South Side I Do Wedding Stroll Showcases Hidden Local Gems
Bride-to-be Jade Hollyfield and her fiancé were all set to have their July 2019 wedding at a North Side loft until she happened upon South Side I Do, a wedding stroll along 53rd Street in Hyde Park, on Sunday, September 9. The event, which was sponsored by the University of Chicago Office of Civic Engagement and External Affairs and Modern Luxury Weddings Chicago, opened Hollyfield’s eyes to alternative options closer to home. The couple is looking into changing their venue to Gallery Guichard in Bronzeville and getting dessert items from Brown Sugar Bakery.
“We didn’t know all that Hyde Park and Bronzeville had to offer, but we’re excited to be able to stay in our neighborhood and bring more of our family in from out of town and lodge on the South Side to share our special day,” Hollyfield explained. “South Side I Do also introduced us to many minority businesses that we plan to use for our wedding and frequent after.”
The 53rd Street corridor from Lake Park to Harper Avenue served as the stage for the seven-station event, with stops at the Harper Court Tent, Vanille Patisserie, Connect Gallery, Hyatt Place, Jojayden, the Silver Room, and the Promontory. At these locations, prospective newlyweds, wedding enthusiasts, and industry professionals met with nearly 40 South Side businesses providing everything from formal wear and flowers, to event planning and venues. The business owners offered advice, out-of-the-box ideas, and delectable samples.
Showcasing South Side gems, particularly small businesses, is one of the ways UChicago Local leverages University resources to support the economic growth and development of community residents and enterprises. "As part of our UChicago Local initiative, the University works with more than 300 South Side businesses a year, many of them for our own events and receptions. We’re thrilled to introduce these unique businesses to brides and grooms from across the city and suburbs through South Side I Do,” said Alyssa Berman-Cutler, executive director of community development in the Office of Civic Engagement.
Sophie Evanoff, owner of Vanille, sparked the idea for South Side I Do. Having previously participated in a North Side wedding stroll sponsored by Modern Luxury Weddings Chicago, Evanoff approached the University about doing one on the South Side. “Weddings are a combined affair and take a team of professionals to bring to life. Since being in Hyde Park, we have been introduced and worked with many different professionals and venues on this side of town. [South Side I Do] brings so many together for not only prospective clients, but also opportunities for us to form partnerships together that will make these special days even more memorable for our clients.”
The Connect Gallery, a Harper Court event venue, hosted Cornell Florist, a 40-year Hyde Park staple; Invitation Architects; Jade Bridal; and Black Rose Pastries. While Sugar Artist Maurice “Chef Blāque” Shelton was unable to attend personally, his baked goods were well represented by other family members, including his 10-year-old son Pierre, who was involved in decorating the cakes on display. Shelton is pleased with the response. "The feedback I received was absolutely amazing. I would love to be involved with upcoming events," said Shelton.
Jojayden, a custom suit and tuxedo shop on 53rd Street, was a host location for Floral & Frock, Nika Vaughan Bridal Artists, A'vents by August, and one of Hyde Park’s newest stores, Busted Bra Boutique. Lee Padgett is the brains and owner behind Busted Bra, which specializes in lingerie for all sizes from AA to O cup sizes. After five successful years in Detroit she expanded the business, which services clients from all over the country, into Chicago, specifically Hyde Park, a neighborhood that is “thriving and growing at the same time,” said Padgett. “I’m very grateful for this event that has introduced me to the neighborhood, partner businesses, and new customers.”
The South Side I Do Hyde Park Wedding Stroll was organized by the University’s Real Estate Operations office. In addition to the businesses that hosted vendors for the stroll, the event was co-sponsored by the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Hyde Park Chicago, and South East Chicago Commission. Proceeds from ticket sales benefitted Wish Upon A Wedding, a nonprofit organization that grants wedding wishes to couples facing serious illness or a life-altering circumstance.