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! 

Hosting a NYE Soiree

 Get ready...2018 is almost here!
Get ready…2018 is almost here!

I can not believe that Christmas is over! It seems like we have been preparing for weeks and in some cases, months of preparation have gone into finding the perfect gift, making the perfect meal and hanging the perfect decorations.  With all of the Christmas festivities behind us, it is time for the most exciting party of the year…New Year’s Eve!

Some years, I like to get all dolled up and hit the town. Other years, I like to stay in curled up on the couch watching the ball drop. One NYE I was hired to plan a party for a private residence and boy was that fun! Having never done a small intimate NYE party before, I really was able to stretch my creative juices. This particular client was having about 6 guests over and wanted food stations, a smores bar and plenty of festive spirit.

 Don't forget little signs help tie all of the areas together at your event. Let them know that this is the drinking area, food area, etc! 
Don’t forget little signs help tie all of the areas together at your event. Let them know that this is the drinking area, food area, etc! 

When planning your own party, whether it is a wedding or dinner party, keep in mind your guests comfort, decor, food, fun and activities to keep your guests entertained.  One way to add festive NYE cheer is to A. leave all of your Christmas (or insert holiday celebrated here) decorations up. Everything looks better with the warm soft glow of holiday lights. B. go to the party store and grab a helium tank (you can grab one for right around $30) and get a package of festive balloons. If you want to really spice things up, grab some long strings and suspend as many balloons as possible. If you want to have the balloons float along the floor, use some old fashioned lung power and blow up those balloons!

 My good friends at Balloons by Tommy is one of the best resources to create a stunning display of balloon magic. This inspiration was brought to you for a NYE party back in 2015. Contact them today for your next party or event! Click  HERE
My good friends at Balloons by Tommy is one of the best resources to create a stunning display of balloon magic. This inspiration was brought to you for a NYE party back in 2015. Contact them today for your next party or event! Click HERE

One really great trick I like to use frequently is to have some type of activity for your guests to partake in. Whether it is dancing at a wedding, crafts for a kids party or an action smores station, give your guests something to do other than mingle and drink…not that those are bad ideas either! Wink…wink. 

 Behind the scenes testing the amores bar. Click here for other ideas! 
Behind the scenes testing the amores bar. Click here for other ideas! 

When it comes to food, decide if you are going to do all of the cooking, hire a caterer or have a pot luck dinner. Sometimes, for NYE parties, the party starts after the traditional dinner hour so you can get away with cheese platters, sweets, snacks and drinks. If you are hosting a catered dinner party, keep things simple and finger food friendly. If you don’t have a table and chair for everyone, finger food is key. You can’t expect guests to use a knife and fork while standing around. Finally, if you do a pot luck, remember to keep it simple. Your friends and family will be happy to contribute, just guide them with what you are looking for so you don’t end up with 6 platters of cookies and nothing else! One easy yet simply delicious appetizer I have used is found on Sparrow & Lily and you can dive right in by clicking HERE. I can take zero credit for this, but you will thank me after. 

 Trust me, this will blow your socks off. It has quickly become one of my favorite holiday dishes. 
Trust me, this will blow your socks off. It has quickly become one of my favorite holiday dishes. 

If cranberries are not your thing, try a little guac in wonton cups instead! You can find a similar recipe HERE.

 Very easy to make, but serve immediately! 
Very easy to make, but serve immediately! 

May your days be merry and bright and your new year filled with love, light and laughter.

5 Tips to Planning a Stress-free Dinner Party

I may have just emerged out of my week long turkey coma, but like it or not, the holidays are officially upon us! Running a small business is hard and remembering to take time off is very important. Since I do not have a team of people to do my marketing, bookkeeping and client management, I am responsible for all of it. Taking a day or two off to reset and work from a place of rest vs stress only serves me and my clients better. This past week, I had the opportunity to really sit and reflect what I was Thankful for. I am thankful for my family for providing unwavering support for me to chase my dreams. I am thankful for my clients who trust me to help them plan and execute the most important day of their lives in and around the Chicagoland area. I am thankful for the friendors I have made in the industry (vendors who are friends) who constantly challenge me to be a better wedding professional each and every year. 

In the spirit of Thanksgiving and the holiday season, I wanted to share 5 tips and tricks on preparing a holiday dinner party. Whether it is for 7 or 27 guests, properly preparing and executing a holiday feast will save you both time and money but most importantly, boat loads of stress! For my Thanksgiving feast, I knew I wanted to focus on rich jewel tones yet soften with luxurious florals and soft romantic candlelight set the tone beautifully. Having friends who are talented in many aspects made this project much easier. I contacted my Uber talented friend, Katie to hand letter all 27 gold painted leaves to serve as place cards. She did those by hand folks! So talented! Katie has her own blog Look to Him and be Radiant  where you can get all sorts of great content. I seriously can not even describe how much she gives her readers. The content consists of holiday ideas, ideas for the classroom, see her stunning hand lettering and more! I was also fortunate enough to have Ashley Hamm, a very talented and successful Chicago photographer, come over to my house the day before Thanksgiving to snap a few photos of a 30 something’s take on a modern, elegant yet simple holiday feast. These are my top 5 tips to enjoy the holiday season.

 Photo Credit: Ashley Hamm Photo Calligraphy: Katie Bogner 
Photo Credit: Ashley Hamm Photo Calligraphy: Katie Bogner 

Tip 1: Prepare

    When planning a dinner party, it is important to get an accurate guest count. Everything hinges on the number of guest you invite and RSVP yes. How much wine? How much food? All of this depends on how many people. It is estimated that each guest will drink approximately 3 glasses of wine. Multiple that by how many guests you have to determine about how many bottles you will need. Each party is different, get to know your guests and their beverage/food likes and dislikes.

Tip 2: Plan

    Dinner parties come in all shapes and sizes. There is not a one size fits all formula. Determine early the formality of your party. Many successful parties have happened with delivery pizza. If that is not the style or vision you have for your party, then perhaps planning some simple appetizers and finger food or catering would be a better option for your gathering.

Tip 3: Practice

    Once you have determined your guest list, the formality of your party and hopefully, the food you will be serving, it never hurts to practice a new recipe. This Thanksgiving, my husband and I hosted our first holiday in our new home for both sides of our families. There was a whopping 27 people in our house. I plan weddings and parties for hundreds of guests all of the time, but when it was happening in my own house, the pressure was on. I prepared a homemade pumpkin soup I found from the Halfbaked Harvest Blog (click here for the mouthwatering recipe) a month before just to practice a new recipe and catch any pitfalls early on. Not having the added stress the week of Thanksgiving really helped take the fear of the unknown out. How would I have known how many shallots I needed if the soup was still lacking? Who knew what a shallot was before I practiced? Practice makes perfect and I always say practice when it comes to trying new things.

Tip 4: Set the Scene

    Whether you are planning a wedding or a small gathering of friends for dinner setting the scene creates an escape for your guests. While they are physically going somewhere for the dinner, it is important to emotionally transform them into a place of respite and escape from everyday life. The easiest and least expensive way to transform a space is by lighting candles. Candles have a way of transforming a space into romantic and serene environment. Beside candles, flowers have the same effect. Flowers are able to inhabit the sense of smell and candles inhabit the visual senses. Everyday life is normally not full of fresh florals and illuminated in soft romantic candlelight. These are very easy ways to set the scene and transform your space. Even if you order in pizza, the pizza has a different vibe if it is surrounded by flowers and candles.

 Linen and Chair Credit: M&M Event Rental 
Linen and Chair Credit: M&M Event Rental 

Tip 5: Relax and enjoy the moment

    Whether you planned for the party and practiced a month in advance or went to Party City and ordered pizza, the most important aspect is to relax, take a deep breath and enjoy the moment. An overworked, stressed out host will not set your guests at ease. Grab a cocktail, freshen your lipstick and be ready to welcome your guests into an evening of fun, friendship and great food.

With all of the holiday parties that we will be attending and hosting this season, make sure you remain present for the moments that matter most. If you are attending a party this season, asking the host if there is anything you can do will go a long way to also taking some of the stress off of them! If you are hosting, when that guest asks if they can help, give yourself a break and allow them to open the wine and pour you a big glass! Everyone will be much happier! If you have any other concerns about hosting a dinner party this holiday season, I am happy to answer any questions! Happy Planning!