Archive of ‘Wedding Ceremony’ category

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