DOWNTOWN — A year ago, A.J. and Jaime Etsch were celebrating their upcoming nuptials — and the Cubs' upcoming World Series win.
The couple, of Bucktown, are now getting ready for their one-year anniversary. But there's another big event they're hoping to celebrate: a repeat World Series victory for the "boys in blue."
"If everything goes our way," A.J. said, "our one-year anniversary will actually be the night of Game 5" of the World Series.
The couple has made dinner reservations for the anniversary, but A.J. said they'll be "more than happy to cancel" them and pay the fee so they can watch the game together.
Of course, for that to happen the Cubs have to come back from an 0-3 start to the NLCS.
"I have a lot of confidence in Joe Maddon to be able to do what he needs to do to get the team in shape," A.J. said. "I have a lot of confidence in them. Watching them play last year ... it's a special team.
"They know how to win."
A.J. and Jaime Etsch, of Bucktown, said they'll cancel their one-year anniversary plans to watch the Cubs in the World Series if the team makes it. [Courtesy A.J. Etsch]
That's the kind of confidence only a Cubs superfan can manage — and the Etschs fit that bill.
A.J. and Jaime were married on Oct. 29, the same night the Cubs were facing the Cleveland Indians in Game 4 of the 2016 World Series. While other Chicago couples fretted about friends skipping their ceremonies for the game, the Etschs dragged two 84-inch TV screens into their reception so guests could keep up with the Cubs.
That was just the beginning: The Etsches also handed out blue Cubs wristbands that said "Go Cubs Go!" to all their guests (and wore the bands themselves — yes, even the bride), drank from Cubs koozies during the reception and A.J. and the other men of the family wore Cubs hats while doing a group dance. A.J. even wore a "W" flag pin he'd gotten from Wrigley Field's staff during an NLCS game.
"Unfortunately, the game didn't exactly go in anyone's favor that night," A.J. said (the Cubs lost 7-2). "At least we still had something cheerful to celebrate ... so that was good."
Jaime Etsch holds a Cubs beer koozie during her October 2016 wedding. The couple still uses their wedding koozies during games. [Courtesy A.J. Etsch]
The two went on their honeymoon to California as the series stretched on. They were in Napa during Game 6, and it was "pretty tough" to be away from Chicago amid the excitement, A.J. said.
Then came Game 7, which the couple knew would decide the series. A.J. and Jaime decked themselves out in Cubs gear and crowded into a Cubs bar in San Francisco. The capacity was 50-60 people, A.J. said, but there were about 150 Chicagoans "crammed in there."
That night, the Cubs came back to beat the Indians in an extra inning and win the World Series for the first time in 108 years. A.J. wore a W flag as a cape and the two wandered around San Francisco celebrating the victory.
They were still honeymooning during the massive Cubs victory parade and rally, but again they were able to find a way to connect with home: A.J. put back on his W flag cape and bumped into a former WGN producer who took a selfie with him.
The trip was "still a great memory for us," A.J. said, though it was "bittersweet" to celebrate outside Chicago.
(Left) A.J. Etsch shows off his W flag lapel pin during his October 2016 wedding. (Right) A.J. Etsch said he and his wife, Jaime, handed out blue Cubs wristbands to all their guests at their October 2016 wedding. A.J. wears his every day. [Courtesy A.J. Etsch]
A year later, A.J. still wears his Cubs wedding wristband every day and even kept a stash of backups in case something happens to his. Jaime has hers, too.
The band "reminds me of pretty much one of the unbelievable weeks and weekends of my life. Clearly life-changing," A.J. said. "Secondarily ... you gotta take off your wedding ring for certain things. I can always wear" the band.
The two still use their Cubs wedding koozies, too, and A.J. occasionally dons his W flag pin.
And, of course, having the Cubs back in the playoffs has made their coming wedding anniversary even more special.
"It's an amazing feeling. It's kind of helping us to relive this really special time in our lives," A.J. said. Laughing, he added, "The nerves are certainly a lot less from the marital standpoint, but they're still there from the baseball standpoint."