This Chicago Firehouse Is One of the Coolest Rustic Wedding Venues We've Ever Seen

This summertime celebration in the city is the perfect example of theme-mixing done right

Updated 03/07/17

Photo by Steve Koo Photography

If a sense of humor tops your list of must-haves for your future spouse, sign up for the next local improv class. That’s where Allison Smith first met Ryan Lambert in January of 2015, and a few shared laughs led to the pair totally hitting it off. When they had been dating for just under a year, around Christmas of 2015 Ryan took Allison out to a holiday dinner. “He gave me an album he’d made with our story and a song about our time together, and then proposed once I’d opened it,” says Allison. A sweet, sentimental, and memorable holiday gift if we’ve ever seen one!

Though it took some searching, the Chicago couple was thrilled when they found Firehouse Chicago, a charming century-old fire station that’s been renovated as a homey and airy venue that was perfect for Allison and Ryan’s vision. “We wanted a sit-down dinner, which helped us cut down our guest list, since the Firehouse could only fit around 80 people,” says the bride. But instead of a challenge, the pair saw it as a blessing in disguise: “We couldn’t invite every college friend or work acquaintance, but it meant when we looked around the room, we were surrounded by the people who know us best and care about us the most.” They opted for a soft palette of ivory and blush, with industrial touches to fit the venue’s creeping ivy and exposed brick. And of course, they threw in a few surprises to keep their guests on their toes! This lovely, rustic wedding, on August 20, 2016, mixed themes and details with aplomb. Check out the photos by Steve Koo Photography to see for yourself!

Photo by Steve Koo Photography

Photo by Steve Koo Photography

Allison’s bridal look was classic, feminine, and airy enough for a hint of whimsy. She wore a two-piece gown that was a far cry from what she’d been initially searching for. “I made an appointment at BHLDN, convinced I’d fall for something minimal and slightly vintage,” she says. “But the first dress I tried was totally underwhelming. My consultant read the situation perfectly, then disappeared for a moment.” She emerged with an eyelash lace corset by Watters and a voluminous tulle and horsehair skirt by WTOO, which came together in a light, layered ensemble perfect for dancing.

The florist designed a textured, romantic bouquet of hydrangeas, dahlias, garden roses, and Queen Anne’s lace, accented with rosemary and camellia foliage, to stand out against Allison’s timeless gown.

Photo by Steve Koo Photography

St. Clement Church is Allison’s home parish, and she loves the open-minded and inclusive nature of the church. “It’s also a little cozier, making it perfect for our small guest list,” says Allison.

While she did buy a veil to wear down the aisle, Allison wound up leaving it in her bridal suite. “I tried it on a few times during our engagement, and it never felt right for me,” she explains. But the swath of tulle has been tucked into a memory box for safe keeping!

Photo by Steve Koo Photography

Because Ryan and Allison had a traditional Catholic wedding, their vows were the same words thousands have exchanged before them. “We wanted to personalize them somehow, so before the ceremony, we exchanged letters to one another about what we were promising by saying ‘I do,’ ” the bride explains. “We read them on our own before walking down the aisle, and it turned out to be a real tearjerker of a moment!”

Photo by Steve Koo Photography

Photo by Steve Koo Photography

Ryan looked dapper in a slim navy suit, which he finished with fire engine cuff links that Allison gave him once they’d chosen their wedding venue. His groomsmen also wore navy suits, while Allison’s bridesmaids donned blush-pink lace gowns with illusion necklines. “Finding just the right dress for my bridesmaids was harder than finding my own dress!” Allison reveals.

Photo by Steve Koo Photography

Photo by Steve Koo Photography

Photo by Steve Koo Photography

At the firehouse, the courtyard was set up with cocktail tables and a bar set atop wooden barrels.

Photo by Steve Koo Photography

Photo by Steve Koo Photography

Photo by Steve Koo Photography

Photo by Steve Koo Photography

Photo by Steve Koo Photography

Inside, the ceiling was draped with swags of soft fabric, while guests were seated at two long farm tables surrounded by cross-back chairs. Centerpieces combined pillar candles in metal lanterns with arrangements of garden roses, dahlias, and astilbe. Bud vases held greenery and single blooms for a delicate touch of color.

Photo by Steve Koo Photography

Photo by Steve Koo Photography

Photo by Steve Koo Photography

Photo by Steve Koo Photography

At the end of the room, the newlyweds were seated at a sweetheart table topped with an ivory runner, taper candles, and a vase full of dahlias, hydrangeas, and garden roses. Each place setting featured lace-printed chargers edged in gold, customized menus, and modern gold flatware.

The best part of having two tables leading straight to the bride and groom’s seats had to be the high fives as Ryan and Allison made their way past their family and friends!

Photo by Steve Koo Photography

A simple two-tiered cake sat on a white cake plate, with full garden roses and hydrangeas decorating layers of vanilla buttermilk cake filled with strawberry basil jam.

Photo by Steve Koo Photography

After a dinner of short rib taquito bites, marinated flank steak with chimichurri sauce, and gnocchi with grilled sweet corn and red peppers, guests headed back out to the courtyard to sip Manhattans and Ryan’s favorite German beer, Weihenstephaner Vitus, which he discovered while living in Germany. They also nibbled on chocolate-peanut butter tarts and toasted honey panna cotta.

Photo by Steve Koo Photography

Photo by Steve Koo Photography

“We had to flip the space from dinner to dancing, which the staff did so quickly and seamlessly,” says Allison. After guests had dessert outside, they came back inside for the first dance, but the groom was nowhere to be found. “I pretended to wonder where he’d gone, then the DJ started to play the Ghostbusters theme song,” the bride remembers. “Then there was Ryan, sliding down the Firehouse’s fire pole!” No surprise that the improv lovers took a moment to make their guests really laugh!

Photo by Steve Koo Photography

“It’s important to remember that sometimes things won’t go perfectly,” says Allison. “It’s true in weddings and in life, and Ryan and I tried really hard to embrace that. We knew some of the hiccups led to our favorite moments, and that the mistakes would make our day unique. Because we accepted that, it gave us the space to experience the joy of the day instead of worrying.” She also stresses the importance of having a great team of vendors. “We tried so hard to hire people who were excited, honest, attentive, and collaborative, and I’m glad we did! We trusted everyone to have our best interest at heart, and on our wedding day, they really did.”

Ceremony Venue: St. Clement Catholic Church || Reception Venue: Firehouse Chicago || Day-Of Coordinator: Chicago Vintage Weddings || Bride's Wedding Dress: Watters & Wtoo, purchased at BHLDN || Hair & Makeup: Sonia Roselli || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Amsale || Groom's & Groomsmen's Attire: Formally Modern Tux || Flowers: Pistil & Vine || Invitations: Spilled Ink || Additional Paper Products: Pink Polka Design || Music: Toast and Jam || Catering & Cake: Big Delicious Planet || Rentals: Chicago Farm Tables; Halls Rental; Tablescapes || Photographer: Steve Koo Photography

Related Stories