RAVENSWOOD — Plenty of brides still dream of a wedding that revolves around a long white gown, hotel ballroom, engraved invitations and the Chicken Dance. For everyone else, there's Indie Wed.
Founded in 2010 by Kelly Maron, owner of Paper Stories, a suburban letterpress studio, Indie Wed is the bridal expo equivalent of a college alt rock station — a little edgier, a little funkier and just plain different.
Two years ago, Ashley Sebaaly attended Indie Wed as a bride-to-be. This year, she was one of 100-plus vendors — eco-friendly florists, artisan jewelers and handmade stationers, among others — at the fourth annual Winter Indie Wed Chicago, which drew more than 1,200 attendees to the Ravenswood Event Center, 4043 N. Ravenswood Ave., on Saturday.
Sebaaly runs Blue Rose Vintage, a bridal specialty website featuring "garments that have lived and loved," and plans to launch an original line of vintage-inspired dresses this summer.
Currently benefiting from a backlash against strapless gowns, she described her niche as "more artistic" and her typical customer as "a little more eccentric, against the norm."
"A lot of modern dresses don't flatter," chimed in her husband Tony Sabaaly, on hand to provide the kind of spousal support that included learning the meaning of the term "sweetheart neckline."
The pair, who hail from Lake Villa, said they'd met customers "from all over" at the fair.
"That's why we're here," he said.
On the second floor of the event center, with DJs plying their trade in the background, Kimberly Lux, 31, and Bensen Loveless, 33, of the South Loop, were searching for inspiration as their August wedding date approaches.
"We're early in the process," said Lux as the couple flipped through a photographer's lookbook.
Added Loveless, "We've been a little afraid" — both of the bridal industry and the sheer amount of "stuff" involved in planning a wedding.
In bringing together so many vendors, Indie Wed provided the pair with a clearer notion of "who's out there," while also putting a face and personality to the kind of vendors they'd previously only encountered online.
"Everybody charges a lot of money," said Loveless. "You want to know, are they awkward? Is it going to be a good fit?"
Face-to-face interactions were just as important to Sally Kenyon, owner of Uptown Brownie, a bakery with a virtual storefront.
"It's a great way to get my product out," said Kenyon, who launched her business in September after working for 20 years as a professional chef in restaurants and catering.
"My partner said to me, 'You're so much nicer when you bake,'" she said.
Kenyon pitches her brownies, which come in flavors such as Caramel-Fleur de Sel and Peanut Butter Truffle, as an alternative to the traditional wedding cake (they can be stacked in towers) or as part of a sweets table, and lured potential customers with samples.
"I brought about 1,000 pieces today, I'm getting down to the end," Kenyon said, with an hour left before closing. "It's been superbly beneficial if for nothing more than exposure. I feel like I've talked to a lot of people."
Sarah Burrows, 30, can identify with the pressure brides feel to make their wedding unique.
During her own engagement, the director of marketing for the 900 North Michigan Shops continually heard from friends, "You're so creative."
Mismatched vintage china was one of the unusual touches she incorporated into her reception, which led her to found Plate in 2011, a company that rents mix-and-match place settings.
"We try to have a very curated collection," she said, including Limoges and English bone china.
Carrie Burrows, 61, serves as her daughter's head "buyer," having amassed enough pieces to accommodate 450 guests by haunting antique stores, estate sales and even Goodwill.
"People don't know what they're dropping off," said the elder Burrows, whose home also serves as Plate's warehouse.
The popularity of television shows such as "Downton Abbey" and "Boardwalk Empire" has increased the visibility of and interest in fine place settings, said Sarah Burrows.
"We're trying to capitalize on that."
It was just that mix of slightly offbeat but not entirely crazy that Kristen Huckstadt, 32, of Lakeview, and her fiance, Charlie Hass, 31, hoped to find at Indie Wed.
The pair are planning a classic church wedding for November, but wanted to add a few surprising elements.
Said Huckstadt, "It's nice to find things that are different even if you want to be traditional."