My Ultimate Guilty Pleasure: Bagel Bites

If you have learned anything about me, from following along in my social media accounts, is that I am absolutely OBSESSED with the classic childhood favorite: Bagel Bites! I have no idea why I love them so much, but I think they are a great quick snack, tasty dinner option or even in a pinch, really good for breakfast. Really, in my mind, there is no wrong time to eat a bagel bite. I could even conceive of hosting a dinner party strictly on Bagel Bites alone. 

I recently had my good friend, Joy, from Being Joy Photography come over to my house to photograph the proper techniques to prepare this tasty treat. Follow along as I share with you my undeniable guilty pleasure! 

So, nothing crazy to see here! Just a girl who loves her bagel bites and can not wait for them to come out of the oven! I am pretty basic, and like the plain cheese the best. I think the sausage and pepperoni simply do not do bagel bites any justice. 

Here is how to make them extra amazing: 1. Cook in the oven at 425 degrees for about 13-15 minutes 2. Place them on parchment paper so the cheese can get crispy and easily peel off (also makes clean up a breeze! 3. Add extra cheese, like good gourmet cheddar, the more the better 4. Cook until nice and bubbly golden brown 5. Remove from oven 6. Let cool, (learned the hard way more often than not!) 7. Eat and enjoy 8. Repeat as often as necessary! 

Vendor Spotlight:

Location: Private Residence
Photography: Being Joy Photography
Hair and Makeup: Glamtique Blow Dry Bar
Food: Ore Ida Bagel Bites

Supporting Your Spouse

This past week, Adrian and I celebrated our 4th Wedding Anniversary! I can not believe how fast time flies! The thing with getting married, is life keeps moving after the wedding day. A marriage is simply not one day, it is a lifetime of constantly choosing that person. Every day, we choose to make it work and we choose to laugh. We also choose to cry and support each other when times are not easy. Choice, that is the thing that makes it all work. 

 Photo Credit: Authentic Adventure Co
Photo Credit: Authentic Adventure Co

Today, in this next phase of life, I am choosing to celebrate with Adrian while he is in Dallas getting a promotion for work! He has worked many long years in aviation and he is finally getting a well deserved transfer to international flying at American Airlines! We have been very lucky and blessed in our lives. It is important to realize the good things that happen in life and being able to work through the tough parts. 

Supporting your spouse does not mean that you obsess over every move they make, every meal they eat and how much sleep they get. Sometimes supporting your spouse means trying not to smother them in their sleep when they are snoring loud enough to wake the dead (not that I have ever contemplated this)! Supporting, means allowing them to be their own person while working together on shared goals and passions. When two become one, you do not stop living your individual life. You now simply have a 24/7 cheerleader and support system. You do not have to face the world alone.  

 Seriously, I have to deal with this on a daily basis! Photo Credit: Being Joy Photography
Seriously, I have to deal with this on a daily basis! Photo Credit: Being Joy Photography
 Finally, a semi-decent photo of us! LOL Thanks @Beingjoyphotography!
Finally, a semi-decent photo of us! LOL Thanks @Beingjoyphotography!

Everyday, we try and be a better version of who we were yesterday. Some days we fall short and other days we thrive. Having the desire to make it work and stick it through NO MATTER WHAT has served us well these past 4 years. I can not wait to see what the next 70 years has in store. 

In what ways do you support your spouse? I would love to hear in the comments below! 


Vendor Spotlight in the Images Above:
Planning: Ashley Nicole Events Inc
Videography: NightOwls Media
Photography: Authentic Adventure Co
Hair & Makeup: Tamara Hair and Makeup Artistry


For the full feature of a Wedding Planner’s wedding, click HERE!

Wedding Contracts: Not A Dirty Word

 Contract is not a dirty word! 
Contract is not a dirty word! 

Contracts are not a dirty word. They protect all parties!

— Ashley Radosav

We are surrounded by contracts every day and there is no real end in sight. We live in a “I’ll sue you!” wold, thus our lives now revolve around everyone covering their butt ALL.THE.TIME. Here is a list of the daily contracts we enter without even thinking about it: Cable, Internet, Cell phone, Car loan, Mortgage, Gas, Electric, Amazon Prime and so many more. When it comes to arguably one of the most expensive parties of your life, having and reviewing wedding contracts are a necessity. 

This is NOT a post about prenuptial agreements! 

Finding all of your wedding vendors can be hard enough. Once you find them, they shove these legal papers in front of you and make you feel as if you are signing your life away a little at a time. Wedding contracts do NOT need to be scary or overwhelming. Arguably, these are fun and exciting things that you are agreeing to (Photo, Video, Bar, Lighting, Flowers) and not something overwhelming, or at least it shouldn’t be. It is a simple agreement: Here is the product or service I provide, this is what and when you will pay me for it. 

Making sure that you sit and speak with the vendor to explain in detail what their contracts mean is very important. The basics of a wedding contract include the names of the people entering the contract, the event date, the times of provided service and what the outcome will be. For example, you sign a photography contract and you will expect to have him/her onsite with you for 8 hours and in 6-8 weeks you will get a beautiful wedding album. My contract for example basically says, “be a nice human being, I will be nice back.” Please feed me, this is what you will get in return…fairly simple. 

 Google Images
Google Images

Here is a brief run down of the key elements to a successful wedding contract:

  1. Make sure that all of the wedding/event dates are the same. I have caught more than once a wrong event date as I reviewed my client’s contracts. 
  2. Make sure your guest count is the same. The worst thing ever would be to have 225 guests and only food for 125. Double check your numbers…OFTEN!
  3. Make sure the timelines are corresponding. If you sign an 8 hour photography package, make sure all of the important events (ceremony, cake cutting, first dance) all happen within that 8 hour window. Otherwise, you will be missing some key elements of your day in the album you receive after the wedding. 
  4. Follow up and confirm with all vendors a week or two prior to the wedding day to fill them in on any last minute changes. A wedding vendor will always refer back to their notes or their contracts if something goes awry. If you do not inform them of changes, these vendors are NOT mindreader! 
  5. Hire a wedding planner to help catch some of these common mistakes. At the time of signing a wedding contract, there might be some gaping holes in your timeline, this is quite common. However, that is something a wedding planner can help fill in for you and make sure your other vendors are all kept up to date! 

I hope this shed a little bit of light on how to approach a wedding vendor’s contract and have them break it down into simple easy to understand language. You are getting married, not trying to pass the bar. Have them (or a planner) break it down for you!

If you have other questions about wedding contracts, send me an email at Hello@AshleyNicoleEventsInc.com and I will be happy to help!

 Photo Credit: Being Joy Photography
Photo Credit: Being Joy Photography

Event Security: Planning Events in 2018

 Photo: Steve Parsons
Photo: Steve Parsons

Security.

This topic has been around for awhile, though, I think it is often overlooked when it comes to small scale events. Out of the approximate $42.8 million dollars the Royal family spent on Prince Harry and Megan Markle’s recent wedding, 94% or a whopping $40.1 million dollars was spent on security for the royal family, their guests and the general public. Not every wedding planned today has a budget that lavish. However, in today’s day and age, security is, or at least should be considered. I do NOT mean to be a Debby-Downer, but seriously, these topics MUST be thought of! 

 Photo Credit: Aaron Chown/PA Wire
Photo Credit: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

Here are 3 things you should consider when planning an event or wedding in the world today. 

1. Location – Are you having your event in a large metropolitan area? If so, are large cultural events taking place in or around your event? For example, if you are planning a wedding on the Chicago marathon route, ask yourself if your guests will be able to get from point A to point B in a timely and safe manner. Fighting crowds and getting stuck in traffic is not my idea of fun. It could put a damper on an already tight timeline. Have you thought about group transportation if you have a situation like this?

If you are getting married in a smaller city and public parking lots are readily available, are street lights and well lit sidewalks available for your guests? Walking alone late at night in a dark, unfamiliar area is not always the best decision. God forbid something happen to you or your guests, it is better to be safe than sorry. If public parking is available, but far away, you might consider offering a complementary valet service – not free to you, but free to your guests.  

 Photo Credit: Getty Images Women's March
Photo Credit: Getty Images Women’s March

2. Fire Exits – We are pretty well conditioned at this point to look for the fire exits when we walk into a movie theater. How about your wedding or event venue? If an emergency arose, could you direct your guests to the nearest exit? You most likely will be getting married in a venue that your guests have never been to before. In the middle of busting a move on the dance floor, where do they run for safety in case of a fire or active shooter situation? While I am not suggesting you add the nearest fire exit on the dinner menu, at least having a few key people know where and how to exit the building could mean the difference between life and death. 

3. Life Saving Equipment – Does someone at the venue or your wedding planner know CPR or at a minimum First Aid? While this is not necessarily the first question I would ask your potential venue, it is a good idea to at least bring up in conversation. This should NOT be a deal breaker on finding your wedding venue. However, consider if a member of your family or bridal party happens to be a first responder. An extra bonus for the venue, is having a defibrillator on site.

While these might seem like silly questions or morbid thoughts, last week during a wedding a Great Aunt did indeed have a heart attack. Paramedics arrived on the scene quickly and the guests remained calm, however, for a brief moment, there was that *heavy panic* in the air. Happy ending: she is fine and recovering well! 

This experience reminded me to check the renewal date of my CPR certification and the pledge to never let it expire. These milestones should be filled with fond memories and only happy tears. However, the worst has happened and having a solid plan is the difference between a minor setback and a major tragedy. Having a plan for the worst and only expecting the best is how I approach every event I work. Hundreds of events every day go off successfully. I would hate to see you be at the one that does not. 

If you have any other questions or suggestions on how to make your next event both successful and safe, feel free to send me an email at hello {at} AshleyNicoleEventsInc {dot} com. I would love to chat further about this important topic with you! 

Need Unique Groomsmen Gifts? Look No Further Than Groovy Guy Gifts!

Are you struggling to find some really special and unique Groomsmen gifts? Are you looking for something beyond the typical shot glass or flask? If so, keep reading!

I was recently approached by Joe at Groovy Guy Gifts to test some products that my couples could use for bridal party gifts. While I love getting free swag, I was cautious. How are they any different? Are they more expensive? Is this a scam? How can I trust the quality. Joe was super easy to work with and I was able to select anything I wanted off of their website to review. In order to give my very best analysis of their products, I got my husband, Adrian, involved. Who else better to test guy products than…a guy!

Here are our thoughts:

Website: Very easy to navigate, great selection of products. They even have Father’s Day gift ideas! Their products range in price from $19.99 to $85ish. Personalization is key with this company as your can put a name, monogram or face on pretty much anything they sell. Groovy Guy Gifts offer unique gifts that I have not seen on sites that offer similar services such as 2 different styles of  Golf Cleat Caddies, a functional Man Bag  Stylish Satchels or for the manly man in your life,  Weapon of Warriors! There really is something for just about everyone on this site!

Shipping: They have the standard 8-12 business day shipping but also provide expedited shipping (5 business days) for those grooms who forget that they need to get their guys a small token of appreciation! The expedited shipping seems a little expensive, so just plan ahead and the standard shipping is much more reasonably priced.

Product: I selected the Bleacher Buddy! I liked that it was something unique. My husband is not a drinker, so he really has no use for the shot glasses or flasks that are commonly given out as groomsmen gifts. Though to be fair, he does put his fair share of chocolate milk in the flasks he has received thus far! This gift is perfect for anyone who attends sporting events, likes to hang out with friends and have grab a cold beer, water or gatorade!

Packaging: The box came very quickly! I was quite surprised. I was afraid that the box would be too thin and as I cut into the box with a knife, I was trying to be extra careful not to slice the fabric of the chair. To my pleasant surprise, the chair was packaged REALLY well! There was bubble wrap around every corner to prevent scratches. Included in the box was extra packaging to prevent any damage during shipment. I rank the packaging a 10!

Review of Product: The Bleacher Buddy states in the description that it is great for tailgating. I would agree with this! There are plenty of storage compartments to keep keys, cell phones and extra valuables safe all while keeping  your drinks and snacks cold. My one issue with this product is that it is a little small. Granted, they clearly state on their website that it is meant for tailgating and providing seating when necessary. This is not a chair that my husband would choose to sit for extended periods of time because he is a bigger guy. The crossbar hit him right on the thigh as he sat and the back of the chair hit in the lower back region. For a quick resting spot this chair is a great option. When I sat on the chair, I did not experience as much discomfort as he did, but I am smaller. I think this would be a great “chair” for a kid who could tolerate sitting on it for extended periods of time. I would not call this chair a “camping chair” as that is what Adrian thought it might be good for. For its intended tailgating purpose…it’s spot on!

Overall Ranking out of 10: Adrian and I both rank the Bleacher Buddy a 9 out of 10. Overall, great packaging, great design and excellent customer service from Groovy Guy Gifts. We did remove 1 star because of the unfortunate size of the chair but who really sits when they are tailgating with friends anyway? Great option for the guys who love sports, have kids on sports teams or just enjoy a nice cold beverage as the cooler keeps things cold for a long time!

I would absolutely recommend Groovy Guy Gifts to my couples looking for fun, unique gifts for their groomsmen and fathers.

 

 

Vendor Spotlight: The Haight

 Photo Credit: Love & Ink Photogrpahy 
Photo Credit: Love & Ink Photogrpahy 

Every once in awhile, I find a venue that welcomes me like family. As a wedding planner, connections are so important. I call my encounter with the hottest venue in the burbs an incredible chance of luck and even happier accident. Late one night, instead of sleeping, I was killing time, while surfing Facebook…doesn’t everyone do that these days!?! I answered a status request for a possible wedding assistant at a venue I have never heard of, The Haight. Pronounced HATE.  As a boutique wedding planner, I book a handful of event each year. I work a lot of weekends but typically not every weekend. I figured, why not!? It would be some extra cash, I get to see a new space and it will keep me involved in the wedding industry even when they are not “my” clients. I figured I would try it for awhile and then leave after the busy season. Two full wedding seasons, I am still here and loving every minute. My roles have changed and the Haight family has been so incredibly generous to me  and all of the staff they have acquired over the past few years. It is really hard running your own business. (girl speaking from 40+ years of family run businesses) but this family has opened it arms and is making the very best of what they have to offer to brides in suburban Elgin.

I am happy to introduce you to two venue managers who I am also happy to call my friends! Briana and Lauren.

 Briana is on the Left, Lauren is on the Right
Briana is on the Left, Lauren is on the Right

1. Tell me how you (the venue manager)  got started in the wedding business.

B: I did events throughout my university and loved it! I got an internship with a national events company once I graduated and then found a job as a wedding planner once that internship ended. I just love planning events so much and weddings were definitely my niche!

L: I got started in the wedding business by a happy accident.  I had been working in a management position in the service industry and was thinking about moving on when I ran into an old acquaintance, whose wife just happens to be one of the owners at The Haight. He let me know they were looking for someone and a few emails and an interview later I became a part of the Haight family and the wedding business.

2. 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?

B: The Haight family had owned it since the 80’s and John Haight Sr. rented it out to companies that used it as a factory or warehouse. It wasn’t until Doree, his daughter, got engaged and they decided to renovate it for her own wedding! Obviously, the space is gorgeous so everyone kept telling them they just HAD to make it a business and so they did! Everyone always asks “Why The Haight?” since it’s just a unique name, especially for a wedding venue, but it was named after John Haight Sr. who passed away before Doree’s wedding. I’m sure he would be extremely proud at what they’ve accomplished today with his old warehouse building in downtown Elgin. Who knew?

L: Everything Briana said, but in addition, our building is over 100 years old and the cocktail area once housed horses!  The building has a long history, it began as the Elgin Storage and Transfer Company, then it became a warehouse for Ludwig Dairy, and was home to a chalkboard factory as well.

– The Haight – Chicago Wedding Venue from Newlyweds Cinema on Vimeo.

3. How long have you been at The Haight?

B: I have been here 2 years and 7 months!
L: I have been working at The Haight since August of 2016.

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

B: We can do up to 400 for a cocktail reception, 300 or 250 with a dance floor for a sit down dinner and up to 200 max for a ceremony.

5. What do you love about the job?

B: Working with our amazing couples and getting coordinate the best day of their lives. I love creating friendships with my couples and thank social media for allowing me to stay connected with them even after their wedding is over.

L: I love that we get to work with so many different couple for their big day.  Every event might take place in the same location but no two are the same.  I love to see how each client changes the space to match their style and their vision.  It is so much fun to be a part of the big day and help make it come to life.

6. What is something you wish all couples looking at The Haight considered or asked when booking a venue?  

B: Compare apples to apples!! Almost all venues are priced differently so take into consideration the ALL-IN pricing, not just the venue pricing! Just because X venue is a cheaper price does not mean your catering or bar will be! We had a couple almost go to a different venue because they were $1,000 less than us, but factoring in our bar prices vs. the other venues, they would be SAVING $300 by booking us! It’s not easy, but it is worth it in the long run if you’re in-between 2 venues and price is a determining factor.

L: This isn’t just for our venue or our line of work, but ask the professionals you are working with what works best.  We know what works best in our space because we are here for a wedding or other event every weekend.  Chances are if we suggest something different then what you had in mind it is because it didn’t work well in the past for someone else.

7. Besides your venue (obviously!), what other venues do you respect or refer clients to if you are booked? Why?

B: We like referring Firehouse Chicago because their venue works well for a smaller wedding. We don’t do many weddings under 100 guests due to our size, and Firehouse is such a cool space.

L: We are always happy to give suggestions for other venues when our space is not the right fit for someone or we don’t have a date available.  We see so many great places when networking it is hard to pick one!

8. What is your favorite wedding trend for 2017 or 2018?

B: Velvet (suits, dresses, an table runners) SWOON!!!
L: I am loving hanging florals!

The Haight offers a beautiful bridal suite which is ideal for getting ready prior to the ceremony. The guys even have their own space fully equipped with Nintendo to ease those wedding nerves! Contact the Haight today to see if your wedding date is available! Click HERE to see their calendar of availability! 

Photo credit can be found on the Haight’s full website. 

 

Vendor Spotlight: Ashley from Ashley Nicole Events

Ashley Nicole Events is not just a company, it is a person! Hi, I am Ashley Nicole. I am a Chicago based wedding and event planner and love all things weddings. I have recently gained a lot of new IG followers and Blog subscribers, so it is time I do another vendor introduction. Every time I get a notification that I have another follower, I literally do a little happy dance. It may sound corny, but it’s true. I love you guys!

There are three Ashley Nicole Events companies in the United States! No, our businesses are not related or connected in any form, other than our names…One in South Carolina, one in Denver and me! I have concluded that we are all products of the 80s and there is nothing we can do about our names. Our names are really all Ashley Nicole! Denver Ashley and I pass back and forth client information when they get confused. It is nice to have a connection and help each other along the way.

 meet the two other ladies who share my name and passions.
meet the two other ladies who share my name and passions.

WHO I AM

I have been planning events for the past 11 years and have done everything from baptisms, baby and bridal showers, birthdays, weddings, and even a few funerals. People are really wanting to go out with a bang these days! One interesting thing to know about me is that I am really an introvert. Shocking, but I am actually a very quiet and reserved person. While I have no problem jumping on a mic giving directions to a large group of people, when I get home, I enjoy curling up on the couch.

I have been married for *almost* four years. I can’t believe it, this time has just flown by and I know the next 60 will go by just as fast. We have two dogs, Kaine and Mollie. Kaine, is an all around good boy, but a total goofball. Mollie is the more reserved, protective and serious of the two. She can be a bit feisty at times and this is something we are still working on. Just like people, dogs come with their own personality.

I am a very sarcastic person. Sometimes, this gets me into trouble and people have a hard time reading me. This means they clearly have not spent enough time with me and once they do, they realize that I am actually quite funny (In my opinion). My eye rolls, sighs, and facial expressions are simply love. I express love through sarcasm and dry humor. Trust me, it’s great. No, really…it is!

I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My grandparents owned a local floral shop for 40 years, my parents have owned their ice cream shop for 35 years and my aunt recently opened her floral shop 5 years ago after my grandparents closed their doors.. Owning your own business is hard! It is all up to you to sink or swim. With my families love and support, I am able to swim. Most dinners revolve around talking about one business or another. Valentine’s Day (and Mother’s Day)  are all hands on deck at the flower shop.

If I had to pick my spirit animal, I would say, I would be Rose Nylund from the Golden Girls. I always used to think I was more like Blanche, but it has become much clearer to me that I am Rose. If you have no idea who I am talking about, please, do yourself a favor and watch all 7 seasons on Hulu. You are welcome.

WHAT I LOVE

I love bagel bites. I currently have 3 boxes of them in my freezer, each time I go to the store, I am afraid that there will be a bagel bite shortage I might run out…I basically horde bagel bites. There is a science to cooking them and if you are someone who puts them in the microwave, you, my friend, are doing it wrong.

I love office supply stores. I blame my dad for this. He has every color sharpie known to man and if there is a new gel roller pen, he owns that as well. I love the smell of a fresh notebook. Potential and possibilities lie in those blank pages. I am a habitual list maker. I will literally write things I have already accomplished on a to do list, just to get the satisfaction of crossing it off. I can’t be the only person like this? Can I?

WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS MEAN

In conclusion, I am a sarcastic, office supply-store junkie who is addicted to bagel bites and loves dogs (actually, I just love my dogs).  What does this say about me? Why would you ever want me to plan an event for you? These terrible descriptions have an underlying theme. I will always tell it to you straight. You will always know where I stand. I love lists and strive to accomplish my tasks, I have awesome taste in crappy frozen food, and I am extremely loyal. If you are on #teamashley I will be loyal to you, and  serve your wedding with everything I have. I will be your trusted companion and your friend and if there is ever an apocalypse, come to my house, there will be plenty of bagel bites to go around.

Engagement Photo Session Tips and Tricks

     If you are recently engaged, congratulations! Wedding planning is a ton of fun. I love it, (clearly) and cherish every wedding I get to be apart of. One of the really fun parts about getting engaged is having what I call the Glam Squad. Typically, this is the one (major) time in your life when you get to have professionals working with you for basically everything. I like to think of a bride as a mini celebrity leading up to her wedding. Think about it: hairstylists, manicurists, makeup artists, personal trainers, dentists (gotta have those pearly whites) stylists and estheticians all working to transform you into the best version of yourself. Don’t get me wrong, you on a drizzly Tuesday is fantastic too, but when you are all dolled up…you carry yourself differently. Trust me, my hubby says he prefers me in a hoodie and sweatpants, but he certainly doesn’t complain when I come home with professional hair and makeup and a killer dress.  (Maybe he *would* complain if he knew the price tag, but I digress).  😉

     Why am I rambling on and on about being a mini celebrity? Two words, Engagement Photos. Engagement photos allow A. a bride to get a test run with her hair and makeup artist B. a test run with the photographer C. one on one quality time with your sweetie and D. great looking, professional images for your save the dates.

TEST RUN HAIR AND MAKEUP

    In my opinion, it is important to meet with your professional hair and makeup artist prior to your wedding. Most, if not all,  HUMA provide a trial as part of your wedding day package. Some might have this service built in to the over all price, some might charge a little more for the trial. While some brides get frustrated with having to pay additional for a trial, that makeup artist is using product on you that he/she can never get back. It is not like they can scrape off the foundation and re bottle it for the next bride. Even places like Sephora require a minimum purchase for makeovers. In most cases, you will do a trial with the same person who will actually be doing your hair and makeup on the wedding day. Sometimes, this is not the case. Ask about company policy when it comes to scheduling your HMUA. That person will get to know the texture of your hair, the quality of your skin and can make recommendations based on what they see. They can chat with you about your style, how much makeup you normally wear, etc. Because these are just the engagement photos, you could do a similar style of hair and makeup or even a  more natural look to get the feel/style of the artist. Leave the big transformation for the actual wedding day.

     When I got my hair and makeup trial, I went after work and when it was done, I went home, showered and went to bed. I knew this going in, but I desperately wanted to work with this particular Chicago based company. If they told me to show up at 5:00 AM on a Sunday to do my trial, I would have. When you find your dream team, you listen to them.  Typically, trying to schedule your engagement photos on a Saturday and expecting your HMUA free on a Saturday is a slim shot. However, if you are flexible on days/times for your engagement photos (read more about that below) then perhaps the scheduling gods will work in your favor! If not, then you could see if an associate HMUA could do your trial/engagement makeup  and perhaps relay information to the person doing your makeup on the wedding day. Early communication and scheduling is key and all HMUA companies  run differently. Make sure you ask these questions in advance and never assume.

TIME TO BOND WITH YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER

    If you are planning your engagement photography, it is most often because, you have hired a photographer and this session is included in your wedding package. “Engagement Sessions” can last anywhere from 1-2 hours and can include 1-3+ outfit changes with multiple locations. It sounds like a long time to be the center of attention, but trust me, that time flies by. If you have selected a boutique photographer (meaning they are the owner and main photographer) you were drawn to them as a person and for their photography style. Having this time to get to know each other and get all of the potentially awkwardness out of the way will make for a much smoother, less stressed and more enjoyable wedding day. Having a stranger “be all up in your business” literally touching you and positioning your face, arms and body and watching you get dressed can be quite intimidating. A good photographer will make you feel comfortable, probably make you laugh and work to put you and your fiance at ease. When the three of you spend time at an engagement session, you get to know more about each other and when they show up on the day of the wedding, it’s as if a friend is walking through the door, not a paid vendor. If you have opted to go with a “big box” photography company, meaning, you select from a portfolio of photographers and do not meet the person until either your engagement session or wedding day, ask if you will be guaranteed the same photographer for both days. If not, can you meet the photographer prior to the wedding to make sure you mesh well? Ask what happens if you do not like the person you have been assigned. Always ask, never assume.

QUALITY ONE ON ONE TIME WITH YOUR SWEETIE

    You and your fiance have spent countless hours making tough decisions. Which vendors to hire, where to have the wedding, what your colors should be, on and on and on. By taking this time to get all dolled up and simply have fun with each other will come as a much needed respite. Do things on this “planned and highly photographed date” that speaks to you as a couple. Do you love to spend the weekend casually sipping on a perfectly brewed cup of coffee? Go to your favorite local coffee shop. Do you love spending time in the park playing fetch with your fur baby? Go do that! Do you simply adore biting into the cheesiest slice of pizza? Go to your local pizza parlor and order an extra large pie…you’ve got another person along on your date! Do something seasonal! If your photos are around the holidays, go to a Christmas tree farm and get cozy with each other while “shopping” for trees. Have a snowball fight and warm up with some hot cocoa! Don’t take engagement photos in a campground if you have never, in your life, went camping. Your friends and family simply won’t get it.

 This is an example of doing something that speaks to you as a couple. My husband is an airline pilot, so we wanted to honor his profession in our engagement photos. We went to a private airport and were able to take photos with this Jet. Photo by: Authentic Adventure Co. 
This is an example of doing something that speaks to you as a couple. My husband is an airline pilot, so we wanted to honor his profession in our engagement photos. We went to a private airport and were able to take photos with this Jet. Photo by: Authentic Adventure Co. 

SAVE THE DATES

    Once you have completed your engagement session, your photographer will tell you when and how to expect the images. You might get an online gallery, you might go to their studio and have a slideshow of your day together and then you pick your favorite images in person. Once you select the images, you can begin ordering save the dates. Shout your love from the rooftop and announce your wedding information  with the photos from your engagement session!

THREE MORE PIECES OF ADVICE

     Think of hiring a stylist to help you select the best outfits for your engagement photos. You want to find outfits that flatter your body type and coordinate. I have seen some very mismatched outfits and it can throw off the entire photo. A stylist can also help with selecting your bridal gown and all of the important events during your engagement (bachelorette party, bridal shower, engagement party, groom’s fashion, etc) Get your ring professionally cleaned prior to your engagement session. This will be your most photographed piece of jewelry and it needs to be looking its best! You want that bling to sparkle! Be flexible! If it starts raining on the day of your shoot, be flexible and either work with the change of plans (embrace it) or reschedule. Don’t let a kink in the gears ruin what should be a special day. 

 Unfortunately, I see photos like this all too often. Let's start with the obvious, they should not be eating. Second, their clothes are too mismatched. She looks dressy (messy, but dressy) and he looks like he is wandering the beach. Also, his shirt and shoes are blinding and over powering the photo. I am not sure if this is a joke, or actual engagement photos, so I apologize, I have no idea who to give credit for the photo. 
Unfortunately, I see photos like this all too often. Let’s start with the obvious, they should not be eating. Second, their clothes are too mismatched. She looks dressy (messy, but dressy) and he looks like he is wandering the beach. Also, his shirt and shoes are blinding and over powering the photo. I am not sure if this is a joke, or actual engagement photos, so I apologize, I have no idea who to give credit for the photo. 

     Finally, smile and enjoy this fun experience with your fiance! It should be a stress-free, fun activity that you both will remember for a lifetime.

 Photo by: Authentic Adventure Co 
Photo by: Authentic Adventure Co 

Vendor Spotlight: Joy Bijedic from Being Joy Photography

Having worked in the wedding industry for over a decade, I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with some amazing talent. As a planner, my job is to share my knowledge and by creating a Vendor Spotlight, I can share some of Chicago’s best and brightest (and most coveted) wedding professionals with you! Without further ado, please meet Joy Bijedic from Being Joy Photography

 Joy loves nature, water, daisies and butterflies. She even spills the beans about a secret tattoo! 
Joy loves nature, water, daisies and butterflies. She even spills the beans about a secret tattoo! 

Tell me how you got started in the Photography business. 

I have always loved photography.  Growing up my Mom was always taking photos of me and my brothers.  It never really dawned on me that I could make a career out of it until I started “modeling” for a friend who was newer to the photography business.  Then another friend asked me to pose as well. After that I was hooked.  In 2010, I purchased my first nice camera and began learning.

 You will never guess that this wedding took place in a cemetery...the couple met at Mortuary Science school...how AWESOME is that!?!?!
You will never guess that this wedding took place in a cemetery…the couple met at Mortuary Science school…how AWESOME is that!?!?!

How long have you been running Being Joy Photography? 

Starting out I had three jobs. I waited tables, bartended and worked on building my company.  In 2014 when I relocated back to Chicago from Oklahoma I cut down on waitressing in order to really make a go of my company.  In May of 2015 I went full time.

What do you love about the job?

I think what I love most about my job is being able to give other people those moments frozen in time that they will be able to look back on years later.  When my father passed in April of 2014 it made all those photos I have of him even more special.  I think everyone deserves photos of their loved ones as well as each important moment in their lives.  No matter how busy we get.

What do you not love so much about the job?

Being a photographer owning a small business is a rollercoaster ride.  You never know if you are going to book the next year.  You never know if you will have the income to pay your bills.  You never know if your company will survive in an industry that is surging with talent.  It’s hard.  Keeping the faith.  Believing that what I do matters and that I am impacting the lives of others.  Every time I meet a new couple it’s like going on a blind date.  You chat on the phone or exchange an email, you seem to hit it off so you set up a “coffee date”.  Afterwards you leave on a high, filled with excitement and anticipation of working with them. However, all you can do is wait.  Wait and hope that they felt the same way.  Wait for the phone to ring.  Wait for your email to pop up with a new message.  Wait and hope that they want to book you.  Just wait.  That is the hardest part of the job.

Every time I meet a new couple it’s like going on a blind date. 

— Joy

What is something you wish all couples looking at professional photography considered or asked?

Don’t just look at the price tag.  I understand how easily the price of a wedding can escalate, however, keep both eyes open.  Meet with your potential photographer and see if you both like one another.  That is step one.  Next, ask to see an entire wedding.  As artists we all try to display our best and favorite pieces, but that doesn’t always tell the full story.  Ask to see a recent full wedding so you can see how your potential photographer handles different lighting situations.  Know what you want going in.  What is most important to you from your photographer.  Do you want two photographers?  Do you want a wedding album?  Do you want an engagement session?  Lastly, don’t be scared to ask questions.  We know you probably haven’t done this before.  There is no stupid question.

Where are some of your favorite engagement session locations?

If I had to pick just one in Chicago, it would probably be Montrose Harbor because it gives me the best of everything I love.  I love water!  Lakes, rivers, oceans.  I will always find a reason to take a photo there.  I also love nature with the greenery as well as the city skyline.  Montrose Harbor offers all of that.  In the burbs I think I would say Fabyan Park is my favorite (along with many other photographers).  It’s close to downtown Geneva to get that urban vibe.  It’s  on the Fox River (again water!).  It has gorgeous stone architecture and an iron gate that makes me drool.

What is your favorite wedding venue? Why?

There are so many gorgeous venues in the Chicago area, many of which I haven’t even seen.  My favorites are always changing.  At this moment in time if I had to choose my favorites it would have to be Emerson Creek Pottery & Tearoom and the Monte Bello Estate.  Both of those venues take my breath away.  I never get tired of photographing there.

What do you wish people thought of for photography on the day of the wedding?

One of the biggest hiccups I run into on a couple’s wedding day is timing. Early on, when setting the times for your ceremony and cocktail hour think about how much space you leave in between for your photographer.  The more time you give them, the more photos you get!  Plus, it gives us a little more flexibility to be a little more creative.  I have done portraits in only 15 minutes more times than I like to say and at the end of the day they are nice, but I am always disappointed I couldn’t give them a little more.

 A good photographer makes sure everyone in the bridal party looks their best...including the littlest members. 
A good photographer makes sure everyone in the bridal party looks their best…including the littlest members. 

Tell me one thing no one knows about you (but you are okay with the world knowing!)

One thing no one knows about me, butterflies and daisies are two of my favorite things.  My freshman year of high school I broke both bones in my right forearm during gymnastics practice.  I had to have surgery to have two plates and 12 screws placed so that my arm would heal.  They are still there to this day.  A year or so after the scar healed I noticed that if I flexed my arm the scar moved in one spot.  I use to draw butterflies on that spot and flex to make it look like it was flying.  Eventually I wanted a butterfly tattoo there.  However, as I got older I decided I wanted it in a more subtle place.  No bigger than a quarter.  It’s something I drew that’s for me. I love my little butterfly tattoo.

Thank you, Joy, for being the first Vendor Spotlight! I know that couples all over Chicago would love to meet you, see your beautiful work and have you capture the moments that matter most. One side note about Joy, is she is a fur momma to not one but three adorable fur babies and she has seen every Disney movie ever made! She takes an annual pilgrimage to Disney World and loves to run. Please check out her amazing work!  

 Joy and I at a Wedding Convention this past October. 
Joy and I at a Wedding Convention this past October. 

Q&A Series Part 1: Ask A Wedding Planner, ANYTHING!

Believe me, no question is a silly one, especially if you haven’t worked with an event planner before! I wanted to start a 4 part series of top questions wedding planners get asked ALL THE TIME! Now, in full disclosure, these are my opinions and my responses to these FAQ. Other planners might handle situations differently but that is what makes the multitude of planners available perfect for clients. You (the client) can find someone who fits your specific needs! 

Q1. I am not sure I need an event planner. I have my mom/sister/aunt/friend and they can do it.

A. You have worked so hard planning the day of your dreams. I understand that letting someone else step in can be overwhelming. My job (or any planner’s job) is to take what you have dreamed and execute it flawlessly. There are so many details that go into planning a wedding that cannot be completed until the day of the wedding. The special people in your life should be able to enjoy the day with you, primping and relaxing; not stressing about the delivery of the cake. They will do their absolute best, but in the end, they will turn to you for direction. When you have an event planner, you become the star, not the director.

Q2. What specifically does an event planner do?

A. There are many things that event planners do, there are also many misconceptions. Many people think that planners “take over the show.” In all actuality, working with me, is the complete opposite. I am honored to have been hired by you and your vision is my main goal. I engage each vendor as an equal partner to turn your day into reality. Each person involved has their part for a successful wedding. Depending on how involved you want to be, we work together to create the wedding of your dreams. I can either plan the entire event from start to finish or I can help in specific areas that you simply do not want to deal with! I offer guidance, unbiased opinions and knowledge of the industry. I establish vendor relationships in every aspect of the wedding. I can guide you to the best photographer, DJ, band, caterer who will also “get” your vision to create a unified event for you and your guests to enjoy.

Q3. How have you handled being behind schedule?

A. We live in a perfectly imperfect world and sometimes things happen. Being a skilled wedding planner, I buffer scheduled time into every aspect of the day. Sometimes, limos get flat tires and sometimes the ceremony runs longer than expected (or shorter!) I know how to handle these minor bumps in the road (as most professional planners do!) and notify all of the appropriate vendors who will also be affected to give everyone a heads up of the situation. The key is staying in constant communication with all vendors to create a seamless day. A minor bump in the road should not derail the entire day. As your event planner, I work with your vendors to gently guide you along the day.

A professional planner knows how to handle the minor bump in the road and not let it derail the entire day

— Ashley Radosav
 Photo Credit:  K+B Photo
Photo Credit: K+B Photo