On trend with spring bridal fashion!

Wedding day fashion is a big topic. It’s something most brides and grooms spend a lot of time thinking about. We featured a great piece on men’s fashion several weeks ago and now we are delighted to get the bridal trends, direct from market week in NYC, from our friend Beth Chapman from Beth Chapman Styling. Prepare to feast your eyes!


Having just left New York Bridal Fashion Week. I must say, it is a fabulous time to be a bride, as there are so many beautiful options. Here are the top trends straight from the catwalk! 

Peplums:  Many designers showed peplums this season. The peplum is a flirty feminine detail.  In most cases, it was detachable, so that the bride has one look for the ceremony and another for the reception.

Plunging Necklines: Designers are once again taking the plunge this season with necklines! This trend was represented in both ball gown and fitted silhouettes.

Romona Keveza Spring 2017

Romona Keveza Spring 2017

Romantic Appliqués: As a beautiful and feminine alternative to lace, designers were showing gowns with appliqués and jacquards. 

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Hayley Paige Spring17

Marchesa Bridal Spring 2017

Marchesa Bridal Spring 2017

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Angel Sanchez Spring 2017

Long Sleeves: Sleeves are in! Long sleeves graced virtually every runway. They were often shown with an extreme neckline line – either a high or plunging.  

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Naeem Kahn Spring 2017

Marchesa Bridal Spring 2017

Marchesa Bridal Spring 2017

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Romona Keveza Spring 2017

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Hayley Paige Spring 2017

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Anne Barge Spring 2017

High Low HemsFor spring there was a variation in hem length with the introduction of the high low hem. I love this silhouette for either an informal wedding or as a reception look. 

Monique Lhuillier Bridal Spring 2017

Monique Lhuillier Bridal Spring 2017

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Anne Barge Bridal Spring 2017

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Romona Keveza Spring 2017

Pants: Pants were shown by several designers. I think this is such a modern and sophisticated look perfect for a contemporary bride! (this is a personal favorite of the Greatest Expectations staffers as it offers options for so many brides!)

Monique Lhuillier Bridal Spring 2017

Monique Lhuillier Bridal Spring 2017

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Lela Rose Spring 2017

Carolina Herrera Bridal Spring 2017

Carolina Herrera Bridal Spring 2017

Beth Chapman is a stylist, author and owner of The White Dress by the shore, a quaint boutique in Connecticut that offers chic couture of brides, mothers and maids.  Beth’s styling work can be found on her website

7 Ways to SPRING into action for the big day and beyond!

If you want to spring into action and get yourself fit, emotionally and physically, for the big day — then you will not want to miss this blog post. I have had the pleasure of knowing our guest blogger, Chris Szabo, for nearly 15 years now and let me tell you, she is a total powerhouse! I asked Chris to write about ways to get “wedding day” ready and then keep those routines long after the wedding. I love her fitness motto: Train – Evolve – Achieve. Train for an Adventurous Life.


The Big Day is fast approaching and there is so much to do! How can working out be something besides just another task to check off the endless list? There are lots of ways to make it happen – here are some main concepts to guide you to success:

1. Prioritize. Remember we make time for the things we want to prioritize. Whether it’s conscious or not, ‘not having time’ is the number one reason clients give for not getting the workout in or the results they want. It helps to reframe this by realizing ‘I make time for’ or ‘I choose to.’ It helps to think of working out as non-negotiable as brushing your teeth. You just do it. It’s part of your day.

2. Start with something you know and LIKE to do. I can’t emphasize this enough. Exercise can be hard work and is challenging. To have staying power it’s got to be something that you find satisfaction in, intrinsically. Is this taking a class on a regular basis? Is this working out with a friend? Do you like to dance? Take a hip-hop class. Rather lift weights? How about cross-fit or a strength class?

3. Make it count. It’s not only what you do that matters, but HOW you do it. You will get much more out of 30 minutes where you try to jog or run versus walk. Exertion counts. Sweat! You need to challenge yourself to make changes and take your fitness to the next level. There’s a place for reading books and magazines but if you read them when working out, you’re not making much of a difference in your fitness.

4. Be Accountable. For many clients, having to answer to someone or something other than themselves creates more accountability and commitment. What motivates you? If signing up and paying for classes will get you to workout, great! Do you hate the gym? Find a group or trainer to work outdoors. Want to spend more time with your spouse-to be? Find a time to workout together, or at least at the same time.

5. Persistence wins the day. So maybe you missed a day this week because you had a work project to do, or you were feeling sick. Make sure to keep it in perspective. Life happens. Keep in mind that missing a day or two isn’t the problem, it’s when that becomes a pattern that you develop issues. You didn’t bring your regular intensity to spin class? That’s ok. You showed up. Take the long term approach.

6. Schedule it, write it down. It’s great to have ideas and goals. It’s more important to write them down. Make things happen by creating goals that are realistic, time-bound, and measurable. These things don’t happen in your head. You’ve got to make them actionable items. Spin class is on the calendar, like a business meeting. Aim to workout two to three times a week on alternate days, for a few weeks. If you stay consistent with that, add in another day. If you already workout, shoot for five days, a recovery day, and a complete day off.

7. Focus on the process. It’s easy to focus on what pounds are coming on or off, or how you will look on the Big Day. While these things may matter to you, it’s most important to focus on how you will feel on that day and beyond. If you stay in the moment and focus on the process, one workout at a time, the rest generally takes care of itself.

Now take time to reflect on your successes and hard work along the way! You deserve it. By the time your Big Day comes around, you will shine with pride and confidence knowing what you did to get there.


greatest-expectations-szabo-fittness-chrisChris Szabo – Szabo Fitness, owner

Chris is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, Bootcamp & Strength Instructor and Cross Country Coach.  She promotes a love of lifelong fitness through unique and fun workouts.  She especially enjoys empowering clients by building a sense of community and using the outdoors as her fitness playground.

Certifications Held: ACE Personal Trainer, AFAA Group Instructor, TRX trainer, USA Track & Field

Specialties: Strength Training, Body Weight Training, Core Training, BootCamp, TRX, Middle Distance/Distance Running

If you are in the Worthington, Ohio area be sure to check out Chris’ classes!

Class Times: Pure Strength: Mondays 7-8pm

Total Body Bootcamp: Wednesdays 5:45-6:45pm & Saturday 8:30-9:30am. All at the Worthington Community Center.

Why you still need a planner when having a hotel wedding

Please help us welcome Emily Vandevender, Catering Manager for the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago. Emily joins us to talk about the importance of having a wedding planner, even when having a hotel wedding. We have been fortunate enough to work with Emily in many capacities over the last decade and are thrilled to have her as our guest writer this week.


The first (and arguably most important) question has been asked: “will you marry me?” and accepted. This, in turn, leads to more questions – “Where?”  “When?”  “How much will this cost?!”  “Is there anything we’re missing?”

Often the venue search can help you answer those questions.  As a catering manager, I find we often conclude an initial site visit by going through the logistical flow, set up, accommodations, availability and pricing associated with hosting an event at our property.  Given all of your other questions, you may also be wondering if the catering manager you meet during the site visit will be onsite for your wedding and if you really need a wedding planner.

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Personally, I try to be at as many of my weddings as possible.  Because we book weddings so far in advance, however, my personal availability may not always align with your big day (I was a bridesmaid in three weddings last year!) Remember that even though important elements of your wedding are being held on our property, we actually only hold a few pieces of the puzzle that is your extraordinary event.

I always like to equate planning a wedding to putting together a puzzle. You have to determine which pieces work best for you and how you want to put them together. Sometimes that puzzle looks exactly like the picture on the box and sometimes, by the end, it becomes a whole new picture. While your catering manager (at a hotel) holds three specific pieces of your puzzle – venue, food and beverage – we can’t necessarily see or manage your entire picture. Fortunately, there is someone who can: a seasoned wedding planner. I cannot stress enough the importance of hiring a professional, seasoned wedding planner!

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Every vendor holds a piece of your puzzle and due to their experience and expertise, a wedding planner can work with you to ensure that the decisions made and vendors chosen are a cohesive fit. They help ensure the entire puzzle fits perfectly together and eliminate the risk that you may select pieces that might not fit properly.

A planner will partner you with the perfect vendors

While any catering manager will happy to make suggestions of vendors that know their property well, who they’ve had good experience with, etc. they are not necessarily privy to your total budget – and don’t want to refer vendors that are not your aesthetic or might break the bank. A seasoned planner will schedule a consultation to not only get to know you and your style, but will delve into the “nitty gritty” about your entire vision and price point.

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A planner will be responsible for every single aspect of your wedding day

A catering manager’s responsibilities include things that happen on our property and only in direct relation to events happening on our property. Your wedding planner will handle things that happen both on and off the hotel’s property as well as wedding party and family dynamics. For example, if your ceremony is off-site and the trolley is stuck in traffic, your planner will be in constant contact with the driver and can adjust the schedule to accommodate the change. Perhaps you will spend another five minutes with your makeup artist, instead of rushing downstairs and waiting.

A planner is always working on your behalf

All of your vendors should work together but your planner is the decision maker on your behalf. Things do come up that are unexpected. Your planner becomes everyone’s point of contact, as opposed to bothering you. For example, your father would like a little more time before he speaks and we are all happy to accommodate his wish. But this does impact your caterer’s first course or entree service, your emcee announcing him and photography capturing the toast. Therefore, instead of these three vendors all asking you if he is ready, your planner has already confirmed to move forward with cutting the cake first and having your father’s toast after. He gets his extra time, all vendors stay on track and no one is bothering you with questions.

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A planner offers a personal touch

One of my personal favorites is that, often, a planner will take the gifts up to your room (catering managers won’t touch your gifts and cards because then the hotel could be liable). This prevents family members having to leave the reception to take gifts to a room or their car and ensures that there is one specific person responsible for the safety of these items. This is just one small way a planner add’s a personal touch.

You are the planner’s main focus

While you, as the client, are my focus that day, the puzzle pieces I am specifically responsible for are the venue, food and beverage – therefore, if our chef has a question and needs me in the kitchen, that’s where I need to be. If your grandma needs special access to an elevator other guests are not using, I should be assisting her – and if I’m assisting her, I’m unfortunately not able to run up to your room and grab the ballet flats you wanted to change into, but have forgotten to bring. A planner will have those extra shoes at the ready. That is one of a million aspects of their job.

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Finally, and most importantly, I stress seasoned wedding planner as the person you should hire to help you put your puzzle together. This is because he or she has the relationships and experience to lead you through this process flawlessly. His or her experience and relationships will be more valuable than anything else he or she brings to the table.

As a catering manager, I would love to be your planner and assist with every aspect of this event, but there is someone much more suited to the task: a seasoned wedding planner. They will always be your best resource.

When you asked me, “Is there anything we are missing?” my answer is simple: a seasoned wedding planner.

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20150720 averyhouse 010-XLAs Catering Manager for the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago and former Senior Wedding and Social Event Manager for Bon Appetit at the Art Institute of Chicago, Emily Vandevender has nine years of event planning experience and has executed over 500 weddings and special events.

With a degree in Communications, an extensive public speaking background and as a published writer, Emily also founded Toast Points in 2015 to assist with ghost writing and toast whispering needs.

Headshot by Avery House

Featured wedding shot by Fred Fox Studios. Venue, Four Seasons Chicago. Floral and design, Kehoe Designs.

The Groom’s New Clothes: Custom suits

We are very excited to bring you a series of posts on custom from Alexandra Cross at  Enzo Custom ClothiersEnzo does completely “custom” garments. Technically, there are four categories for suits: off-the-rack, made-to-measure, custom, and bespoke. Recently, the terms have become confused and interchangeable. But, as purists, Enzo has worked in the suiting business for a long time and want to properly educate people on the right term for each product. Made-to-measure garments work with an existing pattern, sometimes a very strict one, and make very limited adjustments to it. The difference with custom is that we actually build the garment, piece-by-piece, allowing for so many more changes both fit- and style-wise. What’s really remarkable about Enzo is that they are offering custom clothing at an incredible value for the detail that goes into it.

Alexandra will discuss women’s suits. We hope you will stay tuned!


The Grooms New Clothes

Deciding on the look for a groom and his wo/men for the big day can be a daunting task. Not only do you need to consider what the groom will be happy and most comfortable in, but you also have to account for the attendants’ individual tastes. The need to please everyone can sometimes overwhelm and confuse the issue. Before anything else, even before considering any of the following advice, remember to be true to your own image of the day. What you want sometimes means bending, or all-out breaking, the classic rules (and remember that Heather says there are no more rules!)  Regardless, here are some guidelines to help you navigate the process.

To begin, let’s think about style. Any suit or tuxedo should be reflective of the wearer’s personality, but also coordinate with the intended’s outfit, the rest of the party, and the overall tone of the wedding and formality of the venue. Remember, the wedding couple should be the best dressed in the room – it’s their special day! If the wedding is black-tie optional, I strongly suggest nothing less than a formal tuxedo. Then, in order from formal to casual, consider: a formal black suit, charcoal or navy solid suit, then patterned suits, tie/vest/pant no jacket, tie/shirt/pant no jacket, and finally shirt/pant. A vest always adds a punch of formality.

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Then it’s the time to consider the rest of the party. You want everybody to coordinate, look good, and also be comfortable. It can be really difficult to decide what to ask your party to pay for and how much you’re willing to compromise to save money and headaches. Consider each person individually and how you can make sure everyone is happy and comfortable with the chosen clothing.

Every member of the wedding party need not wear the exact same thing. As long as everyone coordinates, you could do a combination of tuxedos and suits, vary the color palette, add a vest, or just switch up the ties, pocket squares, or boutonnieres. Look to your planner, stylist, or dressmaker for suggestions and ideas. This is where custom suits can really be a perfect fit.

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Now is the time to think about the groom’s shape and preferred fit. This will give you an idea of how much time you’ll need to find the right suit. Go to a few places, set some appointments, just to consider fit. If you’ve gone shopping for suiting before, you might already have a good idea of how easy or difficult the body is to fit. This initial search can uncover unique attributes which could make a difference in the direction you take. Most people do not fit perfectly in a garment off the rack, so you can decide whether to rent a tuxedo or purchase off-the-rack and have the garment tailored as closely as possible, or whether to have the suit or tuxedo made through a custom program.

If you decide to rent or purchase off-the-rack, you should plan on a 4-6 week process at most based on the retailer and tailor. Add additional time to coordinate other members of the wedding party, and take anyone traveling into consideration. If you decide on a custom program, try to give yourself at least 6 weeks, with some programs at 10 weeks or more. Some companies do offer rushes. There are many different types of programs available, so make sure that the company you work with has the capability to fit your particular posture and style choices. Going custom is the best way to ensure you get the exact color, style, and fit that you want for the big day.

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Enzo-Custom-Clothiers-Greatest-ExpectationsAlexandra Cross is the Executive Clothier and Showroom Manager at Enzo Custom Clothiers in Chicago, designing completely custom suits, shirts and topcoats for each client based on their unique set of measurements and style choices. Enzo prides itself on offering an unbeatable selection of fabrics and available style choices at an unparalleled value. Alexandra has worked alongside pattern makers, in-house tailors and seamstresses, fabric distributors and buyers, in both off-the-rack and custom clothing for over seven years, designing custom garments for over sixteen different programs, large and small. She is a native to Chicago, a Dearborn Park kid, and an unapologetic townie, immersing herself in all the sights and sounds the city has to offer.

Personalizing your wedding ceremony

It is such a delight to welcome Anita Vaughan from AnitaWeds as our guest blogger this week. I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with Anita for five years. We first met when she was producing Under a New Moon, where we celebrated the first legal day of civil unions in the state of Illinois. At midnight on June 1, 2011, we united the first six, same-sex couples, in the state. It was a tremendous occasion and one that I was honored to have been part of. Anita has such an easy way with couples and really makes every ceremony extra special. She helps people celebrate every other aspect of life, not just weddings and even performed the blessing ceremony for my youngest daughter. 

This post is full of useful information and is a must read for everyone planning a wedding ceremony. Anita is an expert on personalizing life’s special ceremonies. 

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Photo by JLP and Associates


The Perfect “I Do” for You- How to Personalize Your Wedding Ceremony

You’ve picked the flavors for your cake and the colors for the flowers. Your favorite foods will be served and the band leader has a list of your favorite songs. The reception has you written all over it.

But what about your ceremony? Shouldn’t that be a reflection of the two of you? Of course!

As a professional Life-Cycle Celebrant, my goal is to make my clients’ wedding ceremonies completely personalized. But, no matter who officiates your ceremony, there are many ways to add your personal touch to your wedding ceremony.

MUSIC Let’s start with the music. Who says you can’t walk down the aisle to Led Zepplin? Having officiated over 200 weddings, I’ve heard just about every type of processional and recessional song. Of course, many couples love the traditional “Wedding March.” But I’ve also heard some really unique choices, ranging from Kanye to Guns N Roses to the Beatles. And, yes, one of my brides walked in to an instrumental version of “Stairway to Heaven.”

Whether your music is being provided by a DJ, a string trio, or your Uncle Bob will be hitting “play” on your iPhone, look for music that suits your style. And the good news is that, if you’re worried about keeping Grandma happy, you’ll be able to find instrumental versions of many of your favorite tunes. She won’t even notice that you’re playing the Imperial March from Star Wars.

TIP: Be sure to visit Vitamin String Quartet’s website for tons of instrumental options.

Another way to personalize your ceremony and make it memorable is to include your friends and family. You invited your loved ones because they’re important to you, so let them be more than just witnesses – get them involved.

SAY THANKS Have your officiant thank your guests. This can be a very simple “thanks for being here,” or you can choose to mention special people by name. A shout-out to the friend who introduced the two of you would be a great way to open the ceremony. Acknowledging people who’ve traveled from out of town for your big day would make them feel pretty special. And a few words of gratitude for parents, grandparents, or other important people in your life would add a warm, heartfelt touch to the ceremony.

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Photo by Chad Husar

INVOLVE YOUR GUESTS There are also great ways to include the whole crowd, such as asking the guests to bless your marriage with a community vow of support. Another idea is to include a ring blessing. Before you exchange your wedding rings, they are passed among the guests (either in a box or a pouch) so each person has a chance to hold them while making a wish or saying a prayer. Typically, two people are designated as being in charge of passing the rings, which gives you the opportunity to give two more people a role in your ceremony!

UNIQUE RITUALS Another way to personalize your ceremony is to think about the activities you and your future spouse enjoy doing together. Do you share an interest in history and ancient traditions? Try a handfasting ritual. Are you into gardening? Consider a planting ritual. Do you enjoy brewing your own beer? Then a beer tasting ritual might be perfect for you. Do the two of you cook dinner together? A food sharing could be a nice element for you. Love making things with building blocks? You can have a unity ritual with Legos!

TIP: Have fun! One of my couples got engaged at the Shedd Aquarium. In honor of that surprise proposal, the ring bearer (as carefully orchestrated by the groom) had a surprise delivery of the rings – they were presented by a helium shark! I’ve also had clients that met in a bar, create a custom cocktail during their ceremony and then have their attendants pass it out to all of the guests.

READINGS One more way to get creative and show your personal style is with your choice of readings.  There are countless sources for great wedding readings, including children’s books, song lyrics, and classic literature.

Are you a dog lover? Look up a poem called, “How Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog” by Taylor Mali. Math nerd? I would suggest you find a poem called “The Square Root of 3” by Dave Feinberg. Music fan? Look into a letter written by Johnny Cash to his wife, June Carter Cash – it is truly lovely.

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Photo by Chad Husar

As you can see, there are many ways to personalize your wedding ceremony. So, don’t be afraid to get creative. And, most importantly, make it true to YOU.


anita-vaughn-angel-eyes-photographyAnita Vaughan is a certified Life-Cycle Celebrant and owner of AnitaWeds. In addition to creating wedding ceremonies, Anita also works with clients to celebrate other life events, such as baby welcoming ceremonies. She works closely with other Celebrants as the Facilitator for the Illinois Celebrant Association and serves as faculty for the Celebrant Foundation & Institute. When she’s not officiating a ceremony or teaching future Celebrants, she enjoys baking cupcakes, reading graphic novels, and listening to 80’s music. Anita can also be found rescuing animals with her children and being obsessed with octopuses. Photo by Angel Eyes Photography

Destination Weddings: Tips for creating the perfect event

The Greatest Expectations team loves destination weddings. Destination wedding planning is completely different from local wedding planning and as such, provides completely different challenges to the couple, their guests and the vendors involved. It is a challenge we are always up for.

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It is such a pleasure to partner with Linda Mitchell from Luxury Destination Travel to bring you an entire series on the importance of travel during your wedding planning. She will address all different aspects of travel and how it relates to wedding planning. In this post she dives into destination weddings. In future posts she will talk about travel needs for all of your guests and honeymoon planning. Linda is a wealth of knowledge and such a bright and joyful person. Be sure to follow her entire travel series right here on the Greatest Expectations blog.



Destination weddings – the trend grows and so does the importance of your planning team!

Why choose a destination wedding? Traveling to a dreamy location and spending fun filled days and exciting evenings is an incredibly memorable experience. One in every four weddings are now destination weddings! A growing trend has emerged, embracing the elements that surround your special celebration. Weddings are fun, travel is fun, being with loving family and friends is fun…. it is a very exciting way to celebrate your special day!

As you begin to think of the logistics, you may feel overwhelmed – so let’s chat!

Choosing your destination can be like picking your wedding attire with so many amazing choices. When you find the perfect outfit, however, you just “know” it is the one! Choose a destination that fits with you and your fiancé/e’s travel interests and it will be memorable place for you for years to come. Be sure to visit the destination before you make a decision. This is a wise idea even if you have been there before. Looking at it through the destination wedding lens gives way to new perspective.

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Work with a wedding planner. Wedding planners, specializing in destination weddings, have expertise in which destinations and venues are the best to work with, providing you with the best experiences/value. Working with a wedding planner that you choose means that everything is being done strictly with you in mind! Don’t let the venue convince you that their on-site planner will meet all of your needs. They are awesome, but their main focus is the venue and catering. They are not there to meet all of your wedding planning needs.

Work with a planner you trust and follow their expertise!

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Work with a destination wedding travel planner/agent. Someone who specializes in destination wedding travel knows the destinations, what the hotels will offer, negotiates the best rates and amenities, and can manage flights and activities for you and your guests. Be sure to inquire on the travel agent/planner’s experience. Not all travel agents have a specific niche in planning travel for destination weddings. Work with a destination wedding travel planner and let your guest’s travel be coordinated with perfect precision!

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When you consider what works for your budget and who to include in your wedding planning team, consider how relaxed and stress-free the experience will be when you build your team with a planner! It may seem like an expenditure that you can cut when you look at cost, but fast forward to the weekend of your wedding. That amazing planning team will be worth their weight in gold. You won’t have one element to think about except having an amazing time with your loved ones and marrying the love of your life.

Greatest Expectations offers a package that include both the destination wedding planning and travel planning. This package is offered by partnering with experts like Linda to bring clients the best possible team and planning experience. The results are priceless.

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Know the climate in the destination. Check the future weather/climate charts to ensure that your destination has weather that you enjoy and would be perfect for you. Sunset times are also a key factor to consider when planning the timing elements. This is particularly important if you are going to have your events outside. Comfort is an important element to consider!

Consider the venue. Do you want something small and intimate or large and all encompassing? There is a “right fit” venue for every couple. Work with your planning and travel experts to find the perfect one for you.

Savor the expertise that will create your dream wedding in ways you may only imagine!

Be swooned by creativity. As your creative team organized by your talented wedding planner works their magic, they creatively capture a vision designed exclusively for you!

Indulge in the services! Put your planning team at the top of your budget list. Not only will they work out everything on your behalf, they will alleviate stress and also negotiate the best values for you across the board.

Enjoy the relationships that your wedding planning team brings to you!

Visualize your destination wedding in a dreamy location, be it a tropical beach, on top of a mountain, or wherever your imagination takes you. We wish you an amazing, fun and magical experience that will have you swimming in the memories for the rest of your lives.

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Luxury Destination TravelWith 24+ years in the travel industry, Linda Mitchell is the owner and travel professional of Luxury Destination Travel. A niche boutique travel service specializing in destination wedding travel, romance trips, specialty vacations, groups and family reunions created for clients all over the word traveling anywhere in the world.

Linda combines an exemplary level of service with her expertise and experience to make each traveler’s journey a memorable and special one!
Photo of Linda by: Rebecca Davidson photography

Photos by Julia Franzosa Photography.  To see more images of this stunning wedding, visit Julia’s blog post here.

This wedding was planned with Beth from SQN Events (Beth and Greatest Expectations owner, Heather, have a destination wedding planning partnership).

Venue, Pueblo Bonito Pacifica .

 

Wedding cake: Things to consider when booking

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Photo by: averyhouse

One of the most exciting parts of wedding planning is selecting your wedding cake! However, just like every other aspect of wedding planning, if you are not prepared for the tasting, things can get overwhelming quickly.  

Many thanks to this weeks blog guest, Elysia Root. If you want super delicious cake in Chicago, Elysia is always a great bet!


Unless you’re a wedding planner, you probably don’t really know what to expect in terms of finding and booking your perfect wedding cake. It’s a fun process and can be very straightforward as long as you’ve been given a little introduction beforehand. We’ve put together some tips and general information that could be very helpful to know prior to diving into your wedding cake search.

Schedule your cake tasting at least 3 to 6 months in advance of your wedding date. Most custom cake studios have limited staff and dates do fill up (especially during popular wedding months and dates). Check the cake studio’s availability before making an appointment to avoid disappointment.

Do YOUR homework before meeting with a cake vendor. For example, find out if a wedding cake is included as part of your venue package. If it isn’t, see if there is a preferred vendor list. Are there extra charges for bringing in an outside vendor?

Bring as much information as possible for design inspiration (invitation, color swatches, photos of the attire, flowers, Pinterest boards). Be prepared to explain why you like certain elements. Talk to your partner prior to the consultation about what he/she wants as far as cake design.

Know how you’d like the cake to be distributed at your reception: plated or at a dessert station. If you would like the cake to be plated, then you must account for every single guest in your serving size. If you plan to have a dessert station, you can usually serve less cake (we suggest 20-25% less cake, and serve other desserts to make up the difference).

Know cake terms – tiers versus layers. Standard wedding cake slices are 1 inch deep, 2 inches wide and 4 inches tall.

Know how cake pricing typically works. Most wedding and custom cakes are priced by the slice. Each cake vendor will price differently based on skill, experience, location, ingredients, and other factors. Other aspects such as premium ingredients, sugar floral work, or complexity of design will most likely add to the cost of the cake. Keep in mind you are serving your wedding guests a meal equivalent to a fine restaurant experience at your wedding; a wedding cake slice should be thought of as equivalent to a dessert served at a restaurant.

Figure out the delivery. Who will be doing the delivery? Does your cake vendor provide rentals for the display of the cake, or do they have suggestions for rentals? Is your cake vendor properly licensed and insured?

Send all requested information prior to your cake tasting. If you were asked to make any selections such as choosing cake or filling flavors you’d like to try, send that promptly ahead of time. Some vendors do the tasting deconstructed (cake and fillings served to you separately) as opposed to constructed cake.

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Photo by: Husar Photography

Know the difference between buttercream and fondant. There are many different kinds of buttercream such as American, Italian, and Swiss buttercream. Fondant is edible sugar paste made from powdered sugar, gelatin, glucose, glycerin and water, and it is only used as an icing (not a filling). In some cases, we recommend that you choose fondant. Why? Because sometimes only fondant can create the design that you’re looking for; it keeps the cake fresher, it makes it easier to handle (transport, slice, and most importantly, decorate), and it is heat-stable for warmer weather.

Tips on Choosing Your Cake Flavors

When discussing your wedding cake, we always recommend choosing flavors you personally love. We think that every detail of your reception should be a reflection of who you are as a couple. A wedding is more memorable when every details is a “favorite” of the couple and that absolutely applies to the flavor of your cake! Like the outside of the cake, the inside can be just as customized and we love working with our clients to create a scrumptious cake that tastes as good as it looks.

Analyze your palate – Do you enjoy fruity confections – or do you prefer something more nutty? How about dark, rich flavors such as a dark chocolate ganache? Or perhaps you enjoy sweet and salty combinations, such as a delicious salted caramel.

Seasonality – Think about what ingredients are available during the seasons: strawberries and raspberries in the summer, warm spice and pumpkin in the fall. Chocolate is available all year round (thank goodness!).

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Photo by: Z+V Photography

Recreate your favorite dessert – some of our clients come in with a favorite dessert in mind – we deconstruct the dessert and build the flavors up as a cake. Some of the fun flavors we have created for clients are as follows: “Almond Joy Cake” –  Almond Cake, alternating layers of Dark Chocolate Ganache and Coconut Buttercream. “Peanut Butter & Jelly Cake” – Vanilla Cake, Peanut Butter Buttercream with Raspberry Preserves.

Don’t be afraid to go outside the box and treat the cake like a “composed” dessert. Mix up the four layers of cake and three layers of buttercream flavors to give your guests an unexpected surprise. Desserts are most memorable when they are unique and delicious. We let you choose three flavors of cake and five flavors of filling from our menu for your cake tasting so you can mix and match and come up with something that reflects your tastes to share with your guests.

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Photo by: Geneoh Photography


wedding-cake-greatest-expectationsBefore launching Elysia Root Cakes, Elysia who has her B.S. in Business from the University of Illinois and a M.B.A. in Strategic Management and Marketing Management from the University of Chicago, worked in the insurance industry for 10 years. Cake decorating began as a fun hobby for Elysia in 2010 and she enjoyed making cake creations for her family, friends, and colleagues.

Elysia received her formal training in the pastry arts at The French Pastry School in Chicago where she attended L’art du Gâteau and studied with Chefs and Master Cake Artists Nicholas Lodge, Mark Seaman, and Kristin Ryan, as well as Chefs and World Pastry Champions Scott Green and Joshua Jackson. Elysia has continued to refine her skills by taking additional classes from some of the world’s best sugar and cake artists including Nicholas Lodge, Ron Ben-Israel, Mark Seaman, Susan Carberry, Lauren Kitchens, Mike McCarey, Courtney Clark, Debbie Brown, Marina Sousa, Rick Reichart, Jacqueline Butler, Kaysie Lackey, and Alexandria Pellegrino.

Sharing love: Chicago’s finest Valentine’s treats

“And I’d choose you; in a hundred lifetimes, in a hundred worlds, in any version of reality, I’d find you and I’d choose you.” ― Kirsten White, The Chaos of the Stars

We love love. We love it in all sorts of forms and for so many reasons. We love our partners / spouses, our parents, our siblings, our friends, our children. We love sharing things with those we love: things that make us happy, things that make us smile, things that make us grateful. Sharing is one of the most beautiful ways to show love and gratitude.

We love our clients, readers and vendors, so in this post we are sharing some of our favorite local treats (if you are reading from outside of Chicago, don’t worry, nearly everything can be ordered online). Below are some of the most delectable and delightful treats Chicago has to offer. Each treat comes from a true artisan small business owner. Supporting them helps keeps their communities thriving and truly makes an impact on the daily lives of the owners and their employees. But this is not only about supporting small business – – these treats are truly amazing from their appearance to their melt-in-your mouth taste. To be honest, it was really hard to keep our hands off of these goodies long enough to photograph them!

Nothing warms you up on a winter night like Salted Carmel Drinking Chocolate from Katherine Anne Confections, featured here with their handmade marshmallows. Seriously, we cannot believe we ever ate store-bought marshmallows! These handmade treats are like eating clouds. And did you hear us say salted caramel? Chunks of salted caramel melt inside this delicious cup of cocoa making it rich, smooth and nearly sinful.

Salted Caramel Drinking Chocolate

Salted Caramel Drinking Chocolate, Katherine Anne Confections

Katherine Anne Confections has been creating local-focused sweets in Chicago since 2006. Their hand-dipped truffles, soft honey caramels, and pillowy marshmallows are ridiculously good, partially due to their awesome, locally sourced ingredients and local wildflower honey replaces corn syrup. Each truffle is rolled and hand dipped for an elegant look and all flavors are a twist on the traditional. Pictured below are Katherine’s passion fruit and basil truffles.

Passion Fruit Truffles, Katherine Anne Confections Basil Truffles, Katherine Anne ConfectiosKatherine also hosts monthly truffle making parties and “tasting” nights where she debuts her newest flavors.  What a fun date night with someone you love!

Bringing a new meaning to Valentine’s Day candies are these gorgeous handmade candies from Veruca Chocolates. All of these boutique chocolate confections are the brainchild of Heather Johnston, a pediatrician-turned-chocolatier. Veruca Chocolates are made for chocolate lovers with discriminating taste and an eye for beauty. Each piece is handmade from only the finest ingredients, and hand-finished to entice the eye as well as the palate.

Kiss me Caramels, Veruca Chocolates

How cute are these “Kiss Me” Caramels? We secretly snuck these into the little ones’ lunch boxes this morning. Who says artisan chocolates are only for lovers!?

Fruit Pate, Veruca

A special “in-store only” treat are these blackberry pate de fruits. Heart shaped and lollipop like. It’s always fun to stop into Veruca and see what specials they have inside.

Heather says, “I believe that opening a box of chocolates should be almost as fun as eating it. I design each chocolate in a way that incorporates color, shape, pattern and texture to indulge all of the senses.” We could not agree more! Each of Veruca’s chocolates are tiny little pieces of art (that just happen to taste amazing).

Veruca takes new twist on an old favorite with their “Turtle Love” collection. I mean, come on!

Heart Turtles, Veruca Chocolates

Personally, I don’t think any celebration is complete without pie. First Slice, an amazing, local, cafe has this awesome mission from the Chicago Recovery Alliance: any positive change. It’s the idea that each of us has the ability to create a positive change in every needy person we meet. Making a connection, whether simply eye contact, a handshake or, with First Slice, providing a meal, can really help create a positive change in someone who’s living on the street… Everybody has something wonderful in them.

There is nothing quite like the Michigan Cherry hand pies and mini pies.  I may have been known to get a aggressive when it came to getting my hands on one of these babies. Complete perfection.

First Slice Pie

First Slice funds its efforts with a “shareholders program,” with some 100 subscriber families receiving home-cooked, restaurant-quality meals weekly. Funds from those subscriptions are used to make the same quality meals for people in need. Community volunteers, working with First Slice staff, serve often 300-plus needy and homeless each week through several social service organizations, such as Streetwise. There are three First Slice cafes (North Ravenswood inside the Lillstreet Art Center, North Ashland Avenue, and Manor Street).

Cherry hand pies. first slice

So when we think of pie, we think of First Slice and when we think of sharing food, love and knowledge, we think of First Slice. Each bite makes a big difference. Now that is a really amazing pie!

So there you have it. Delicious, beautiful and heart warming treats. These are gifts with heart, share them with everyone you love.

Happy Valentine’s Day … We love you!

XOXO,

Greatest Expectations

Mexican Fiesta – Destination Wedding

Destination Wedding Greatest Expectations

As we continue to suffer through the cold Chicago winter it is delightful to reminisce on past weddings in luxurious destinations. Today we share a really special wedding with you from Los Barriles, Mexico. Julia and Cosmo are a truly delightful couple that wanted an intimate, romantic beachside wedding with those they love most. This was an extra special wedding for us because these clients are also friends. Julia is a very talented photographer and Cosmo is a world-renowned chef. Can we say power couple?

Destination Wedding Greatest ExpectationsLos Barriles is a sleepy little fishing village about an hour from Cabo.  It is also where Cosmo proposed to Julia after working on a destination wedding we did together. Finding a meaningful spot for a destination wedding truly does make the entire experience that much more amazing.

To set the mood for invited guests, Sarah Drake Designs created the most stunning hand-painted invitations. Opening these little beauties was like getting a special gift in the mail. It was the type of invitation that you immediately hang up because you simply cannot stop looking at it.

Destination Wedding Stationery

Kicking the weekend off was one of the most festive and beautiful rehearsal dinners we have ever seen at Hotel Los Pescadores. There was so much excitement and joy in the decor that guests knew it was celebration time! Many of the guests walked to dinner from private beach houses and hotels clustered together in this sweet little village, continuing the personalized and intimate feel of the weekend.

Destination Wedding Greatest Expectations

Destination Wedding Greatest Expectations

Destination Wedding Greatest Expectations

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Julia was a stunning bride! Every detail was perfectly attended to and she absolutely glowed. The bouquets were full of the rich, vibrant colors of coral, soft pink and white with a few succulents tucked in to add texture.

Destination Wedding Greatest Expectations

Destination Wedding Greatest Expectations

Destination Wedding Greatest Expectations Floral

The wedding party was dressed in fun and flirty outfits: soft, romantic gowns for the bridesmaids and casual, tropical printed shirts for the groomsmen.

Destination Wedding Greatest Expectations Destination Wedding Greatest Expectations

Everyone gathered on the beach for the sunset ceremony officiated by a personal friend. There was no shortage of tears and laughter throughout this meaningful custom and personalized ceremony.

Beach Wedding Ceremony Greatest Expectations

Beach Wedding Ceremony Greatest Expectations

Beach Wedding Ceremony Greatest Expectations

Beach Wedding Ceremony Greatest Expectations

Destination Wedding Greatest Expectations

Directly following the ceremony, guests headed back to the house where a poolside cocktail party awaited. They were greeted with unique sea shell escort cards, hand written by the bride herself, such sweet little keepsakes for people to take home.

Destination Wedding Greatest Expectations

The reception was adorned with long wooden feasting tables overflowing with beautiful centerpieces from Mazarte Floral, candles, custom glassware and rentals from Intuitive Designs and Let it Be Events and, as the sun went down, beautifully strung twinkle lights. There is nothing quiet like dancing and dining under the stars.

Beach Wedding Greatest Expectations

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While all of these other, wonderful things were taking place, Cosmo’s dear friends and fellow chefs (who came in from all over the United States) were busy preparing a wedding feast like nothing any of us had ever experienced before. Upon arriving to Los Barriles, these guys spent days deep sea fishing to catch what would become the wedding meal. The day before the wedding, they went to the local market and purchased the freshest and most delicious items to put the finishing touches on this farm-to-table delight.

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Capping the evening off were homemade cookies (Julia’s grandmother’s recipe, no less) and a speciality bourbon bar coordinated by Julia as a surprise for her new husband. It was quite a feat getting all of these rare and expensive bottles from Chicago to Mexico!

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Bourbon Bar Greatest Expectations Destination Bourbon Bar Greatest Expectations Destination

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It was such a joy to be part of this very happy occasion as a planner and a guest!

Kina Wicks Greatest Expectations Destination WeddingWhile there was no shortage of beautiful photographs from a room full of talented photographers, the images shown here are from Kina Wicks — the official photographer for this wedding.  The only exception is the rehearsal dinner shot which was from our owner, Heather Vickery.

Tips on hotel accommodations for your guests

The very first welcome your friends and family receive upon arrival to your wedding weekend is often from a hotel’s front desk clerk. Hotel accommodations immediately set the tone for your out of town guests’ wedding experience yet are often overlooked on your to-do list. When you have guests traveling in to join you on your big day, they must have someplace to stay, and the vibe of that place will set the tone for the celebrations to come.

With the prevalence of online travel booking sites and private home rentals, it can be tempting to refer your guests to one of the many discount travel sites and let them choose their deal. This has dangers, though. You relinquish control over their guest experience and you lose the convenience factor of having your loved ones concentrated in one site, which can aid in providing amenities and transportation.

This is why we recommend investing the necessary time to negotiate a room block that will not only keep your guests together, but keep them comfortable and happy from the moment they arrive for your special weekend.

So, What are the Priorities?

As hotels expand their lists of creative amenities, guests now expect more than just a bed and shower. Start by compiling a list of important factors beginning with how many rooms you might need. Don’t forget rooms where the wedding party will get ready and your own wedding night accommodations.

What kind of properties are your friends and family accustomed to: luxury or budget; full-service or boutique? Most guests want easy access to your wedding venue, but also to major transportation hubs and local attractions. In terms of conveniences, consider a restaurant on-site for impromptu guest get-togethers or a more formally-organized hospitality suite during the day. Jot down every possible priority so you can rank them in order of importance. This list will come in handy when you negotiate with your chosen hotels.

Room Block Contracts

Armed with this information, scrutinize any contract you receive. Compare online rates to the contract rates to be sure you’re getting the best deal. Ask about attrition: it is common for a hotel to hold you financially responsible for a percentage of the rooms after certain cutoff dates. There may also be extra fees for gift bag delivery, wifi, parking or breakfast. Are more rooms available to you at the rate if your initial “room block” fills up faster than expected? Can you reduce the number of blocked rooms, and can guests cancel reservations up to a cutoff date without penalty?

We realize there are a lot of details here and the process can quickly become overwhelming. We highly suggest you enlist the assistance of a wedding planner to help streamline this process. If you are not working with a planner, a company that specializes in guest accommodations like Where Will They Stay is a great option.

Extending the courtesy of making room block arrangements for your guests is just one way to thank them for celebrating with you on your big day. Make it the first of the many expressions of love that result from your new lives together.

What do you consider the most important quality when looking for your host hotel?

Amy-where-will-they-stay-Greatest-Expectations

Amy Green is one of the founders of Where Will They Stay?, a free service which offers custom room block procurement for engaged couples. She has worked in the event planning industry for nearly 20 years, booking tens of thousands of rooms each year for conferences, conventions and special events. When staying at a hotel for leisure, she is most likely to be
found poolside!

* Featured image by Husar Photography

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