Friday, January 31, 2014

See part 1part 2  and part 3 of Kate's Wedding Beauty Inspiration series for more ways to look amazing on your big day!

Do you love the movie Pleasantville? Have a obsession with Jackie or Marilyn? Or better yet, a certain Hollywood-star-turned-princess! How about tea length skirts? If so, the 1950s look is perfect for your big day!

In the 50's, the war was over and America lived in a blind abundance of wealth and opportunity! Women went to school at Ivy League universities to meet the “perfect” husband. Then they would go be the “perfect” wife. Fitting in was of utmost importance, as well as showing you and your family had manners and pedigree. Think June Cleaver.

The bride of the 1950s knew perfect etiquette, the importance of formal china, and was a wonderful dinner host who exuded femininity. And she definitely wore lace! It was a time of dreams for the American Family.

While you don’t have to do all of the above to add some 1950s flair to your wedding, you can still look the part. Here are the ingredients to the perfect 1950s style:

  • Simple and subdued. Your makeup artist should give you the “No Makeup" look with soft contours and clean lines. 
  • Lots of mascara!
  • Peach or pink kiss on the cheek
  • Soft pastels on the lips
  • Defined brows

  • Low chignons with waves and rhinestone clips
  • Polished hair to create a very "put together" look.
  • Veils with pill hats or headbands

For more information about Kate Johnson Artistry or for a consultation, email Kate at!

ChicagoStyle Weddings caught up with one of White Satin Bridal's co-owners, Robin Youell to hear all the details on the top trends for the coming months. Check out what she had to say in our Q&A:

CSW: Just to get us started, will you please tell me a little about White Satin Bridal? 
RY: Established in 2004, White Satin Bridal is the realization of a dream between two friends with relevant experience in the fashion and beauty industries. With our desire to create a boutique style atmosphere that can deliver the special attention that was hard to come by at large chain stores while staying at a moderate price point, White Satin Bridal was born. Today it serves the discerning client that, at the same time, appreciates a staff of personal attendants with a genuine interest in their needs, concerns, and wedding day dreams.

White Satin Bridal has also dedicated a portion of its fashion gallery to special occasion wear including prom, gala, and holiday gowns and accessories. Serving women of all ages, the gallery provides an inviting setting in which to shop for all of life’s most memorable celebrations.

CSW: What is one of the hottest new styles coming this year? 
RY: One of the most emerging trends this season is the illusion neckline. We also have been seeing beautiful shades of blush and champagne gracing the runway highlighting the vintage style that is in so much demand. Dramatic backs had a huge presence on the recent runways.

CSW: How can a bride determine which shape will look best on her body type?
RY: Seeing is believing. I encourage all of my brides to try on a variety of silhouettes and necklines to see what is most flattering. You may be surprised when something you didn't think would work looks fantastic!

CSW: What are your top two favorite dresses right now?
RY: Mori Lee style 5101 in ombre - The rich layers of organza in the ombre colors are so unique and on-trend for this season. And Blue by Enzoani style Dakota - The lace on this gown is just stunning. Both of these gowns are very versatile and could be worn for most venues and themes. A beaded belt would be a perfect accessory with either gown to dress it up for an evening or more formal affair.

Mori Lee Style 5101 in Ombre
Dakota from Blue by Enzoani

CSW: What is the most common look brides are going for with their dresses currently?
RY: Thanks to Pinterest, the “rustic wedding” is still the most popular theme for weddings. Bridal gowns that lend themselves to that theme tend to be lace or very simple with interesting texture as opposed to beading.

CSW: What are some tips you have for brides shopping for the first time?
RY: I’m sure everyone has told you that “you will know when it’s the one.” That isn’t always true. You may find two or three gowns that you love equally and have a tough decision to make. If you never have “the moment”, that doesn’t mean you haven’t found your dress. My best advice for those of you who think you have found “the one” is to stop shopping. You may confuse yourself if you continue looking. If you are comparing every dress to one you have in mind, I think you’ve found it!

CSW: What is your number one piece of advice for newly-engaged couples who are beginning to plan their wedding?
RY: I saw this quote on Pinterest and thought it was the best advice for any engaged couple: “A wedding is a party, not a performance. If at the end of the day, you will be married to the one you love, everything will be perfect.”

Thank you so much to Robin Youell, co-owner of White Satin Bridal for her fabulous input on what's trending in bridal! For more information about White Satin Bridal or to schedule an appointment, call 815-609-0031.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Rith and I had always been in the same social circles, so we were always bumping into one another. One day, back in 2009 he asked to join me in a 6am yoga class after I had checked in on Facebook with all my daily yoga classes. Naturally, knowing that he was the type of guy to go out every weekend, there was no way he was waking up at 6am on a Sunday morning, so I skipped the class and slept in. To my surprise, Rith was there – waiting for me at class. That weekend, at my sister’s housewarming party, there he was again. We had our first kiss that and night and the rest is well, history. 

The next few weeks were a blur, and we began to fall in love. After living together in our first apartment in Roscoe Village and spending another two years in the South Loop, and after the addition of our Puggle, Mason – Rith got down on one knee.

It was a Friday night in early August, I had a long day and was in no mood to go for a hike – which was our usual Friday night activity. Still, we went. At our favorite hiking spot at Independence Grove Forest Preserve, on a bridge above the lake with the sun setting behind him, Rith got down on one knee and asked me to spend the rest of my life with him…with a ring pop. When we first started dating he said the first piece of jewelry I’d receive from him would be a ring pop. And I’m so glad he’s a man of his word.

We picked up my ring that night, which he already picked out earlier that day – and it is stunning. Neither of us is a fan of long engagements. Why wait another year or two to get married when we've already waited four years.

I wanted to elope, and he wanted a big wedding. We compromised on a somewhat small wedding – only the closest friends and family, no church, no seated dinners, no dancing and best of all, my brother-in-law will be marrying us. Ten days after getting engaged we locked down our venue – Café Ba-Ba-Reeba in Lincoln Park, where we’ll have a 15 minute ceremony involving only personal vows followed by a tapas lunch and open bar -- including sangria! In the following days, I bought my wedding gown and I just cannot wait until to say I do. 

Natasha and Rith are getting married March 15, 2014! Good luck, and we wish all the best for your marriage! 

On #weddingwednesdays, we're featuring one bride's story in her own words! If you're interested in being a Bride of the Week, email with your love story and a picture! Don't forget to add the subject line "Bride of the Week"!
Check out part one and part two of Ben's "Anatomy of a Proposal" series!

It's about two weeks out from the "big day" (which will hopefully lead to a BIGGER day). I head out to the playground from our first date, that I plan to decorate with some strung up lights. When I get there, it is clear that I'm not going to be able to make it look like it was in my head. My mind had exaggerated the number of spaces where I could anchor these lights. I need a plan B. Actually this might be plan C or D by this point.

I wanted to stick with some place that has significance in our history. The first date location was out, but how about the second? We were having a picnic at a local forest preserve when it started to thunderstorm, so we huddled up under a pavilion and cuddled under the blanket until the storm passed. That pavilion might prove to be a good spot. I went and checked it out after work and it was perfect. The lights could go up on the edges of the roof and wrapped around supports, and the path leading back to the pavilion was long enough to put my cards with the "secrets" along the way.

My biggest goal with the proposal was the element of surprise. We had been talking seriously about getting married for a long time before this, so she knew it was going to happen eventually. I had a feeling she thought it wasn't going to happen for another 4 or 5 months, so I figured she was going to be surprised. But I also didn't want anyone to leak the secret to her. So I told almost no one about it. No one in her family knew about it, no one in my family knew about it. None of her friends knew, and only one of mine did. But as we got closer to the day and the planning was coming to a head, I knew I needed some backup, so I enlisted the help of a mutual friend and my brother.

I found out that the forest preserve was not too keen on me having paper bags with fire in them lining their walkway, which was understandable. My "helper friend" happened to work at a party store, so she came up with an idea to use some balloons with LED lights in them attached to the ground. The secrets would be tied to them, lighting the pathway to the pavilion. She also helped set up a ruse to get everyone in place. She was going to pick my girlfriend up to "go get their nails done" and then just drop her off at the forest preserve instead. Not glamorous, but it was all in the name of surprise.

I had been debating whether I needed to find a way to capture the moment with a picture for a while. I'm sure I could figure it out, but was it that important to have a camera snapping away in the background? Remember when I said to listen to the little things? Well, a week before the big day, I got my answer. My cousin had just gotten engaged, and there was a photo of the moment. She said, "I'm so glad they got the picture, I would really want to have that." Bingo. So I spent the next night searching for a way to take pictures remotely, without anyone else intruding on our moment.

Two days before the big day, and the ring still had not arrived. It hadn't even been shipped yet! Commence the freaking out, the numerous phone calls to the amazing folks at Brilliant Earth, and the lack of sleep. But they assured me it would arrive in time. I also spent two nights writing out the secrets on colorful paper. It took two nights because my handwriting is horrendous. I re-wrote them all at least three times.

It is now the morning of the big day. The ring is set to arrive at 11:00 am. I went in to work at 6:00 am so that I could leave by 3:00 and have plenty of time to set up. I spend most of the day refreshing my email and the tracking information. I actually refreshed it enough that I saw the delivery notification before the person at the front desk called me about my package arriving. I tore into the box as gently as possible, and there it was. It was gorgeous, and so sparkly. The perfect ring for the perfect fiancée. I'd be lying if I said I didn't tear up a little.

The rest of the work day was a blur. I locked the ring in my desk drawer every time I got up for any reason. When I was at my desk, I checked every 15 minutes to make sure it was still there. Maybe I was checking to remind myself that this was real and not a dream. It sure felt like a dream.

I rushed home from work and straight over to the location. My two helpers were already there, stringing up lights and staking the balloons to the ground. I was expecting to be able to write a lot more about this part, but it all seems like kind of a jumble in my mind. I was worrying about how cold it was getting. I was worrying about how dark it was getting. I was worrying about setting up the camera in the right spot, and having enough light. I was worrying about singing the wrong words. But I do remember when it was time.

My helpers left and it was just me, some lights, and my guitar. Waiting for the love of my life to walk down that path.

I was nervous. VERY nervous. But not for the reasons you would think. I knew she would say yes. I could have given her a Ring Pop and said, "How about we do this?" and she would have said yes. What I was worried about was making it perfect for her. I wanted it to be something she remembered forever.

It had gotten so dark that I couldn't see her coming. I only knew she was close as I heard her sniffle and "Aww!" as she read the final card. I started playing the song. She started to cry more. I may have cried a little, but I had to play and sing, so I was trying to hold it back. 

 My playing wasn't as spot on as I would have liked because even though I had practiced a lot, I forgot to practice outside or in a walk-in freezer. My fingers were icicles. But I got through it, and got down on one knee. I said the words I had been rehearsing for weeks. It didn't matter, because she doesn't remember them. She said "yes," of course and jumped into my arms. 

 My two helpers came out of the darkness and congratulated us, and then volunteered to clean everything up so that we could go tell our families.

We made a quick stop to get some ice cream, (which was another part of our first date, FULL CIRCLE!) and then spent the night driving around to friend's and family's houses and sharing the news. Her parents cried, my mom screamed (both in a good way). Celebrating it with loved ones was a great way to let it soak in. The next morning we posted some pictures to Facebook, and ran away to Door County to have a nice relaxing weekend before the insanity of planning a wedding set in.

It sounds like I'm trying to tell you to plan for everything, and to have backup plans for your backup plans, but the real moral is that it doesn't matter. If your partner loves you enough to say yes, they are going to be thrilled with whatever you put together. They'll probably be so overwhelmed that they won't even notice the little things that go wrong. Just enjoy the moment, take it in. And know the way you feel in that moment, when you realize she's stuck with you for the rest of her life, will be the best feeling ever.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

We've heard it over and over again - one of the biggest regrets brides have is not getting their arms (yes, specifically their arms) ready for the big day!

If you're a bride or groom and are looking to trim down and shape up, enter our contest to win a free copy of Mary Helen Bowers' Ballet Beautiful DVD! These ballet-inspired workouts focus on sculpting and burning fat for a high-energy cardio blast. The DVD includes two 30-minute workouts that will help you tone and tighten.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Mary Helen Bowers was the trainer who helped Natalie Portman get her tush in shape for Black Swan. And now your tush can look just as good! Enter now!

*ChicagoStyle Weddings was provided a free DVD by Ballet Beautiful to give to one of our lucky readers. The winner will be picked randomly from the pool of entries and will be announced here and on our Facebook page on or before Monday, Feb. 3, 2014. After posting, the winner will be contacted via Facebook message (please check your "other" inbox), and are encouraged to email to claim his or her prize. Facebook and Blogger are in no way connect to and do not promote this giveaway.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Okay, so we were recently sent probably the coolest thing ever here at ChicagoStyle Weddings. When the box was delivered, a few of my co-workers and I gathered around the box and we gingerly opened layer after layer. After a standard shipping box, a soft drawstring bag, a really cool wooden box with a handle, we came to a simple-but-super-cute purse-like bag. It was fashionable, but on the heavy side.

The bag unzipped completely on three sides, allowing the bag to open and lay flat. Inside were four MORE little bags (bag-ception, anyone?), each labelled with the products it contained.

I kid you not - there were 101 handy little tools divided and sorted into four categories:

Beauty Essentials included clear nail polish, earring backs, tweezers, blotting tissues, hairspray...
Fashion Essentials included static remover, fashion tape strips, a mending kit, sandpaper for shoes...
Personal Care Essentials included tampons, deodorant towelettes, blister balm, antacid, pain reliever...
Bridal Essentials (this was the best) included extra wedding bands, something blue, a sixpence shoe decal, emergency vows and toasts, mirror, drinking straw, a wedding day checklist and more!

This deluxe wedding emergency kit, called Bridetastic, by Pinch Provisions was well planned. I'm guessing a bunch of wedding planners got together in a room and wrote down everything they've ever needed in a wedding-related emergency situation.

We had such a good time exploring these little bags and the awesome products (folding scissors! Super glue! Stain remover towelettes! Oh my!)...we really couldn't have imagined a thing this kit didn't have.

So we're sitting there thinking, "Oh man, how much does this bad boy cost?" It's about 75  bucks. In reality, for all that you're getting in here - plus the cute bag - plus the immense peace of mind you'll have knowing you're covered...yeah, that's not bad.

For your bridesmaids, they also have many different sizes of smaller "minimergency kits" that retail about $15 and up! Definitely makes a great gift for your girls! Or your mom! How much would your mom love this?

In all, this product seems like it could be a real life saver during those uh-oh moments at a wedding. Whether it's this kit or not, I would recommend that ALL brides have an emergency kit put together ahead of time. That way, if there are any bridal blunders, you don't need to panic. You'll know you're covered!

PS- They totally make one for the groom and his guys, too!

Thank you to Pinch Provisions for providing us with a sample Bridetastic bag to review!

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Downtown Geneva Wedding Walk is the perfect time to see all Geneva has to offer to plan your unique wedding. 

You will have a chance to meet with venues and boutique shops, and visit some of the top wedding businesses in Chicagoland. Each bride that registers to attend the Geneva Wedding Walk will receive fabulous ideas, goodies and giveaways!

One lucky bride will win a 5 night all inclusive resort stay to Dreams Villamagna Resort Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico provided by Travel Leaders. To be eligible to win, your ticket must be signed by each vendor. Winners will be drawn after the event, and you do not need to be present to win. The winners will be announced the week after the event.

Here are the details:
Date: Join us Sunday, March 2nd, 2014
Time: 11:00 am - 3:30 pm
Location: Check in at the The Herrington Inn & Spa, 15 S. River Lane, Geneva, IL

Tickets may be purchased in advance online for $25 for the bride & 2 guests.
Click here to register!

In honor of the Rosa Clara Trunk Show at Eva's International on LaGrange, Dominique Debroux, VP of Rosa Clara's North American sector, flew in to Chicago to discuss the amazing designer's inspirations for the 2014 collection. We were luck enough to have another great interview with her while she was visiting Eva's! (Check out our first interview with Dominique here!)

I started the interview by asking Dominique how the trends were changing at Rosa Clara through the transition of 2013 to 2014. She commented that the Great Gatsby look heralded a new era of "art deco beading, as opposed to the the flashier beading that was previously popular." Also, bridal style is taking a cue from the stars and turning fashions "from the red carpet into gowns for the white carpet! These gowns are less constructed, chic and not as structured. They were usually thought of as a destination wedding dress, but now this style is for any location."

According to Dominique, "blush is still having its moment, especially in the accessory world." So we can expect to see splashes of this beautiful color in belts and shoes this year. In addition, mauve and purple will be making their way to the top of the color palate, most likely due to Pantone's announcement of Radiant Orchid as the 2014 color of the year. For satins and lace, expect a more antique white, rather than a true white or ivory.

When I asked how Chicago's bridal fashions compared to other major cities, Dominique responded:
"What I see out of Chicago is more love for the classic and the clean. You're right on trend, but keep to the cleaner more classic line. I saw that a lot this weekend at Eva's. A few brides tried on a lot of gowns and went with a really gorgeous classic look." 

Many brides are spicing up these simple-but-elegant looks by adding beaded or colored belts between the ceremony and reception. It creates a more traditional look for the ceremony and a really fun look for the party after - one dress, two looks!

Dominique's favorite fabrics for the season include "organza, and mikado is still a constant, all-time favorite. There's also a soft, flexible tulle that is strong enough to hold beads." That will come in handy for those 1920's beads that have hit the scene!

The most interesting part of our interview was Dominique's explanation of Rosa Clara's inspiration for the 2014 line.
"Rosa Clara pulls inspiration from many places. Europe is having a hard economic time. They were affected by our crash and had their own in 2012 (when Clara was beginning to design the 2014 collection). She's sitting in a place, in a country that is scared. Brides need to be in a dream. It's all about a dream. She thought, 'I want brides to think about dreams, not what's happening now. So she went back to the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. She's very matter of fact and a realist as an artist. The first thing she does is look around herself. That gives her the direction of her inspiration." 

Before ending our interview, I asked her to give brides her top tip for finding that perfect gown. She replied, "The key is to remember to always keep an open mind about price point. You pay for quality. We have a whole range of products and prices at Eva's!"

Thank you so much to Dominique Debroux of Rosa Clara and Eva's International on LaGrange. Check out their Rosa Clara trunk show going on now!

ChicagoStyle Weddings brings you the top trends to look for in 2014! Will you follow any of these when planning for your wedding? Which ones? Sound off in the comments!

1. Simple, but elegant is always a timeless look for a wedding dress. But is that too tame for you? The statement back is making a big splash, from jewels to beads to crystals, bows to lace to illusion lines, the possibilities are endless. Spice it up and bring sexy back. (See what I did there?)

2. Unplug or you're uninvited! Doesn't it drive you mad when people are texting and instagramming so much that they miss the wedding? The incessant buzzing doesn't help your experience either. Couples are asking their guests to just shut down their devices and just be present at the wedding! Plus while your hipster cousin may be pretty good with a polaroid, she also may just happen to get in the way of the actual photographer - know know, the one you're paying.
**If you're a techy and not feeling the whole unplugged idea, flip it on it's head and create a cool charging station for your guests to re-energize their phones while they're re-energizing their drinks. Then just make sure everyone's using your own personal wedding hashtag and you're bound to end up with some hilarious photos.

3. Hand-painted cakes are going to be huge this year. While fondant is very structurally appealing, the artistic flair of a design painted right on the cake is so soft, yet dramatic. It's definitely going to be a real crowd-pleaser. You won't want to cut it!

4. The barn wedding craze isn't going anywhere, but this year's venues will have a little more shade. Forests and woodlands are the growing in popularity as ceremony sites. Naturally beautiful, these locations need little by way of decor and really stand out in the guests' minds.

5. To go along with natural venues, decor is getting back to the garden! Flowers are everywhere this year and they're taking center stage. But these aren't your mama's flowers - oh, no. These blooms are bold and fresh, incorporating different elements and using buds to make gorgeous designs where simple bouquets once stood. Floral patterns are even gracing the tables where chevron once stood.

6. Experts are expecting to see a huge number of tea-length gowns this year! A tea-length gown is little retro, a little nontraditional, but still has a distinctly wedding feel. Great for an outdoor wedding - you won't ruin your dress walking down a grassy aisle!

7. Go bold! Pretty petal pinks and pale mints are gorgeous, but there is nothing like a beautiful bright to give your wedding some life! Hues of red, blue, orange and yellow are popping up everywhere. Pick a neutral or two to help tone it down, if you feel like it might be too much. But don't be afraid to add fun vibrant colors all over the place!

8. Illusion necklines are nothing new, but this year the bling is getting bigger. Lots of jewels around the neckline hang like the best kind of necklace you've ever seen. With this awesome trend you have the ability to rock a sweetheart and still be dripping in crystals like a queen. Who wouldn't want that?

9. Despite the new options for more color, pale blush, lace and vintage trends are holding tight right now. These Pinterest faves are here to stay. Sew some doilies together for a runner, add some mason jars, maybe a bit of mint and you're good to go.

10. The year 2014 is rumored to see a return to elegance and romance - and yes! The ball gown! After moving to more casual events in the last few years, planners predict that weddings will see a resurgence of the formal affair. Glamour and couture looks looks will grace the guests, as well as the wedding party. Pick up your tux and dig out that bow tie, boys! It's time to woo your ladies.

11. The preferred method of service this year marries the new-found return to formality and the comfort of last year's casual affair. Caterers and venues are serving up dishes family style to allow guests a choice of their plate, without making them wait in line.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

It's the thing no one wants to talk about when you begin planning your wedding. Everyone wants to say the sky is the limit, but reality check: things are expensive.

Planning your wedding budget is often the first time couples deal with major purchases together. Take a minute to sit down and really discuss the reality of of what you can afford for your big day. Do you have money in the bank? Do you need to start saving? Are you willing to ask Mom and Dad for some help?

Now is definitely the time to begin a savings plan. Determine how much money you can set aside per paycheck and how long it will take you to reach your goal (or your ideal budget). That might be a good way for you to determine when to have your wedding.

It's important to create a list of priorities and be honest with each other about which parts of the day are most important to you. Maybe allocate more of your budget to having great food and rethink your need for Pinterest-esque mason jars on every surface.

One more thing -- BEWARE OF SCOPE CREEP! Scope creep is when you keep adding more and more to the wedding without concern for how it's affecting the price. Those small details (the 200 extra votive candles you had to add to the centerpieces) add up! Make sure you account for that in your budget!

Check out this chart of average wedding costs to give you an idea of where to start when planning your budget.

Here's an awesome budget calculator to help you determine how much to spend on each part of your wedding. Simply type in your total budget and let it crank out the numbers for you. This thing is a math-phobe's dream come true.

Wedding Budget Calculator from Credit Card Insider

Credit Card Insider for chart and access to calculator 
Check out part one of Ben's "Anatomy of a Proposal" series, then find out how it ends in part three!

When we left off, I had just explained that my initial plans for proposing had fallen through. Now, by a combination of (sort of) favorable timing, a little lack of patience, and a LOT of love, I decided my new date was three weeks away.

And I did not have a ring or a plan.

Step one was to find the ring. If you recall from the last post, I mentioned "stealing" some ideas your partner has (no-so) subtly hinted. So, I hit up her Pinterest page to see what rings were on there. Almost everything on her page was either actually antique or had a vintage feel to it. With that info I hit the streets. It became clear early on that I was not going to find what I was looking for at one of the big chain jewelers. Anything in my tiny price range was too generic for my liking.

After some intensive research, I came across Brilliant Earth. Not only did they have several rings in styles that were exactly what I was looking for, but they make conflict-free gems a huge priority, and donate proceeds from sales to helping rebuild communities harmed by the jewelry industry. Perfect.

Oh wait...rings cost money... My initial plan included saving a small percentage of my paychecks over ten months to be able to afford a ring. The ring I picked was only slightly less than originally anticipated and I'd only been saving for a few months.

At this point, I did something that I do NOT recommend. At all. With the trip coming up that could act as an engagement-moon, and the wheels already being in motion, I did not want to stop this train. So I called Brilliant Earth, made sure the ring would arrive in time to propose the day before we left for the trip, and waited. Tomorrow I would get paid, and have just barely enough to buy the ring and exist on a small amount of money for the next two weeks.

Side note: Ring sizes. There are a lot of clever ways of figuring this out. Stealing a ring from her jewelry box, asking a friend/mother, etc. All of those are great - if your partner wears rings. Nope! Not mine.

So, I got gutsy. I flat out asked her (her response was wrong and we had to have it re-sized anyway, but that's a different part of the story). She knew we were going to get married one day, so I said, "if I have to ask you what your ring size is, you're going to know I'm proposing soon, so figure it out now and tell me so I have it on hand." And then 8 hours later I bought the ring. [Insert evil laugh.]

Now it's 8:00 am. I have the ring size. I have the band style picked. I've chosen which diamond. I am refreshing my bank statement, just waiting for my paycheck to clear. There it is! I order the ring, and now this is REALLY real. I also have $150 to live off of for 2 weeks, and I work 20 miles away from my house. Time to get creative with my meals.

So at this point, I have a ring on the way, no money, and no plan. I knew she wanted something fairly private and intimate. I tried to think back to the defining things in our relationship, and two stood out in my mind: guitars and secrets.

When she was living downtown and I was in the 'burbs, I would call her while she was falling asleep, she would put her phone on her pillow and I would play and sing a few songs on my guitar. We also have a thing where we ask each other for secrets throughout the day. Early on, it helped us learn a lot about each other and now it serves as a "what's on your mind/whats going on that we haven't discussed" sort of thing.

So now I'm thinking, "Yeah, I can work with this..."

Using those two ideas as a base, I began to ponder a location. The two of us frequently take walks, and like to hang out at playgrounds, because - let's be honest - we're just big kids. In fact, our first date started on a playground. She insisted it wasn't a date at the beginning of the night, but by the end of the night (after I bought her ice cream) she had changed her mind.

The plan was to decorate that same playground with white Christmas-type lights, create a path using paper bags and candle luminaria with a card providing a "secret" at every bag. The path lead would to me with my guitar playing one of her favorite songs, "Question" by The Old 97's.

I have a ring on the way and a plan! Nothing could possibly go wrong now! ...Right? 

Check out part three of Ben's "Anatomy of a Proposal" series!

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Cantigny Bridal Show is set for January 26

Cantigny Park and Cantigny Golf invite brides-to-be and their guests to the sixth annual Cantigny Bridal Show on Sunday, January 26. The event is from 1 to 4 pm in the Cantigny Park Visitors Center.

At the show, guests can finalize their wedding plans all in one place or just gather ideas. A wide variety of preferred vendors will exhibit and sample their goods and services—photographers, engravers, formal wear, ice sculptors, florists, DJs, hotels, limos and more. Guests will also see simulated room set-ups and table décor.

Cantigny’s award-winning culinary team will offer a wide range of menu items for guests to savor, including soups, hors d’oeuvres, late night snacks, pastries and desserts. Wine and champagne also will be served.

The Cantigny Bridal Show is complimentary for brides already booked at Cantigny, and each may bring one guest free of charge. The cost for others is $25 per person. All guests receive one free drink ticket (cash bar available).

Advance registration is requested by Friday, January 17, at 630.260.8260 or via email to

Many couples choose to have their wedding ceremonies in Cantigny’s spectacular formal gardens. The ceremony sites are just steps away from Le Jardin, the spacious restaurant and banquet room inside the Visitors Center. The space is ideal for up to 250 guests. At Cantigny Golf, couples may exchange vows on an outdoor terrace with panoramic views and then enjoy their reception in the elegant Red Oak Room, which accommodates 150 guests.

About Cantigny Park
Cantigny Park, part of the nonprofit Chicago-based Robert R. McCormick Foundations, is the 500-acre Wheaton (Illinois) estate of Robert R. McCormick (1880-1955), longtime editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. It is home to 30 acres of spectacular gardens, the Robert R. McCormick Museum, the First Division Museum and a 27-hole championship golf course. All are open to the public. Cantigny also is a favorite destination for special events, weddings, concerts, lectures, workshops and other recreation and learning opportunities for all ages. Full-service banquet and dining facilities are on site. More information, including hours, directions and a calendar of upcoming events is online at For details about Cantigny Golf, including the Cantigny Golf Academy and 9-hole Cantigny Youth Links, please visit
“Jeffrey and I met online over 2 years ago and we had way too much in common to be anything but best friends. So everything leading up to our wedding was such a piece of cake.

"Jeffrey is Canadian so we decided to have the wedding up in Canada. We had it at Jeffrey's Grandmothers cottage in Ontario in this tiny town, that's actually an island itself, called Bobcaygeon. The cottage itself is over 150 years old and was said to originally been a part of this large mansion on the property next to ours, which unfortunately burned down years ago. So there is lots of rustic character already there, and we decided to run with that theme for the wedding!

"The reception was planned to be in the backyard of the cottage under a big tent. Therefore, I had been praying for good weather for weeks before the big day, and it was beautiful!

"My mother and her best friend came up a week in advance and took over the wedding details. These two angels made everything that I had dreamed of, possible. Our wedding was simplistic yet sincere, elegant yet fun.

"We kept the wedding very small and intimate and we didn't have any wedding party because everyone attending the wedding would have been standing with us. Instead, we made the chairs in a round and made everyone feel a part of the ceremony.

"My Pastor flew up from Illinois to perform the ceremony. Both Jeffrey and I were fortunate to have everyone we love make the trip. It was a beautiful time to spend with our families.” - Bethany

The groom's grandmother hosted the wedding in Ontario.


Terry Reilly of Calvary Assembly of God 

Janice Maravillas

Designed by the bride's mother, Vicki Keen.

Jo Cooper

Baddow Road Photography and JR Productions

Friday, January 17, 2014

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

In the 1940s, the second major feminist revolution of the century was happening! Men were at war and women picked up where they left off in the factories. To further help the troops, these strong women recycled aluminum cans for use in the creation of planes; grew their own food in “Victory Gardens” so troops could be sent larger rations; and, of course, they raised their children and kept the house clean -- all at the same time. These women were rockstars in my eyes --  brave, strong and beauty icons.

This is when the Pin-Up look as we know it really blossomed: pin curls, “Victory Rolls”, corsets and menswear re-purposed for women. These pictures were sent to men in the war zone to keep them focused on the goal of getting home to their ladies!

But from a beauty perspective it was clean, precise, feminine and somewhat quick (well at least to the standards they had before this era).

  • Perfected foundation with a strong - but not overdone - contour.
  • Pale eyeshadow with a nude contour.
  • Perfect black winged liner on upper lashline, or a nice, tight line above the lashes. Skip the lower liner for this look!
  • Luxurious full lashes.
  • All American Red lipstick!!

Hair –
  • Soft curls brushed into a wave.
  • Half-up but tied on each side not in the back
  • Victory Rolls? Do it! Lots of volume and shape on top of the head.
  • Try a birdcage veil with this look -- its amazing!

With a guided hand this look can make your fiance want to put you on his own pin-up calendar!

Feeling inspired? Email Kate at to discuss how to get that 1940's All-American glamour for your big day!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Check out the rest of the story: Part 2 and Part 3

As a self-proclaimed "hopeless romantic," the concept of a perfect proposal has run through my mind since the seventh grade. My ideas usually consisted of dramatic firework backdrops and overseas dinners. Of course, when I was in 7th grade I figured I'd have made millions of dollars by now. Alas...

Needless to say, when I knew she was The One (and trust me, if I told you when that was you'd call me crazy) I had a LOT of ideas floating around up there. But now, it was real. I was really going to do this. It had to be PERFECT. It wasn't just about me anymore. It may be the one shot I got for this moment, but it was also her's.

DISCLAIMER: Before you do anything pertaining to an engagement, make sure you and your partner are on the same page! There is nothing worse than spending months of planning and a LOT of money making the perfect moment and finding out that your partner isn't ready yet. For myself, the two of us had been talking about getting married for quite some time so I knew I was in the clear, but if you haven't had that talk you might want to broach that subject before you take the plunge.

I started the planning by looking at the timeline. I knew that over Spring Break of 2014 my family was planning a trip to Disney World. The two of us are complete Disney nerds (her number in my phone is Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and I think mine is Woody from Toy Story...our favorite characters) so this seemed like a pretty good starting point. How magical would that be? Taking a picture on Main Street in front of the castle, when suddenly she turns and I'm down on one knee, with our photographer capturing the whole thing! The timing was perfect too. I had about 10 months to put away some money every paycheck to afford the ring, and we were hoping to have purchased a house by then. She knew that I wanted to live together before we got engaged. This seemed like a perfect idea, so I moved forward with it.

Now, let me tell you a little something about my fiancee. She's a wedding person. She works at a wedding magazine (gee, I wonder which one...), "Friday is Brideday," her Pinterest page is covered in wedding ideas, you get the picture. She talks about them all the time. Most guys might get annoyed by this, but wait! It's a perfect opportunity to do some reconnaissance! Take notes! Listen for things that can help you plan the proposal. "Those flash mob videos are so intimidating, I would be so embarassed..." Those things are hints! Over the few months after I had decided to move forward with the Disney idea, I heard her mention a few times that a proposal that drew a lot of public attention would make her uncomfortable. I weighed this against my idea. It wasn't like I was standing on a float during a parade, or spelling her name in fireworks. I don't think the entire Main Street will shutdown when I get down on my knee, so I decided that I was still good to go.

Good to go that is, until it became clear that the Disney trip was not happening. Now what? It was time for the backup plan. Except I didn't have a backup plan. Back to the drawing board. In some of my other "reconnaissance" notes I remembered her mentioning reading about a couple that did an "engagement-moon" trip after getting engaged and how much she loved that idea. Wait a minute... We have a plan to go on vacation! In 3 weeks! 3 weeks? All I could think was, "SOMEONE HELP ME I HAVE 21 DAYS TO PLAN A PROPOSAL AND BUY A RING!"

Check out part two and part three of Ben's "Anatomy of a Proposal" series!

"I would like to thank everyone for the well wishes and messages regarding Stepz and my engagement. I had been planning the event for months! I booked a private tour through the Fort Lauderdale canals. The captain was in on it too, and told Steph that no one else would be joining us. I was EXTREMELY nervous. I believe I even hyperventilated a bit before we left (my toes went numb!!) Steph was in complete shock when I dropped to one knee. She first said, "What?!? What?!? (Long pause)... YES!!" The facial reaction was priceless. The captain then started announcing "SHE SAID YES" to people along the canals and on other boats. I will remember that moment forever!!"

This was my fiance, Ben's exact status on Facebook just a few hours after he proposed. I knew even before then that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. He picked out the ring by himself, and based it off a ring my mom gave me years ago. He planned everything so well! I didn't even notice the nervousness he was talking about in that post.

We were Fort Lauderdale bound from Chicago. I thought he might propose, but he never gave a hint. He said, I almost blew it during our wait at O'Hare for our plane! I was looking for his Kindle and wanted to check his bag where he kept the ring. He was calm, saying he will look for it himself. Thank goodness I didn't insist!

I actually pushed away the thought of any proposal, especially when we were at the middle of the boat tour in the canals of Fort Lauderdale and the boat's propeller caught a heavy type of ice bag. We had to stop by one of the docks, the captain had to strip down to his underwear and dive into the water to fix the issue! (This is when I think Ben was on the peak of his nervousness.)

All turned out fine, propeller was fixed and we moved on. Our captain gave my fiance the cue of when to propose -- it was during the beautiful Florida sunset. When Ben handed his camera to the man, I thought nothing of it. I thought we were just going to take a picture together. I was told to stand, which I thought was odd. Ben was taking a while to move closer to me, and still I thought he was just explaining something to the captain. But then, he turned around and dropped on one knee! I was in shock! Finally, he asked, "Steph, will you marry me?" I looked at him and the ring box in his hands. I did say "WHAT?" a few times, but then I definitely said, "YES!"

Funny, even the captain was nervous -- he forgot press the record button on the camera! Everything may not have been captured by video or photo, but the scene will forever be on replay mode for the rest of our lives.

Stephanie and Ben plan to get married and May of 2015! Congrats to you both on your adorable engagement!

On #weddingwednesdays, we're featuring one bride's story in her own words! If you're interested in being a Bride of the Week, email with your love story and a picture! Don't forget to add the subject line "Bride of the Week"!
By vineyard number three, Rachel Greisman had uncorked her boyfriend Karl Stelter’s surprise. The couple was enjoying a special wine tour for their anniversary—and after being gifted with two bottles bearing custom labels and flipping through Karl’s handmade memento box, she was onto him. After Rachel said yes to the proposal, the two celebrated with their third and final bottle. “It was the perfect way to toast our new life together.” It was a moment they’d repeat on their wedding day. “My favorite moment from our day was enjoying a private champagne toast with Karl in our suite right after the ceremony,” Rachel said.

Their suite, along with the ceremony and reception site, was at the downtown Renaissance Blackstone Chicago Hotel. “We immediately fell in love with the Blackstone. Karl mostly because they had Batman artwork on display during our walk-through,” Rachel said, laughing, “but I discovered my paternal grandparents had met in the very ballroom where our wedding would take place.” And a picturesque setting it turned out to be as Rachel walked down the aisle to a classical version of “Chariots of Fire” (the couple are dedicated runners) wearing a strapless Jim Hjelm gown with crystal beading and antique ivory satin. “I’ve never seen anyone more beautiful,” Karl said. Thanks to a photo booth outside the ballroom, the couple can remember the day forever. “The photos became progressively wild as the night went on – but the scrapbook is our favorite memento from the evening."




Reverend Dr. Robert Davis and Rabbi Michael Tillman








Renaissance Blackstone Chicago Hotel



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