The pre-gamer to your Wedding Day, a.k.a the Engagement Party, can be such a fun way to get your feet wet when it comes to throwing big huge bashes to celebrate your love. Those are the best kind of parties in our opinion and this Chicago installment photographed by Melissa Hayes Photography is quite the stunner. Feast your eyes on some glamy, glitzy goodness concocted by Art of Imagination with even more to pore over in the gallery.

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From the Bride… With Phil being Australian and Chicago my hometown, the tyrannies of distance loomed large when we started planning our big day. Both of us are blessed with large families and a plethora of wonderful friends; we feared we’d single-handedly end the global airline slump with the number of plane tickets needed!

In the end, Phil and I decided to hold formal engagement parties in Chicago and Sydney to celebrate with our friends, and just have our families join us in Hawaii for an intimate ceremony in early 2012. With Sydney sure to sparkle in all its natural beauty, I was determined to show off my hometown and share it’s history, class, and old-school charm with our party guests. I fell in love with The Casino, a members-only club tucked behind the John Hancock Building, after attending a friend’s wedding there years ago. And, thanks to that same friend, we were lucky enough to secure the site for our Chicago reception.

Such an unusual and elegant oasis in the city, Phil and I embraced the club’s art deco splendor from the start, letting it dictate the mood for the entire evening. Guests were greeted by white-gloved doormen and white carnation boutonnieres were pinned on each man in the lobby. Phil’s boutonniere and my corsage had white ostrich feathers, as did the towering centerpiece in the club’s main room. (The women were handed faux pearls, sparkly diamond rings, boas, and flapper-esque headbands later in the evening.) We kept the table arrangements quite simple and opted for simple floating gardenias and candles.

A white tufted-leather circular bar served multiple signature cocktails in saucer Champagne glasses, which were accompanied by personalized napkins with funny facts about Phil and I. Between a cozy living room with a fireplace, a ballroom (complete with a 12-piece band) for dancing, and a petite side room with a photo booth full of props, guests had the run of the place all night long.

At midnight, we opened up a secret late-night lounge to encourage our guests to stay late. Living in Australia, I don’t get to see everyone at home often and really wanted to seize the opportunity to spend time together. Bar food was served and a jazz singer kept the party alive to 2 am! (Phil and I were the very last ones to leave.)  At the door, goody bags with mementos from our respective homes (Chicago Frango mints and Vegemite, of course!) sent us and our partygoers home happy.

Above all, we’d hoped for an evening that would be both fun and personal. The Casino proved to be the perfect venue for us to mingle, dine, and enjoy ourselves amongst all our loved ones and friends. I couldn’t be more proud of my elegant Windy City! And I simply can’t imagine a more perfect wedding … oops, I mean engagement party!

Photography: Melissa Hayes Photography / Event Design: Joseph Leigh Designs + Deborah Weisenhaus of Art of Imagination / Venue: The Casino / Band: The Steve Edwards Orchestra / Floral Design: Joseph Leigh Designs / Catering: The Casino / Makeup: Peter D. Noakes / Hair: Frankie Bush / Shoes: Jimmy Choo / Dress: Naeem Khan / Invitations: Reagan Culbertson

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