How a Former Chicago Film Star Turned Me Into a Wedding Planner!

Life often has a way of surprising you. You might have a job that is just a job, truly a means to an end… A stepping stone. Nothing is wrong with these types of jobs. Stepping stones lead you to bigger and better things. It takes vision and determination to know a stepping stone vs. the mountain.  When you lose sight of the grander picture, those stepping stones become boulders, weigh you down, and then you fail to reach the peak. I’ve had my fair share of stepping stones. I have waited tables, delivered food, I even worked at a nursing home. All of these were great stepping stones and taught me things that I still use to this day. One job in particular carved the path that I am still walking down.

I met George Bozonelos, the owner of Gaslite Manor Banquets, through one of those stepping stones. I waited tables at a restaurant and my manager (Patrick) happened to be George’s cousin. I began telling my coworkers my passion for weddings and my desire to one day be a wedding planner.  Patrick knew I was terrible at waiting tables. He almost fired me on more than one occasion for dropping a platter of food. What he saw in me was potential. Patrick saw a drive and determination that was greater than waiting tables. Patrick connected me with George and I began a college internship at Gaslite Manor Banquets. I was able to experience every aspect of an event from the sales and logistics to placing food orders with vendors and managing a staff of 20 people. I got to work an event from beginning to end and see it truly come to life. Sure, I had to do some not very glamorous things like helping do the dishes but in those menial tasks, I saw true importance and then delighted  in the fun tasks like linen and cake selections.

Eventually, the internship turned into a summer job  and I was offered my very first full-time position right out of grad school. I could not have been more excited. The hours were long and I learned the meaning of “working weekends” but I would not have changed a thing. I consider George to be my mentor. I learned how to plan my very first wedding from watching him. He taught me to NEVER run in front of guests, even if there is a fire in the kitchen! If a guest sees you run, they know something is not right. “Walk with purpose” is what he used to tell me. Hurry, but don’t run. I can hear his voice in my head every time I casually walk with *intense purpose* across a room.

He taught me that there are busy seasons and slow seasons in the wedding industry and eventually it will all work itself out. He taught me that funerals can be just as entertaining as a wedding, and that when you sit in your office with the lights turned off, you will see people do the darnedest things as they exit the bathroom and think no one can see them.

 

 

Please enjoy this very candid interview with the man who put me on the path to my personal mountain, George Bozonelos. I owe this man everything.

Tell me how you got started in the wedding business.

 I’ve been working in the business since I was kid, started with folding napkins and peeling potatoes.  Then in September 2000 we bought Gaslite Manor Banquets, and the rest as they say is history.

How did your Venue come to be? Are there any interesting facts about the space? What was the space before it became a wedding venue?

Gaslite Manor Banquets has been in this location since 1968.  We completely renovated the space in 2001, and again in 2008. Our crowning achievement is the addition of The Gaslite Chapel, which accommodates all weddings that we host at all 3 of our banquet facilities.  Lincoln Inn Banquets in Batavia and The Courtyard Banquets in Warrenville.

How long have you been at Gaslite Manor?

We have been at this location over 17 years.

How many people does the space fit for a cocktail reception? Sit down dinner? Can you accommodate Ceremonies?

We can accommodate as few as 100 people to as large as 900 people.  The Gaslite Chapel can seat 160 people for the ideal wedding ceremony.

What do you love about the job?

Best part of the job, by far, is watching a couple come in nervous and scared at the first consultation, to then a ball of energy and pure joy the night of the wedding.

What do you not love so much about the job?

My biggest gripe is when family members try to take over the coordination of a ceremony & reception.  We have people in place to make sure that everything goes according to plan, and family tend to input their 2 cents and try to convince the bride that we aren’t doing things properly.  We have been doing our job for way too long to not know how to cut a wedding cake!

What is something you wish all couples looking at Gaslite Manor considered or asked when booking a venue?  

The best questions to ask us, or any venue for that matter, What keeps your repeat clients coming back?  Why do they trust Gaslite Manor Banquets with their important events? (Editors Note: Gaslite Manor has done baptisms, birthdays, weddings and funerals for many repeat families in the Chicagoland area)

Besides your venue, what other venues do you respect or refer clients to if you are booked?

We have 3 facilities, so we keep our referrals in the family.

What is your favorite wedding trend for 2017 or 2018?

We have seen more and more weddings going back to live music for their receptions.  It really is a treat to not have to hear the same songs, every weekend.

Tell me one thing no one knows about you or your venue

Very few people booking Gaslite Manor Banquets know that I was an actor in college, and have a movie credit to my name.  If you see me around, go ahead and ask. I’m not shy about telling you the details of filming a movie in Chicago.

On a follow up note, being a wedding planner, I see tons of venues. Really cool industrial spaces, chic barn venues and luxury city ballrooms. I chose to get married at the place where it all began because I know the passion George and his entire staff have for each and every wedding. I chose to get  married and celebrate my special day with the person who gave me a tiny spark of his own passion. If our big brother/little sister relationship tells you anything…I stopped working there years ago, and I still have a key to the building. You should totally stop in and ask him to tell you the story of filming a *very famous* Chicago movie. the stories of the other *very famous* actors are pretty amazing. But really, if you are getting married or know someone getting married and you want an awesome experience with an affordable price tag, please stop in and visit George and the rest of the talented staff. Gaslite Manor Banquets will not disappoint. 

 

2017 In Review

Each holiday season, I do my absolute best to stop, look around and and truly reflect on what this past year has brought me, this year was no exception! I was incredibly blessed this year and I can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store for me, my family and Ashley Nicole Events Inc.

In 2017, I have been able to serve wonderful clients and turn their wedding dreams into a reality. I began working more regularly with The Haight, one of the hottest venues in Chicagoland, as a part-time venue manager (the venue is literally booked until 2019…they are that busy folks!) I was able to travel to a business conference to sharpen my craft and I even snuck a way for a few days to see some close friends. While I help my clients spend time making memories with their families, it is always a special treat to make memories with my own family.

Here is a look back at 2017

Leslie and Dave celebrated their love surrounded by friends and family. I was so excited for Leslie & Dave when they told me a few weeks into their wedding planning that they were also expecting a little bundle of joy. So much love radiated on their wedding day. Stay tuned for their full feature later in 2018! Photo credit: Crane’s Photography

I am so excited for Leslie and Dave to welcome into the very FIRST ANE BABY!!! Just look at that adorable little bundle of Christmas joy! 

The 15th Annual Paramount Theatre’s “Under the Stars” Gala in Aurora, Illinois was an exceptional evening filled with dinner, entertainment, raffles and auctions, with all proceeds benefiting the Broadway Series and the stars of our future: Children. Last year alone, the Dreams Do Come True program brought more than 3,500 underprivileged children and families to see a show at the theatre for free. I was honored to be able to brighten the lives of children from disadvantaged homes, low income schools and special needs organizations. 

C&C’s wedding was a breathtaking wedding celebration. When you mesh Greek and Italian you are sure to get some high fashion, great food and stunning decor…and A LOT OF PASSION. For security purposes, for the groom, I am not able to show more, but let me tell you, this wedding was certainly on the top of my list…of all time!

Kayla and Kyle were such a joy to work with. They were BOTH so giddy with excitement all day! Kyle is not shy about his feelings for Kayla and their summer wedding filled with bright, bold colors was nothing short of exhilarating. Stay tuned for their full feature later in 2018! Photo credit: Love & Ink Photography

Kylie and Brian got married on a beautiful September day. It was a family tradition in Kylie’s family to have her father sing. Her dad jumped at the opportunity to perform for her daughter and new family at her wedding and there was not a dry eye in the house. Stay tuned for her full feature later this year.  Photo credit: Mary Rose Photography

Wes and Gus have a once in a lifetime kind of love. They knew that being present in the moment was their top priority and threw tradition to the wind. Stay tuned for their romantic, fun, energetic and magical wedding feature later this year! Photo Credit: Wynn Wiley

Ioana came to me wanting to surprise her husband, Ovi for his 40th birthday. When it comes to planning a milestone event, just like a wedding, honing in on their likes and priorities truly make the party come to life! Photo Credit: Snap Happy Pics

This year, in addition to providing planning services, I was able to provide beautiful rental pieces such as this arbor, to clients across Chicagoland which enhanced their ceremony spaces. Flower credit: Town and Country Gardens

Anna and Joey wrapped up the 2017 Wedding Season and we could not have ended on a higher note. Having fought bad weather all day, we were able to sneak in this *very important* shot for the bride and groom. Stay tuned for their stunning wedding later this year! Photo Credit: Dave Pavlina

This year, I had the pleasure of creating a stunning Thanksgiving tables cape for a private residence. Ashley Nicole Events can not only handle weddings, birthday parties and corporate events, but private dinner parties as well! Photo Credit: Ashley Hamm Photography

For the first time, I was able to attend the Wedding MBA, a business conference that provides continuing education for all aspects of business and the wedding industry. I was able to attend with my business bestie (aka mom) and connect with many amazing friends and vendors from he Chicago region. Below are a few photos from the conference!  The rock statues are the 7 Magic Mountains, located outside of Las Vegas. My friend Joy, humored me enough to sneak away to capture these literal magic mountains! 

During the off season, I was able to spend a little quality time with my husband, Adrian and take a class in outdoor floral design. It was such a fun day! The photos below are highlights out of my personal life from doing fall activities, attending my Godson’s baptism, celebrating my other Godson’s 6 birthday, making and donating 145 dog toys to a local shelter and spending time with family. 2017 was a great year and I can not wait to see what 2018 has in store for both me personally and my family! 

 Photo credit: Mary Rose Photography Venue: The Haight, Elgin, Illinois 
Photo credit: Mary Rose Photography Venue: The Haight, Elgin, Illinois 

Thank you for all of your support this past year. I could not have done it without each and every one of you. Without all of your love, support, guidance, friendship and faith, Ashley Nicole Events would not be looking back at another successful year, and certainly not looking to a brighter future. May your new year be filled with love, faith, family and friends! Cheers to 2018!