Erin and Luke 1-31-09

Luke and I were married on Saturday, January 31, 2009 at St. Clement Church in Lincoln Park.  We then had our wedding reception at Murphy Auditorium in the city.  It was a beautiful sunny winter day in Chicago.  We were and are so lucky...

I hope these reviews help those of you who are getting married and using the same vendors.  If you have any questions you can contact me on the Chicago Knot board.
                                                                              Ceremony - St. Clement   Church (A)        



This church is so beautiful and my godfather (he's a deacon) married us!!   The director of music, Dr. Swanson (who is also the organist), our trumpeter, violinist and cantor were great and very easy to work with.  The coordinator at the church on Saturday (Gael) was different than the one who was there at our rehearsal on Friday, but overall, everything was pretty much perfect.  This is one of the most beautiful churches in the city and we feel very lucky to have had our wedding ceremony here. They also have a very helpful website where you can pick out your ceremony music and even listen to it.  
Reception - Murphy Auditorium (A)
We have a sort of funny story (we can laugh about it now) about how we came to choose this beautiful venue.  Originally, we were going to have our wedding reception in the suburbs (at the Wyndham Drake in Oak Brook).  However, in June we learned that the hotel was closing down in January for renovations, and they were cancelling our contract!!  We couldn't believe it!!  We had 6 months to find a new venue and had so many things already was like starting all over and we were in a panic.  We looked at various venues in the city (we were a little scared to have the reception in the burbs because of what the happened with the Drake), but as soon as we saw Murphy Auditorium we knew this was the place.  Catherine Carey (the coordinator at Murphy) was so gracious and welcoming and so kind (she even recommended the Hotel Cass which was practically across the street and very convenient for our out-of-town guests).  We are so happy we were able to have our wedding at this unique venue.  There is really nothing like it in the city.  We had 210 guests and the space was perfect - it felt very intimate but not crowded.  When Luke and I had a chance to see how everything was set up on the night of our wedding - it was so beautiful that we really couldn't believe it.  We will never forget dancing on the balcony overlooking all our guests as the lights across the street sparkled on the trees - it was so pretty. 

Catherine Carey was very flexible - we had quotes for our centerpieces from various preferred florists who contract with Murphy.  Unfortunately, they were quite expensive.  My mom offered to do the centerpieces and Cathy let us.  She allowed us to store and stage all 20 centerpieces in the coatroom on Friday before the wedding and let our DOC dismantle and store them at the loading dock for pick up on Sunday morning after the wedding.

The only issue we had with this venue was a problem with valet parking for our guests driving in from the burbs.  We signed a contract with Murphy for valet service back in June when we booked, but the valet service who contracts with Murphy never showed up.  We had even assured all our guests that valet service would be available and complimentary and included the information in our invitations.  However, since the service never arrived, Murphy offered to reimburse those guests who ended up paying for parking .  Catherine was very apologetic - this was the first time something like this had happened with their valet service.   I guess that's why I am giving them an A instead of an A+.  Even with that small glitch, we would highly recommend this venue.

Caterer - Food For Thought (A)
We worked with Jennifer Vahle and LOVED her - easy to work with and so accommodating.  She added all these special touches to our menu: warm apple cider with cinammon whipped cream as a complimentary drink when our guests arrived, mini Chicago-style hot dogs with chocolate and vanilla milk shakes for our late night snack (we had told her at our first meeting that Luke and I LOVE Chicago-style hot dogs and she made sure to have that at our tasting).  She even found plain silver chargers just for us!!  We had a very large wedding party (17) and it was kind of tight doing a head table up on the stage portion of the auditorium. Jennifer set up a little sweetheart table for us behind the bridesmaids and groomsmen (she thought it would be more comfortable for us) and it was just perfect!! She even worked with us to keep things in line with our budget.  And the food was incredible - it was really delicious and piping hot.
The only issue we heard about (and this was after the wedding when we got back from our honeymoon) was that some of our guests at tables on the floor waited an extended period of time for their entrees (about 30 minutes after the salad was served).  We were unaware of this as our service at the head table was unbelievable (our champagne flutes were never empty).  So...I guess that's why I cannot give them an A+.   I realize that no party for 210 people will be perfect.  I really did expect some issues to arise, so even though some folks had to wait a little longer for their food, I felt Jennifer and FFT did an outstanding job.

Cake - Take the Cake (A+)
Jennifer recommended Take the Cake as having the best wedding cake in the city and she was right!!  Mary Winslow's cakes not only look beautiful, they are also delicious.   Luke and I wanted a very traditional cake with buttercream frosting and the cake we chose was gorgeous.  We had buttermilk white cake with alternating tiers of cream cheese, chocolate, and creme brulee mousse filling.   I can't say enough about how easy it was to work with Mary - she is a flawless professional and she has my highest recommendation. We have heard from so many of our guests that they had never eaten such delicious wedding cake :)

Ceremony Florist - Dilly Lily (A+) 
When I lived in Lincoln Park, Luke would visit Dilly Lily's on his way to visit me and always buy me flowers from this cute florist, so it was so special when I chose them to do my wedding flowers.   From my first appointment to discuss my ideas to the actual day of the wedding, they totally understood my vision.  I wanted a sort of vintage look to the wedding bouquets - muted pink and ivory roses -  and everything turned out just perfect. I was so happy with my bouquet and the bouquets for my bridemaids - they were just what I wanted and so gorgeous.  Dilly Lily even worked with my mom to wrap my bouquet with material from my late grandmother's wedding dress.  They were great to work with and even decorated our trolley after our ceremony.  They were very easy to communicate with and prompt with their responses to any of my questions and emails.  I hIghly recommend Dilly Lily.

Transportation - Windy City Trolley (A+) 
We had soooo much fun on the trolley traveling around the city taking pictures.  The service was excellent - they picked up the guys at the Ambassador East and then came to get the girls at my place before the ceremony and got everyone to the church on time!!   They were GREAT
Studio One - AV Service - Tom King (A+)
This is one of the preferred vendors who Murphy recommended for AV services.  My mom had a little trouble at my older brother's wedding with the slideshow (some technical problems with the laptop) and didn't want the same issue to happen again.  So she hired Tom and he was great - the slideshow was perfect and Tom took care of everything.  Although we weren't going to watch the show until dessert, Tom arrived before the reception began, set up everything, double-checked that it worked perfectly, worked with our really wonderful DJ, Kristin, and even used a hastily updated version of the DVD that my mom re-edited the night before the wedding.  My mom was very happy with this vendor and I was so happy with the slideshow.

DJ- Kristin Marks from Toast and Jam (A+)
LOVED HER!!  Kristin was so much fun to work with.  She was extremely kind and helpful: she helped my nervous dad with the microphone during his speech, she offered to help my mom with the centerpieces before the wedding reception began (can you believe that??), she played my baby brother's song (he's in a band and my folks sent her his CD), and she kept the dance floor packed (see below).  Our guests have been telling us about how much fun they had at the wedding and I know it's because of Kristin.  No one wanted the music to stop and Kristin was instrumental in making our reception so personal (she really listened to us and played all the songs from our "must play" list - even one of my dad's favorite Grateful Dead tunes)!! GREAT VENDOR

Chad Husar - Photography (A+) 
Chad is such a great photographer (Michelle was pretty cool, too)!  Our professional pictures are in one word:  AMAZING!!  We are so happy with Chad and Michelle's documentation of our wedding.  The photographs they captured were both impromptu and important moments that we vividly remember in spite of the whirlwind day.  Choosing a wedding photographer was an extremely important decision for us since we knew we would be showing these photos to our grandchildren.  We are so glad that we spent the money and hired one of the best photographers in Chicago.   Chad was easy to work with and so creative (especially with the pictures of our wedding party in the city - so much fun!).  We LOVED him, our parents loved him, our grandparents loved him, and our wedding party loved him too!   We LOVE our pictures.  Just look at his work:

Essence Videography - A+
Video is in - it's GREAT!!  Beautiful music along with so many wonderful shots of family and friends having fun at our wedding.  Oscar was easy to work with and the video will be a treasure for our children and grandchildren (we hope to have lots)!
DOC - Amy Vaught of Vaught Events (C-)
This is a hard one for me to write because many of the things that Amy did the night of our wedding were pretty great and she is so highly recommended by so many Knotties on the Chicago board.  However, we had a HUGE issue that I feel I must be honest about.  First, let me say that she was really great about the DIY centerpieces that we were able to bring into Murphy.  She helped my mom set them up, and she dismantled and packed them all up so my parents could pick them up on Sunday morning. That was a huge undertaking!  She set up our card table and guest card table to our specifications and also sent out an itinerary to all our vendors.  She also lined up the wedding party for our introductions and got speeches going!  She was very helpful during that part of the reception.
We had a huge issue after the reception, though, that really was upsetting.  I don't even know how it happened, but it did.  Luke and I were staying at the Hotel Intercontinental for our wedding night and Amy was to bring all our gifts/cards to the hotel.  After we checked in, we went upstairs to our room expecting to see our stuff and, to our surprise (and horror), none of our things were there!  We didn't know what was going on, so we called the front desk to see if our things had been sent to the wrong room, but they had NOTHING of ours and knew NOTHING about our gifts being delivered by our DOC.  To say that we were upset is an understatement!  After some frantic phone calls to Amy, we discovered that she had gone to the wrong hotel and delivered our gifts and cards to the hotel where the guys had gotten ready before the wedding (the Ambassador East).  Thank goodness the desk clerk remembered Luke and sent our wedding gifts up to his old room (thank God no one else had reserved that room).  My folks came to the Hotel Intercontinental, picked up Luke and proceeded to pick up the gifts and cards from the Ambassador East all around 3:00 in the morning!  Talk about an exciting wedding night :)   And although we appreciate that Amy stayed at the Ambassador East waiting for us to arrive after the reception (she stayed for a long time according to the desk clerk), it was still her responsiblility and her job to double check the reservation.  We told her where we were staying and we even gave her our room information.  Nothing was lost or stolen for which we are very thankful because it could have been a lot worse - I have heard some horror stories about couple's gifts being stolen and we are so grateful that didn't happen, but it was still very traumatic for us.  At least none of our guests were affected and that is the one good thing we keep saying about this whole situation - it only affected us and no one really knew about it until the next day!  Perhaps we will look back (maybe in a few months... or years) and laugh about it, but right now, we are still upset.  My parents (who bought AMY as our Christmas gift) feel that she worked very hard for us, but we feel differently.  That's why we had to give her the grade we did :(

Make-Up - Sonia Roselli (A+)
Well...Sonia was incredible on my wedding day.  I am afraid that I am addicted to her facials and I love her lash extensions (she did them for my honeymoon to Hawaii).  Sonia is so funny and so calming - she made me feel so at ease on the most nerve-wrecking day of my life!  Her trials were amazing (she also did trials with my mom and MIL) and I absolutely love how I looked on my wedding day.  She made all of us look so beautiful.  Not only is she an incredible professional, she is one of the nicest people I have ever met.   She deserves all the accolades she receives on the KNOT.  My airbrush make-up lasted all day and I only had to reapply lipstick and gloss.  I will be using Sonia for every important event in my life.

Hair - Kristine Paige Garcia (A)
I had 3 hair trials at salons before I settled on working with Paige.  I am the type of girl who never liked my up-dos for the dances at high school and I'd always pull them out before the end of the evening.  I finally settled on Paige because she really listenend to what I wanted and adapted and changed my hair during my trial.  She did everyone's hair in a short amount of time (there were 7 of us).   Everyone looked really beautiful!
Bride's Gown, Veil and Hair Combs - Eva's Bridal - Chicago (A+)
I never thought I would find my dress so soon, but I only went to one bridal salon and I chose the second dress I tried on!!  I felt beautiful and loved it right away. Eva's consultants were always very accommodating and even though my consultant was about 80, she really knew her stuff.  She measured me and ordered the right size so I only needed minimal alterations.  While the shop isn't the most "up to date" in its decor (it's old and the carpeting is kind of worn), they really are on top of things when it comes to designers and brands over there. My dress came in on time and Eva's let me come in as often as I wanted to try it on and take pictures.  The alterations were great and Mary, my seamstress, was really a doll.  She taught my MOH how to tie my bustle and helped me decide what type of undergarments I should get. Overall, the service and selection were excellent. 
Bride's Fur - "Dime A Dance" Antique Shop - Cedarsburg, Wisconsin (A+)
I would recommend this shop to all Chicago winter brides who are looking for a vintage fur.  My mom went up here in the summer and found my jacket for me for $50.00.  She raved about their large selection of coats, shrugs, stoles and wraps in various colors and types of fur (from mink to fox), and I trusted her judgement.  Also, Mom found my antique snowflake brooch for $3.00 in another antique shop up there.  It's well worth the drive if you are looking for vintage stuff that's inexpensive.

Bride's Shoes - James Ciccotti (A+)
Big splurge - I just fell in love with these shoes and every time I passed the store on Clark Street, I would stare at them and dream of them on my feet!  They are the most comfortable and most beautiful shoes I have ever worn.  James has the greatest customer service ever - he dyed the shoes to match my ivory dress exactly.  Even though they are a little dirty and water spotted (walking in snowy puddles and slush), I am going to have them dyed black so I can wear them forever.  Another piece of bridal advice - wear comfortable shoes.  I danced all night in them and never felt uncomfortable. 
Bridemaid's Dresses - Priscilla of Boston (A+)
LOVED them!!  My maids loved their Melissa Sweet dresses - very comfortable and super cute (they had pockets).  Service was great (even for one of my bridesmaids who lives in Arizona).  I think they photographed beautifully and all my girls looked gorgeous!!  The dresses came with straps and many of the girls wore theirs during the reception.  They were not the cheapest dresses around, but we did get a 10% discount if all the girls bought by a certain date (it worked out for all of them).
Tuxes - Men's Wearhouse (A+) 
Great service - no problems.  Guys looked GREAT. 
DIY - Invitations, Calligraphy, Programs, Place Cards, Ribbon Wrapped Votives, Menus, Centerpieces, Table Frames, Guestbook, Coloring Books, and OOT Boxes
DIY- THANKS to the KNOT for inspiration (Chicago Knotties and DIY board).
Invitations, Programs, Menu Cards and Place Cards
Cards and - 5 x 7 Signature champagne metallic pocketfolds
Paper and - all my paper products (cardstock, navy metallic text weight paper for invitation mat and envelope liner, vellum, envelopes)
Quiet Graphics - printing (thermography with navy Pantone customized ink), cutting of invites and inserts
Rhinestone - rhinestone buckles for belly bands
Ribbon - navy velvet ribbon for belly bands and votives
Archivers - tiny Swarovski crytal accent on flourish and larger crystals for votives
Balloons - Snowflake embellishment on program and Snowflake Ornament Favors
Map/Directions insert - DIY (used Powerpoint and Wedding Mapper)
Calligraphy - DIY (used Horchow embosser for return address)
 DIY Centerpieces
Icy  Branches - Hobby Lobby and Mom (she made some using plastic brances and acrylic beads - instructions at
Eiffel Tower Vases - Flowers and Supplies. com
Hanging Votive Holders - Flowers and
Spray Roses - Philip's Florists - Wheaton
Swarovski Crystals -



OOT Boxes
Our OOT boxes were a big hit with our many out-of-town guests.  They were supposed to be dark ivory, but when I got them, they were yellow!!  They turned out okay - looked kind of preppy and cute.  Thanks to Knottie ChiMonique for the skyline template.  We included our wedding newsletter, monogrammed water bottles, chips, hugs and kisses, cocoa cones, bride and groom Pez, gum, candy bars, and bakery cookies (all the things we love).


Rehearsal - St. Clement's (A+)
My uncle took care of everything and it was perfect. Luke and I were nervous...but after walking down the aisle a few times, our nerves settled and we were ready to get married.
Rehearsal Dinner - Salvatore's Ristorante (A+)
My in-laws chose this awesome restaurant for the rehearsal dinner and it was really great (we had looked at it for our wedding, but our wedding was too large)! The food was absolutely delicious and the service was impeccable.  It was extremely close to St. Clement Church and had valet service for our guests, so it was the perfect place.  The staff even offered to bring high chairs for my little niece and nephew (without being asked), and had microphones set up for all the "impromptu" speeches.

Hotel Block - HOTEL CASS (A+)
The Hotel Cass was right across the corner from Murphy Auditorium, so it was very convenient for our guests who decided to stay overnight in the city and our out-of-town guests. Marissa (our coordinator at Hotel Cass) was really easy to work with and was always willing to update and extend the block for us (we had a lot of out-of-town guests).  Many of our guests were impressed with the accommodations and felt it was a great deal for a downtown hotel close to the "Mag Mile."  This is a Holiday Inn Express Hotel and the price we got was actually really decent (breakfast was also included)!  Plus, my mom and dad dropped off our OOT boxes on Thursday before the wedding and they were all delivered to the rooms without any problems (they didn't even charge us for delivery of the boxes which I hear is common).  While the rooms are pretty small, no one complained and we heard they same thing, "we're just sleeping there - it doesn't need to be big!"  They also provided "in and out" valet service for $42.00 so it was convenient for our guests who were driving back and forth in the city.  Very friendly and excellent customer service - highly recommend.