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Traditional Chicago Wedding at the W Hotel City Center

Classic weddings have my heart. I have a feeling that will never change. It’s the beautiful tradition stamped with sweet little moments shared by the couple that truly win me over. So this chic Chicago wedding made my entire day. You can just tell every moment was magic to this couple, and thanks to Tim Tab Studios we can share in that joy here.

From the Bride…It sounds cliché to say it, but it’s true- my wedding day was the best day of my life thus far. While I knew I’d wanted to marry Mike for a while, I hadn’t been planning the details of our future wedding which allowed us to take inspiration as it came. We actually had a blast planning it too. We knew we wanted a city wedding with contemporary, yet warm décor. The W City Center in Chicago (a former men’s club with some classic early 20th century details updated with a modern look) had exactly the style we wanted. It also had separate spaces for the ceremony, cocktail hour and reception, each beautiful and unique in their own way. We thought this would create a nice flow to the evening and we could focus on each event separately. One of the main style points of the space was the beautiful golden arched ceilings in the mezzanine level that overlooked the lobby. This space would eventually be where all of our guests met for cocktails after the ceremony. But it also inspired my choice of dress. After a short search I settled on a metallic lace gown, with a low-cut back. It was formal but not traditional and very elegant. It perfectly complimented the look of the space and definitely had a wow factor. On the day of the wedding I was ball of nerves but 10 seconds into seeing my husband during our “first look” those nerves disappeared. My husband loved the dress and he looked handsome in his classic black tux.

The most important thing for us is that we could spend as much time during our wedding with the people we loved. That is why we chose to do the majority or our photos before the event. Our photographers, Tim and Bethany, a husband a wife team, couldn’t have been a better choice to shoot the event. They made us feel at ease and guided us through the early parts of the ceremony experience, staged pictures with family and friends, and of course shots of us in cool urban settings in and around downtown Chicago. They also were really accommodating to our request like the big group photo we took with all our guests in one shot. It took some wrangling but it is definitely a highlight to see every time I look back on it. With the staged photos out of the way by the time we got to the ceremony everything was set up to enjoy the evening.

The ceremony was held on the second level of the W hotel, up a beautiful set of granite steps, down past the arched mezzanine overlooks and through the two large wooden doors that led to a sanctuary type space the closely resembled the nave of a church. It was accented with candles and our “altar” was set up in front of a lovely fireplace set with more candles. Our mutual friend — who actually introduced us to one another — presided over the ceremony while a string quartet, hired through the Merit School of Music, provided warmth and feeling. One of the highlights of the ceremony was definitely a performance by our friend Heidi, a trained opera singer and wife to our officiant. As we walked down the aisle to cheers from our family and friends we couldn’t be happier. But the real fun was about to begin.

During cocktails we had a chance to mingle with all the people that came to celebrate with us. Our wonderful wedding coordinator Allison Goldwasser who worked for the W helped guide the evening and ensure that everything ran smoothly. As a lover of Chicago architecture, we named the tables after our favorite buildings. And as any good Chicago foodie would have it, we found a venue with top notch dinner and added a late night snack to the menu of Italian beef and Chicago style hot dogs- local favorites. We kept centerpieces on the reception tables more focused on candles to bring that added warm light into the ballroom. We just wanted to it to feel cozy and romantic during dinner and Allison of Stems provided the look we needed. We added personalized mints in the bathroom, M&M favors (our initials) and a Chicago architecture coffee table book as our guest book to bring in more personal touches.

After some fantastically funny, heartfelt speeches and a lovely dinner people we ready to dance. Thankfully DJ Angie Ma who we hired through Toast & Jam kept the dance floor packed all evening long. Honestly it was the most fun party I ever had; the music was incredible, everyone seemed to be having a great time and we never left the dance floor. When it was all over I was sad to see everyone leave but grateful that we got to spend so much time with all the people we loved.

I was a ball of nervous energy on the day of the wedding, but once it all got underway we just went with it, enjoyed our day and got a chance to celebrate our love and life together with all of our 130 family and friends there to help. Hiring great vendors we trusted to get the job done took any potential stress away and allowed us to focus on what really mattered. I recommend them all!

Photography: Tim Tab Studios | Wedding Gown: Ysa Makino From Dimitra's Bridal | Invitations: Wedding Paper Divas | Bride's Shoes: Calvin Klein | Makeup: Chris Khasho | Hair Stylist: Kelly Cardenas | DJ: Toast And Jam | Ceremony And Reception Venue: W Chicago City Center | Ceremony And Reception Venue: W Chicago City Center | Ceremony Musicians: Melanie Clevert Sarapa | Florals: Stems

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ChiChi Styles Bridesmaid Dresses + A Discount!

Being a bridesmaid is always such an honor — I love getting to stand by my favorite ladies on their big days, but picking out a dress for a whole group of girls can undoubtably be a challenge! Well, things are about to change thanks to ChiChi Styles. This online devision of LeSalon makes picking out, ordering + purchasing bridesmaid dresses easy, fun and stress-free!

ChiChi Styles blends the best of both worlds — the expertise of a real store with years of experience + the convenience and savings of an online shop! And the best part? You and your ladies can save $40-$150 per dress on the same designer dresses you’d find elsewhere all while making sure your dresses are ordered in the correct size and within the same dye lot. Dye lots are important so the dresses are all the same shade of your chosen color. Featuring brands such as Dessy, Alfred Sung, Lela Rose, Social, After Six, Bari Jay, Bill Levkoff, Jordan, & Allure Bridesmaids, ChiChi Styles even offers a “Try-On Program” where for $25, a sample is sent straight to you and all your ladies can try on and order from home!

To make tracking your order easy-as-can-be, ChiChi Styles offers Order Tracking so you (or even your maid of honor!) can review + double check all individual orders in your bridal party before the final order is sent into the designer! You’ll even get email notifications throughout the entire ordering process as well as estimated delivery dates all through your online account. Head over here for more info, ordering guides and measuring videos! I’m loving this new way to shop for bridesmaids — and now’s the time to buy because ChiChi Styles is offering our readers $5 off each dress using code SMP32015 (expires March 31, 2105). Happy shopping, my dears!


Romantic Chicago Wedding at Hotel Peninsula

There’s nothing like love caught on camera. Case in point? This simple yet completely stunning “I do” amongst the cityscape of Chicago. With Loudbyte Cinematography behind the lens, it’s a visual story that will live on for generations. From the Father of the Bride’s speech to the personal vows exchanged, every moment will bring a happy tear to your eye. Press play to see the entire day unfold!


From Loudbyte CinematographyThe rehearsal dinner was at Epic Restaurant in downtown Chicago. The cocktail hour was set on a open rooftop with amazing views of the Chicago city skyline. Before dinner, 9 speeches were made by friends and family that have known the couple their entire lives, including friends that set Nicole and Steve up on their first date.

The wedding day was at The Peninsula Chicago hotel. Nicole dressed in a gorgeous pink fitted Vera Wang dress. The couples first look was on a rooftop balcony nestled in the Chicago skyline. You could almost touch some of the skyscrapers they were so close. When Steve first turned to see Nicole, its a must-see moment. The couple didn’t need any encouragement from us to stay in the moment with each other.

The ceremony was decorated by Kehoe designs and the Ken Arlen Orchestra was on hand to play live music for the processional and recessional. The couple had a Rabbi and Priest to perform the Ketubah signing and the ceremony rituals including breaking the glass.

After the ceremony, the room was opened up for the evening to begin. Nicole’s father had a very touching speech that left many people in tears. After the couples first dance, everyone was invited to the dance floor and the part began.

The couple had an after-party upstairs at the Hotel Peninsula with DJ on hand and the party kept on rocking!

We got a beautiful shot with Nicole and Steve dancing solo in the hallway and then jumping into an elevatory.

From the beautiful Bride… Steve and I were introduced by mutual friends a few months before our first date. After getting schedules coordinated we met up with a group of friends at the old town art fair and spent the next 11 hours laughing and talking. 3 weeks later I was pretty much moved in and in 5 months we were engaged. We both knew right away this was it and we were so excited to begin a life together.

The proposal was a dream. He took my parents to dinner the night before we left for Mexico to ask permission to marry me. We flew to Playa del Carmen the next day for my birthday and stayed at the Banyan tree Mayakoba resort. Steve got down on one knee and proposed after dinner that night at this beautiful restaurant out on a pier.

Cinematography: Loudbyte Cinematography | Photography: Carasco | Event Design: Kehoe Designs | Event Planning: Clementine Custom Events | Wedding Dress: Vera Wang | Shoes: Manolo Blahnik | Jewelry: Jenny Packham | Make Up: Makeup By Aga | Rehearsal Dinner Venue: Epic Restaurant | Wedding Venue: Peninsula Chicago

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Wine and Painting Party Inspiration

I am all for any excuse to get together with my favorite people but especially if it involves wine and cheese… and painting. Tami O’Malley crafted just such an event – a coming together of friends to do something creative with photography by Sabrina Nohling and Audra Zaba. It has the usual pretty suspects ( gorgeous florals, a yummy food spread) plus a little something fun and unexpected

Photographed by the talented Sabrina Nohling (a wedding and lifestyle photographer) and Audra Zaba (product photographer) and set in the backdrop of my modern meets traditional dining room, our vision was to create a inspiration backdrop for other women to connect with their girlfriends over a glass of wine and an evening of laughter spent while creating lovely, abstract, organic paintings.

The chic transitional dining room of designer and stylist Tami O’Malley, served as the perfect backdrop and mixed pretty vintage furniture pieces with modern touches for a warm and inviting feel. Our modern take on the traditional wine and paint theme, was to bring in watercolor artist Lauren Dahl, who loose organic nature meets abstract style, allowed the artists to create their own unique masterpieces, instead of cookie cutter designs.

The overall goal was to inspire women to create an event in which they can celebrate, connect and create something beautiful together.


Gallery Canvas, 10 x 10
Small Display Easel
White Acrylic Paint
Watercolor Paints
Small Pointed Brush, Size 1 for detail work
Large Flat Brush, Size 10 or 12 for covering large areas
Gold Pen


step-1 Connect with your blank canvas. 
A white canvas can be super intimidating! So take some time to look at it, and kind of plan out your idea. One thing I always do before beginning a painting, is to paint the entire canvas with a washy clear neutral. It really does make the canvas less intimidating, and get’s you going. Not overly wet, just a little damp wash across the canvas. A washy clear neutral could be created by using your largest brush (to cover more of the canvas quicker), and mixing a tiny tiny small amount of paint (possible a color you will be using most), with 90% water. You will later be covering all this up, but it’s not pointless. In this step, also consider where in your canvas you want your focal area to be, and what color palette you intend on using.

step-2 Outline Large Nature Inspired shapes.
Outline large, organic/nature inspired shapes with light colored paint. Think about flowers, leaves, branches, etc. Draw a simplified version of that on your canvas, in three different areas. Three is an odd number, and will help carry the eye around the canvas.

In this step, begin with watered down paint, so that you can easily wipe away if it’s not the placement you like. But when you’re ready, mix about 60% white paint, with 40% of watercolor paint. With a thin brush, draw your shapes out. For example, a fern leaf, could become an arched line, with oblong circles surrounding it. We are used to drawing dark outlines, and filling in the inside with a light version, so for this painting, ignore that.

step-3Address the remaining empty canvas space with playful markings.
Fill in empty canvas space (not empty space within shapes you created in the first step, but empty space beyond that), with smaller organic/nature inspired shapes, and whimsical patterns. Use your small brush, with a 50/50 water to paint ratio. Be quick, trust your initial placement idea, and accept imperfections.

These mark makings could be a smaller version of shapes you already have, or something new. I like to do abstract branches, and groupings of dashes. For this step, use the same thin paint brush. But, darker colors. Here, you are essentially creating small pockets of canvas space that will later be addressed with washy water colors.

step-4Coloring in the lines, unleash your inner child.
Be playful, and be childlike with your choices. Go back to when you were five years old, and you loved coloring in the lines. It’s almost therapeutic. Like I said in step one, ignore the concept of dark outlines, and lighter insides. Instead, embrace the opposite of that. Fill in all shapes with either 1. Darker versions of the light outline, or 2. Soft colors that are opposite of the outline color.
Mix it up, and try both.

For example, if you created an outline in a light pastel green, then try filling in the inside of that shape with a pink pastel color (since green and red are opposite on the color wheel).

step-5 Color outside the lines while leaving tiny borders of white space all around.
Think Ombre, washy, and free. Think of this step, as if all existing lines and shapes are buildings, and with step 4 (this step) imagine that a river as leaked into the city, filling in all the nooks and crannies. Except, leave about 1-3 cm of space between your soon to be paint, and the existing shapes. A gap is playful, and is one of the key elements in this painting. Start by filling in the empty space with a dark color, then then use only water, to help spread the color throughout.

step-6 Finishing Touches.
This is the final step, and will give a ton of luxury and shine to a canvas. Use gold leaf, OR the deco color Premium Gold Leaf Pen. Outline some of your existing marks, or create new ones. It’s okay to have some larger marks this time.

Photography: Audra Zaba | Photography: Sabrina Nohling | Florist: Lemondrop Designery | Make-up : Toni Fisher | Calligraphy: Jessica Albers | At Home With Designer/Stylist: Tami O'Malley | Design And Styling: Tami O'Malley | Hair Styling: Leana Killham | Paint Project : Lauren Dahl

Romantic North Shore Wedding At Armour House

In the midst of planning my own nuptials, the one consensus I’ve taken to heart is that the entire day goes by in a blur. The solution? Investing in reliving every happy tear and terrific toast in the form of cinematography. And a show stopper like this one from Loudbyte has me all the more excited. Get those tissues ready SMP’ers, because some happy tears are about to arrive!


From LoudbyteIn our first meeting with Mirini and Jason, we exchanged Netflix playlists and realized our common passion for great movies and TV. Later, as we helped the couple plan their wedding day schedule, we had so many interesting ideas for their wedding film and decided to add a second day of shooting so that we would have enough time to make everything happen. Mirini and Jason had a rehearsal walk-through the day before at Armour House so it made sense to schedule the cinema shoot that day. We met the couple at our downtown studio to record their voice over. They had written a few lines about how they met and what it meant to them personally. After recoding their voice-overs, we drove to the venue and shot Jason driving in his convertible. We captured aerials and car-mount shots. Then we setup an incredible first look under the outdoor pagoda. Both parents were present and we captured some really touching reaction shots. We also mic’d the couple and you can hear their real first reaction’s to seeing each other; so touching. This pre-shoot allowed us to tell the couple’s story in a much more detailed and intimate way.

After meeting Mirini, Jason was deployed to Afghanistan. During a long walk in the desert, he realized how much he loved her. Mirini made herself a promise that if Jason returned from the war, she would marry him. The toasts are not to be missed!

Cinematography: Loudbyte Cinematography| Photography: Redwall Photography | Ceremony Venue: The Armour House| Reception Venue: The Armour House | Bride’s Shoes: Badgley Mischka | Shoes: Bruno Magli | DJ:Roberto Monatero | Brides’ Dress: Jasmine Couture

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3 Must-Know Tips for Choosing Your Professional Makeup Artist

When it comes to getting prettied up for your Big Day, it’s so, so important to choose a makeup artist that fits your personal needs. I mean, how often do you really get dolled up by a professional? I can count on one hand how many times I have and each experience yielded a different result. Enter makeup guru Carly Pribich. She’s sharing her top three must-know tips to find your perfect match!


My biggest tip is to think about what your ideal bridal look is. Is it soft and polished? Is it smoky & dramatic? You should be able to get a feel for the artist’s work by their portfolio and content on their webpage. My advice is to limit the amount of people you reach out – make contact with those you truly feel like you would connect with on both a style and personality basis.


Busy wedding season typically runs May-September (may depend on where you live), and these popular months tend to book up quickly in advance for in-demand artists. Start conversation early in wedding planning with artists you are interested in. Make sure you understand their policies and payments. Also see how they interact with you. Did they answer your questions? What was the response time? Was it personal? Take notice of this.


This goes back to the initial tip when I suggested to find an artist that you connect with. I encourage feedback with my clients so if needed we can adjust and tweak the look to their preferences. If it’s hard for you to verbalize what you like and don’t like, bring a few pictures you like. The artist should ask questions to what you specifically like about the photos to make sure they understand your vision.


Find an artist who not only makes you look beautiful, but makes you feel beautiful. On your wedding day you deserve to feel pampered and look your very best. Please use my tips above in your search for finding the perfect artist for you. Choose someone who you know will add to your special day.


Photography: Ruth Eileen | Makeup Artist: Carly Pribich

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