Vendor Spotlight: Virginia Kinnard Lionberger of VKL Consulting Group

Name: Virginia Kinnard Lionberger

Title/Position: Principal/Lead Event Consultant of VKL Consulting Group, LLC

Specialty: We specialize in the art and the science of event creation and management (Weddings, Corporate and Not-for-Profit) and we practice our craft with integrity and genuine care for our clients, their guests and their events.

CHEZ: How long have you been in the events industry?
V.K.L.: 17+ years

CHEZ: Describe what you/your company does in one sentence?
V.K.L.: Building on years of event expertise, artistry and sophistication, we custom design extraordinarily creative events, that exceed our clients’ expectations, delight their guests and generate years of lovely memories.

CHEZ: What sets you/your company apart from others?
V.K.L.: It’s got to be the collective experience and reputation we’ve built over the years, in creating and managing events. From weddings to corporate events to non-profit fundraising galas, we have designed and delivered some of the most memorable and sophisticated events in town. We know what works, what wows guests, and what red flags to anticipate to ensure that your event is the best it can be. In addition to our in-depth event consulting capabilities our group consists of the best practitioners for every component of your event to create the perfect team. Our extensive experience, creativity and relationships provide our clients the highest quality and effortlessly sophisticated events.

CHEZ: What is your most memorable moment from past events?
V.K.L.: For me, as a professionally trained artist, the most memorable moment is always the same – when my clients come into their venue for the “reveal” before the guests arrive. All of the prep work is done and I can experience the fruition of the thought, effort and process that we experienced together pre-event. When they see and feel the actual masterpiece we created it is completely exhilarating and humbling simultaneously! It’s quite a rush for me. When my clients exclaim, “This would never have happened without you!” I am deeply gratified.

CHEZ: What event trends do you love right now?
V.K.L.: Quite honestly, I don’t follow wedding trends religiously. I would rather we consult together and let my clients pick the trends they like and that’s what we follow. But I do like that engaged couples are less encumbered by wedding tradition and protocol, which sets VKL’s creative juices flowing to perfectly individualize their big day.

CHEZ: What is the most unique request a client has ever had?
V.K.L.: We had an amazing couple several years ago that had a doozy of a request! The bride grew up in an agrarian Midwestern state and her family has a long-standing wedding tradition that she wanted to follow. Their tradition is that the oldest unmarried child in the extended family has to dance in a pig trough until it is destroyed. It was her day and her wish so we found a venue in downtown Chicago that allowed us to honor the family tradition.

CHEZ: What does a typical event day look like for you?
V.K.L.: There is no “typical” Corporate or Not-for-Profit event. However, for a wedding, our day goes more or less as follows: We’ll visit the Bride as she’s getting ready to make sure the photographer and videographer are on site. We double check to see if there’s anything the Bride and her Maids need. There’s always something, which is why we never fail to bring an emergency kit. Then, we visit the Groom and his Men where we practically always need to sew on a button or a repair a tie. We’ll leave an associate with the wedding party to make sure they board their ground transportation in a timely fashion.

We arrive at the ceremony site at least an hour before to double-check on the florals, the personals, the music, the programs, etc. Once the wedding party arrives, we distribute the bouquets to the ladies and pin the boutonnières on the men. We get them organized for the processional and send them down the aisle after which we depart for the reception venue. At the reception venue, we double-check the florals, the seating chart, the escort cards, the place settings per table, etc. During the entire event we work closely with the emcee, photographer and videographer (as well as the venue representative and/or caterer). We want to make sure we’re all on the same page time wise, especially for unexpected items that pop up that weren’t included on the detailed time line we had previously distributed.

After cocktails, we gather the wedding party and families for introductions then manage the remaining moving parts: the dances, the cake cutting, toasts, bouquet toss, etc. We ensure that the gifts and cards go to a safe place, distribute tips to the various vendors, and handle any issues that may arise. When I get home in the wee hours I pour myself 2 fingers of brown liquor and reminisce about another fabulous event/wedding that created fabulous memories for our clients.

CHEZ: Name three things you couldn’t live without (besides the obvious!)
V.K.L.: 1. My family and friends 2. My four legged furry children 3. Events to create.

CHEZ: Name three things people probably don’t know about you.
V.K.L.: 1. I can yodel and speak fluent Italian 2. I love to swim and cross country ski 3. I was a YMCA Camp Director in my very early 20’s and it was a pivotal opportunity replete with lessons and skills that have positively affected my entire life.

CHEZ: What is the best piece of advice you can give someone planning an event?
V.K.L.: 1. If it’s a wedding, hire a professional planner (not a friend or family member) for either Full Wedding Consultation or, at the very least, “Day of” Management. Your wedding event will be one of the biggest dollar items in which you’ll ever invest and having a professional planner is the cheapest and best insurance you’ll ever buy to ensure a special day. 2. Make sure you and your professional planner are a good “fit”, that you actually “like” them and most importantly that they can translate your dreams into reality. It is not unusual to be working together for 18+ months and, with the right planner, it will be a joyful, fun experience and one to remember.

CHEZ: What do you love about Chez?
V.K.L.: What’s not to love about Chez!!! It is the most exquisite “blank canvas” in which to create any look your clients want in the Chicago area. I love the architectural proportions, the luminous windows and the light they transmit, the floating glass staircase, the glitter, the history, the location, and the “monochromaticness” of the space. Best yet, the staff is FIRST CLASS!!! They care as much about delivering a memorable event for our clients as we do. Chez has it all and I’m so grateful for their offer to spotlight VKL Consulting Group as a Chez Vendor.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Virginia. We’re looking forward to working with you and the team VKL Consulting team very soon.

Photography by: (L) Andre LaCour Photography, (R) Rick Aguilar Studios

Vendor Spotlight: Sharokina Pazand of Citygirl Events

City Girl Events, chicago wedding planner

Name: Sharokina Pazand

Title/Position: Founder & Event Director at Citygirl Weddings & Events

Specialty: Weddings, Corporate, Social, Non-Profit Events, and Marriage Proposals

CHEZ: How long have you been in the events industry?
S.P.: I established the company in 2009.

CHEZ: Describe what you/your company does in one sentence?
S.P.: We are passionate about creating events that encompass the five senses.

CHEZ: What sets you/your company apart from others?
S.P.: We believe that planning and design go hand-in-hand. A well-coordinated event is only amazing if the design – the true feeling of an event – can match in excellence.  We create a complete event environment by using intuitive design to create from within – making each and every event truly a once-in-a-lifetime event.

CHEZ: What is your most memorable moment from past events? 
S.P.: It unexpectedly began to rain about 10 minutes before an outdoor ceremony. This was a beautiful wedding and all of the paper goods and furniture were set outdoors. Our team worked diligently to route the guests early to their cocktail hour while we waited for the rain to settle. We made sure the bride and groom had drinks and food  and the music was playing. We then made sure to reset the outside ceremony and had the bride and groom blissfully on their way to “I Do” in no time!

CHEZ: What event trends do you love right now?
S.P.: Dessert stations instead of traditional wedding cake. Late night bites. Entertainment during dinner. Unique wedding invitations with fun fonts and hand drawn illustrations.

CHEZ: What is the most unique request a client has ever had?
S.P.: We had a client that wanted to hire a helicopter and photographer to capture their wedding ceremony that was taking place at the Willis Tower. We coordinated with the helicopter team to ensure we were able to coordinate the start time of the ceremony with the time the helicopter would hover near the window to get the perfect coverage!  We had to make sure to work with the Willis Tower events team to get security clearance. It was pretty cool and the guests were surprised. It was absolutely a memorable wedding!

CHEZ: What does a typical event day look like for you?
S.P.: I start with walking in with my coffee, wedding padfolio, game plan, and my radio and headset and I’m ready for the day! I field up to 10 questions at any given time. I make sure I’m thinking 3-5 steps ahead of everything to make sure my next move is as intentional as possible. Consultant, therapist, cheerleader, life coach, friend, and safety pin guru are just a few of my job titles that day. Making sure everyone is where they need to be ahead of time, have what they need, following/adjusting the timeline and making sure all of the beautiful design is in place are my ultimate goals. From making sure hair and makeup runs on time, transportation arrives, any pivotal moments coordinated, music is playing, cocktails are flowing, and the timeline is being followed – well, it’s just a basic overview of what I do on any given event day.

CHEZ: Name three things you couldn’t live without (besides the obvious!)
S.P.: Coffee. Netflix. Hot Cheetos.

CHEZ: Name three things people probably don’t know about you.
S.P.: I had my first small business for a short time in grammar school where I’d buy warheads and sell them in the lunchroom. I sang in the choir in high school and college as an alto. English is the third language I learned.

CHEZ: What is the best piece of advice you can give someone planning an event?
S.P.: Let the professionals know what you love and want to see and leave the rest to them.  You’ve hired the best – now let them show you the possibilities!

CHEZ: What do you love about Chez?
S.P.: I love that it is a clean canvas. Each event there looks completely different – making the event completely customizable.

Thank you Sharokina! We look forward to many successful events together in 2017.

Photography by Jennifer Kathryn Photography

Vendor Spotlight: Joshua Jones of Kehoe Designs

Joshua Jones, Kehoe Designs, event design, vendor spotlight

Name: Joshua Jones

Title/Position: Event Producer at Kehoe Designs

Specialty: As a company, we have a diverse team of designers, technicians, and artisans that have allowed us to specialize in many different arenas. Personally, my passion lies in creative conceptualization and building relationships with my clients – helping them curate a striking event concept that represents who they are. Whether it’s a beautiful wedding, a high-concept social event, or a branded corporate environment, I have a passion for telling the client’s story through the makings of a living, breathing event.

CHEZ: How long have you been in the events industry?
J.J.: I have always been fascinated with design and transforming spaces. As a kid, I was obsessed with rearranging vignettes in my grandparent’s furniture store and getting so excited about lighting the taper candles during family dinners (I was an odd kid! Haha). As a teenager, I set up events in the hospitality industry and organically got my foot in the design door through the catering side where I realized how much I loved working with clients, while also understanding flow and process. Transforming spaces became my passion, and my education and experience in interiors was where I learned the art of environmental storytelling. Of course, event design was a natural progression from the interior design world as I am always fascinated with the next big creative challenge and the immense conceptualization that brings an event to life. Today, I am blessed to be a part of a team that creates such incredible set designs for our clients.

CHEZ: Describe what you/your company does in one sentence?
J.J.: Kehoe Designs is an innovative, full-service event décor and design company specializing in luxury weddings, corporate, experiential and social events.

CHEZ: What sets you/your company apart from others?
J.J.: Kehoe Designs at its core is about loyalty and trust. We have high standard of character and it shows in our talented team and in our work. Our strong culture allows us to design with courage, and by that, I mean we take our creative challenges very seriously; we believe original design is the solution our clients are always looking for.

CHEZ: What is your most memorable moment from past events?
J.J.: Emotional reactions tend to stick with me; my heart melted recently when our bride cried tears of joy when she walked into our design/floral mockup (and that was just the mockup!). I find the most satisfaction in bringing an abstract concept into vivid reality and blowing past our client’s wildest expectations.

CHEZ: What event trends do you love right now?
J.J.: Metallics! Warm mixed metals, whether vintage brass, champagne, coppery warmth or soft rose golds, are all the rage right now and have inspired entire tabletop collections, light fixtures, and furniture. Furniture! Event design is beginning to meld the worlds of the temporary space with the customization and thoughtfulness found in high-end interior design. We love introducing beautiful dining tables (wooden, mirrored, or even acrylic) that act as jewel-pieces that stand apart from the standard table and linen. Personalization! Our clients aren’t afraid to step outside the box (or at least don’t mind us helping them) from standard traditions. Whether unique textural floral, cocktail bars with personalized backdrops, or customized furniture to fit the mood of the event, I enjoy seeing our clients inject their personal brand into the creation of their one-of-a-kind events.

CHEZ: What is the most unique request a client has ever had?
J.J.: One of our corporate clients throws a huge Halloween party each year, this past year, I was asked to create a boxwood maze representative of scenes from the movie, The Shining. We get many unique requests every day, and that’s what I love about our team of in-house crafters, builders, and artisans…we can create anything and every day is a brand new adventure!

CHEZ: What does a typical event day look like for you?
J.J.: The months and weeks leading up to a big event are full of checklists and major preparation, the day of the event is where it all comes together. Once our trucks are loaded up in the early morning and hit the road for the venue, the real fun begins. On a typical day on an event setup, our talented team hits the ground running with the styling of gorgeous floral creations, implementation of beautiful textiles and furnishings, and overall space planning. You’ll see us hanging intricate ceiling treatments, constructing art installations, and rigging staging and custom dance floor designs. As a final layer, we weave in ambient and functional lighting designs to bring the spaces to life through color and texture. After we light hundreds of twinkling candles as a small finishing touch, we patiently await our client’s arrival and watch their eyes light up with excitement as they walk into the room!

CHEZ: Name three things you couldn’t live without (besides the obvious!)
J.J.: Besides my family and friends who give my life meaning, three playful things that bring a smile to my face are: 1. A pair of antique brass cobra candlesticks that I purchased online. 2. My Kevin Murphy paste to keep my coif in check!  3. A fragrant bundle of Hermione peonies freshly arranged on my coffee table.

CHEZ: Name three things people probably don’t know about you:
J.J.: 1. I’m a native southerner from Northwest Arkansas where I learned the true meaning of graciousness and southern hospitality, however, I’ve always loved the energy of a big city (I guess I’m a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll). 2. My partner and I met at the ripe old age of 20 years old, and we’ll have been on our shared adventure for 13+ years in April of 2017. 3. I’m the proud father of a needy and loveable multi-toed Hemingway cat who, in her spare time, enjoys a relaxing hand (mitten) massage.

CHEZ: What is the best piece of advice you can give someone planning an event?
J.J.: Hire a well-respected design professional that can take the load of event creation off of your hands. You’ll be happy you delegated the task to capable hands that will allow you to enjoy your event (not work it), your pocketbook will be thrilled that you invested wisely, and your guests will be excited to experience an event that was put together with a creative team of talented artists who elevated your personal brand and overall experience.

CHEZ: What do you love about Chez?
J.J.: Chez is one of my absolute favorite venues. Not only do I adore the lovely team who really care about their clients and community, but from a historical viewpoint, the space has a sparkling past that vibrates through the walls. The physical space is the perfect white palette for layering décor elements…an event designer’s dream. The exposed painted brick, modern light fixtures, and gorgeous glass staircase intermix the perfect blend of vintage nostalgia with contemporary sophistication.

Thank you Joshua! We can’t wait to see what beautiful designs you create for your next event at Chez.

Photography by Averyhouse (L), and Kehoe Designs (R)



Vendor Spotlight: Kent Drake Morien of Kent Drake Photography

kent drake photographyName: Kent Drake Morien / Kent Drake Photography

Title/Position: Owner/Photographer

Specialty: Wedding & Decor Photography

CHEZ: How long have you been in the events industry?
K.D.M: I photographed my first wedding in 2009 for a friend out of state, and basically came home and started my business. It was a slow and organic building process from the beginning, as I had only lived in the city for a year at that point and was taking my hobby and creating a profession out of it. So much has happened in the last 7 years, and it’s all built on a solid and evolving portfolio combined with amazing vendor relationships.

CHEZ: Describe what you/your company does in one sentence?
K.D.M: Create timeless photography and bespoke experiences for people in love.

CHEZ: What sets you/your company apart from others?
K.D.M: I was fortunate to stumble across a natural photographic ability only after spending my educational years focused on business and working exclusively in the service industry to that point. Only after circumstance did I pick up a camera, and a hobby was born. When I look at how I was able to marry all three of these elements into my own business with the driving force coming from multiple angles, my desire to provide impeccable service is paramount. The art my couples receive is personalized and unique to their experience, and my attention to them on a service level will never go unnoticed. Trust is built from day one through dependency and a strong rapport, which allows me to be creative when it matters most.
Lastly, I’ve specialized in shooting decor photography for the last five years. I’ve been able to shoot nearly 150 custom and often lavish designs, mastering my approach and technical ability in a wide variety of venues and conditions. Floral and decor is a huge part of a wedding budget, and I love being able to capture a room with incredible accuracy and detail. I take great pride in providing superior portfolio material for some the cities leading designers, venues and planners.

CHEZ: What is your most memorable moment from past events?
K.D.M: Two part answer.
Part One: I started shooting exclusively for friends, but over time as my business grew that faded away. This last April I was able to photograph for my most longstanding friend in the industry, who opened so many doors for me as we grew in this city. I was able to photograph her proposal, engagement and wedding in just over a year’s time, and it felt like this incredible culmination to spend the entire day with together and see her beautiful design concepts come to life. Brittanie Navarro of HMR Designs, thank you for letting me be a part of your story.

Part Two: This is strictly personal and much more broad in concept. I remember for the first few years of shooting weddings, moments between the parents & newlyweds, were just another element of the day. However, when shortly after having my daughter and 1st child 3.5 years ago, these father/daughter dances and toasts suddenly felt personal. I now saw myself in their shoes, seeing some of the deepest human emotions on display time and time again. I now share moments with fathers and explain that I picture myself in their shoes, and they always come back with “life goes by too fast.” Having children in general has changed my thought process about life, of course, but what these days mean to everyone involved. It’s so much work raising children, you literally live for these milestones. It is an absolute privilege to jump into the lives of strangers for such momentous occasions, it truly is a constant reward system that will never grow old.

CHEZ: What event trends do you love right now?
K.D.M: To be honest, in this city, it is the incredible diversity in venues and spaces. I look at Chez, which offers this incredibly clean and modern concept, but right down the road we have some of the most historic and ornate buildings in American history right there for the taking. Push a little further, and you have amazing repurposed buildings that provide when you put it all together offers this incredible eclectic variety that lets events continue to be creative and unique. I truly see the birth of new spaces as a driving force for personalized events that need not be “trendy.”

If you want to speak to trends on a fashion level, I love seeing guys taking bold steps in their formal attire. Whether it’s a vibrant dinner jacket, shawl or peaked lapels, double breasted or even just wearing a midnight blue tuxedo. Anything a guy can do to stand out from his groomsman that isn’t just in the tie and pocket square, is a trend I can get behind.

CHEZ: What is the most unique request a client has ever had?
K.D.M: You know, it’s odd, but for the life of me I can’t think of anything! Boring answer alert…

CHEZ: What does a typical event day look like for you?
K.D.M: Focusing, walking, talking, posing, smiling, laughing, reflecting and never sitting unless I’m eating, which I may or may not do.

CHEZ: Name three things you couldn’t live without (besides the obvious!)
K.D.M: Photographically: 1: My main camera body: 170,000 photos to date with that one alone. 2: My 2nd shooter: Invaluable to have help throughout the day. 3: My Suit & shoe collection: Look good, feel good, simple as that. Professionally: 1: Planners. 2: Catering & Venue Directors. 3: Cell Phones.

CHEZ: Name three things people probably don’t know about you.
K.D.M: 1: I’m a stay at home dad of two (3.5 & 1.5), and have built this business while raising them both. It truly is a gift to have the time with them and a thriving professional life at the same time. 2: I lived in Japan for two years before Chicago, which is where my passion for photography developed and I learned it was the one thing that came most naturally to me in my life. 3: At this point, my wife and I have been together for over half of our lives, 16 years from 16 years old!

CHEZ: What is the best piece of advice you can give someone planning an event?
K.D.M: Hire a coordinator, especially in this city. Unless you plan events for a living, it is a task that you may not have a true grasp of until you really start digging in. Lean on the advice of those in the industry you trust, and they will do right by for sure. We are a wonderful community of vendors who just want to make our clients and couples happy.

CHEZ: What do you love about Chez?
K.D.M: Without a doubt, it’s the design. You can make the space whatever you want it to be. I said from the first second I walked in there, that I would move in if they’d let me!

Thank you Kent! We have thoroughly enjoyed working with you on the many events you’ve photographed at Chez and look forward to more upcoming events.

Photography by Michelle Weeks of Spoon Photo & Design (L), Kent Drake Photography (R)

Vendor Spotlight: Kelly Marie Thompson of Fleur

kelly marie thompson of Fleur
Name: Kelly Marie Thompson

Title/Position: Proprietor, Fleur Inc

Specialty: Soft and romantic, slightly overgrown floral design.

CHEZ: How long have you been in the events industry?
K.M.T.: I’ve owned the company for just shy of 15 years, and worked with flowers for four years prior to that. I can’t believe it’s been almost 20 years total!

CHEZ: Describe what you/your company does in one sentence?
K.M.T.: Using seasonal and plush blooms we create an inviting and elegant experience that simply makes the evening ethereal and beautiful.

CHEZ: What sets you/your company apart from others?
K.M.T.: With a background in art history and painting I look at flowers with a textured and painterly eye. I love mixing and contrasting colors and composition within floral design. This allows for unexpected pops and surprises within the arrangements.

CHEZ: What is your most memorable moment from past events?
K.M.T.: There are so many amazing memories, but the ones that stand out the most are when there is such a committed level of teamwork among not only the Fleur team, but all the vendors. I love seeing everything come together to create a truly wonderful experience for our clients. It’s beyond rewarding working on events with people who are so deeply in love.

CHEZ: What event trends do you love right now?
K.M.T.: I’m pretty classic so I love all the calligraphy I see everywhere, and I’m happy to see the warmth of gold coming back into weddings. Color seems to be popping up again, which is so refreshing and happy! I’ll always get weak in the knees for the timeless green and white garden feel, but when we can add pops of bright yellow, apricot and warm watermelon colors I can’t help but smile.

CHEZ: What is the most unique request a client has ever had?
K.M.T.: One of my favorites is when the father of a bride was an avid gardener. He asked me if he could personally grow a few varieties of flowers to add into his daughter’s bridal bouquet. There was a lot of love in that family and that wedding, and I will always remember them.

CHEZ: What does a typical event day look like for you?
K.M.T.: First things first, coffee! We wake up quite early and head into the boutique to start adding in all the last trimmings and ribbons, and begin the process of delicately packing up all the floral design. One team heads out to deliver the personals (bouquets, boutonnieres) while the other starts to load up all our rentals and centerpieces. Upon arriving at the venue it’s a lot of hauling, running around, moving and placing. Sometimes we design on site if the client has requested a certain installation or hanging floral. Weddings days can be quite long, if we’re flipping the room following the ceremony, but once all the candles are lit & the flowers in their spot it’s beautiful and satisfying.

CHEZ: Name three things you couldn’t live without (besides the obvious!)
K.M.T.: 1: Taking walks in nature is so important to me, for the beauty and the quiet time to reflect. I guess you could call it my meditation. 2: Chatueaneuf-du-pape. When I want a nice glass of red wine I can be a bit of a diva. 3: My David Bowie records.

CHEZ: Name three things people probably don’t know about you:
K.M.T.: 1: I love 70’s political thriller movies. 2: As much as I love lakes, I don’t like swimming in them because of seaweed. 3: I’m allergic to some flowers!!

CHEZ: What is the best piece of advice you can give someone planning an event?
K.M.T.: When things start to feel a little heavy or stressful, take a step back and remember why you’re planning your event. Follow your heart and gut and choose vendors whom you enjoy being around. It makes the planning experience equally as fun as the party itself!

CHEZ: What do you love about Chez?
K.M.T.: Calling Chez a blank palette wouldn’t be doing the space justice, because when I think of a blank palette I think of something kind of empty and boring. Chez has just enough sparkle and elegance to elevate the evening into something magical. It’s such a versatile room with a lot of options to allow creativity! Truly a unique space in Chicago!

Thanks Kelly Marie! We look forward to seeing your beautiful floral designs at Chez very soon.

Photography: (l) Clary Pfeiffer Photography (r) Tru Studio

Vendor Spotlight: Susan Cordogan of Big City Bride

susan cordogan big city bride tablescapeName: Susan Cordogan

Title/Position: Owner, Principal Big City Bride

CHEZ: How long have you been in the events industry?
S.C.: I’ve been in event industry for 18 years working double time….so doesn’t that count for 36 industry years?? LOL!

CHEZ: Describe what you/your company does in one sentence?
S.C.: We work with our clients to make event magic and provide experiential celebrations that are simply awesome.

CHEZ: What sets you/your company apart from others?
S.C.: Big City Bride is full of wonderful, experienced planners with broad shoulders and bright smiles. We are full-time event experts who work daily from our cozy Lincoln Park office. Our clients benefit from the experience, knowledge, resources and creativity of our entire team but enjoy the intimacy of working closely with their personal Big City Bride wedding planner or “wedding warrior”as some have called us.

CHEZ: Reason for Starting Big City Bride?
S.C.: I started Big City Bride because I felt there was a need in Chicago for a wedding firm that had a strong, professional, office environment. This environment allows for a team of professionals to individually cater to clients with the support of shared experience and knowledge to better our events.

CHEZ: What is your most memorable moment from past events?
S.C.: We had the extreme joy of hiring Lionel Richie and his band for a surprise concert to kick off a wedding reception. That man knows how to bring the party! It was an unforgettable event.

CHEZ: What event trends do you love right now?
S.C.: With a background in TV production, I love surprise elements; champagne parades, event lighting, sparkler exits and confetti drops!

CHEZ: What is the most unique request a client has ever had?
S.C.: We had a bride who wanted to close Michigan Avenue and hold her wedding ceremony & reception smack-dab in the middle of the Magnificent Mile. We (of course!) loved the idea, but the City of Chicago didn’t. So we found her an iconic location with all the views and wonder of the Mag Mile.

CHEZ: What does a typical event day look like for you?
S.C.: Sixteen plus hours of go, go, go. On event days, we offer clients our unlimited time to be available to manage everything from start to finish and be available to handle anything they want or need.

CHEZ: Name three things you couldn’t live without (besides the obvious!)
S.C.: 1. Google 2. My favorite weather app – for those wonderful outdoor weddings! 3. My iPhone camera – I love to capture and share those magic moments on the wedding day when no one else is around.

CHEZ: Name something people probably don’t know about you.
S.C.: I ALWAYS have a pen in my hair…ready to take down a note at any time!

CHEZ: What is the best piece of advice you can give someone planning an event?
S.C.: Of course, my most passionate advice is to invest in a professional planner. You don’t know what you don’t know….and a planner is here to guide you through the process and make sure every decision you make it the right one for you. By no means are you surrendering the fun part of planning…a planner should allow you to focus on your top priorities and enjoy not only the wedding, but the planning as well.

CHEZ: What do you love about Chez?
S.C.: I love that Chez is a blank canvas. A venue that has the possibility to be transformed allows you to let you imagination run wild! At the same time, it’s a beautiful clean slate that can be highlighted with minimal décor and subtle touches. So, whether you want a simple elegant affair or an incredible transformation, everything is possible at Chez!

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Susan. We’re looking forward to working with you and the team at Big City Bride again very soon.

Photography by: (l) Genevieve Lauren Photography, (r) Robin Sloan of Riverbend Studio

Chez Vendor Spotlight: Kate Johnson of Kate Johnson Artistry

Kate Johnson Artistry
Name: Kate Johnson

Title/Position: Owner, Kate Johnson Artistry

Specialty: Makeup and Hair for weddings, engagements, television and celebrity clientele.

CHEZ: How long have you been in the events industry?
K.J.: Full time for 6 years.

CHEZ: Describe what you/your company does in one sentence?
K.J.: Creating beautiful and unique looks based on the individual style of each bride, using only the best professional products on the market.

CHEZ: What sets you/your company apart from others?
K.J.: Almost all of our artists have a background in television and celebrity work so we understand that this is not about what our “style” is, but is about collaborating with our clients to bring out the most beautiful vision they have for themselves.

CHEZ: What is your most memorable moment from past events?         
K.J.: I was introduced to a couple getting married that loves Burning Man and all things creative/ music etc. I knew the wedding was going to be unique but I wasn’t expecting acrobatics from the ceiling and “flower girls” whose outfits lit up.

CHEZ: What event trends do you love right now?      
K.J.: I’m loving the veils that go under the hair and showcase the beautiful styles the bride has chosen as well as a bold lip that people are picking up.

CHEZ: What is the most unique request a client has ever had?        
K.J.: To take hair extensions and create a huge rose that would be placed on her head as her hair style.

CHEZ: What does a typical event day look like for you?
K.J.: Well if it’s a wedding we are the first to arrive so that means as a team we are up early, coffee drank and headed to the ready location first thing in the morning. We get to greet the beautiful bride and her entourage while they are fresh faced and wake them up with beautiful styling. My favorite part is that we get to see everyone so relaxed in the pajamas just as a group of ladies having fun before everyone else enters the scene. Its like a big pajama party.

CHEZ: Name three things you couldn’t live without (besides the obvious!) 
K.J.: Red Wine, My dog Honey and One Drop Wonder face oil… its amazing.

CHEZ: Name three things people probably don’t know about you.
K.J.: I moved to Chicago from So Cal to sing Jazz. I have a refurbished 1965 Mustang Convertible waiting for me in California to have a nice garage here.  I’m a brand ambassador to a professional cosmetics company so I get to teach people all over the country how to feel their best.

CHEZ: What is the best piece of advice you can give someone planning an event? 
K.J.: Plan early, communicate openly with/and also trust your vendors experience so it’s a true collaboration to bring your vision to reality.

CHEZ: What do you love about Chez?
K.J.: I love that it’s a blank space you can truly create your own vision in. And I absolutely love the natural light that pours in through the big windows.

Thanks Kate! You truly know how to make a bride look and feel her best.

Photography by Kate Johnston (L), Emma Meyer (R)

Chez Vendor Spotlight: Alexandra Jusino of Exquisite Designs

blog-ready-alexandra-jusinoName: Alexandra Jusino

Title/Position: Boss Lady at Exq Designs

Specialty: We specialize in floral and decor for social and corporate events.

CHEZ: How long have you been in the events industry?
A.J.: I haven’t thought about this for a while but I left my previous job in November of 2004 to start working in the events industry.

CHEZ: Describe what you/your company does in one sentence?
A.J.: Our company provides flowers, props, rentals and design services for both corporate and social events in Chicago.

CHEZ: What sets you/your company apart from others?
A.J.: We don’t like to do the same thing all the time. Some floral designers specialize in one style…. we like to do it all and are not afraid to do something completely different. We also custom build, so dream it and we will build it. You want to have a free standing champagne flutes escort card wall greeting your guests as they walk into cocktails… no problem!

CHEZ: What is your most memorable moment from past events?
A.J.: We loved working for Create and Cultivate last August. We created a ombre wall of cacti that went 30’ up…. we even had to use a lift to get the cacti all the way up. We also got to work with Lush Cosmetics this summer building a living green wall on their pop up shop in Millennium Park.

CHEZ: What event trends do you love right now?
A.J.: Loving an all green event, using tropicals, bright colors, textures and hexagonal shapes. After a few years of white, and all blush events I speak for many designers we are craving color.

CHEZ: What is the most unique request a client has ever had?
A.J.: Less than a month ago we had a client ask us for a white balloon backdrop for their ceremony. It was a tad tricky to keep adding balloons without popping the ones that were already set but we got it done and the client was ecstatic.

CHEZ: What does a typical event day look like for you?
A.J.: We usually start at 9AM (some times earlier!) checking lists, packing items, double checking to make sure that we have everything we need before we head out the door or in case of wedding days to deliver bouquets. We arrive on site and begin setup, wait until the client comes in and we can leave or wait until the ceremony takes place so we can turnover the room. Some setups take longer than others, load ins are not as easy as they sound, but it always gets done and the best feeling is to see your client’s reaction once they arrive to the event. Oh and at 12AM or 1AM we get to go back and clean it all up, load out and back to the studio it all goes. It makes up for a very long day. There is such a thing as an event hangover.

CHEZ: Name three things you couldn’t live without (besides the obvious!)
A.J.: Besides my wonderful family I’m going to say coffee, concealer and my Converse. In that order!

CHEZ: Tell us something people probably don’t know about you.
A.J.: I used to be a construction engineer in my previous life. My last building that I worked on is 520 North Michigan I can tell you stories about that building.

CHEZ: What is the best piece of advice you can give someone planning an event?
A.J.: If this person is in the event field my advice is It’s not about you, it’s about your client….. and remember that you are in the business of service. If you are planning an event, hire professionals and let them guide you.

CHEZ: What do you love about Chez?
A.J.: Besides the gorgeous pilkington stairs (that engineer background coming back!) and it’s great location…. Chez is a white canvas, don’t be afraid to go bold with your event colors. The space can take on colors beautifully.

Thanks Alexandra! We can’t wait to see what designs you bring to your next event at Chez.

Photography by Carasco (L), and Christy Tyler Photography (R)

Chez Vendor Spotlight: Brent Rolland of Fig Media + Fig Weddings

black and white image of brent rolland dj and drummer fig mediaName: Brent Rolland

Title/Position: Event Producer, DJ Manager, and DJ with Fig Media + figweddings.

Specialty: Fig – DJ, film-making, and photography for weddings, special events. Brent Rolland – Excellent service, crisp audio, super-fun parties, drumming with my DJs, and the best hugs in the industry.

CHEZ: How long have you been in the events industry?
B.R.: I have been in the events industry for eleven years. I didn’t know I could count that high!

CHEZ: Describe what you/your company does in one sentence?
B.R.: Fig Media and figweddings deliver truth, beauty and service beyond expectation with our creative, personable and personalized approach to DJ, film-making and photography.

CHEZ: What sets you/your company apart from others?
B.R.: Fig is a mainstay in the events industry since 1993. We see ourselves as not only a creative event firm, but also as a great “playground” for artists to develop their craft and be successful in the world, which is the vision of our owners, James and Michele Gustin. Additionally, we have a great internship program that trains people to be ready for events in any medium of their choice. We love development, training, changing and updating our systems, and being better than yesterday—all in the name of love and a better experience for our current and future clients.

CHEZ: What is your most memorable moment from past events?
B.R.: One word: Rain. Mother Nature’s watery gift to the world has been involved in a few of my events! This month, I was the DJ for a huge outdoor white party in mid-August near Buckingham Fountain. The weather was clear and cool for the whole evening and the chance for rain was 5-10%; twenty minutes before the end of the event, it began to rain. Totally unexpected! I looked a bit ridiculous performing under a wet linen, but I was able to get five more minutes in before we called it a night (and a super-fun night it was!). Another rain story: I did the music/audio for a beautiful wedding on The Crown of the Tribune Tower. Again, the weather was perfect, up until I heard Rev. Tom Perrucci say over the speaker system, “Did you just feel a raindrop?” Ten seconds later, it POURED. Everyone came inside and the ceremony continued smoothly and beautifully. The smiles on the faces of my couple remained throughout. It’s a blessing and a lesson to be in good faith and make things as awesome as possible in the midst of things outside of human control.

CHEZ: What event trends do you love right now?
B.R.: I love our DJ/drummer combination—the synergy of live music and recorded music is a beautiful thing. I’m a self-taught drummer and enjoy the opportunity to bring a “best of both worlds approach” to event entertainment.

CHEZ: What is the most unique request a client has ever had?
B.R.: Lauren remembers this one—I was asked to cosplay (short for “costume play,” or dressing up as a character or figure in pop culture) for a nerd-themed wedding at Cataylst Ranch. I cosplayed Aang from Nickelodeon’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” I couldn’t be happier to get out of a suit for one night and take part in my client’s vision, as well as do something I enjoy!

CHEZ: What does a typical event day look like for you?
B.R.: Since we do events throughout the week, every day is different! In addition to being an artist, I produce events (i.e. sell!), handle the contracts, our calendar, our DJ equipment, and management of the DJ team. I have mandatory sales/team training meetings on Mondays and Wednesdays, and I meet with my DJ team every two weeks. On event days, I prepare my gear/music/notes early, arrive at the venue at least two hours in advance for setup and sound check, and throw the best event I can throw.

CHEZ: Name three things you couldn’t live without (besides the obvious!)
B.R.: God, music, and family.

CHEZ: List three things people probably don’t know about you. 
B.R.: 1. I’m a Weight Watchers alumni! I was with the program for about three years and lost sixty—yes, sixty—pounds. I’m maintaining keeping off the poundage, which is extremely difficult in the indulgent lifestyle that is the event industry, haha. 2. I’m a huge game show fan and I develop, host and produce shows for anime/comic conventions. 3. I’ve never traveled outside of the United States…yet!

CHEZ: What is the best piece of advice you can give someone planning an event?
B.R.: I love this question! First and foremost, BE YOURSELF! Personalize your event that breathes who you are, what you love, and what you stand for. Secondly, hire vendors that “get” you and that you feel comfortable with. You’ll have much more trust and less stress on the day of, and the relationship will be more of a friendship than a labeled “client and vendor” relationship. Thirdly, and I agree with my friend Elizabeth Nord (hi!) on this—definitely consider hiring a great planner for your event—facilitation is an art in itself, and it is crucial to have someone overseeing the vision and team. Finally, be sure to work in a “thank you” into your event that honors your guests and all those who made your event happen—including your event team. We selflessly give our time, resources, energy, and weekends to make visions happen, our clients thrilled, and events amazing. Receiving the love back is the least we could ask for, and it’s what I yearn for as a performer and human being.

CHEZ: What do you love about Chez?
B.R.: Lauren, Louise and Kristie! Seriously, it’s the people that make any environment, and this talented trio is amazing at what they do and create a warm, wonderful space with their presence and hospitality. I also love how much history Chez carries within its stunning white walls, from its roots as a bakery-slash-speakeasy-slash-nightclub to its connections with Sinatra and Bauhaus. It is always a pleasure.

Thanks Brent! We look forward to having your enthusiasm and energetic beats at Chez again very soon.

Photography by James Gustin of figmediainc

Chez Vendor Spotlight: Elizabeth Nord Photography

Elizabeth Nord, photographer and owner of Elizabeth Nord Photography, recently hosted a wonderful, one-day photography workshop at Chez. The photos from the Love In The City Workshop captured wedding moments and decor details beautifully while also highlighting the elegant architectural details and natural light at Chez. We were so impressed with Elizabeth’s work that we selected the staircase shot below for our print advertising campaign! We are pleased to highlight Elizabeth and her work in the Chez Vendor Spotlight series. Check out our interview below. elizabeth-nord-photo-collage

Name: Elizabeth Nord

Title: Owner/Photographer at Elizabeth Nord Photography

Specialty: Weddings, proposals, engagements, and anniversary photography sessions

CHEZ:  How long have you been in the events industry?
E.N.:  Since 2011

CHEZ:  Describe what you/your company does in one sentence?
E.N.:  I capture the most precious memories and emotions, so that you and future generations can relive those moments forever.

CHEZ:  What sets you/your company apart from others?
E.N.:  I am an energetic, dedicated, and creative photographer that looks at every detail to make sure my couples look their absolute best. I do everything in my power to keep them stress-free and having fun throughout the wedding day. Often times, brides are really stressed on the morning of the wedding day, but time and time again they tell me “Oh good, Liz is here. I can breathe now.” They trust me and I love that my presence calms them.

CHEZ:  What does your typical event day look like?
E.N.:  I am typically at a wedding day between 8-10 hours, sometimes more depending on my clients’ needs. I start about an hour before she is to start putting on her dress, which is typically when hair & makeup is being finished. I usually end after about an hour after open dancing has begun. A typical wedding day with me includes lots of fun, laughs, and dancing.

CHEZ:  What is your most memorable moment from past events?
E.N.:  I typically cry during either the first dance, a first look with the bride’s father, or one of the speeches. Those get me EVERY. TIME. The moment that has stuck with me the most was when the groom danced with his aunt in lieu of his mother who had recently passed away from cancer. It was a touching moment that had the whole room in tears.

CHEZ:  What is the most unique request a client has ever had?
E.N.:  The most unique request I’ve ever received was when my couple had to put down their dog the day before their wedding day. We had talked about having a photo of them with their two dogs, so it was a surprise when they told me on the wedding day that there would only be one dog joining them. It was incredibly sad and the groom was really upset about it. Later that evening, he asked if I could Photoshop his dog into one of the portraits that they took that day. It turned out to be a beautiful photo that he was grateful to have, and being a dog lover myself, it was my honor to create it for him.

CHEZ:  What event trends do you love right now?
E.N.:  I love the trend of mini dessert options like small lemon meringue pies or banana foster “shots”. I also love the trend of a donut wall. I’m obsessed.

CHEZ:  Name three things you couldn’t live without.
E.N.:  1. My husband 2. Dogs 3. My friends

CHEZ:  What is the best piece of advice you can give someone planning an event?
E.N.:  Delegate! For the little things that you may not care as much about, delegate a friend or family member to care of it for you. Often times, they are more than willing to help. You just have to tell them what you need help with. Delegation will help you SO much with stress throughout the wedding day planning as well as on the actual wedding day. Take the time to enjoy your wedding day instead of worrying about the little things that aren’t going as planned. This is also where an amazing wedding planner comes into play! You will not regret hiring one!

CHEZ:  Name three things people probably don’t know about you.
E.N.:  1. In the 9th grade, I sang at Carnegie Hall in New York in a women’s choir 2. I was married at the age of 20 and have been with my husband since I was 16. 3. I am from Tennessee and lived on a farm there, surrounded by 30 acres of land, 28 dogs at one point, and multiple other animals. Although I was born in the country, I love city life!

CHEZ:  What do you love most about Chez?
E.N.:  I love Chez’s ultra modern style. I especially love the glass staircase and it’s gorgeous floor to ceiling windows. And above all, I love the people that work at Chez. I’ve never met a nicer group of people at a venue!

Thanks Elizabeth! We look forward to working with you again very soon.