This week’s Stitely Vendor Spotlight features another one of our favorite planners to work with in Chicago–LOLA Event Productions! These women go above and beyond the call of duty for every event that we’ve worked on with them. We had a chance to catch up with Lori Stevenson, a founder of LOLA to see what she has to say about her beginnings in the industry and tips for couples choosing their vendors.

Lori Stevenson

Lori Stevenson

How did you get started in event planning?

I have been in the wedding business since college – my degree is in fashion design, and I paid my way through school designing and making wedding gowns. Brides are just in my blood! I started LOLA in 2006 recognizing a gap for a planner that can also act as a design liaison as well as dig into the logistics of planning a wedding or event.

There are 4 of us so our journey is a collaboration that clients really get to take advantage of. While they have a single consultant they are working with, they have the ideas and expertise of the entire group and our diverse backgrounds in design, catering, logistics, etc.

What part of your job do you find the most satisfying and the most challenging?

Working with brides is incredibly rewarding – you get to be with people on their best day. How many people get hugs from clients on a weekly basis? It feeds my soul! Most of my challenges just come in work/life balance. I am lucky to have a VERY understanding husband as this job is really 24/7.

What is the key to a successful event?

The LOLA Pros

The LOLA Pros

A great guest experience. Yes, a wedding is to a certain extent “all about the bride” but at the end of the day you want to make sure guests get the experience that a bride and groom are striving for from the band to the food, flow, decor and atmosphere.

What is the craziest event story you can share?

Whenever I say, “Well, now I have really seen everything” something even crazier is bound to happen! I feel like I need to knock wood if I am going to answer this one :-) Last year alone we had a “cheeky” grandmother (yep, she mooned the DJ), we had a streaker blow through cocktail hour chased by 5 of Chicago’s finest police officers, and we surprised a bride and groom with a flash mob (not all surprises are bad, but I can’t say I love any surprise on a wedding day!)

Hire your planner before you make ANY decisions. Not only can we help create a beautiful, cohesive and well-planned event, but we can help you tackle it all with aplomb so you can have a great time doing it. No stress needed!

If you were stuck on a desert island which three albums would you want with you?

I always tell clients not to judge me based on my musical acumen! It’s petty awful in a tween-pop sort of way. My husband is ashamed of my iPod selection.
I think I would have to stick with classics, even though there are so many good contemporary artists out there spanning pop and indie like The National and Bruno Mars (seriously, can you STOP singing Uptown Funk?! Absolutely NOT!):
-Hot August Night – Yes I am die-hard Neil Diamond fan since childhood – I blame my mother!
-Tom Petty’s Greatest Hits – for when you need to sing along to something (and for the record, my husband is NOT ashamed of this pick)
-Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits or ABBA Gold – for when I just need to ‘dance it off’ – it really never gets old.

For more information and to connect directly with Lori and the other ladies at LOLA, check out their website here!

During wedding season 2014 we were able to work with a ton of talented vendors–Robb Davidson Photography being one of our favorites. His high energy and big personality are palpable through his photos, and we were ecstatic to get the chance to contact him and ask a few questions about his experience as a wedding photographer. Check out our conversation below and his super-rad website here.

Chicago wedding rooftop

How and why did you get started in the photography business?

I got started in photography when I was a junior at Judson College/university. I actually had to replace a point and shoot camera, and so with my “go big or go home” mentality, I bought an SLR camera. Cause that takes better pictures, right? Yeah no it doesn’t when you don’t know anything, but really I wanted to learn about it more. I started practicing on friends, posting online…and the college saw that. We didn’t really have any photography programs, so I was the only “in house” resource. They asked me to start covering events, save money for lenses…etc…and shot my first wedding for a friend. HOOKED instantly. I kept booking more, got more organized, grew into a nice small business. I WAS originally gonna just shoot on the weekends and have some 9-5 job during the week. Ha, never could make the interviews cause I was shooting the whole time. Sooooo, I decided to stop bothering with it and do it full time. All the while working full time at Wheaton Sport Center and had a great client base start from there. What an amazing place.

What are some of the main services you offer and how do they set you apart from other competitors?

I shoot people. With my canon. Main ordeal for me is weddings of course, but also looooove any kind of family shoot, headshot, corporate event, pranks needing documentation….whatever. Love people. Creating a place where people can be themselves within SECONDS is key. Otherwise you’re just stuck putting people in a pose that may not be who they are. So the sooner I can get people relaxed and their goofy selves, the better the shots I can get. You can only do so much with your photography side if the subject isn’t their natural self. :)

Chicago wedding band

What key qualities should couples look for when choosing a photographer?

When it comes to weddings, or anything lifestyle related…both sides of the camera is important. I think personalities have to gel at least a little bit. Otherwise, you won’t be on the same page, things won’t go as smooth, or just get straight up weird. Like, not awesome weird. Lame weird.

What part of your job do you find the most satisfying and the most challenging?

I’m glad this is paired because it’s usually the case…finding obstacles that you have to overcome become the most satisfying at the end of the day. How to make indoor locations for a wedding look real pretty when it’s pouring outside, we only have ten minutes to shoot EVERYTHING and make it seem like this is the way it SHOULD be, someone in the bridal party has a cast and you gotta creatively tuck that sucker away.

Kowalski0816-L

What is the craziest event story you can share?

Gosh, ones that I’m actually allowed to share? Haha, well I would say that it’s just crazy how it all happened. March of 2013 I was at the gym when I got a call from a buddy of mine. Basically let me know that he was a guest at a wedding that didn’t have a photographer, bride was 20-30 minutes from walking down the aisle. I BOLTED out of the gym, threw on a suit, and met her before that going down the aisle to introduce myself. I said I was a full time professional wedding photographer, ready to shoot the rest of the night and figure out details later. Great night, awesome people, so glad I was able to help. I guess they never heard from their original photographer….hope they’re okay? Still crazy.

Why do you love photographing in the Chicago area?

There’s something so homey and family oriented in the midwest that I can’t get enough of. I guess an awesome hybrid of homey white picket fence, and the get after it mentality. Everyone loves incorporating family traditions, their relationship history, or just something to make it so unique for the shoot. Really doesn’t feel like there’s “competition” or anything like it, so I teach people anything and everything I may know…cause there’s so much awesomeness to go around! They really don’t suck out here.

couple dancing at Chicago weddingflower girls dancing at Chicago weddingCouple on Hellenic Museum rooftop at Chicago wedding cocktail hourman dancing at Chicago wedding flower girls dancing at Chicago wedding

In this week’s installment of Stitely Vendor Spotlights, we had a chance to catch up with Lindsay Parrott of Parrott Party Productions. Not only is she a planner that we often work with, but was also a recent client of ours! Her December wedding was a show-stopper to say the least. Read below to hear about what she does and her tips for couples looking for a planner.

PPP

[Photo by Jai Girard]

How and why did you get started in the wedding planning business?

P3 was started in 2011 after Lindsay wanted to move away from only doing birthdays and corporate events. Our first wedding (partnered with I DO!) was in Napa, California at Auberge Du Soleil and was featured in Town & Country’s Spring 2011 issue.

What are some of the main services you offer and how do they set you apart from other competitors?

Our main service is Event Design! We take great pride in being able to transform any room and love seeing the face of a stunned bride, groom and guests! We love planning and being able to see all of the small details fall in place. The biggest thing that sets us apart from our competition is our pricing! We set realistic planning and design prices in order to allow more couples to enjoy the awesomeness of using a planner!

What are some things couples should consider when creating a design/style for their wedding?

When creating your design scheme/theme always remember, “less is more and more is in the details”! You don’t need the biggest centerpieces or a complex lighting plan to have a beautiful event. Find examples of what you like, get the images priced out, and go from there. Scale down in places where you don’t feel as strongly and go big in the places that mean the most.

How do you go about interpreting a couple’s vision and designing a unique look or style for an event?

I always ask couples to bring in as many images, fabrics and examples of their design style. We then go over their favorite images and what about them makes them their favorite. I learn about their favorite colors, vacations spots and the things they enjoy doing together. All of this information helps me go back and create a Design Board that communicates the couples’ uniqueness and their wedding vision.

What key qualities should couples look for when choosing a planner?

When looking for a Wedding or Event Planner and/or Designer, you should always pick someone who you feel comfortable with. Find a planner who has a great communication mode. If you prefer text, make sure your planner offers that as an option and their rules and response times. If you prefer to only be contacted at a certain time, make sure your planner understands. Notice how quickly the planners you reach out to when searching, the ones who respond instantly-should move to the top of your list immediately. Whether it was their Production Assistant, Secretary or Intern, it means someone will always be readily available to answer your questions. There should also ALWAYS be an emergency number provided to you by your planner, whether it be their personal cell phone or direct line in. Sometimes there are questions you will need answers to immediately, your planner should be available to those types of questions always.

What part of your job do you find the most satisfying and the most challenging?

I love planning events that have 400-600+ guests! Our favorite part being able to see so many peoples’ reaction to the décor, lighting, floral and entertainment is exhilarating. We always work with such amazing vendors, we never worry that feedback will be anything other than amazing but it’s always lovely to be reminded.

The not so stellar part of planning Weddings and Events would have to be “crushing dreams” as we call it. We can do anything and everything when it comes to planning and designing BUT we cannot make your budget bigger! Our vendors extend enormous discounts and sometimes will throw an item in there every once in a while, but it is always difficult to tell couples’ they cannot have a 12 piece band, 5 course meal and open bar throughout their entire wedding and only hope to spend $15,000.00. We make magic happen, not miracles!

What is the craziest event story you can share?

We had an outdoor event last summer. The venue was a gorgeous house in the backyard. The house itself was beautiful; the backyard was lush and had beautiful landscaping. The only thing I saw as being a huge problem was the guest-count and of course, the weather! The day of the wedding was beautiful, great weather and all vendors arrived more than early! Set up went superb and the couple was on time with pictures. Minutes before the event starts—DOWNPOUR. The ceremony had to be moved inside, and the reception had to be delayed about an hour while appetizers were passed inside. That is not the craziest part…while the ceremony was going on, the P3 Staff and Catering crew were in the tent outside, standing on the dance floor so it would not wash it away. We had to make bridge-like walkways for the guests to get from the house to the tent without sinking into the ground and help the caterers set up the food stations. It was beyond stressful but at the end of the night, the owner of the house had nothing but nice things to say and the newlywed couple were over the moon.

As a recent bride, how has your own wedding experience change the way you plan for others?

As a recent bride I wanted to simplify the planning and designing process even more! We recently upgraded our A La Carte Menu to include more offerings from our Luminous Suite. We also have added Event Design Suites, for clients only seeking Event Design assistance. I think being a bride has made me more sensitive to the fact that my clients have lives and other things to worry about and do. Yes, their wedding is important and they understand that but life gets in the way. I want to be able to take the reins as much as allowed, allowing the couple time to enjoy their engagement.

For more information about Parrott Party Productions, check out her website here, or on Facebook here.

This year we had the pleasure of working with Paper Antler Photography at a wedding in Madison, WI. After getting a peek at the photos from the event, they quickly became some of our favorites of the season. The way they captured the moments of the party conveyed more than just the events that occurred, but also the emotion and energy that represented the couple and our band very well. We had a chance to correspond with Jonny, one of the photographers at Paper Antler, about how he and Michelle got started in the business and what they love about photographing weddings. Check out their answers below, and I would also recommend checking out their stellar website here.

Paper Antler How and why did you get started in the photography  business?

I (Jonny) studied philosophy and photography in college.  Right after graduating, I started creating a portfolio and shadowing photographers in Minneapolis while Michelle – with her natural eye for space and design – started assisting me on my solo assignments.  That was back in 2007.  We knew that we loved working together so we set out to find a career that a.) valued creativity and artistry, b.) would have intrinsic meaning, and c.) allow us to have some flexibility in our schedule as neither of us are 9-5 people.  Once we had enough weddings and other gigs booked, we quit our jobs and set out full steam ahead as photographers.

 What are some of the main services you offer and how do  they set you apart from other competitors?

Our wheelhouse is photographing weddings and have traveled all over the country and some of the globe to do so.  We want to be the best photographers we can be and thus we keep our focus on photography and don’t offer many services otherwise.  The fact that we are a husband + wife duo does allow us to be in two places at once at a wedding, and because we have worked together and now have been married for almost seven years, we can communicate with hand signals and facial expressions, much like the secret service but not as fancy.

What key qualities should couples look for when choosing a photographer?paper antler fun - 0018

Couples should choose a creative, artistic photographer for sure, but more importantly a photographer that makes them feel comfortable and who is also a nice person.  It doesn’t do much good to have a technically great photographer who man-handles your bridal party and is rude to your Uncle Jim.  When photographing weddings, you need to be ultra patient at times, and there’s really no room for ego.

What part of your job do you find the most satisfying and the most challenging?

One of the most satisfying parts of photographing a wedding is that as the photographer, you are giving the couple a tangible artifact and vestige of one of the most important and celebratory days of their life.  At that point, it becomes about something way bigger than photography and those photographs now serve as reminders for the rest of your lives and also for your family now and in the future.

paper antler fun - 0050

The most challenging part of our job is keeping up with correspondence and editing photos, though it’s hard to complain.  Also, it can be a little obnoxious when dozens of people with iPads cut in front of us at weddings to take a photo that we set up.

What is the craziest event story you can share?

A wedding that we photographed last year featured none other than Ric Flair (wwf world champion) as a surprise guest for the groom.  He walked the bride down the aisle and the expression on the groom’s face was priceless.  We later got a picture with Ric Flair, with Michelle and myself flexing.  That one made the scrapbook.

Where in the world do you enjoy photographing the most?

We’ve photographed weddings from Carmel Valley, CA to the Lakes District in England, and honestly there is so much beauty every place we’ve been to photograph a wedding.  A place like California offers a few more options than the Chicago suburbs but so much about wedding photography is finding beauty regardless of the location.

 

 

paper antler fun - 0048paper antler fun - 0002paper antler - 0010paper antler - 0006amy + jon - paper antler - 0024

The Chicagoland area is perhaps one of the country’s most versatile locations for a wedding. There are all kinds of hotels, lofts, restaurants, museums, and parks that host beautiful weddings. A short drive north of the city is the Chicago Botanic Garden, home to a whopping 385 acres of land and 81 acres of water, and one of our favorite versatile wedding sites. We had the pleasure of speaking with Connie Bolle, Director of Sales & Special Events at the Botanic Garden, to find out just how green this garden really is!

Stitely Entertainment: What makes the Chicago Botanic Garden different from other event venues?
Connie Bolle: Our outdoor and indoor ceremony locations are the most photographed wedding spots in the entire Chicagoland area! Our Garden has over 385 acres and we host only one wedding an evening, so 100% of our attention is focused on the bride & groom, wedding guests and the amazing evening. Our location is easily accessed from major highways and the large complimentary event parking blows away the city competition with their required valet or expensive downtown parking rates. Fresh air, fresh views and privacy await just miles north of downtown Chicago.

SE: Why should people choose Chicago Botanic Garden for their events?
CB: Our Garden couples tend to be very focused on being environmentally friendly—we grow our dinner’s salad greens here at the Garden, we compost at the conclusion of your perfect wedding day, and recycle everything we can get our hands on! They love that we are a one stop shop—book your venue, your wedding menu and your linen—all with just one experienced and focused event planner, who is actually here on your wedding day! They really love that their wedding venue will be here for years and years to come, not a hotel ballroom with a new corporate name and horrific carpeting. We are a space you can bring your family and friends to 365 days a year and come back as a couple year after year to enjoy our incredible vistas.

SE: Can you please describe the different rooms and/or services?
CB: Our favorite space is our McGinley Pavilion, our waterside tented private location with an adjacent large patio that literally takes your breath away. With willowy white lanterns and the breeze from the basin, your guests are transported to a dreamy reception. Paired with our English Walled Garden for your wedding ceremony or cocktail hour, it simply doesn’t get any “greener.” For those brides that crave a contemporary LONG wedding aisle, our Rose Terrace is a photographer’s dream ceremony space. For winter and early spring weddings, we have our Nichols Hall and Krehbiel Gallery, two very posh spaces where nature shines indoors.

Jeremy Lawson 8.20.11 019

Photo by Jeremy Lawson

SE: Do you have different wedding packages? If so, what do they include?
CB: We have three different level wedding packages, though we tend to customize almost all of our weddings to fit our unique couples and their history, loves and ethnic origins! The traditional wedding packages include tables, chairs, china, linens, bar, service and more! Just show up with your favorite florist and orchestra, and we are ready to go! With our incredible gardens and views, you really can’t ask for a better backdrop for your wedding day.

SE: What are some of your favorite ideas from recent weddings?
CB: A stunning July wedding with Tamina and Leo included their two dogs in the ceremony! Puppy Love and Couple Love can’t be any cuter! For food, my favorite was Amy and Eric’s September wedding, where we re-created actual family recipes for their custom Sweets Table, complete with recipe cards for the guest to take and a family photo of the recipe author! It brought tears to the eyes of so many guests!

00095_Copyright-Robin-Sloan-Riverbend-Studio

Photo by Robin Sloan of Riverbend Studio

SE: Have you recently hosted any particularly interesting events or organizations?
CB: We always attend the Wish upon a Wedding Gala and hope to host a wedding for a couple here very soon! It is a heart warming charity with a chapter here in Chicago, granting wishes to those who are terminally ill or who face extreme hardships. We also participated in the Special Event Show hosted here in Chicago in January and LOVED seeing the new Wedding Trends for 2013 and beyond. Romantic Garden weddings are so on TREND.

SE: What three words do you think best describe Chicago Botanic Garden?
CB: For the location: Expansive, Lush, Peaceful. For the food: Organic, Fresh, Delicious

SE: Anything else you would like to include?
CB: People always ask—but what if it rains? Our tented Pavilion with clear sides walls to pull is already set to go—and the day of the wedding, should sprinkles arrive, we effortlessly whisk your group into our indoor back up spaces! Don’t worry; we are experts at keeping the rain dancers away from our summer weddings!