Vendor Reviews, Part III

When we initially contacted lighting & draping vendors, we said that we wanted three things: pin spotting, gobo, and a wall of fabric to separate the cocktail hour space. After speaking with a few vendors, we opted to work with Deborah. She met with us twice during the planning process. After the initial consultation, she convinced me to pin spot only half my centerpieces and to spend money on uplighting for the band.

The day of the wedding, the draping behind the band and the wall in the cocktail hour space were beautiful. It was absolutely stunning! Additionally, she included additional lighting to wash the walls at no additional cost. It was gorgeous!!

Instead of pinspotting the centerpieces, Deborah opted to pin spot the head table. She said that she made the decision based on her work as an artist. I wish she would have followed up with me after the wedding. When I saw my photos and realized that the centerpieces were not pinspotted, I assumed that I had paid for serviced not rendered. After an email and a phone call, Deborah explained that she made the decision to change the lighting design slightly. I feel that a change like this warrants a conversation with the customers.

Finally, we were disappointed with our gobo. Since our design was intricate, we paid for a steel cut design that cost double the normal price. I was ok with it because I wanted the design to appear very crisp. Instead, the gobo was extremely large and some of the letters were blocked by the chandeliers. After two visits to the space, I would have hoped that this problem would not have happened.

Lingerie – Trousseau

Trousseau offers a service for you to try on various bustiers with your dress. Lovely. We hauled my 20lb dress to their cute boutique on Southport and they found me the perfect bustier for my wedding day. The service was outstanding. The price was reasonable. I would highly recommend.
Mani & Pedis – Spa Emilia
After calling around a few spas, I booked here based on availability as well as a recommendation. On our rehearsal day, one bridesmaid arrived there ahead of all of us. She was told that I booked the spa on the wrong date. I called to find out the problem. The woman was not very nice. She claimed that I booked the spa for May 15th. I don’t see how I could have made a mistake with the math as it is one day before my wedding — a date that has been ingrained in my head for over a year. Boo. I was then charged a $300 missed service charge. I am disputing with my credit card company. I would not recommend.
Menus- Knottie KatVon & My Dedicated Niece
Kate saw my online breakdown after my disastrous attempt at my DIY projects on top of traveling to NYC for three weeks in a row, six weeks before my wedding. Since she wants to get into design, she offered to help design our menus. We met and talked over our design ideas. She came up with a fantastic design that included blank space at the top of the menu for the calligrapher to write guests names, thus serving as a menu/ place card. My DIY guru husband had the menus printed and cut at Office Max. We dropped them off at the calligrapher, and there wasn’t enough space for her to write the name.
There really wasn’t enough time to have Kate go back and create new menus for us so I was going to suck it up and use them. However, my body wouldn’t let me. Specifically, I was up until 3:30AM, saying to myself, “I cannot use these menus”.
Instead, my niece, Ashlynn, bastardized her design and re-printed at Office Max, the day before our wedding. Ashlynn also heat embossed our monogram on the bottom of the new menu. The design is solely Kate’s. I would highly recommend Kate’s work. She did a fabulous job. I am really to blame for waiting to the last moment.

Photobooth – Photobooth Express

I really wanted to have a photobooth at our wedding. I have always loved photobooths while I was growing up. We had taken some photos using Photobooth Express at a Yelp! Elite event. I was impressed with the service so I contacted Mike about our wedding. The price was extremely competitive. On the night of the wedding, the photobooth attendant was outstanding. She offered to help out my DOC a few different times. I would highly recommend!
This is probably the hardest review for me to write. I love Sally. She is so cool yet very personable. I love the spontaneous wedding photos. She did a great job at capturing candid moments. Her skills are in photojournalism. However, I was not completely satisfied with our photos. We had listed a number of categories that were not covered (example: photos of the guys getting ready, photos of the ceremony space without guests, groom watching the bride walk down the aisle, etc.). Perhaps our requests were too much. If so, I would have appreciated that she recommended a second photographer.

Additionally, we’re only mildly pleased with our formal shots. We agreed to a 15-20 minute shoot with families. The photos are decent but the angle is not perfect. The location was a last minute change. If the photos weren’t coming out, I wish that she would have moved us to a new location. I love Sally. I love the engagement photos that she took. I love the photos that she did take… I just wish that the other photos were taken, per our request.

Pianist – Sana Ma
The pianist was wonderful. She was arranged via Accolade Musicians. She played Fur Elise as the last song, per my request for the cocktail hour. I would recommend.
Pre-Marital Counseling – Urban Balance
They were wonderful. I would highly recommend. For a more detailed review, please click my here to read my blog.

Rehearsal Dinner – Giordano’s
Giordano’s did a great job. The food was good, the service was great. If you are from Chicago, you know what you are going to get at Giordano’s. Here are the three things that frustrated me:
1. I received a call on Friday saying to confirm my party. Since my Mother-in-law (MIL) was dropping off items for the party, I told her to take care of the confirmation. I received a second phone call at 3PM saying that I needed to confirm my party for tonight or it would be cancelled. WTF? I call back, and they said that they needed confirmation from me even though my MIL had already been there to drop off a load of junk for the party. Odd.
2. The bathroom needed to be serviced midway through our event. I found someone to take care of it immediately.
3. We put a credit card down on file. As the party started to end, there was about 15 of us lingering around. Exhausted, I left with my Maid of Honor about a half hour later. Then, the head waitress comes up to my husband and says that they need the final payment. They offer to “chase that lady [me] down the street” much to the amusement of the remaining guests. My husband offers up his card without any further problem.
Rentals – Covered Affairs
Covered Affairs is not into email. That is frustrating for a girl like me, who has her Treo attached on her at all times. However, I wanted to pay as little as possible for linens and chairs and they are the absolute cheapest.
The week of the wedding, when I confirmed my final numbers, Magda told me that they are fine. The chivari chairs were beautiful. The linens were perfect…except for the linen for the candy buffet. It had lines in it as though it has been folded in squares. I can’t begrudge them for one mix-up but I can’t give them an A either. I would still recommend.
Rentals – Flatware – Hall’s
Since I loathe the flatware at the Allegro, I opted to rent some from Hall’s. They were easy to work with via email. I did get a random computer generated email saying from them saying to call immediately. I called and they didn’t need to talk to me. Regardless, I would recommend.
I found the shoes months ago in a magazine and cut them out. A few months later, I found myself at Saks trying them on. Unfortunately, no location had my size in stock. I went straight to the Oscar boutique and ordered them over the phone. This is my only disappointment– why isn’t there an Oscar boutique in Chicago? I would have loved a chance to go shopping in the store. They came in the mail the following week. Two weeks later, I received a sweet thank you letter. Outstanding customer service.

Transportation – La Salle Limo

I really didn’t want to rent limos. I wanted the bridal party to travel via cabs especially since we had a complicated travel system and cabs can take much longer. However, I was concerned that I might get into a cab that was dirty and it would stain my dress. (Bloody wedding nightmares!) Anyhoo, as a long standing customer of La Salle, they upgraded my town car to a limo. It was very nice of them. It wasn’t anything fancy but I did NOT WANT a bridal limo. I was very pleased. I would highly recommend.

There were no problems with the tuxedos for the group. I do wish that my father-in-law had received a slightly smaller shirt. I think that he lost weight and doesn’t realize that he needs to go down a size! Regardless, it was quick and easy. Our party included individuals in many other states (IN, TX, MO, FL) and we didn’t have a problem.

My husband purchased his tuxedo from Jos A Bank during a Thanksgiving sale in Indy. He exchanged the pants for a flat panel cut up in Chicago without a problem. He did not use their tailoring services. He was very pleased.

My husband was adamant that he wanted a real bow tie for him and his groomsmen. Brooks Brothers was having a January sale so we bought 9. One small problem– my husband forgot to practice on how to tie a bow tie. Instead of asking the DOC for help, the guys were googling about 10 minutes before they were supposed to be ready. This is after a day of sitting around watching the Cubs play and drinking beer. I’ve gone completely off topic here. I would recommend Brooks Brothers. I would not recommend getting real bow-ties unless your fiance is positive he knows what he is doing.

My high fashion husband loves Thomas Pink. He always looks so handsome in their shirts. For our dating anniversary gift, I bought him a tuxedo shirt. They are ridiculously expensive. If he didn’t love them, I would have just gone to Brooks Brothers or Jos A Bank.

Veil – Weddings 826

Weddings 826 will schedule an hour long appointment for you with your dress so that you can try on veils to match your dress. I found this to be very helpful because I didn’t realize that I wanted a veil until I purchased my dress. While it is possible to get a veil slightly cheaper online, I feel that the customer service was well worth it. Besides, I was able to wear my dress again! I would highly recommend.

Vendors Reviews Part II

Here are more vendor reviews. I will post the rest tomorrow.

Bridesmaid Attire
Ann Taylor

Ann Taylor made bridesmaid dress shopping completely effortless. I bought the dresses when they were having a sale. By opening a credit card, I was able to get 25% off the dresses. Sandra on Michigan Ave. offered to press the dresses for us. Additionally, the girls were offered the ability to come back to the store to learn the 5 different ways to tie their bow. Oh, and the week before the wedding when one of my maids admitted that her dress didn’t fit– they were able to get a replacement gown within a day. I would highly recommend.

I saw these shoes in In Style Weddings magazine. We ordered them before we picked a dress. They were comfortable but after 7 hours, my Maids were dying! Luckily, I had super cute flip flops for them to wear for dancing. I would recommend.

Marilyn did a wonderful job on the calligrapher on my outer envelopes. She gets the + for putting up with our multiple trips to her home (last minute addition, change of last name, change of address, can you add my nephew’s name to this inner envelope, etc.) I would higly recommend.

Ceremony & Reception Venue – Hotel Allegro

Since none of my guests saw the problems, I am inclined to give them a higher grade.

Wedding– The night of the wedding, everything was perfect. More than that, the week of the wedding, we had absolutely no problems. Let’s start with the good. The hotel was amazing when it came to food. For the entrée duet, we changed the salmon to a crab cake. We also added a pasta course and supplied our own recipes. We also came up with some more unique hors d’oeuvres and they were totally willing to do it. I really appreciated it. The service was outstanding.

Things that I didn’t like– I wish that Kerry could have gotten back to us more quickly during the planning process. I don’t know if she is under-staffed/over-worked but 10 days for a reply is far too long. I loathe the draping in the Music Room and the Walnut Room. If I had the money, I would have brought new drapes in for my event. They are absolutely hideous. I would recommend the venue. Overall, we really enjoyed the Allegro.

Dance Lessons – Monica

Monica met us several times over the past three months to give us dance lessons. She was extremely profesional. I would highly recommend. For more information, read my blog entry.

Dress – Lazaro
After trying on close to 200 dresses, I can safely say that I absolutely love my dress. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Dress #2 – Dame Couture
After months of looking for the perfect dress, I came to Dame Couture. While I didn’t find a wedding gown, I found the perfect dress for the after party. The dress was designed for a runway show and was one of a kind. I purchased it without a problem. I did post a review on Yelp! about their dressing rooms needing to be freshened up. Apparently, the owner wasn’t too pleased and asked me to remove my review. Since Yelp! let’s you post your uncensored opinion, I left the review as is.
My favors are the perfect compromise. My Mother in law really wanted to have us make a donation to a charity. I wanted to give our guests something. We are doing both with Girl Scout cookies. I was a Girl Scout as well as a leader for my niece, Sarah. To save a little dough, we bought them in Indy where they are $3.50/ box VS $4 in Chicago. We will be wrapping them in different color wrapping paper to designate the types of boxes that we have. As far as the Knot Rule that guests don’t really care for favors, well then, you should hand out girl scout cookies. We had 5 boxes left over. Yup, 5 boxes. I’m actually a little bummed out about that.
Hotel Block – Hotel Allegro
Through out the entire block process, Sarah was quick to respond and wonderful. I was very happy with the entire process. Then, there was the day before the wedding.

My in-law’s were the first to check in on Thursday night. When I went to visit them on Friday, I realized that their room was on a floor with construction. I was livid. I specifically had a line added to my contract stating that I did not want any rooms to be booked on floors with construction. To top it off, my mother-in-law said that it was loud. Sarah was on vacation. Kerry was away that day in training. After speaking with the front desk, my in-laws were finally moved.

When my Maid of Honor and I went to check into our room at noon, I was unable even though Sarah had assured me that I would be able to check in early. We tried to check in again around 5PM. The room was still not ready. Luckily, I had rented out the Stardust Suite so we were able to get ready in that room while guests were drinking and socializing. Not ideal, but it worked. When we did go to check into the room at 10:30PM, the front desk associate told us that he had bad news for us. The only room that was available was the room that my in-laws had vacated. Great. I am having my wedding at the hotel and I get the crappy suite. I even asked if we could get a regular room but there was none available.

I was even unhappier when I found that there was a second hotel block under the name of Jacobs that had received our suites. While the chances of two hotel blocks with the same name are slim, I was still very frustrated with the entire situation. We were having our wedding there. Therefore, we deserved first priority.

Additionally, I was frustrated that my husband and I were unable to check into our bridal suite until 5PM because the room was not ready. Surely, one would assume that the bride and groom would prefer to check in to the bridal suite long before the reception commences. It is extremely disappointing customer service. The silver lining of the situation is that my guests did not have to experience any of these problems.

Invitations – White Aisle
Our invitations arrived about 5.5 weeks after ordering. A few days later– as I was assembling them to mail out– I noticed that some of the response cards had a printing flaw. It wasn’t very noticeable but it was nonetheless a flaw. After emailing Rebecca, she responded within minutes. She asked that we send her some pictures of the problem. My camera is crap so the flaw wasn’t clear. Since she was using mine invitations as samples, she already had plenty of extra to mail to me. The next day I sent her my flawed response cards and she mailed me the new ones. I received mine in the mail.

A few days later, I emailed her to see if she saw the problem. Apparently, the cards were destroyed in the mail. Maybe I am overly sensitive, but she never accepted the blame or apologized. While I see her point of view (she didn’t get proof of the mistake), I wish that she would have been a little more regretful about the entire situation.

Late Night Snacks – Minnie’s
We had a late night snack of Minnie’s for our after party. It was a huge hit! The food was delicious. I ate three mini-burgers at the after party. I loved everything. My only suggestion was that I wish that they would have packed up little mini containers for the french fries. To keep the frittes crisp and hot, they came in a huge tin serving container. We had little plates to put them on but I wish that we could have had the little french fry containers. I would highly recommend. EVERYONE raved about these suckers at midnight.

My Rock Star Vendors

Below are my top wedding vendors. These vendors went above and beyond for my husband and I on the day of our wedding. I would recommend them in a heart beat. If you are interested in their services, please let them know they you heard about them from me. If you have any questions, feel free to email me!

String Quartet – Accolade Musicians

When I contacted Accolade for a string quartet, they gave me pricing for a trio or a quartet. I didn’t realize that my contract was for a trio until the week of the wedding. My bad. Luckily, they were able to find a fourth performer. They went above and beyond because they took the time to learn some songs for us. I wanted to enter to Coldplay’s Clocks and we wanted to exit to Enya. They learned the songs and they sounded PERFECT. I would highly recommend.

Ring – Fredrick M. Gottlieb & Co.
67 E. Madison St. Suite 1921

I absolutely love my ring. I opted to get one “marriage” ring– in lieu of a engagement ring and wedding ring– as I don’t like the stacked look. For ages, we couldn’t find anything out there. We looked at some estate jewelry but nothing caught our eye. Finally, we decided to design a ring together. Jeff brought out some diamonds for us to consider. Once we picked the perfect stone, we worked together to design the perfect ring. He created a computer drawing and then a wax molding. It was an amazing experience. I would highly recommend if you can’t find the perfect ring.

Programs – LeLe Designs
After the work involved in creating our OOT welcome packet, both my husband and I agreed that we needed help with the rest of our paper suite. We met with Elise and we loved her. Then she uttered these words, “thermography printed programs” and I melted. She came up with a beautiful design that complimented my original invitations and our cake. Elise not only had them ready a day early, she had her assistant assemble them for us. I would highly recommend.

Make-up Artist – Sonia Roselli
What can I say that hasn’t been said before? Sonia is a rock star when she beats your face. Between the two trials I had with her, we came up with the perfect look for me. She is fabulous. I love her. I am anxiously awaiting the opening of her new store. I would highly recommend.
Hair Stylist – Livia
I scheduled a hair trial about six weeks before the wedding once Kendra was not longer able to do my hair. I showed her some pictures that I liked and she did everything to perfection. Livia did a fabulous job. I thank her immensely for coming in at the last minute. I would highly recommend.

Florist – Scarlet Petal

Scarlet Petal rocked my world. The flowers, which were identical and just as beautiful as the trial, were amazing. I am in true awe of their work. On the day of my wedding, I didn’t like my bouquet. She quickly whipped up a new one for me. I was very impressed with her work and style. To top it off, Esther is a delight to work with. Many of my guests complimented the decor. I had one male guest ask me, “Are those big balls of carnations real?” I was impressed that a male would notice the flowers! I would highly recommend.

Groom’s Cake – Tipsy Cake

We met with Naomi back in January. She talked with my fiance and came up with a groom’s cake that he would love. (My idea of a stack of suitcases to reflect our joint passion of travel was nixed by the both of them. Well, it is a GROOM’S CAKE!) Anyhoo, his love of the Indianapolis Colts was mentioned. She came up with the idea of this gigantic horse shoe in blue fondant. It is the most hideous shade of blue. It was very Denton. The red velvet cake was so freaking good that we ate the remaining 3 pieces within hours of getting home the day after the wedding. Cake makes a lovely dinner, no? I would highly recommend.
DOC – Marilyn at Honey Bee Weddings

In all fairness, I work with Marilyn so my review is biased. Marilyn did an outstanding job as a wedding coordinator. She was able to make sure that our vendors were on time as well as get all of my little details ready for both the ceremony and the reception. Instead of helping us with our OOT welcome bags as our contract states, she helped me create the table numbers. I would highly recommend.
Six weeks before the wedding, we had our terrible tasting at Rolf’s. Denton and I decided to suck it up and pay for a cake even though a cake was complimentary with Rolf’s. We tasted at Alliance Bakery, Cake Girls, and Amy Beck. Amy blew us away. Cake Girls was just as tasty as Amy’s, but Amy was willing to really work with us on a totally unique design. She took our two ideas and ran with them. Even Denton was super impressed when we received back the drawings. She came in at the last moment and saved the day. The only minor item is that she was going to thrown in a cake stand for us but forgot it. However, I didn’t even notice until the following week when I got the pictures back and realized that there wasn’t a cake stand. I would highly recommend.

Bridesmaid Luncheon – Four Seasons
We had afternoon tea in the conservatory. After dessert, three staff members came over, each carrying a little blue box, and handed one to each of my maids. My bridesmaids were utterly surprised and really really excited. The girls were completely shocked when they realized that each gift was personalized. How did the staff know which gift to give to each girl? I came in earlier in the day and described each girl. The Four Seasons went above and beyond in their service for us.
The band did an outstanding job. Since we decided to have our wedding New York Style (AKA dancing in between each course), the band had to be ready to get the crowd moving. They did and then some! If you look in my pictures, almost everyone was dancing. If I could have them do one thing over, I would have them call the Anniversary Dance by the name rather than “The Elimination Dance”. Regardless, they were outstanding. I had several wedding guests tell me that this is the best band that they have ever seen play at a wedding. I would highly recommend.

Vendor Reviews

Before I write my vendor reviews, I would like to talk about reviews again.

  • It is really important to give reviews as well as vendor feedback. As a vendor, I love hearing from Brides.
  • That said, if you read a review, keep in mind that you are not that Bride and you may not have the same opinions as her. I have seen some brides rave about things that I thought were hideous. I have also seen some Brides complain about things where I could find nothing wrong.
  • Finally, remember that the vendor could be having an off day. No one wants a vendor to have an off day on their wedding day. However, it happens. I would still write an honest view of the vendor.

For the most part, I was pleased with my vendors. I am happy to publish their names and information on my blog so that they could get repeat business. I am also going to post the reviews on Yelp!

Vendor Reviews

Want to know one of the things that I love? Feedback. Really, I do. I love to hear thoughts and opinions on bridal vendors. It’s one of the reasons that I love Yelp! so much.

Here is my problem— I have a ton of brides that are willing to pimp out their vendors before their wedding. It’s fine. You’re in that dreamy engaged stage. But what I really want to know is how you feel after the wedding.

I cannot stress enough the importance of giving honest feedback after your wedding. Recently, I talked with a bride that used one of my vendor vendors. Instead of giving feedback about the problems on the day of the wedding, she said, it was over so why bother? I didn’t want to criticize her but yes, actually it is important!

So once the wedding is over, please remember to give vendor feedback to the company as well as a website like yelp, the Knot, or even your blog!

Boo To Zazzle

A few months ago, I wrote a post about my satisfaction with Zazzle. Well, things have unfortunately changed. When we received our stamps, there was a letter stating that Zazzle has a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

We used 5 different pictures for our stamps. Two pictures that were less than stellar. The first picture is of us from the moment we got engaged. Taken with my camera, it was a little fuzzy on the stamp. Since I was exchanging those two sheets, I decided to swap out athe second picture because it had too much greenery and didn’t look as good.

I emailed Zazzle to inquire into the details of the exchange policy. The customer service representative emailed me back saying, “Thanks for your e-mail. We are more than willing to exchange the product you received for a replacement.”

A few weeks later, I had a credit on my account. I emailed Zazzle again. I was told that they do not do replacements on photo stamps. I emailed them back with the original email that stated they would replace the stamps. When I finally heard back after two inquiries, I was told that they would do nothing.

Unfortunately, I have to pull my review of this online vendor. I think it is horrible customer service to offer one thing and then do something entirely different.

Engagement Pics: Timeline & Reviews

Who knew that taking engagement pictures would be so romantic? [:$] At first, it was a little odd for us to be kissing and embracing in front of someone…but soon, we felt like pros. Ending the evening with a romantic dinner was the perfect plan!

As our budget has ballooned, we considered cutting this from the budget. We’re so glad that we didn’t. My fiance and I agreed that we feel so much more comfortable taking direction and that we know our photographer, Sally, so much better. We love Sally!

After checking the weather daily, I was comfortable with the 10% chance of showers. Yeah, it ended up raining. I was a little frustrated but glad that I made my FI buy a giant umbrella earlier in the week. [um] Sally offered to reschedule. We decided to stick with the original appointment because, due to our crazy schedules, it would be another three weeks before we could meet. I’m glad that we did because I was cold! 50 degrees gives me goosebumps. I can only imagine the weather in mid-November. Besides, I had already spent close to $100 to make me pretty!

Engagement Pictures Timeline

9AM: Breakfast and shower
10AM: Fret about the rain
11AM: Airbrush tan and blow-out
11:50: Cover myself up hoping that the rain doesn’t streak me
Noon: Make-up application
12:45PM: Head home
1:PM: Consider rescheduling because of the rain
1:05PM: Suck it up and get dressed
1:30PM: Get a manicure
2PM: Meet photographer and take photos on the el
2:15PM: Rain stops. Hurrah!
2:30PM: Take photos at the office building where we met
3PM: Take photos at Starbucks
3:30PM: Take photos at the Art Institute gardens
5PM: Drinks at Francesco’s Forno and dinner at Cafe Absinthe to celebrate


Blo Salon- I would highly recommend Blo. When I came in for my appointments, I told them that I was getting photographed for my engagement pictures. They were very willing to accomadate me. For $20, you can get a fabulous blow out. I loved it. The stylist recommended a “polished” look so that it would photograph well. After my hair was washed, I got airbrushed. Normally, I just go get a tanning cocktail. It is twice as expensive ($45) but it looks better and I don’t have to worry about cancer.

Endo Exo- Dana is fabulous. My make-up looked fantastic. In fact, I didn’t want to take it off at the end of the night knowing that I would not be able to replicate her work. (I love make-up but I can only do a basic work face.) The store carries high end quality products that they use on your face! For $30, I would definitely go back. Endo also does bridal make-up but in the store only. If you were hoping to save some dough on your wedding, I would recommend Endo.

Asia Nails- There was a scheduling mix-up so I ended up here at the last minute. It was a basic nail job. It hasn’t been 24 hours yet but no chipping. I wish that she would have shaped my nails a little bit better but I don’t feel that I can complain since it was $12.

Sally said that our pictures will be ready on Friday. Since we’ll be out of town, I won’t get them until Sunday. (Yes, I am so making my FI stop straight from the airport.)