Amanda + Brandon: Private Residence

It's amazing what a difference just two months makes! As we are at the end of November, I look back on this September wedding and can't believe how much the landscape has changed... and how much the temperature has dropped!

Amanda and Brandon were married at the private residence of Amanda's parents this past fall. When selecting wedding venues, Amanda told her mom that she had so many meaningful memories in that home, and she couldn't imagine being married anywhere else. Her mom was set on making her dream come true. As many of you know, it's a lot of work to throw a celebration of this magnitude outside of a traditional venue, but the day came together beautifully, and Blue Peak Tents created their own venue of sorts using a gorgeous clear tent and flooring.

The day was full of personal touches. Amanda is Jewish so the ceremony included many Jewish traditions, including marriage under the chuppah, the bride and her family staying on the right side during the ceremony and the breaking of the glass by the groom to complete the ceremony. Before dinner the challah was blessed and broken. Amanda and Brandon's darling pup was the ring bearer and an impromptu wedding guest. The couple also exchanged about five small gifts throughout the day with one another so they had a chance to step away, soak in the moment and just be together. And finally, Brandon handcrafted all of the candle holders, charcuterie boards and escort card boxes out of cement and wood... and they turned out STUNNINGLY! Be sure not to miss thein se crafted pieces in the photos of the reception below.

Many partners made this day possible. Wooden Paddle Pizza provided the wood fired pizza for the meal while St. Roger Abbey Gourmet Patisserie baked the treats. Flowers for Dreams crafted the florals and Windy City Linen provided the linens. The day was captured beautifully by Candice of Cusic Photography.

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A Noteworthy Festive Trend: Grazing Tables

As Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, it is the perfect time to feature one of this year's hottest trends... grazing tables! A common sight I first noticed coming from Australia, these artful arrangements are made of crudites and charcuterie, This type of table is full of vibrant color and seasonal flavor.  Below are a few samples of how the arrangements might look. They are an awesome addition to any corporate event, wedding reception or holiday party... and certainly a way to wow your guests!

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This grazing table was put together by Your Platter Matters, an Australian-based catering company for a beautiful summer wedding. Can you imagine guests leaving a ceremony to find this spectacular work filled with tasty tidbits available for them to peruse?!


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This grazing table was the dreamy creation of KaraKara for a foodie styled shoot, shot by Bird on the Wall Photography and Home Thugs n Harmony as a part of a decadent soiree for a bride. The rustic vibe was formed on a pallet table, where an abundant charcuterie feast is spread between crystal glasses, antique silverware and black crockery – think juicy figs and grapes, creamy international cheeses, sweet cinnamon poached pears and fresh honeycomb.


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This amazing grazing table was from an Australian wedding. It was pieced together with care by Jo from Garnish Creative Catering. This legendary feasting table was complete with a 12 hour smoked ham, fine cheeses and arancini balls.


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I couldn't help but include this darling breakfast version of the grazing table. Not only is breakfast one of my favorite meals of the day, but then to be offered on a generous spread on the table is just too much! This spread was designed by Honestly Yum for Mother's Day. I wouldn't mind celebrating a bridal shower, baby shower or Mother's Day in this style!

Rosa + Fausto: Warehouse: 109

With Cuban and Spanish family ties, Rosa and Fausto's day was inspired by both of those cultural traditions. The happy gathering was hosted at Warehouse: 109 in Plainfield. Beyond Events blew the crowd out of the water with their Spanish-style hors d'oeuvres and paella. Live music was played by Dolce Strings (string quartet) and Carlo Basile (Spanish guitar) and DJ Louie Cue rocked the rest of the evening! Allusion Photography captured the images below.

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Angie + Matt's Wedding: Floating World Gallery

This Labor Day marked the one year anniversary of Angie and Matt, whose wedding took place at Floating World Gallery last summer. Lex of Lex Nelson Photography captured the perfect day. We had many partners who worked to pull the day together, including: Flowers for Dreams (umm... talk about a company that produces beautiful florals AND has a great mission!), Tyler Grey Bartending, MaddieBird Bakery, Taco JointLil Epic Design and DJ Rock My Party.

Angie wrote these kind words about working with Dotted Events, "Hiring Dotted Events was the best thing I did for our wedding. I like to consider myself a pretty organized person and I really thought I could do the whole wedding planning myself. Months in of planning we realized that with the lack of experience I have in the wedding industry we really needed some guidance and knew I needed to work with a coordinator. I interviewed a few different coordinators but once I met with the owner Erin, I knew Dotted Events was it! Erin is extremely kind and listens to you. Day of our wedding my husband and I both could not ask for a better experience because Erin HANDLED ALL OF IT! We had soooo many moving pieces involved on our special day and I did not have to worry about anything. She picked up our cake, floral arrangements, and kept our timeline in check. Hire Dotted Events, you will not regret it." Thanks, Angie!

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Keri + Anthony's Wedding: Loyola University's Palm Court - Part II

This post is a continuation of last week's post. Haven't seen it yet? Click here to see the start of the day! Kevin of This Is Feeling captured the day. DeepEnd Imagery kicks off this blog post with their video coverage of the occasion. The reception was held at Loyola University's stunning Palm Court and catered by Aramark.

Keri and Anthony took pictures around the Loyola campus while their guests enjoyed a cocktail reception with a view of the lake. After joining their guests, they kicked off the dinner with dancing, cake cutting and their bridal party honored them with incredibly touching toasts. It was a beautiful night to remember!

Many thanks to the other amazing partners who made this beautiful day come to life: Bakery: Ferrara Bakery, Florist: Vale of Enna, DJ: Music by Design.

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Keri + Anthony's Wedding: St. Benedict Catholic Church - Part I

Sometimes the photos captured by a wedding photographer can simply take your breath away. That's what happened to me when I viewed the images of Keri and Anthony's gorgeous spring wedding, taken by Kevin of This Is Feeling. I was so captivated by them and had such a hard time choosing my favorites that I am going to split this post into two parts; the reception post will follow next week! 

When I saw Keri and Anthony together, I could see exactly why they were getting married; something about them made me feel like they just "fit" together. Keri is an extremely organized registered nurse who burns the midnight oil on the night shift, and still had enough pep in the mornings after work to meet with me to go through wedding details! What a go getter! Anthony was a bit more laid back and "go with the flow". Perfect compliments to one another.

Anthony and Keri both got ready at the Hampton Inn Loyola Station. They hosted their beautiful ceremony at St. Benedict Catholic Church in Chicago. The couple used Vale of Enna as their floral designer and their printed goods were made by EJD Designs

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The Scoop on the Rehearsal Dinner

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I often get questions about the rehearsal dinner from the couples I work with. Whether you can (or elect to) have an actual ceremony rehearsal or not, a rehearsal dinner is a wonderful way to start the wedding celebrations! The rehearsal dinner is a chance to take a deep breath and enjoy the moment; it should be a stress-free/low-key event. Plus, for those couples with friends and family traveling from afar, it is an added opportunity for you to mingle with some of your guests in a more intimate setting, as it often feels like there is not enough time to spend with everyone on the wedding day itself.

So, then, what are the basics of a typical rehearsal dinner?

Who: Hosts

Traditionally, the groom’s parents hosted (aka paid for) the rehearsal dinner. This is still a common practice but, like many traditions, it has become less strict with time. It’s completely acceptable for the couple, the bride’s parents or another friend or relative to take the lead on the planning of the event, and on covering the bill.

 Who: Guests

There’s no specific rule on who should be invited. Some of my couples choose to only have those participating in the wedding (perhaps the wedding party, readers and parents) attend, while others choose to invite a larger list. For the weddings I have planned, the rehearsal dinner has ranged from 10 to 60 attendees

 When: Timing

A rehearsal dinner is most often held the evening before the wedding so that those traveling for the wedding can attend. However, some venues often require a weekday (Monday-Thursday) rehearsal, since they may be booked for weddings all weekend (Friday-Sunday), so a couple of days before the wedding or the weekend before the wedding works as well. A bit of advice, though: if you host the rehearsal the night before the wedding, it should start earlier in the evening and the bar should close fairly early. It’s good for everyone (especially the bride and groom) to get a good night’s sleep before the wedding day!

 Where: Venue

If you are able to do a ceremony rehearsal at the ceremony venue, I recommend staying on site or selecting a place nearby for the dinner, so guests do not need to travel far. If you plan to do a rehearsal but it is not going to be held at the ceremony site, I recommend finding a venue with enough space to run through the rehearsal at the dinner location. Restaurants, hotels or clubs near where most guests are staying are great options for the rehearsal dinner because things like food, staff and furnishings will already be in place. Another option is to have a relative host a small rehearsal dinner in their home.

 How: Invitations

When you create your guest list, think through who should be invited to the rehearsal dinner. I recommend sending out the rehearsal invitations with the wedding invitations, or just after they go out, so that those out-of-town guests who need to make travel arrangements can plan accordingly.

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2017 RefugeeOne Annual Gala & Late Night Party: Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel

As many of those close to me know, I have been a supporter of RefugeeOne for many years. This year I again served as a member of the gala planning committee. With the bulk of the planning starting about six months prior to the event, it was an honor to be involved in such an extraordinary evening to raise money for an incredible cause.

At this year's April event, we celebrated 35 years of refugee resettlement by RefugeeOne. After a year of welcoming a record number of courageous refugees during the worst refugee crisis of our lifetime, RefugeeOne was humbled and amazed by the unprecedented amount of community support. Due to the generosity of the event sponsors, the 750+ Gala and Late Night Party guests, silent auction and raffle donors, and dozens of event volunteers, the organization raised more than $373,000 at this year's benefit to support refugees building new lives in Chicago!

One of my favorite parts of the evening took place during the program. We had the opportunity to get to know the Mweniake & Mwenembuka family through a video featuring their story, and then they joined us to perform a song. Both videos are below, along with some other pictures from the fantastic evening!