This year's hot summer wedding accessory? Cicadas

“As much as it sucks to get married in the middle of a cicada awakening, it is definitely memorable,” said Bree Aguilar, who had an outdoor ceremony earlier this month.

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Newlyweds Bree Aguilar (left) and Ivan Garcia Jr. stand for a photo outside their home on Thursday, June 20, 2024.

Newlyweds Bree Aguilar and Ivan Garcia Jr. outside their home. Despite worries about swarming cicadas interfering with their outdoor wedding earlier this month, they were saved by the rain.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

For the first time in more than 200 years, two different groups of periodic cicadas will emerge at the same time. We have the latest buzz and updates.

Bree Aguilar was setting up for her outdoor wedding earlier this month when some uninvited guests showed up.

Cicadas.

The 17-year cicadas have arrived in the Chicago area for the first time since 2007. They’re all the buzz, and that’s the problem.

“I couldn’t even hear myself talking to the person next to me, who was, like, two feet away,” Aguilar said.

This was the day before her June 8 wedding to Ivan Garcia Jr., in the wooded backyard of a southwest suburban home she rented on Airbnb. About three weeks out, she realized the cicadas might be an issue. By then, it was too late to change plans.

But rain on the wedding day subdued the cicadas without dampening spirits, and the reception was under a tent.

In the end, Aguilar embraced nature for all it’s worth.

“As much as it sucks to get married in the middle of a cicada awakening, it is definitely memorable,” she said. “I had to tell myself to live amongst the cicadas and accept the fact that nothing’s going to change. If it weren’t for me telling myself that, I think I would have ruined my own wedding.”

It also made for some great scrapbook-ready moments. Or not.

“My mom wanted me to keep a dead cicada to put in my wedding memories,” Aguilar said. “I was like, ‘Absolutely not.’”

Something old, nothing new

Wedding planners are used to dealing with complications from outdoor weddings. The cicadas are just another bug in the system.

“We’re always going to say, ‘Have a backup plan if you’re doing anything outside,” said Sholeh Munion, a certified meeting professional in Naperville.

Maya Devassy Tarach, a wedding planner in Evanston, said couples often must decide at least three hours before their wedding whether to move the ceremony indoors.

Other strategies to cicada-proof the “I dos” are also in the works.

Erin O’Leary said her wedding planner will wield a leaf blower and a “big broom” during their outdoor cocktail hour at their festivities on Friday at Burning Bush Brewery near Horner Park.

“I’m not wearing a veil, just in case,” O’Leary said. “I was having visions of bugs attached to it.”

Bakery owner Lindsey Taryn collaborated with venues to net off outside spaces and create bug-bride barriers. If clients don’t want such precautions, she said they must sign a waiver stating “whatever happens to the cake if they take it outdoors” is their problem.

“We’re only here to give advice, but at the same time, we do have standards to uphold,” she said. “I cannot give you a wedding cake that is crumbled or covered in bugs. The last thing that I want a bride to see is her wedding cake, and it has this giant cicada sitting on top of it. Like, I would be mortified.”

Wedding photographer Tawny Ballard said the insects may “detract from what couples would ideally like to do,” but capturing the same aesthetic is possible. Moving photos indoors or shooting from certain angles in nature help her capture “emotions of care, joy and love,” she said.

No reason to be blue

Cicada noise can reach 100 decibels, as loud as a motorcycle or lawnmower. But wedding videographer AJ Vogel said as long as the sound remains “consistent,” he’ll most likely be able to edit it out. To minimize background noise, he relies on microphones clipped to the couple instead of mounted on stands.

The outdoors, however, remains unpredictable.

“At a certain point, there’s not much more you can do,” Munion said. “Will it hurt your ears a little bit to sit in the park? Maybe. But also, it’s nature. You can’t control nature.”

Besides, the cicadas believe in romance, too. That buzzing noise is part of the cicada mating ritual.

“The males call, and the females hear their calls and try to locate the males, because they’re also trying to get together, just like the people that are getting married,” said Christopher Deitrich, an entomologist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

“The cicadas are also kind of engaged in courtship.”

As O’Leary’s wedding approaches, she’s treating the spectacle as something to “laugh about after the fact,” she said.

“We’ll always remember that this was the summer of the big cicada invasion.”

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