Food For Greater Elgin: Grand Victoria Casino

Another year of planning flew by and we closed out the fifth annual Food For Greater Elgin Pallet to Palate fundraising event, which came to life late this May. We came back again this year with the goal of increasing the revenue, increasing the participation AND making the event more meaningful and more fun.

This year, the event was held at Grand Victoria Casino, in their newly remodeled ballroom overlooking the Fox River. With over 265 guests, this year's event had more participants, and it also raised over $50,000, which was a $25% increase from the year before. The evening was centered around food and beverage tastings, but also included some games, a photo booth, prizes, a raffle, a silent auction and live jazz music. 

Founded in 2011,  FFGE is the largest client-choice food pantry in the Elgin area.  It strives to combat food insecurity in the most effective ways, and also addresses the fight against hunger holistically by coordinating weekly client-choice food distributions full of fresh, nutritious foods, offering a Community Resource Center designed to connect individuals to additional resources to help address underlying root causes contributing to food insecurity. and collaborating with other organizations and businesses. FFGE currently provides stability to nearly 6,000 individuals, of whom nearly half are children. What an honor to be invited to be a part of such amazing work!

The evening featured chefs and mixologists from the Elgin-area, each of which provided tastings of their favorite menu items. From Cajun to BBQ to Italian to Indian, there were scrumptious tidbits of all types to try! A bar stocked with wine and craft beer rounded out the menu for the evening. Vendors included: Cafe Roma, Cooper's Hawk Winery, Crumpet's Luncheonette, Chic Chef Catering, Delish Cakes, Dream Foods, Emmett's Brewing Co., Grand Victoria Casino, Lagunita's Brewing Co., Los Fernandez Restaurant, Martini Room and Rosie O'Hare's Public House. 

Photographs were captured by Gil Feliciano. Marketing and design was done by ColorWord Creative.

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Ellen + Nate: The Joinery

It was a year ago that Ellen and Nate tied the knot at The Joinery. The two are a match made in heaven, and the day radiated with love and was filled with some of their favorite things. A florist, Ellen and one of her close friends designed the arrangements for the day... and you can see in the backdrop of the ceremony how florals were incorporated into a stunning and unique piece of living art. The two love Costa Rican food, so Chicago's only Costa Rican restaurant, Irazu, catered the dinner. Ellen adores vintage clothing and selected a vintage dress that fit her like a glove.

A few partners that made the day magical included: Bakery: Tubby’s Taste, Florist: Stephen Hill, Hair: Chelsea Frye, Photographer: John Troxel

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Kate + Eric: Radisson Blu Chicago

This winter wedding was both beautiful AND fun! Kate and Eric’s wedding at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel was stunningly unique with its woodland-themed decor and hundreds of candles. There were surprises scattered throughout the evening... from butterflies nestled in the arrangements to a blue wedding dress to a second line that popped out and led the guests from the cocktail reception to the dinner. "What's next?" was what the crowd wondered all evening. Plus, I got to work with a few of my favorite vendors... including Belen from Gerber + Scarpelli Photography.

Many key partners brought this day together with beauty and charm, including: Navjot Design, Art of Imagination, Taylor &Co., 2nd City Diamonds, Greenvelope, Kate Johnson Artistry Bridal Team, Clix Imaging, Gerber + Scarpelli, West Town Bakery, Okyne Media Lab and Biossat Custom Productions.   

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The Chemistry of Love

I usually take on planning and designing photo shoots two to three times a year. They are big projects, but also a lot of fun. And each and every time something about the shoot excites me in a way my other projects I'm working on don't, which makes the endeavor totally worth it. This time, I loved getting to know the couple. Krystle and Alyssa are a real couple who bonded over language. Krystle is deaf and communicates through sign language, and Alyssa also knows how to use sign language. In addition to their shared ability to sign, they are both teachers. 

Now, don't get me wrong, teachers of all subjects are wonderful. But I needed an extra twist to add to the shoot, so I decided they were science teachers... much to the chagrin of Krystle, who is actually a sign language teacher. Ha! We sprinkled the shoot with hints of science-related details. For example, the custom stationery suite included hexagons and other soft chemistry touches. Their first look was at a luscious botanical garden. The reception venue, Room 1520, has floating molecules hanging from the ceiling. The table numbers and escort cards used elements of the periodic table to inform guests of their seating. 

The shoot took place in Chicago and started off at the photographer’s studio, Nomee Studio. There, the brides got ready and took portraits. The two ladies then headed to Garfield Park Conservatory for their first look and some pictures together amongst the greenery. Finally, the day concluded with the ceremony and reception shots at Room 1520.

Other incredible partners in this shoot include: Bakery - Arlyce Giudice, Accessories - Stiletto Boss, Florals - Blossom and Branch Designs, Floral Wall - Lil Epic Design, Hair & Make Up - Milian Bonillo, Hair & Make Up Assistant -  Beauty by La'Yanna, Rentals - Blossom and Branch Designs, Stationery - Paper Love Club, Videography - Steve Miller.

 

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Behind the Scenes at Culture Without Borders: The Ivy Room

We don't always get behind-the-scenes photos from events, but photographer Nancy Valladolid did a fantastic job of capturing the activity throughout the afternoon and evening leading up to our Culture Without Borders fundraising gala, which raised money for the Pan-African Association and which took place at The Ivy Room. Find out more about the event HERE.

With nearly 20 adult and children models, many of whom are refugees directly affected by the work of the organization, there was a lot that needed to happen the afternoon of the gala to get everyone fitted into the clothes they would be wearing and to have hair and make-up finalized. Four amazing hair stylists and make-up artists volunteered their time and talents to do incredible work! A huge thanks to Milian Bonillo, Kate Johnson Artistry, Tricia Davis and Kendyl Beauty for all they did to put together the looks. Fashion designers Joquette Boutique and Akese Stylelines showed off their unique pieces in the fashion show.

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Culture Without Borders Gala: The Ivy Room

Last week we executed Pan-African Association's annual Culture Without Borders gala at The Ivy Room. After months of planning, we couldn't wait to kick off the fun and informative affair... and raise money for a good cause!! The evening started off with a cocktail reception, silent auction and raffle. It led into a dinner and program and concluded with passed desserts, group photos and a fashion designer showcase.

We had many incredible folks and groups involved in the evening. Sarah Schulte, news reporter for ABC 7 News, was the emcee. Two refugees, Semere and Francine, shared their stories. Dance group Afrikan Heat from University of Illinois at Chicago and master drummer Prince Malonga with Beto Bantu performed for the evening. Fashion designers Joquette Boutique and Akese Stylelines showed off new pieces in a fashion show. And guess what... most of the models were actually refugees who had benefited from services like those provided by Pan-African Association. DJ Malik and DJ Teebot kept the energy high with their music.

We also had many great behind the scenes folks who made a big impact on the evening. There were four hair and makeup artists who donated their time and talents: Milian Bonillo, Kate Johnson Artistry, Tricia Davis and Kendyl Beauty did hair and makeup for the models. Escandar Group Events helped with some planning in the final weeks, and helped coordinate the many moving parts the night of the event!

All photographs below are by the talented photographer Nancy Valladolid. I LOVE the colors she captured. How beautiful and how full of life!

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Jennifer + Kyle: Dance Studio 3-D

2017 was a wonderful year. So many folks who I love dearly got married, and it made my heart sing to be able to be there for and play a part in those moments! Jennifer and Kyle’s wedding was an especially meaningful one for me to coordinate. Jennifer and I bonded as small business owners several years ago, and she’s had a place in my heart ever since, so when I found out she was getting married to the love of her life, Kyle, I was overjoyed!

Jennifer and Kyle’s wedding was full of personal touches. They got married and celebrated their nuptials near where Jennifer grew up in Wisconsin. They hosted the day at Dance Studio 3-D, owned by Jennifer’s beloved dance instructor Debbie Otteson-Griggas. While the day had sentimental tidbits spread throughout, one of the sweetest parts was that Jennifer’s beloved guinea pigs, Aldo, Pasquale and Lucca, made the trip up to celebrate with them. They were present in so many ways... in fact, instead of wedding cake, the couple served guinea-shaped cookies that looked like each of the darling guineas!!! And Jennifer and Kyle's hashtag was #guineagetmarried. Awww.

Many partners made this day a success. Photography: Mark Trela Photography, Floral Design: Blumgarten, Catering: Upstairs Downstairs Catering, Hair: Alyssa Herbst, Music: V05 Disco Cover Band, Invitations: Four Hats Press, Sweets: Lush Bites
 

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Christine + Austin: Loyola University

Christine and Austin's wedding was certainly a night to remember. Their special day was not only stunning, but it was filled with so much joy too!! Plus these two are total sweethearts. 

The day started off at the Hampton Inn before we headed over to Loyola University's campus for the rest of the festivities. Christine and Austin selected Madonna della Strada as the church in which to tie the knot. They kept up the tradition of not seeing one another until Christine walked down the aisle, and did that make for an emotional walk (not a dry eye in the crowd!). No matter how many times I witness couples say "I do" in that church, it still is incredibly moving every time. In part, because I love when my couples finally get to commit themselves to one another! And in part, because the sanctuary is just so incredibly gorgeous!  Be sure to also take a look at the flowers... the florists at Vale of Enna outdid themselves with the arrangements they produced for every part of the day. 

The cocktail reception continued at Piper Hall on the lake and guests moved to the Mundelein Auditorium for dinner and dancing. And boy did the evening go late! There was a live band and the groom even got up to perform a 15 minute set part way through the evening! The floor was hopping!

These jaw-droppingly beautiful images were captured by Leigh Ann Cobb Photography. Other amazing partners we worked with on the day included: Loyola University's Conference Services (venue), Aramark (catering), Vale of Enna (flowers), Pin Me Up Chicago (hair), Makeup and Skincare by Jamie (makeup), The Mix Musical Services (emcee and band) and Magbooth (Photobooth). 

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“Thank you so much for being such an important part of our big day! You were so wonderful to work with and we knew we didn’t need to worry about anything with you around. What a gift you have to make everyone feel at ease! Thanks to you, our wedding was the very best day of our lives. It far exceeded anything we thought possible. Have a happy 2018, and best of luck with your own big day!” - Christine, Bride

""Thank you for the awesome wedding planning which you did for our daughter's wedding, Nov 2017. Erin you made the wedding day run smoothly. You helped immensely with our decision making during the weeks prior to the wedding weekend. It was perfect and you helped make that happen for all of us. Great effort on your part and great results for us!" - Colleen, Mother of the Bride