I’m still clinging to the perception of summer I had when I was a kid: fun-filled, lazy days that go by way too quickly. But in my adult reality the only thing that remains true is that last part. Summer is the busiest time of the year for me because it’s book release season. There’s no time to be lazy. Between the author job and the bartender job, I struggle to cram in the fun things like barbecues, visits with friends, and baseball games.

I must have been insane to throw wedding planning into the mix.

I’m not getting married until the beginning of October, but I’ve had to do a ton of preparation this summer. Just last Friday I crammed a two-hour invitation-addressing session in between book promotion and the White Sox game that one of my favorite Beacon customers gave me tickets to for my birthday.

Fortunately, I made a decision early on in the wedding planning process that has made life a little bit saner. I figured, why look at boring banquet halls out in Oak Brook or overpriced hotels in Chicago when there are wedding locations with character right in Forest Park?

I didn’t want the headache of driving all over Chicagoland to look at a billion traditional wedding spots that are virtually the same. I’m not a traditional gal and neither is my groom – our ceremony is being performed by a friend who got ordained online. I wanted to get married in a place that reflected our personalities.

So we’re getting married in the upstairs party room at Molly Malone’s. The space is beautiful. I’m a bartender, so I want the drinks to be good, and at Molly’s that’s guaranteed. But best of all, the staff was unbelievably friendly and accommodating. Since I’m vegan, I want all vegan food at my wedding. I initially asked Brigid, the event coordinator, if I could bring in my own caterer. Instead, she came armed with a bunch of vegan recipes and her head chef who told me how pleased he’d be to make whatever I wanted. Not to mention they have free valet parking, though if I wanted I could walk to my own wedding!

Once I’d chosen a Forest Park location for my wedding, I became fully committed to doing everything as close to home as possible. Why shell out a ton of money on cab fare to hit bars in the city for my bachelorette party when I can invite my friends to a private wine tasting at House Red?

And, as proven by Molly Malone’s, the folks at local businesses are so much more willing to go the extra mile for you. When I went to Baubo’s Garden in search of a very specific slip to go under my wedding dress, Eden offered to order something special for me, and if that failed, she’d refer me to a seamstress.

It’s scary to spend a lot on a wedding, especially when the budget is as tight as ours. But in these economic times it’s important to pay attention to where we spend our money. And I don’t mean searching for the best bargain. It’s essential to patronize the places where it will be of the biggest benefit to our community. When we shop in Forest Park, our money stays in Forest Park. That’s just as important to me as the magnificent service I know I’ll get from our local businesses.

And now I’m off to hunt for tiaras at the antique stores on Madison.

Stephanie is the author of “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” and “Ballads of Suburbia.” She’s a proud Forest Parker who holds a master’s in fine arts degree from Columbia College Chicago. She also works locally at the Beacon Pub and loves to hear from people through her Web site www.stephaniekuehnert.com.