Little Women (1994)

The beloved Louisa May Alcott novel Little Women, the story of four young women coming of age during and immediately after the Civil War, has been adapted for the big screen many different times since the book was first published in 1868. While I've seen most of the American adaptations, my personal favorite is the 1994 iteration starring Winona Ryder as Josephine "Jo" March, and Susan Sarandon as the mother of the girls, Mrs. March (or as her girls affectionately call her, Marmie). The sisters were Meg (played by Trini Alvarado), Jo, Beth (played by Claire Danes), and Amy (played first by Kirsten Dunst and later in the film by Samantha Mathis). A young Christian Bale played Laurie, the precocious neighbor boy who catches the eye of all four girls, and wins the hearts of two. The cast was amazing.

Oldest sister Meg is the first of the four to be married. After being courted by Laurie's tutor, Mr. John Brooke, she accepts his proposal for marriage. Jo feels that Meg is settling for the first man that has shown her any interest. But the youngest sister, Amy, delivers the best advice with my favorite quote from the book: "You don’t need scores of suitors. You need only one… if he’s the right one."

THE SCENE

Meg and John were married on the March family property, Orchard House, in New England in the presence of their families and friends. The couple stood under a gazebo of woven apple tree branches and green leaves, with the bride's father as the officiate. Guests gathered in a circle, moving hand in hand around the couple while singing the hymn, "For the Beauty of the Earth." The groom wore his Union Army uniform, while the bride wore a white cotton gown featuring long sleeves and a full skirt with a ruffled bustle, and flowers in her hair. Her three sisters wore matching light grey cotton dresses, with lace v-neckline, long sleeves with lace detail, and an empire waist cinched with a bow in the back, with flowers in their hair, as well. The mother of the bride wore a long dress in the same color and fabric as her three daughters, which featured a skirt similar to that of the bride, while wearing a tasteful bonnet instead of flowers. Guests unable to stand were seated near the small reception area, where tea was held. The small tables were set with the family's China, with wild flowers found on the property

THE REALITY

One of the many fantastic things about Chicago, is that it is filled with such a variety of different landscapes if you're thinking of going for an outdoor wedding. The Chicago Park District has a lot of different locations available for rent at rather affordable rates, and many sites include indoor and outdoor locations. Even though this particular space in doesn't have that apple orchard feel to it, The Berger Park Cultural Center in the Edgewater neighborhood has a lot to offer for just one property. The property includes two large homes built in the early 1900s seated on the western shores of Lake Michigan. There is also a theater and in the summer, a small cafe operates out of the coach house. The food is as amazing as the view.

Starting at $1,500 for an 8 hour Saturday event, couples can enjoy a lawn ceremony overlooking Lake Michigan, access to the bridal preparation room, and the first floor of the Downey Mansion, which can accommodate up to 100 guests. The Ballroom Theater can be rented for an additional $56 per hour, and the Coach House Theater is also available for $70 per hour. The Chicago Park District does require that specific vendors be used for the renting of various items, such as a trellis, chairs, and tables, and they are also particular about the caterer providing any food and beverage.

Unfortunately, none of the vendors listed provide any information on the availability and price of renting a chuppah, trellis, or archway. However, Chicagoland Chuppah Rentals offers beautiful chuppahs and archways starting at $300. Tables, chairs, and linens, can vary in price depending on your choice of style and color, but an affair for the 100 guests the Downey Mansion accommodates should cost no more than an additional $3000. Feeding your guests more than tea and cake will also vary in cost depending on your choice of service, but one of the approved vendors that I've also mentioned in previous posts, Jewell Events and Catering, offers buffet service (among other service options) starting at $120 per person.

At that time in History, and well before, flowers at weddings were used just as much for decoration as for something the put a favorable fragrance in the air. Bathing was not something one did on a regular basis, so June weddings were particularly popular because the majority of people took, at the very least, an annual bath some time in May. A formal occasion, such as a wedding, usually permitted women to obtain a new dress, while men wore suits pulled from wardrobes only for special affairs. New or rarely worn cloth on recently bathed skin tends to offer a much more pleasant aroma.

Meg wasn't holding a bouquet during the brief scene, and many of the flowers were probably just cut straight from the property, so her flower budget was $0. In reality, the wildflower centerpieces for seating of 100 guests, floral decor for the archway, and hairpieces for the bride and wedding party would probably come to about $1000.

Because absolutely every piece of clothing in that era was custom made, I'm going to use examples from designers on Etsy to showcase Victorian wedding gown styles that can still be created today. This white crochet lace dress by Flora&Lane starts at $875, and is a sweet, modern update of Meg's dress. RenzRags offers this beautiful Boho Bridesmaid Dress with lace bodice and rouched waist that ties in the back would be an elegant option similar to the dresses of the other March girls, prices starting at $128. Keep in mind, that with ALL FORMALWEAR, these dresses will need to be altered further upon arrival. Even if the designer gets your exact measurements, there will be something that needs to be slightly taken in, up, or let out. The good news, is that Flora&Lane is actually local to Chicago!

To recreate Meg and John's Little Women wedding at the Berger Park Cultural Center with all the previously mentioned accessories, the total comes to roughly $19,000. By calculations made by DollarTimes.com, a $19,000 wedding today would be the equivalent of $786.97 in 1914, which is the earliest that particular site could calculate. If you had a time machine, you could save yourself $18,213.03 if you had to ability to go back to 1914. The Wedding Advocates will do what we can to source time machines in hopes of saving you money, but we make absolutely no guarantees we can deliver.

About Adriane

Professional Wedding Photographer and Wedding Planner. Founder and Owner of Adriane Dean Photography and The Wedding Advocates.