Archive of ‘While sipping a glass of champagne’ category

While Drinking a Glass of Champagne with … Sugar Chic Designs, Amy DiTomasso



I have really enjoyed getting to know Amy DiTomasso of Sugar Chic Designs!  She is so full of energy and excitement and it really shows in her work.  Thanks Amy, for sitting down and having a glass of champagne with me!

How did you decided to get into the sweet scape business?

I’ve always loved entertaining…holidays for family & friends, cocktail parties, charity events, etc.

It turned into a passion over the years as I started dreaming up crazy fun birthday parties for my 2 children. I have always loved finer details, which is what I feel makes anything really special, so I decided to marry my longtime love of sweets, design, and event planning. Designer dessert tables just evolved into the perfect fit and it has blossomed into a wonderful creative outlet for me.

What did you do prior to this?

I have been a stay at home mom for the last 10 years. I had always promised myself that when my youngest started school full day, that I would work on my next phase…so here I am! I have been fortunate enough to have spent their formidable years with them at home, while also giving plenty of thought to what I’d really enjoy doing professionally…

What sets you apart from other people doing sweets tables?

I approach my events from a design perspective. I’m interested in creating a conversation piece, and an atmosphere, so the celebrant(s) & their guests have “sweet” memories that will hopefully leave a lasting impression…I customize everything specifically tailored to my clients needs. I dive into their theme, or help them create one, & from there I design an overall color palette that creates a “look” for the table. Custom printables really personalize my vignettes and I like to mingle elegant specialty desserts, like Lauduree macaroons, along with classic and gourmet candies, that are color specific to your event palette. I love to add life & personality to my sweetscapes with custom backdrops, & ceiling installations to create eye catching vignettes.

Tell us one sweet scape design that you are dying to do?

I’m in love with the color combination:


















creme, champagne peach, combined with a mixture of metal tones, gold, bronze & silver. The combination feels very graceful & elegant…fancy without being too schmancy 🙂

I think this is the perfect palette for the upcoming holiday season!

Can you do small events as well as large?

Of course! I do a whole range of different events that vary in size from a children’s birthday party for 30, to a wedding for 400. I also love doing everything in between because each experience allows me to be creative in different ways & the thrill of the {creative!} hunt is what I love most!

What is your all time favorite sweet treat?

If I were stranded on a deserted island??? 🙂

My first love is/was chocolate {with peanut butter} but now French macaroons from Lauduree have my heart.

What was your favorite band in College?

Ha! Oh no…everyone will make fun of me. In high school I loved all the long haired rock bands of the 90’s…Skid Row. All the way.  lol.

In college it was Hootie & the Blowfish, Bush, Pearl Jam…

What is your favorite band now?

Now, I’m lucky if I get to listen to the radio or watch tv. I don’t think I’ve watched a full tv show in 2 years! But right now I like Lady Gaga, No Doubt, & Kings of Leon.

What is your favorite movie?

The Princess Bride…my all time fav. I also loved Gladiator & more recently of course, The Hangover.

What is your favorite restaurant?

I love Koi in LA; but having a bite to eat & some tea at the tea salon inside LADURÉE on the Champs del Esyee is sublime.

What is your favorite Color?

Smokey Violet

If you were an animal which one would you be any why?

A nightingale. There is so much poetry in nature. They are not particularly striking, actually they are rather plain little birds…traveling little muses with creative gifts that fill the darkness with beauty and poetry.

Can you tell I’m a hopeless romantic???

Ok, i just have to say that is the coolest answer anyone has ever given in one of our interviews!

What was the last movie you saw?

Limitless with Bradley Cooper.

What do you like most about working with Greatest Expectations?

Heather’s dynamic personality, warmth & professionalism made me feel so welcome & at ease from our very first meeting. I felt like she was an old girlfriend after 2 hours! Her attention to detail is impeccable & her extensive experience ensures she can execute any type of special event.

Thanks so much Amy!  It is always a pleasure to work with you!

Here are some beautiful photographs of Amy’s work.  If you are looking for a creative and fun way to spice of your sweets table be sure to give Sugar Chic Designs a call!

While Drinking a Glass of Champagne With …

I love my job!  I really, really love my job.  One of the reasons I love it so much is because of the amazing people I get the pleasure of working with on a regular basis. One of my favorite people in the world is Becca Kaufman from BKO (Becca Kaufman Orchestra).

I was lucky enough to meet Becca when she joined MFO Entertainment (they also represent The Larry King Orchestra whom I simply adore) and we became fast friends.  It turns out we live in the same part of town and our kids even had soccer together.  What a small world!

Becca was also a strong supporter for our eleven eleven WEDDING Giveaway this past year. She worked so hard to make sure Amanda and Mike had the best night possible!  It meant so much to have Becca’s unwavering support.

I was delighted to sip a glass of champagne with Becca!

How did you get into the music business?

I always loved to sing and was auditioning and performing throughout my childhood.  I went to Northwestern University and was a theatre major, but sophomore year some friends and I started a band, and I was hooked.  I loved how the same songs could change depending on the crowd and the mood we were in.  I also discovered the recording studio at that time and it felt like home-certainly more than theatre ever had.

What is your favorite song to sing?

Depends on the day, time and my mood.  Same goes for the music I listen to.  But I have always loved to sing and listen to songs that tell a story.

If you had to pick one song and you’d only be able to listen to that one song everyday for the rest of your life … What would it be?

In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel.  It was my first dance, it describes love and devotion and dedication and it always makes me feel joyful and loved.

How do you balance Motherhood with work?

Depends on the day.  It’s a constant juggling act because my kids’ schedule, just like my work schedule, is always changing.  I have a husband who is very involved when he isn’t traveling and wonderful childcare and friends who work with me to make sure my children always have what they need and are loved and supported.  I love what I do, and I know my children sense that.  I feel I am a better mother because of it, so it’s worth the juggling.

I could not have said it better myself!

What’s your favorite place to perform?

I think my favorite performances have never been made by the place but rather the people I am playing with and for.

You also do Music Showcases, tell us more about those, why you enjoy them and how all the readers can enjoy them!

For the last 10 years I have co-produced a monthly vocal showcase, Chicago Singer Spotlight, at the incredible FitzGerald’s in Berwyn.  We feature 4 singers who have different experience levels and vocal styles backed by an incredible house band. Our goal was to give singers of all backgrounds a chance to spread their wings in a supportive nurturing environment.  We have professional vocalists trying out a style of music they have never performed before to people who have always dreamed of performing with a band.  The singers can get a recording of the show, professional photos and can network with others. They also don’t have to worry about putting a band together or filling a club by themselves-it has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done and I wish there was something like this when I started out.  Please come out and support the show-it’s the second Wednesday of every month!

It really is always a fantastic show!!

What is your personal “guilty pleasure” music wise?

Don’t have one!

I don’t believe her but I let this one slide!

What is your favorite color?


What is your favorite book?

I never get to read anymore-3 kids make it impossible because I get so absorbed in a story I can’t do anything else.   I love mysteries and my favorite indulgence on vacation is to read as many books as I can.  I just finished the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series on my last trip and loved them.

What is your favorite tourist location in Chicago?

Buckingham Fountain

What is your all time favorite movie?

I have two and you cannot make pick just one!

1. Shawshank Redemption

2. Sense and Sensibility

What’s the best place you’ve ever eaten?

I am married to a chef, so I have been very fortunate to eat at many many incredible places.  I think the best place I have ever eaten was a small restaurant off of an alley way in Italy with my husband.  We don’t remember the name.  We were in Rome and it was not a tourist spot, it was a place for locals.  There was no menu-you ate what they served.  A carafe of wine, the most amazing homemade pasta with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella.  The food was delicious and the company divine.

What is your dream vacation?

A beach on an island somewhere, laying on a floaty in the ocean with a great book, the warm sun, a cool breeze and a frozen drink.

Me too Becca, when can we leave!?

What’s your favorite thing about working with Greatest Expectations?

I love that you listen to your clients.  Your celebrations are very personalized, beautifully executed and you don’t miss anything!  And of course-I adore you personally!

We adore you too Becca and cannot wait until the next time we get to enjoy your talent!

Here is one of my favorite pictures from Amanda and Mike’s eleven eleven WEDDING.

Photograph by Amanda Hein Photography

While Drinking a Glass of Champagne With…

One of the things I love about my job is meeting so many talented, fun and simply amazing people in the industry.  I

have been lucky enough to forge some really great bonds with many of my vendors and one of my favorite is Nicole Marotta from Berghoff Catering.  Many of you know the Bergohff name from the famed Chicago Eatery “The Berghoff.” Carlyn Berghoff, the daughter of the owners of The Berghoff, started her extremely successful catering business (then known as Artistic Events by Carlyn Berghoff) in 1986 and bought the restaurant from her parents upon their retirement in 2006.  This often causes confusion when I suggest Berghoff Catering to my clients.  I’ve had many a client tell me they don’t want “German Food” at their wedding.  I am here to tell you that Berghoff Catering does not just do German food!!  One of the reasons I love working with Berghoff is because of their extremely talented culinary department.  They have some of the most innovative and creative chefs in Chicago and I am constantly amazed by what they “bring to the table.” I have a special relationships with their pastry chef, Chon, who I consider to be one of the best pastry chefs in the area.  If you are looking for the perfect sweet bite you simply must try Berghoff!

Now back to my dear friend Nicole … I have worked with Nicole for more than six years now and we have collaborated on tons of beautiful and unique weddings.  I had to twist Nicole’s arm a little to do this interview but I am so glad I was able to talk her into it!

What sets Berghoff apart from the competition?

Our size, service and commitment to hospitality- we are a very close knit team that has a family-like atmosphere.  Because of our size, no detail goes overlooked and our resources allow us to do small as well as extremely large scale events.

What is your favorite savory and sweet thing on the menu?

Impossible!  It’s like asking a Mother to pick her favorite child… Ha ha ha.  If I had to choose I’d pick the grapes rolled in goat cheese and sacher tortes.  Yum!

What is your favorite venue to work?  Why?

Before switching my major, I spent 3 years studying Horticulture and worked in at greenhouse and florist for years so I love the natural beauty of the Garfield Park Conservatory!

If you could travel anywhere in the world where would it be and why?

It would be to visit one of my two favorite places … Eagle River, Wisconsin or Key West, Florida

I love the beauty and serenity of the Northwoods. It’s a great escape from daily life. As for Key West… well, it’s Key West… 😉

What is your favorite animal?

Monkey … I have quite the monkey collection.

What is your favorite  restaurant?

Seven Fish, in Key West.

If you were a color, what color would you be and why?

Blue- and according to I am blue as well!

“Your world is colored in calm, understated, deep colors.
You are a loyal person, and the truest friend anyone could hope to find.
On the inside, you tend to be emotional and even a bit moody.
However, you know that people depend on you. So you put on a strong front.”

True, very true.

Who is your favorite movie star?

Tom Hanks, circa The ‘Burbs!

What is your favorite saying?

“Make it happen”

What do you like most about working with Greatest Expectations?

I love how much fun we have working together on the actual day of the event!

We do have a ton of fun working with Nicole!  She keeps us in stitches the entire day, which makes everything better and helps the time pass much faster.

Nicole thank you for taking the time to do this interview!  We love you, we love Berghoff and we look forward to our next project with you!

While Sipping a Glass of Champagne With …

I seriously loved interviewing Kara Underwood from Magnificent Milestones!!  Kara owns an amazing custom invitation shop and I am like a kid in a candy store there … Ok, I will admit it … I have a little crush on paper. Feeling really nice paper gives me a bit of a rush.  Now I know that might be a little strange for some of you but it isn’t for Kara and that is one of many reason we get along so well!!

One lucky reader will get an amazing gift provided by Kara … You will have to read through the interview to find out what and how you can win.  Yeah, I am sneaky like that!

You own a beautiful invitation company that operates out of Smitten Boutique, how did you end up sharing this space?

Kirstin Martin, the owner of Smitten Boutique, and I separately had dreams to open a wedding boutique in the West Loop. It was perfect… close to many wedding vendors and there was absolutely nothing like it in the area. The only problem was, we both had the idea at the same time.

We opened within 6 months of one another and did our best to find our niche and support one another’s businesses. Kirstin focused on day of details, such as jewelry, cake toppers and more, while I focused on custom invitations and all things paper. We were constantly sending people to one another and meeting for coffee to chat. After a year, Kirstin and I met to discuss a physical merger. We would share the amazing space at Smitten Boutique and each maintain separate businesses. Naturally, I jumped at the chance!

Seriously folks, if you live in the Chicagoland area and have not been to Smitten Boutique then run don’t walk. The store is simply amazing!!

What do you love most about the invitation business?

When the bride sees her invitations for the first time! It is very surreal to see your name next to your fiancés… very official!

You just created your own Invitation Line.  Tell me about “The Third Coast Collection”!

I started the Third Coast Collection out of my love for Chicago and a void in the marketplace. Brides & Grooms are always searching for fun and kitschy notes for thank you cards and welcome bags. They don’t always have the budget for customized notecards and these have a way of being personal to the couple and their personalities. Stay posted for a line of Chicago-centrice save the dates and invitations coming this fall!

You used to be a wedding planner, what made you decide to forego that and focus on invitations?

I love weddings (obviously), so it’s no surprise that I had my hand in several things at once. Planning was so much fun, but I truly think everyone should have a specialty. After the business started to grow, I realized that I was spreading myself to thin and needed to decide on just one focus. My love for paper prevailed!

I must admit this makes me very happy!!  Not only because Kara was some stiff competition for me but because she has truly outdone herself with the custom invitations.  I seriously love taking my brides to see her.  Not only do they love being in the shop and what she has to offer but she is just plain fun to spend an hour with … Oh and it does not hurt that if you make an appointment to look at invitations with her she gives you the most adorable “expert thank you cards” (yes, that is all you have to do … Make an appointment instead of just stopping in!).

What do you miss most about planning?

Good question! I miss the day of, hands down. It is so exciting… Seeing the bride for the first time, watching the groom when she walks down the aisle, bringing them in to see the room, everything.

What did you find the most stressful about being a wedding planner?

There were times that I felt more like a psychiatrist than a planner! There is a lot of mediating, whether it is between a client and his/her parents or the bride and groom themselves, and it is challenging.

You just got married yourself (at the Ivy Room no less).  What did you learn from “the bride’s perspective” that you did not know from the planner perspective?

All the fun details and stresses you don’t deal with as a planner…. Such as the amazing dress, the dreaded guest list.

What was your favorite part of your wedding?

Oh gosh, that is hard! I have a few… getting ready with my bridesmaids and my mom was a blast. I needed my girl time, so everyone came over in the morning for hair and makeup. After a lot of laughs (and some champagne), it was time to start the day. The ceremony was also one of my favorites. Our officiant did a great job personalizing it. Last but not least, one of my favorites was the dance party that took place that night.

What is your favorite restaurant in Chicago?

My favorite food is Mexican and I love the *new* Mercadito.

Favorite color?


Favorite movie?

Steel Magnolias

Favorite song?

This changes all the time! Once I love something, I listen to it on repeat, literally, so it doesn’t last as a favorite for long. Sleepyhead by Passion Pit is on repeat right now.

Which living person do you most admire?

My mom, for a lot of reasons. She is one of eleven (yes, eleven!) children which made her mom-like figure to my aunts and uncles at a very young age. She had to sacrifice a lot to help out and never got to go to college. But I have never heard a complaint. She worked hard before starting her own family and still became extremely successful. In more recent years, I have thrown her several curve balls, moving to Chicago (with no job, no plan), starting my own business, opening a store and more. Everything I throw her way, I get nothing but support. I am always told that if “someone can do it, it’s me” and I truly think that is why I get to do what I love today.

What do you like best about working with Greatest Expectations?

Personally: You two are just fun! I can seriously chat with you for hours. Oh wait, we have!

Professionally: I love working with planners like you that go above and beyond for their clients. They are so lucky to have you! I know when I email them at 9:00 p.m. at night, I will get a response 🙂

Thank you Kara!!  It is so nice to get that kind of compliment from someone in the industry.

Now on to the good stuff … If you love paper the way Kara and I do then you will really enjoy these beautiful (and totally fun)  engraved note cards from Kara’s Third Coast Collection. In order to win simply post a comment here telling us about your personal secret (or not so secret) obsession (mine is clearly expensive paper). Anyone is welcome to enter!

While Sipping a Glass of Champagne With …

It was such an honor to interview my long time friend and treasured vendor, Kelly Marie Uss from Fleur, Inc.  Kelly has worked in the floral industry for twelve years.  She loves working with unique blooms, pulling inspiration from cloud formations in the sky, ripples in raindrops, hidden clovers in grassy patches and the glow of the flowers themselves.  She pairs a modern and clean approach to design, softened with a versatile, whimsical wild-flower-esque touch.  Her background in painting and printmaking gave her a non traditional training in floral design and that is apparent in her sensitivity to texture and color.  “Nature offers us so much, often in the whirl-wind of life we miss the small details. I feel it’s my job to help people recognize time to slow down and enjoy the intricacies all around us” say Kelly Marie.  “There is so much beauty out there!” she says with a sigh and a smile.  And she definitely keeps us noticing.

Read all the way through the interview to discover what Kelly is giving away to one lucky Chicagoland reader!

How long have you been in the floral industry?

Twelve years! It is really amazing to think about it.

When did you open Fleur, and how has it grown?

Eight years ago. In fact, April 8th is Fleur’s golden birthday! We’ve grown so much it’s mind boggling. From just a little bucket shop to a new location. We started with just a small storefront and now have a new location with a private meeting room for clients. Also, our style has really changed from modest arrangements to stylized centerpieces, and all the designs in the middle. It’s so fun to keep pushing the boundaries. In addition to working on just spectacular weddings and events, our storefront offers a boutique style shop with new selections almost everyday. We’ve also begun carrying vintage vessels, gorgeous hand crafted jewelry and beautiful plants.

I can say from first hand experience how creative and fun Kelly’s floral concepts are!  I always love it when she calls to tell me she has a “new idea” because I know it will produce something amazing for one of my clients.

What is your favorite flower?

I have three. Peonies and lilac, because they remind me of my Mother’s garden growing up. And mimosa which resembles the softest little, butter yellow cotton balls. All three have incredible fragrances and do not last long, which makes them so very special and a reminder to me to stop and enjoy little moments.

Describe the perfect wedding centerpiece?

Right now I am just obsessed with vintage milk glass, or rather, vintage vessels in general. I love varying heights and shapes of containers, teacups and saucers filled with clusters of exploding movement and texture or one single bloom. I’d like to see dogwood blossoms, helleborus, peonies, ranunculus, jasmine, lots of buds, fun textures in a sherbet palette, with pillar candles! I’d love to place them on top of old, hardcover books, or sew a little “place-mat” out of vintage fabric. How bright and fun!

Like Kelly, I am currently obsessed with the look and style of vintage weddings.  I think they are so romantic and fun!

What is your favorite venue in the city?

I like open space and natural light, so I think it might have to be Prairie Productions because it is just a blank palette waiting and there is so much room for so many options. Salvage One is also just so eclectic and amazing!

Awhile ago I “sipped champagne” with the bride from a wedding Kelly and I did together at Prairie Productions. Check out some pictures from the event in my interview with Alyssa.

If you could travel anywhere in the world where would it be and why?

Everywhere!! I want to see it all! But if I was planning my next little holiday I think it would be in Nova Scotia. I’ve never been to that part of the world and would love to see the maritime culture. I just know I would be so inspired and filled with design ideas after a week there.

If you were an animal which one would you be and why?

Recently I read that my spirit animal may be a crab (!?), but I think I’m a little more like squirrel. I am always forgetting where I hide my keys, and I like to use acorns in arrangements. They’re also all over Chicago, and I feel like that these days with all my running around, I am too.

What is your favorite song or musician?

I don’t think I have a favorite song, but I really love singer/songwriters. Will Oldham, Bill Callahan, Tim Buckley, Linda Rich and so many more. It’s nice to come home after a long day of work to some soothing guitar melodies. And I play the banjo, so almost anything that has an accompanying banjo usually wins me over.

Who is your favorite artist?

As for artists, I love Paul Klee for his whimsy and color, and Winslow Homer for his nature and palette. They’re perfect descriptions of my realist and abstract sides.

What is your favorite restaurant?

Lula Cafe. Yum! Although, Avec is a close second. Oh gosh, I’m getting hungry right now, thinking about them.

What do you like most about working with Greatest Expectations?

As we all know, the wedding industry can be stressful for both the bride and the vendors. Working with you and your team is so fun that the stress is just eliminated! We can laugh and joke all the while figure out plans and develop a completely unique and personalized celebration for each and every client. You are always coming up with the most fabulous new ideas and your standard is a perfect pairing of good fun, humor and superb professionalism! It is always a delight to work with you and your staff.

Thank you Kelly!!  It warms my heart to hear such kind words from you.  I consider myself extremely blessed to not only work with you often but to call you my friend.

Kelly has generously agreed to giveaway a $100 vase arrangement to one lucky reader!!  The arrangement will be made in a vintage container and include wonderful blooms of the season.  The picture below is just an example of Kelly’s work.  The winning item may resemble this piece.  In order to win just post a comment to this thread telling us what you enjoy most about having fresh flowers in your home! A winner will be selected at Random on March 8th. You do not have to be a Greatest Expectations bride to win 🙂

While Drinking a Glass of Champagne With … and a giveaway!

I am so excited that I had a chance to interview Susan Jablonski from The Left Bank (one of my favorite stores and wedding mecca’s in Chicago!).  I have known Susan for many years and she is truly exceptional!  I love walking into The Left Bank and seeing all of the beautiful and inspired items she has available.  The customer service is top notch and I promise you will feel extra special the entire time you are there!  The Left Bank has a fantastic website where you can purchase many of the fabulous items sold in the downtown Chicago shop.  You should also check out their outstanding blog Everything But The Dress!

Because Susan is so amazing, she has provided the most beautiful brooch for us to giveaway to one truly lucky reader. (I will have a hard time parting with it.  I have it placed lovingly on my desk just to soak it in while I still can.  This is a beautiful piece of jewelry)  Read through the interview to discover how to win the brooch!

You have been in business a long time – how did The Left Bank get its start (and where did you get the name)?

The Left Bank is turning 15 years old on May 1 of this year! We began importing jewelry from France and as word got out about our unique jewelry, brides soon followed.  I’ve been a Francophile for nearly my  entire life, so I named the business after one of my favorite neighborhoods in Paris that is filled with petite boutiques, cafes and great nightlife.

How is it different today than when you first started?

Through the years, we’ve evolved and added a tremendous collection of veils, headpieces and those tough to find wedding shoes.  I believe the key to staying in business is to constantly evolve and embrace change.

What is your favorite thing about owning the shop?

Meeting wonderful people and sharing stories. When I first began, I was worried about not meeting people and expanding my friendships, but I was completely wrong.  We’re a small business, so it’s wonderful chatting with our clients and getting to know them.

This is exactly how Susan and I first met.  I purchased my wedding head piece at The Left Bank and we just became fast friends!

What is your favorite thing you sell?

My favorite things are our one-of-a-kind pieces that are crafted out of vintage components and turned into modern luxe jewelry.

Personally, I own way too many things from the shop 🙂

You got married not too long ago (congratulations!), what was your favorite and least favorite part of the planning process?

Ah, we’re 2 year newlyweds.  I was fortunate that I relied a lot on friends in the industry but did not make my mind up until the month before.  Being in the business I was inundated with friends asking me questions about the details, which was a bit tiresome, but a natural question.  I make very fast and efficient decisions, and with so many wonderful choices out there, I waited.  That goes without saying that I would not recommend this type of decision making to those outside the biz!

And neither would we!  Ladies, do not follow Susan’s example here!

What do you like most about married life?

Married life is great, but I’ve been independent since I was 4 years old (my sisters say!) so it’s taught me more patience.  I’ve married someone the complete opposite of me which keeps me more balanced.  I definitely believe in the “yin/yang” factor with relationships.

Did you wear a veil?

Yes, I wore a beautiful Italian Tulle veil which was super soft and draped beautifully over my gown.

I would have expected no less from Chicago’s veil expert!

What is your favorite museum in Chicago?

My favorite museum is the Art Institute and love the new Modern Wing. The AIC has a phenomenal collection and have always loved the Thorne Miniature Rooms.

If you could travel anywhere outside the United States where would it be and why?

Definitely France, I feel completely in my element there.

Describe the perfect Saturday night.

I work weekends, so a nice long bath and a glass of bubbly is heavenly.

I can totally  identify with this!

What is your favorite number?  Why?

Easy…22…my birth date!

What is your favorite saying?

“Make your life a dream and your dream a reality”
“Fais de ta vie un reve, et de ton reve une reality”…  Saint Exupery

If you were a color what color would you be and why?

Lavender, it’s calm, vibrant  and regal at the same time.

We have known each other for a very, very long time … What is your favorite thing about working with Greatest Expectations?

Heather, you always make me smile and I admire how you’ve grown your business and family.  When I meet your clients, they exude the same grace and professionalism as you. Kudos to you for being one of the top wedding planners!

Thank you Susan.  Those are extremely kind words and they mean a lot coming from you.  I do have some fantastic clients as well 🙂

Now onto the contest!!  Head on over to Everything But The Dress, look around and enjoy the blog.  Then come back here and post a comment telling us one thing Susan “Cannot live without”.  We will draw a random winner on Wednesday, February 10th.

Congratulations to Sarah our winner of the Ribbon Brooch!

While Sipping a Glass of Champagne With …


Donna Albertson from The Ivy Room at Tree Studios!

Here at Greatest Expectations we love The Ivy Room and we are pretty sure a good reason is because it allows us to work with Donna!  She is such a fantastic, talented woman and we will take any excuse we can get to spend time with her.  I cannot tell you how many times I have had clients tell me that she is one of the main reasons they chose The Ivy Room and we could not agree with them more.

Tell us about The Ivy Room at Tree Studios.  What makes it so special?

The Ivy Room at Tree Studios has a really beautiful history; it has housed artists and cultural events since the late 1800’s. The courtyard is so unique and unexpected- it’s a little bit of Europe in the middle of the city and the ballroom is a great mix of traditional and modern.  I think the best thing about it though is how much it changes with each event- it allows each couple to really express their personal style and taste and I love that.

What did you do prior to working at The Ivy Room?

Just prior to working here I was an Event Producer at Kehoe Designs. Before that, I was The Director of Private Events at Park Hyatt Chicago.

If you could “do” anything you wanted, what would your career be?

Hmmm…right now this. But if I wasn’t doing this, then something that made it my job to travel around the world and have fantastic dinner parties with all kinds of interesting people. If you know about something like that- send it my way.

I sure will Donna, but you have to promise to let me work with you!

What is your favorite …


Impossible to choose. I grew up in California without any seasons so they’re all novel….fresh fruit in the summer, leaves in the fall, lilacs in the spring, first snow of winter …


Oh my goodness….changes all the time….I always love Sepia though.


Anemones, Amaryllis, Ranunculus….so many….


Dangerous Liaisons- Kissing Jessica Stein if I need to laugh.


Anything sung by Etta James.

Vacation spot?

India, Brazil, Hawaii, Paris, London, NY

Wow- that’s a lot… Are you secretly trying to set me up? This sounds like the questionnaire.

You totally figured me out Donna, the whole thing is a set up!  I will be sure to note in your profile that you are clearly a little afraid of committing to one word answers as is proved by the above responses! You know I love you!

If you were an animal what would you be and why?

Some kind of Seabird- I need the ocean, and who doesn’t want to fly.

Tell us one thing about yourself that will totally surprise everyone.

I came very close to becoming a doctor.

I have to admit, that did surprise me!

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of this job is the people. The clients and the vendors- I’m surrounded by happy, creative, inspiring people all the time.

What is your least favorite part of the job?

I don’t have a least favorite part anymore- that’s what I hired Matt for!

For those of you who don’t know, Matt is Donna’s super wonderful right hand man!  He always gets the job done well and I don’t think I have ever seen him without a smile on his face.

What is the busiest season at The Ivy Room? When can you get the best deal?

Well, we’re only 2 years in and so far we’re packed from April-December…but you can get a great deal January-March.

So there was your hint all you newly engaged couples.  You can, in fact, score the hottest venue in Downtown Chicago with just a little creative thinking!

Why should your brides and grooms hire a wedding planner or day of event coordinator?

Because you don’t want to work on your wedding day- because it goes so fast and you want to have time to pay attention to the important things- because you should turn your cell phone off and because, it only happens once- it’s worth hiring an expert to make sure it goes right.

We could not agree more!

What is your favorite thing about working with Greatest Expectations Special Events & Weddings, Inc?

Heather … And, how much her clients love her- it’s really nice to be around that energy.

Awe, thanks Donna!  That means a lot but I have to give props to my entire team.  We work so well together and each event is truly a team effort!

Here is a beautiful picture of Donna with the fantastic Courtyard at The Ivy Room in the background.  Below that is one of my favorite shots taken in the space from a past event.

Donna thank you for taking the time to chat with me!  I look forward to several more glasses of Champagne with you!

Donna Ivy Room

Hagedorn room shot

While Sipping a Glass of Champagne with…







While sipping a glass of champagne with Alyssa Goff Stock … Former client, event planner and good friend!


It was such a pleasure to sit down with Alyssa and recap her wedding experience.  While Alyssa and I have been acquaintances for many years it was not until we worked together on her wedding that our friendship truly bloomed.  I was thrilled when she called and asked me to be her wedding planner.  She is an exceptional event planner and works on amazing large corporate events and festivals. I am so honored to be considered one of her friends, she is an exceptional and talented  person.

How are you enjoying married life? Is it what you expected? 

I am enjoying married life! It is so much better than I expected. I thought that once we got married we would go back to our life before planning a wedding. But something inexplicable changed; we are different, it is awesome

What is your favorite thing about being married? 

I have a good husband.

You recently t celebrated your first anniversary, did you do anything special?

My husband surprised me with a night at The Palmer House, where we spent our wedding night and took me to dinner where we had our rehearsal dinner.  It was perfect and I was so impressed with how much time and thought he put into everything.

What was your favorite part of your wedding day? 

Being surrounded by all of our friends and family. It was so wonderful to have people from all over come together to celebrate with us.

What was your favorite “detail” about the wedding? 

 Our venue was perfect (Prairie Productions in the west loop). We got to do something a little unique while still being a little traditional.

Were there any surprises? 

I was surprised by the things that made me nervous. I was very calm getting ready and then the photographer showed up and everybody started moving around and suddenly I was nervous. Also I was very nervous walking down the aisle but not because I was about to get married, but because I suddenly realized everybody was looking at me.

You are an event planner, was it hard to let go and trust Greatest Expectations to plan the wedding?  

YES. In the beginning it was hard to let go of some of the planning. But I mad a deal with my husband that if we got a wedding planner I would not work our wedding. So I told myself that the second the rehearsal started I was no longer in charge. I have to say it was great. I feel like I was a guest at my own wedding. (That is good news!  It means we did our jobs perfectly!).

Did you enjoy working with all of your vendors? 

Most of them. There was one I was not very happy with but she got promoted and her replacement was awesome. (The caterer was Weddings By Blue Plate).

What was your favorite place to shop for wedding items? 

The internet.  You can get anything and everything online!

What was your favorite part of the planning process? 

Truthfully having a wedding planner. Whenever we got stuck on something or did not know how to do something we had someone to turn to. That makes me smile from ear to ear.  I love hearing that!

If you could have changed anything what would it be? 

I am constantly seeing new wedding dresses and new hairstyles that I like. But truthfully I would not have changed anything. Neither would we.  Alyssa and Eddie’s wedding was just perfect!

Any regrets? 

 No. Again, just what I like to hear.

When you look back, how was your actual wedding different than you had envisioned it being? 

I was never one of those people that had a vision of my wedding day and I think that was a good thing. Truthfully everything turned out better that I thought it would when we were planning it. I have to say my wedding day was everything I could have hoped for and more.

Do you remember how you felt the day after your wedding? 

Happy, sad, tired, dazed. I was so happy to be married, I was sad that everyone was leaving town because I felt like I barely got to talk to anyone, and I was dazed the wedding sort of felt like a dream.

What five words best describe working with Greatest Expectations? 

 Organized, fun, hard working, stress relieving and budget concious  (I know that is more than 5). I think we’ll forgive you the extra word!

Thank you Alyssa for taking time to chat with us.  Below are a ew of my all time favorite shots from Alyssa’s wedding.  The photographs are by Rob Warner at Warner Foto.  The beautiful flowers are from Fleur, Inc.




































While Sipping a Glass of Champagne with …

While Sipping a Glass of Champagne With Darryl Norwood … Personal trainer, friend, and all around great guy!!

I am so excited to be able to share Darryl Norwood with you guys! He truly is fantastic and I just felt compelled to share him and his talents with you.  I hope you are all able to get healthy and have fun with Darryl like I have!  Be sure to read all the way to the bottom to see some special deals Darryl is offering the readers of this blog!!

Now I know drinking is not normally part of a “well balanced diet” but a glass of champagne never hurt anyone!

How long have you been training?

I have been training since 2000.

What made you get into personal training?

I have always been athletic.  I wrestled and played basketball in college but was too small to make the football team.  I always had people following me around asking questions and learning from me and I realized I was already training, so why not do it professionally

What kind of certifications do you have?

I have several certifications including, ISSA (Illinois Sports and Science Association) and Kick Boxing.  I am also stretch and CPR certified.  I am getting ready to  do sports agility certification.

For the record, I personally think the Stretch Certification is the one that pays off the most!  I think about that throughout my work outs and some days that is what gets me through – those stretches are the bomb!!

Where do you train?

I train at a club in Oak Park called B-Fit geared toward kids 8-18 and we also do one-on-one and group training there as well.  I am also able to come to your home or office. I am all about catering to my clients so just give me a date and time and I will be there!  I love to make house calls!

What your favorite thing about training?

I like helping people and I love to see the end result, the transformation.

Why do your clients stay with you?

I am a realist, I believe what you put in is what you get out of it.  But honestly, I really love what I do and I think it shows, it is a personal connection. 

What is your favorite healthy thing to eat?

I love grilled chicken.

What is your favorite unhealthy thing to eat?

Potato chips and beer – my two weakness!  Everyone has a weakness and the key is moderation and self control.

What’s the one movie you could watch over and over?

Independence Day with Will Smith.

What is your favorite band?

The Police.

This really is Darryl’s favorite band … Those of you who know me well may think he said it just for my benefit but alas he just has excellent taste.  Perhaps that is why we get along so well!

What is your favorite restaurant?

Table 52.

What is your favorite saying?

If it’s not hurtin’ it’s not workin’.

Be honest, what is your favorite thing about working with Heather from Greatest Expectations?

Outside of the coffee waiting for me when I get there, I truly enjoy our friendship.  It makes the “work out” seem like “play time”.

Darryl there is always a hot cup of coffee with lots of cream and sugar waiting for you at my house!

Here is a great picture of Darryl hard at work!!











Greatest Expectations Personal Training Special!!

Mention you saw Darryl on this and blog  and you get an extra special deal!!

Get your first session free at the location of your choice

Purchase a package of 10 or more session and get 5% off! (normal session price is $55 per person, per hour)


Get your bridal party together and the Bride or Groom work out for free.  It is only $35 per additional person per session (at least three people required) or $25 per person per session (four or more people required)


Bride and Groom work out together for $75 combined (a savings of $35 per session)


Two or three people $35 per session, per person

Four or more people $25 per session, per person

The 5% discount even applies to the above special rates!  These are some exceptional deals so don’t waste a second!

Call Darryl 312-485-0545 or 708-386-5011

Email Darryl