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#SMPWedding101 – Importance of Working With Your Venue’s Preferred Vendors

Choosing your vendors is one of the most overwhelming tasks during the planning process – but it doesn’t have to be. Michelle Durpetti is here to share the good news – working with your venue’s recommended vendors can be a surefire way to success. With 15 years of producing events under her belt and her recent venture opening The Estate, a venue outside Chicago, she knows what works. And one thing she doesn’t worry about is knowing who to work with – here’s why!

Partners Not Just Proximity Picks

We like taking the phrase “suggested vendor” and applying a much more accurate phrase “creative partner.” Either way, whatever these vendors are called, they’re not just vendors popping up due to proximity or because they have lobbied to be there. They are our partners as we work tirelessly to bring the weddings that our clients dream about to life.

Worth the Investment

There is always much discussion about these vendor lists, and finding excellent, reputable, dependable talent who can execute your vision should be a decision made with care and consideration. As a planner, I always tell my clients to of course, be wary of budget, but to understand that talent and dependability are always worth the investment. You’re investing in your day, and ultimately yourselves, to have a streamlined, creatively collaborative planning process that culminates in a beautifully produced wedding with flawless timing, details and most important – celebration!

Cohesive Synergy

When we first began creating the various elements that go into a venue, we wanted to make sure that we were all on the same page, including our recommended vendors. It was important for us to make sure that each and every creative partner on the list was one that matched what we were trying to do within the space; create a timeless, elegant ballroom, inspired by the Italian Villas. So I sat down with the team and started thinking about who could work within those parameters and feel creatively fulfilled while orchestrating unforgettable celebrations.

Beware of Kickbacks

Look for the venues that invite their vendors, after careful consideration, not those that offer financial incentives. If you are beginning the process of planning your wedding, a wedding planner can be an integral part of successfully navigating through all of this preliminary leg work necessary before getting to the “fun stuff” (design, entertainment, etc.). First there needs to be some homework and some boundaries set so that you are ensuring a planning process for yourself that has manageable expectations as well as the right people on your team.

Ask the Questions

Ask your venue what the qualifying process is for partners to be on the list. When I plan weddings, I always discuss with my clients that I will not guarantee a vendor that I have not worked with before, mainly because I do not want to use my client’s wedding day as a “trial run” to see how a vendor delivers. Venues often apply this to the process when creating their recommended list.

Experience Pays Off

Each vendor working in our space has worked with me multiple times on a variety of events and weddings, creative shoots, and on my own private events. These talented individuals and companies work in our space with us when we are hosting key events, and that is how we get to know them and vice versa – so when our client’s big day is happening, we are all a finely tuned machine.

Partners Know the Details

These creative partners understand the layout of the space, load in, load out and all of the various “do’s and don’ts” that come along with your venue. They understand how to bring a wedding to life beautifully while adhering to the guidelines that protect the integrity of the space. They are reputable, provide quality service and we can guarantee that based on the relationships that we have with them. This cuts down on logistics, time and planning. The streamlined process is right there for our clients, and that is a relief for them and us as well.

Most Amazing Wedding Venues
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Most Amazing Wedding Venues
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Allure Bridals 2016 Ultimate Sweepstakes
Kelly Faetanini for Brideside
Wedding Paper Divas
Joanna August


For our California Brides… Discounts from The Ranch at Laguna Beach and Weddings by Susan Dunne!

For our Tri-state Brides… Discounts from Femina Photo + Design and Ieie Bridal Dress Boutique!

For our Destination Brides… Discount from Hitch’d Weddings & Events

For our Southeast Brides… Discount from Cassidy Carson Photography

For our Mid-Atlantic Brides… Discount for A Chic Affair tickets


Congratulations to our Life In Bloom giveaway winner Lizette!

Event Planning Advice: Michelle Durpetti Events | Venue Advice: The Estate

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From the pages of the
{ The latest from our most exclusive, hand-picked list of vendors }
Classic Dallas Wedding with a Dream Oscar De La Renta Gown

Classic weddings will always win my heart. The elegance, the grace, and the tradition make for timeless celebration, and this real wedding is all of the above. Photographed by Sarah Kate, there’s so many moments to love (can you even handle that Oscar de la Renta gown?!) and we’ll be poring over each bit. Get started in The Vault.


From The Bride… Jere and I first met in Dallas. I was living in New York at the time and he was living in Midland, a small town in Texas. We were in Dallas spending time with family for Easter weekend, but I ventured out to meet my friends at Javier’s on that Friday night. Jere was at Javier’s with mutual friends. We met in the cigar bar in the back, ordering margaritas. That Sunday I got a “poke” on Facebook and a long distance relationship began. We did long distance for a year, New York to Midland and then I moved back home to Dallas a year before we got married. We now live in charming Midland and I am learning how to live in a small town. Having the love of my life next to me makes it easy.

The Proposal

I was going to Midland to meet Jere for the weekend, but he surprised me at Love Field Airport in Dallas before I could get on the plane for his town. Where were we going? New York City! Jere was a not a big surprise person so this was a huge surprise. We went and grabbed a beer while we waited for our flight to the big city. I was so curious!! Was this the weekend? I was trying so hard not to get my hopes up. He told me that he wasn’t telling me what we were doing, where we were staying or how many days we were there.

We landed and he told the cab “78th and Madison”. The cab took us to the Carlyle Hotel. I have always wanted to stay there. It is a New York classic, so romantic. We had a glass of champagne before our dinner downtown at Il Mulino. We were carbo loading as we were training for a marathon that February in Austin which meant the next morning we had a long 12 mile run to complete. Our dinner was amazing – best pasta and bread I have ever had. Jere seemed nervous, but I still had no idea if this weekend was THE weekend.

We were set to run the next morning after breakfast. Because I didn’t bring the appropriate clothing for 12 degree snowy weather in NYC, I had to put on so many random layers! I had a fancy scarf, tie dye hat, hiking socks on my feet and my hands – no gloves. We started our run from the Carlyle and around central park ending 12 miles by the Central Park Boat House, Bethesda Terrace fountain. He said “Kate, let’s go over there and look by the fountain.” I walked ahead, getting nervous at this point. Was this the moment? He said, “Kate, wait I have a question,” he was on a knee. He proposed. “Yes!!!” His little sister Catherine, my best friend Carla and his cousin Cathleen were all right there taking pictures of us, hiding!

The Planning

What type of venue were you looking for? We decided Dallas because we both had family there, it just made more sense. I didn’t like the idea of having people travel too far to celebrate! I wanted to have the ceremony at the church I grew up in and a reception outside under the stars and with a tent. I had always imagined a big tent with lights, dancing and smiles. The tent was built over the pool at the Dallas Country Club.

The Dress

Oscar de la Renta designed my dress. It was one of the last ones he designed before he passed away. That made it extra special. It was a ball gown. I felt so pretty and very myself. I stayed in my dress the whole night. I purchased it in Dallas at Neiman Marcus.

The Day

The best part of the day was seeing Jere for the first time plus being excited with my mom, best friends and future mother in law/sisters all day leading up to it. That morning, Jere dropped off a flower with a note at my parents’ house where I had been living (for 2 months) until Jere and I got married. That was special to wake up with my parents greeting me with breakfast on my wedding day.

Words of Wisdom

What advise do you have for other brides? One of my friends Brittany told me, “Don’t let the wedding get in front of the wedding.” It really is about you and your fiance, not the party, at the end of the day. The Wednesday before your wedding have a date with your person, just you two. Have a glass of wine, relax and talk about your excitement after exchanging a gift or letter.

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Photography: Sarah Kate Photographer | Event Planning: DFW Events | Floral Design: Jackson Durham | Wedding Dress: Oscar De La Renta | Cakes: Panini Bakery | Ceremony Venue: Highland Park Presbyterian Church | Reception Venue: Dallas Country Club | Bride's Shoes: Bionda Castana | Bridesmaids' Dresses: Bella Bridesmaids | Makeup: My Fabulous Faces | Hair: Sonia Trevino | Lighting: Beyond Lighting | Band: Simply Irresistible | Groom's Attire: Culwell And Son | Dance Floor: DFW Dance Floor | Film Processing: PhotoVision Prints | Getaway Car: Blue Diamond Limousines | Photo Booth: Mir Mir | Suspenders: El Rey Apparel | Tent Finish-out: Stage Works | Tent Rentals: Sandone Productions

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A Surprise Proposal with a Little Help from Gray Malin

To say I’m in love with photographer Gray Malin‘s work would be putting it mildly. From his wanderlust-inducing La Dolce Vita series to the whimsical scenes in Gray Malin at the Parker, any one of his photos is guaranteed to make me smile. And today, my smile is from ear-to-ear because this happy photo is also one Groom’s sweet proposal! That’s right, this thoughtful Groom contacted Gray to surprise his girlfriend with what I think may be the cutest proposal ever—just saying!

From the Groom-to-Be… Nicole & I were introduced in high school but started dating in college. She went to the University of Texas and I attended SMU, so we spent our weekends traveling between Dallas and Austin (although I spent a LOT more time on the road than she did!). I knew I wanted to pursue a career in film and Nic had always wanted to be in LA, so I landed a job at a talent agency and we moved here, along with our pup Wills, as soon as I graduated. 

We have been fans of Gray’s work for years, starting our collection the year that we moved to LA. We both take a lot of pride in our home and are always on the lookout for cool pieces that we’ll be able to keep forever. Our first purchase from Gray was one of his classic beach scenes and we’ve since added several more.

When Nicole surprised me with the “I AM BUSY” print, I was inspired to incorporate our shared love of Gray’s work into my wedding proposal. I reached out to Gray to ask if it’d be possible to shoot something with the phrase MARRY ME, thinking that I was really setting myself up for disappointment given the demand for his work. But, sure enough, Gray responded and told me how much he loved the idea and that he could shoot it 2 short weeks later while in Palm Springs. The rest was history and I was able to curate the entire proposal around the print – which turned out absolutely perfect, I should mention. I decided to recreate the photo in person at our favorite celebration spot, Mr. Chow. Fast forward a few weeks…she said YES!

From the Bride-to-Be…The fact that Don was able to pull this off is really impressive. He has the hardest time keeping surprises from me and there were so many fine details to the event that I really can’t believe it! We have been dating for several years and grown so much in our time together that I was absolutely overcome with emotion when I realized what was going on. He always goes above and beyond to take care of me, but he totally outdid himself. Seeing the print was the icing on the cake – our shared admiration for Gray’s work is even greater now than before.  

From Gray Malin… It was an honor to play such a sweet role in Don & Nicole’s love story. ​I mean, it’s just incredible to think that your artwork can help bring two people together and ultimately become a story that we will be able to share with loved ones for years to come. I have to say, though it’s definitely a fun twist to include it in the proposal. Who knows, maybe it’ll be something we add to our Up & Away series for other inspired couple’s proposals?

 When Don approached me, I thought it was such a cute and unique idea, that I couldn’t say no. I was happy to do it! I also love that they owned a whopping 5 pieces of mine and already were so connected to the GM lifestyle.

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Elegant + Romantic Atlanta Spring Wedding

This Bride had a vision, a very clear, chic vision for the dress she’d wear when she walked down the aisle. And when, after searching high and low, she couldn’t find it anywhere, what did she do? She got creative – and it’s with that talent and perseverance that she’s our new style crush. With the same passion she created her whole wedding and Carla Gates captured it all. Spend some time getting to know this fashion-forward lady and her handsome man in our Vault right this way!


From the Bride… We met in the Big House during our first football game at the University of Michigan. After a year of studying for economics exams, nights at Scorekeepers, and swimming dates at the campus gym, we made it official during a matinee showing of “The Goonies” and never looked back. We kept it going through graduation, my law school, and ultimately, cohabitation in Chicago. On the day before Thanksgiving, I came out of my office on the streets of Chicago, looking to meet my assistant’s mother, and Drew was outside in a tux kneeling on the sidewalk! The rest is history!!

I was really inspired by using a shabby chic feel combined with an elegant twist. There are so many weddings that are really over the top, which is great, but I wanted the “less is more” look, while not looking bare. Heather from Tulip was beyond incredible! We shared pictures, thoughts, and ideas to set the stage for the most perfect night.

The colors were blush, champagne, and other soft colors. Lots of string lighting with hanging lanterns and candles. I wanted to capture a soft, ethereal feel – making you want to fall in love with our story when you walked in the door.

So the dress is a long story! I was inspired by one of my favorite bloggers as far as the top, and knew I wanted a slim fitting bottom, with a WOW factor in the back! Of course, there was nothing that quite hit the nail on the head when you have this vision in mind. So what do you do when that happens? MAKE IT YOURSELF! I ended up finding a dress with the right bone structure, and then let my imagination run wild. With the help of my amazing seamstress Hanan, and eight 5-7 hour fittings later (including sewing the sleeves on my dress the day before the wedding!), we created the dress of my dreams!

It is amazing :) All lace with an overlay, beaded on the top with shoulders covered by a hanging piece of beaded fabric. All backless! There are buttons that go all the way down the train.

Puritan Mill was the perfect space that lend itself to the shabby chic feel I knew Drew and I both wanted to achieve while being convenient to our guests in Atlanta. It was a big space, yet could be intimate at the same time. The ability to work from a blank canvas was definitely a plus!

My mom and I went wild with DIY decor! I felt like a little kid again doing art projects! One day, my mom and I were scouring our basement and found old window frames that were going to be tossed out. We spray painted the frames and I blew up pictures of our grandparents and parents and taped them to the back of the screen. It looked great and was a perfect way to incorporate some of the people we hold dearest who couldn’t be there to celebrate with us.

Also – I am a total sucker for cotton candy, so we ordered a bunch of bags online (which ended up being delicious) and then created customized stickers! Etsy became my best friend for the nine months that led up to my wedding. I was inspired by a lot of ideas on Pinterest and then made them come to life with the help of my mom, who was my rock throughout this whole process (along with Drew).

My most memorable moment was when Drew and I signed our wedding Ketubah before our actual ceremony began. In Jewish weddings, the Ketubah is a wedding contract, which is signed before the ceremony. It is considered an integral part of a traditional Jewish marriage, and outlines the rights and responsibilities of the groom, in relation to the bride. I remember when we signed it, my heart was beating out of my chest. This was the first time when everything felt surreal. It was actually happening! I was marrying my best friend and love of my life.

Additionally, seeing my dad for the first time. I am Daddy’s little girl, and I couldn’t believe that I was being given away!

My advice for future brides is that the process is supposed to be FUN! Don’t sweat the small stuff, and just breathe :)

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Peruse more Southern weddings here!

Photography: Carla Gates Photography | Cinematography: Artworks Cinema | Event Planning: Magnolia Events & Planning | Floral Design: By Tulip | Wedding Dress: Justin Alexander | Cake: Frosted Pumpkin Gourmet | Bride's Shoes: Valentino | Bridesmaids' Dresses: BHLDN | Catering: Affairs To Remember | Makeup: Tara Young | Hair: CK Designs | Groom's Attire: Theory | Venue: The Foundry At Puritan Mill | Bridal Boutique: Atlanta Bride Couture | Ceremony Music + Band: Event Performance | Event Rentals: CRUSH Event Rentals | Film Processing: Richard Photo Lab | Invitations + Stationery: With Grace | Wedding Dress Seamstress: Hanan's Bridal

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