Monday, December 30, 2013


Don't you hate when people say that right before they take your picture? As if you're going to stand there with a giant frown when you know a lens is honed in right on your face. Still, despite the reminder, the smile isn't really what you're thinking about - you're more focused on whether or not there's a bit of spinach stuck in those teeth. Is your mascara under your eyes? Is your bra strap showing? Do your pores look huge? And while you're posing stiff as a board going through your mental checklist, the photographer is just clicking away. 

"Done," he or she announces. Then you have that brief moment of hope that maybe you still looked natural through all that....until you get the pictures back. No dice. 

Don't lie, you know exactly what we're talking about here. We've all been through it. But here's the good news -- our friend Michelle, VP of Operations over at Mike Staff Productions, broke down how to get that natural look for your engagement and wedding day photos. Here are her top tips on taking the perfect photo:

Relax. Your wedding day photos will capture any stress that you are carrying. First, and foremost, relax before starting wedding day photography. Your wedding photographer works for you, so if you need a moment to collect yourself – do it! When you are ready to begin your wedding day portraits, take a deep breath, tilt your chin down, raise your eyes just above the camera and smile.

If you find that having the focus on you gets to be too much, have a seat, walk together or just spend a few moments talking. Your photographer can shoot from a distance, capturing genuine, intimate moments.

Slimming Tips. Before your wedding day, practice standing in front of a full length mirror. Look at your reflection and then stand up straight. You’ll notice the instant slimming that takes place as you lengthen your spine. Try to get into the habit of practicing good posture.

Whenever you angle your body, you reduce the amount of yourself in the camera lens. Practice angling your body 45 degrees from the camera, but continue to turn your head towards it. By pointing your front leg and shifting your weight to your back leg, you maximize this thinning effect.

Work the pose! When you hold your bouquet, pose next to someone or alone, be sure to leave a little room between your arm and body. When your arms are held tightly against you, the arm muscles spread, which will make them look heavier. Bending your elbows helps to diminish this effect.

Ask for photos that show movement, which allows the body to be shown in a natural way. Walking, running, dancing, and twirling can all be incorporated into dynamic, flattering poses.

The Perfect Smile. “I hate my smile” is something photographers often hear. The reason for that is most people don’t know how to give a pretty, but fake smile. Look at pictures of yourself that you find flattering. Were they shot from the same angle? Is your smile similar in each? Share some of your favorites with your photographer so he understands what you think is the best for you.

When smiling for your wedding day photos, try these tips for the perfect smile:
  • Most people prefer a smile that shows the upper teeth without too much gums.
  • Tilt your head a bit as you pose. Most faces really do have a “good side” as faces are not perfectly symmetrical.
  • Keep your top and bottom teeth slightly parted. If they aren’t your smile may look forced.
  • Take frequent drinks or run your tongue over your teeth to keep them moist and sparkling.

Kissing Shots. This is a fun one to practice! Practice almost kissing; much more flattering than pursed lips, smushed faces or the dreaded “duck face”. Slightly parted lips brought in close give you the look of a kiss, but still allow your face to be soft and relaxed.

Additionally, not every kiss needs to be on the lips. A kiss on the cheek, neck, forehead or hand can be actually be more intimate than a standard kissing photo.

Hire A Professional Photographer. Your wedding day is a once in a lifetime event – and there is only one chance to capture the look, feel and memories. Select a professional wedding photographer whose work you’ve seen, reviews you’ve read and comes referred by people you trust.

Go Pro With Your Look. There are many ways you can save on your wedding day, but don’t cut costs when it comes to your wedding day look. Pamper yourself with a professional hair and makeup session on your wedding day – just be sure to go for a trial run at least one month in advance so you’ll have time to adjust if necessary.

Get the right dress – for you. You will feel confident and look great on your wedding day when you have a wedding dress that fits well. Whatever your body type, pick a dress that you feel comfortable in and make it yours! Be sure to have professional fitting and alterations – no bride wants to spend the day adjusting her dress or looking uncomfortable in pictures.

Engagement Sessions. Most couples have never spent a day being professionally photographed. If your schedule allows, consider an engagement session with your photographer. It’s a great opportunity to get to know your photographer, practice poses you’ll use on your wedding day and generally get comfortable in front of the camera. Not to mention all the great images you’ll get!

Schedule Time. An often overlooked aspect of great looking wedding photos is the time it takes to create them. A photography plan can prevents you from spending too little or too much time on your wedding photos. A photographer will likely have suggestions from their experience, but can only understand your unique wishes by developing a plan with you. Generally, you’ll want to allot one hour for your romantic photos as a couple.

Partner With Your Photographer. Your photographer will have creative ideas and can draw upon their experience to help pose and guide you for your wedding photos. But it’s also important that you share how you are feeling. Do you need more or less direction? Does something feel uncomfortable? Do you have a great idea you were hoping to try? Sharing this information with your photographer helps to create wedding photos you’ll love. Don’t be shy – this is your wedding day!

A huge thank you to Michelle and Mike Staff Productions for sharing this article with us! We love these tips! Find the original article on their blog and visit their website for more great tips! 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Manikas Designs

Furla Studios

Furlavision Films

The Drake Hotel

Yanni Design Studio
I was lucky enough to actually meet designer Ivonne Estarellas Dome. She was so sweet and so cute that you couldn't help but smile around her! She was so excited to chat with me, telling me how much she loves designing fashion. She let me take a few pictures of her newest designs for 2014 for Ivonne D for Mon Cheri Bridals, and Montage by Mon Cheri Bridals. 

These lines can be found locally at stores like Boutique Unique and Bella Bianca Bridal Couture

Photography by Kelsey O'Shaughnessy, ChicagoStyle Weddings

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

“I was never a big fan of being set up with someone. It just wasn’t the thing for me,” recalled Mehul Patel. However, when his cousin told him that he needed to meet Rajul, he decided to send her a message. After chatting a few times, Mehul came to Chicago on business and they finally met. After two dates, they were inseparable. Once Mehul decided he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Rajul, he cleverly orchestrated a surprise trip to New York City for the proposal. “New York is our second favorite city, after Chicago, so it was the perfect place to ask Rajul to marry me.” It was disguised as a girl’s weekend for her and a girlfriend, but Mehul was not too far behind as he laid out the plan. As Rajul walked down a city sidewalk, a sketch artist offered her a drawing of the couple. At that moment, Mehul tapped her on the shoulder, got down on one knee and asked her to be his wife.

The two quickly began planning the ceremony, which included a trip to India to create custom invitations and bridal wear. In October, they were wed at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel. “My brothers led the baraat [a traditional Indian processional of the groom’s family] on two white horses while the rest of my family danced to music,” said Mehul of the festivities. “My grandmother normally uses a walker, but on the wedding day she refused to bring it. She wanted to dance!”


Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel

Melissa Diep Photography

I Do Films

Drish Couture Events

Sonu Patel

Makeup by Mehwish Khalid

Shaadi Creations, Inc.

India House

DJ Shag

Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel

Maharaja Farm

This Real ChicagoStyle Wedding was featured in our 2013/2014 issue! See it on pages 376-377, "The Two Were Inseparable".

Monday, December 23, 2013


Our nation has the highest rate of heart disease, type-two diabetes, childhood obesity, and cancer in the world. When we get sick, we usually run to the doctor who prescribes antibiotics, anti-depressants, insulin, amphetamines – the list goes on. But do these medicines really work? Are they truly curing our ailments or simply masking the symptoms? And what kind of nasty side effects are they having on our bodies?

The fact of the matter is our current healthcare system is medicating our country instead of getting to the root of why our bodies are imbalanced, inflamed and diseased. But for thousands of years, people in other cultures have used essential oils to cure themselves.

Truthfully, people have known about essential oils for hundreds of years. The use of essential oils goes back as far as the Egyptian and Greek cultures. The Romans, Chinese and Indian cultures soon followed. In our modern world, essential oils were discovered by the French culture in the late 1930s and since then, essential oils have had a widespread use in aromatherapy practices.

So what are essential oils?

Essential oils are concentrated, hydrophobic liquids or compounds that are found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers and other parts of plants. Once extracted, the oils carry the distinctive scent or essence of their plant. Essential oils can be both beautifully and powerfully fragrant. If you’ve experienced walking through a lavender field or rose garden, you have experienced the aromatic qualities of essential oils. However, in addition to giving plants their unique and distinctive smells, essential oils also have hundreds of therapeutic and even medicinal qualities.

To give you a better idea of the power of essential oils, let me share my personal story. It may be one that many of you can relate to quite well.

Upon graduating from law school, I couldn’t have foreseen the heightened levels of anxiety and pressure I’d undergo trying to become a successful lawyer. I was so afraid of letting my parents down and not achieving the level of stature and recognition I thought I needed in order to be seen, respected, or looked at with any measure of pride.

I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t concentrate. Any hope I had of holding a decent first-year associate job was going down the drain, and my emotional instability was at the root of the disaster. I couldn’t eat. I was so thin, that most people diagnosed me with an eating disorder. Who knows... maybe I did have one. I needed control in my life, and I sure wasn’t getting it anywhere else. My life had become a living hell, with me at its center.

I went to doctors to help ease my pain. I begged for anti-anxiety meds. What did I know at the time? Apparently nothing. I knew that I needed to feel better, and I needed a quick fix. I didn’t realize that I needed to get to the root of my problems in order to solve them. So Xanax and Prozac became my friends.

Yet I continued to push myself, still filled with the same fears, still doing the same old song and dance. The meds just masked the truth of all these fears I was housing inside. Fear of failure and disappointment, the pressure to succeed and be seen in a certain way. It was like carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders.

It wasn’t until years later that I turned to holistic healing. I knew there had to be a better solution than synthetic medications that were destroying my gut and not getting to the root of my problems.

I turned to yoga, self-awareness, changing my attitude and natural medicine. It took me a while to become a believer. As a daughter of a physician, I thought going inward and using holistic products like essential oils was cuckoo. Where was the science?

But essential oils are science. Our sense of smell is connected to our limbic system, which is the seat of our emotions. Aromatherapy works at a cellular level to deal with all the emotional upheaval associated with anxiety. Essential oils can calm anxiety and even make it disappear before it arrives.

Here are five oils you can use to help calm your fears: 

Ylang Ylang
, pronounced (eeelang, eeelang), is notorious for balancing the solar and sacral plexus chakras, and can help alleviate stress and lower anxiety.
Lavender relieves mental stress and is a great relaxant. It can even help you sleep.
Geranium helps release negative memories and nervous tension. It is extraordinarily uplifting.
Bergamot is calming and uplifting. It is known for its antidepressant properties.
Wild Orange is elevating for the mind and body and is known to bring joy and peace.

You can put essential oils on your skin, and even ingest them, to feel their positive effects. But the most effective way to use these oils is aromatically. Put a few drops in a diffuser and let the aroma take over. If you don’t have a diffuser and need a quick release, put a drop or two in the palm of your hands and deeply inhale several times. If you experience anxiety, try these great essential oils to combat it - you’ll be surprised and amazed at the power of plants.

We'd like to offer our thanks to Hayley Hobson, who is a doTerra certified pure essential oils diamond director and Trained Health Coach from the cutting edge Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York. She’s also author of the book Hayley Hobson’s Hip Guide to Creating Your Sexy & Abundant Life. Find out more information about Hayley and Essential Oils on her Facebook page or website at

Friday, December 20, 2013

See part 1 of Kate's Wedding Beauty Inspiration series for more ideas on how to find  the perfect look for your big day!

With all the Gatsby Glamour that has been around this year, its easy to be inspired by the beautiful vintage looks that Daisy used to sweep Gatsby off his feet! Between Tiffany’s jewels, dropped waists and luxury cars, it can be quite the fantasy to base your wedding around the golden age.

Personally, my favorite gift I received at my wedding was a beautiful art deco bracelet from my grandmother. We had a special connection and she always knew exactly what I would love. That piece of jewelry has played many roles in photo shoots this year. Its perfect and I don’t need a team of security guards standing on set with us.

So if your in love with this vintage perfection and want to find the way to make your beauty look fit in perfectly let me tell you how: Minimal is key!

  • Cheeks that glow from within.
  • A gorgeous nude contour in the eye. 
  • The perfect pop of red on the lips goes a long way. There are so many types of great reds - ask your makeup artist to give you some options! 
  • Should be shiny and soft.
  • Updos work best for this look low on the neck or romantic soft curls on the back of the head. 
  • Loose, soft  hair framing the face 
  • Updos that feature a middle part and slicked back locks.
  • Throw some jewels in there! Feathers or rhinestones are fantastic! If wearing a center part, adding hair jewelry down your forehead looks gorgeous! 

Though I did say minimal, note I didn’t say simple! This can truly be a challenging look to pull off yourself. All makeup artists know that its much harder to get that no-makeup/perfect-skin look than a heavy glam one. Make sure you're polished! Get in cahoots with your makeup artist at the trial to make sure you maintain the best hair and skin you can before the big day.

Need some inspiration? Email Kate at to discuss how to get that 1920's glamour for your big day!

Photo courtesy of Kate Johnson Artistry

Photo by Kelsey O'Shaughnessy

Did you just get engaged this holiday season? Congratulations!

Besides finding Mr. Right, nothing else can compare to the anticipation of finding your wedding gown…

But should you begin the shopping as soon as he puts the ring on your finger?

As far as when to begin looking for a dress, my recommendation is to simply relax. Before you even consider entering a bridal boutique, take time to make some initial plans beginning with your venue and confirmed wedding date. The specific time of year your wedding will take place can dramatically influence the style of gowns and fabric options that are appropriate.

The dress shopping process typically requires anywhere from 5 to 9 months to have your dress arrive directly from the designer. Production time varies greatly by designer and season. Most gowns are sewn and imported from China, so their unique holiday schedule impacts delivery capabilities. Surprising to most brides is the fact that designer gowns are not hanging on a rack in warehouse in the United States, waiting to be ordered. Instead, the overseas factory often begins production after sufficient orders have been requested. Each dress is made to fulfill an order request.

If you are of an average size 8-12, then you are an ideal candidate to purchase directly off the rack and take advantage of annual sample sales of discontinued gowns. Bridal boutiques (like Kathryn’s) sell these pristine samples when we can no longer order a dress from the designer. Since you actually purchase the exact dress you try on, it can significantly reduce the lead time typically required to order. Additionally, it can offer you a discount of up to 50%. Despite the savings, always plan on adding 10 to 12 weeks to your calendar to ensure a professional seamstress can have adequate time to alter your dress to fit perfectly. Fit is everything! Even the most minor of alterations can be time consuming.

Congratulations again on your engagement! Relax and enjoy this special time. Most bridal salons are crowded after the New Year and appointments are at a premium. If you are not under a time crunch, then relax. Only after you have determined when and where your wedding will take place, should the dress shopping begin.

A big thanks for this fabulous advice to Anna Novak! For more information about Kathryn's Bridal or to book an appointment, call 815.385.7330 or visit them at 3807 West Elm Street, McHenry, IL 60050.

Your lives become a whirlwind of decision-making the moment you become engaged. At the beginning of happily ever after, there are many important choices that you must make. What to do for health insurance is one of them. At this point in your lives, you may have several different options, and you may have a hard time deciding which insurance plan is best for you. Here are some things you and your spouse need to consider as you choose a health insurance policy.

Evaluate Your Options
If both you and your spouse have separate health insurance, compare these two policies before deciding what to do. Look at both the coverage and the rates of each policy. You may find that one of you has better coverage while the other pays lower rates. If this is the case, you will need to take you and your spouses overall health into consideration. If you are both relatively healthy, it may be better for you to pay a lower rate. However, if you need to go to the hospital or are planning to have a baby soon, it may be better to pay the higher rates to receive better coverage.

As you research your options, remember to check which physicians are in each network. If keeping your doctor is a deal-breaker for you, make sure that you can keep him even if you switch insurance providers.

Contact Human Resources
After you and your spouse have decided whose insurance you want to use, you will need to contact the Human Resource Department of the company providing the health insurance you've decided upon. More than likely, you will need to wait until the company's annual period of open enrollment before you can make this change. This period of open enrollment is like a lease renewal period for health insurance. This is the time when you can add your spouse to your policy or make any other changes. You may be able to adjust your policy to receive better coverage or lower rates.

During open enrollment, the Human Resource Department will provide you with the proper forms to fill out. After you or your spouse is accepted on the new insurance policy, you may cancel your previous plan. It is not advisable to cancel your plan prior to being accepted on your spouse's.

The Affordable Care Act's Marketplaces
A new option for newlyweds is the open enrollment for health insurance available at It was designed to give everyone access to affordable health insurance - especially people who may have had a hard time getting health insurance. If you are self-employed, work for a small company, or are dissatisfied with the insurance that your company provides, this may be the best option for you and your spouse. Also, if you make less than $40,000 a year, you may be eligible for tax credits under this plan.

The Choice is Yours
Having options is always a good thing. As a newlywed, you have the choice to keep your health insurance, switch to your spouse's, or look for a new health insurance plan together. Take the time to do your homework and to decide which option is best for you, your spouse, and your future family.

Michael Cahill writes about the healthcare system, health insurance industry and the Affordable Care Act. Follow him on Twitter at @VistaHealthMike.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Brad and I actually went to high school together and hung out around the same group of friends, but we weren't close friends at that time. Once we found out that we were both going to Carthage College, we started to talk a bit more and got closer with each other. As college began, we knew there was something between us. After spending our freshman year as good friends, Brad asked me if we would like to start dating. I knew that this was going to last for a long time. We dated all throughout the rest of college and I would not have traded it for anything.

"Our planning began during the wintertime, when Brad asked me to marry him. Our planning was always done as a team. It was great to have each other's opinions and someone to always lean on. My mom was also a big contributor to our planning with more of the "girly" aspects that Brad didn't necessarily want to be part of. We immediately started planning by attending various bridal expos & researching online. Everything was booked a year in advanced for our wedding since we wanted to make sure we were able to get everything that we wanted to make our day perfect! The planning was stressful at points, but Brad always had my back in whatever decision I made & vice versa. With both opinions & decisions taken into account, our wedding day was a great representation of both of us.

"Our wedding day was absolutely perfect! There is nothing that I would change about it -unless there's a way to go back and make time move a little slower. The boys and girls got ready at separate houses in the morning. We had a bus that picked up and dropped off the guys at the church first, then came over to get the ladies right before the ceremony started. Our ceremony was very special, since the priest who celebrated our wedding also married my parents - he encompassed everything we wanted and made it very personal, as well.  After a million pictures, we headed over to the reception, where we had the time of our lives. We were overwhelmed - and thankful at the same time - to see everyone who came out to celebrate with us. Our DJ was amazing and kept the everyone dancing all night long - it was the best night of our lives!" -Emily Hertel


St. Mary's Catholic Church


Yerkes Observatory at the University of Chicago

Allure Couture, Kathryn’s Bridal

Allure, Kathryn’s Bridal

Jasmine, Kathryn’s Bridal

Mon Cheri, Kathryn’s Bridal

Kathryn’s Bridal Invitation Studio

Steve Neilson, Eminjayin Productions

Locker's Flowers

Josh Nilsson, Spin 'N Play

Cakes by Dea

Van Galder Bus, part of Coach USA