photos in this and all posts are protected by copyright and are not available for reproduction, redistribution, or any other purpose without written authorization from the photographer.

Photos in this and all posts are published with the permission of the photographer. All images are fully protected by copyright law and may not be downloaded, copied, edited, shared, printed, or published elsewhere without explicit written authorization from the photographer.

Picture of Cindy Savage | Aisle Less Traveled

Cindy Savage | Aisle Less Traveled

Cindy Savage is the queer, fat, feminist wedding planner behind Aisle Less Traveled and the co-creator/co-host of the Super Gay Wedding podcast. When she's not busy planning unique and creative weddings for the absolute best couples around, she can usually be found wearing stretchy pants with her nose in a book or a craft project in her hands. She currently lives in Seattle with her partner and an assortment of small houseplants.

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