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We were reminded throughout the day that, “Lithuanian weddings generally last at least a few days” – what we learned at Laura and Vitalijus’s Lithuanian wedding in Chicago is that these people must be born with a gene that gives them all incredibly good looks and an increased tolerance for vodka. And also that these Chicago wedding photographers don’t possess the endurance and stamina to party like a Lithuanian.
We met up with Laura on a beautiful Saturday morning at the apartment she shares with Vitalijus in the trendy neighborhood of Burr Ridge. The couples’ leopard-spotted cat was weaving between feet with polished toenails and darting beneath the furniture as the ladies chatted merrily and popped open the champagne. Laura is a naturally gorgeous woman – seriously, she should be on the cover of Vogue – and she chose to have a friend help her with a few minor touches to her hair and makeup, accenting her beautiful Eastern European features.
After a few laughs with friends and a glass or two of champagne, Laura slipped into her dreamy tulle Kenneth Pool gown and slid on her sparkly Jimmy Choo peep-toe sling-backs. She looked perfect, a fairy-tale princess.
We headed downstairs to the grassy promenade outside where Laura spun around, showing off her bridal look to her dashing groom. Vitalijus fit the part of the strong and capable prince, completing the fairy tale image. Surrounded by their closest friends and family, Laura and Vitalijus kicked off the wedding festivities with blessings and tokens from their parents.
Outside of the Holy Trinity Church in downtown Chicago’s Pulaski Park, white puffy clouds dotted the sky and gentle breezes cooled the guests as they gathered for Laura and Vitalijus’s wedding. Inside the intricate Millennium Doors, voices hushed as the organ began playing Laura’s accompaniment down the long, candle-lined aisle. The couple was married in a traditional Lithuanian ceremony underneath the beautiful frescoes and murals of the Church.
Laura and Vitalijus have made a wonderful life for themselves in Chicago and have grown to love the city they now call home. They designed their wedding to incorporate touches of Chicago so that they could share with their loved ones what makes the city so special to them. During their photo walk through downtown Chicago, they made sure to stop at the North Ave. Bridge for photos of Vitalijus carrying Laura across the bridge, a tradition that is said to bring good luck in several cultures (and an excellent blend of their urban lifestyle and traditional values).
The couple chose to travel to their reception in style, renting a large limousine for their bridal party to enjoy fun and games during the drive. When we arrived at the Illinois Beach Resort in Zion, IL, we took the bridal party over to the beaches of Lake Michigan for some fun portraits while Rasa from Rasa Design Studio – their very capable and awesome wedding coordinator – oversaw the finishing touches for the reception.
We wriggled our toes in the sand one last time before making our way up to the resort for the opening festivities. Laura and Vitilijus’s parents welcomed the couple and the bridal party to the reception with Duona ir druska – the traditional salt and bread, followed by vodka or water. The bread represents the symbolic hope that they will never go hungry; the salt reminds them that their joint life will have its difficulties and the drink represents the parents’ wishes for health and happiness for the couple. Laura and Vitalijus were then required to perform a set of tasks that were meant to prove that they were prepared for married life, including peeling a potato, dressing a baby, and driving nails into a block of wood. After successfully completing these tasks, they were met by another surprise – a fake wedding party had ‘taken over’ their wedding and required a ransom before releasing it back to the bride and groom. Negotiations were made (in hilarious form), and after a few bottles of liquor and some suggestive fruit were handed over, Laura and Vitalijus were able to take their seats at the head of the table.
Laura and Vitalijus appointed one of their esteemed guests, Virgis, as ‘matchmaker’ – a person who, historically, set the couple up and were in charge of leading the wedding festivities and entertainment. The matchmaker appointed Table Commandants for each table who were responsible for making sure all the guests at their table had full drinks and shot glasses for all of the toasts and entertainment throughout the evening. Each table was appointed with a variety of liquors, as well as a spread of authentic Lithuanian foods. Laura and Vitalijus offered a selection of both traditional and modern desserts, serving Sagotis and pyragas alongside a beautiful three-tiered confection topped with orchids from Sweet Discoveries.
After dinner, Laura and Vitalijus’s parents presented them with the symbolic hearth, a beautiful candle lantern that represented the fire from their homes to start the fire in the home of the bride and groom. The ‘Matchmaker’ struck up the band and Laura and Vitalijus took over the dance floor with an impressive choreographed first dance. Guests filled the floor as the musicians from Cigarai mixed old-world Lithuanian tunes with modern dance hits.
Just before midnight, Laura and Vitalijus revealed one more surprise they had arranged for the guests – a performance from the Aloha Chicago dancers! More drinks were poured and a few of the groomsmen were selected to don hula skirts and join the performers, resulting in a riot of laughter from the other guests.
The revelry carried on into the wee hours of the morning after we left, still shaking our hips to the commands of ‘Pineapple!’ and ‘Coconut!’ and practicing some of the Lithuanian words we learned that evening. Thank you so much, Laura and Vitalijus, for choosing us to photograph your wedding and to take part in your culture and customs. You made sure that everyone who celebrated your day had a fantastic time, ourselves included – we hope to see you again soon!
If you are looking for a wedding photographer in Chicago to capture the memorable moments at your wedding, and interested in our availability and pricing, please drop us a line using the online inquiry form here.