Cafe Brauer Vendor Showcase

2nd Annual Vendor Showcase
July 17th, 4:00-7:00 pm
Café Brauer
2021 N Stockton Dr

We are so excited to have been invited to be a part of the 2nd Annual Vendor Showcase hosted by Tigerlily at Café Brauer. It is an honor to have the opportunity to have a display among these other great vendors.

This is also a great opportunity for you to meet some of the top vendors in Chicago for weddings and events! You can RSVP to if you are interested in attending. We hope to see you there!

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.

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 Rolf’s

We are so disappointed.

We had our cake tasting at Rolf’s. Our cake is, in a sense, complimentary, as it is included in our hotel package. Here’s what happened:

Despite having an appointment, arriving at the proper time and being quickly attended to, we spent most of the time at Rolf’s by ourselves and away from any employee and unable to ask questions.

We were quickly seated and shown a book of cake designs. None of the designs really struck our fancy, so we started to inquire about custom cake designs. Most of our questions were greeted with a response of “no”. After much prying, Rolf’s reluctantly acknowledged they might be able to create a custom cake; it seemed they really had no desire to help us get the cake we really wanted.

After our lackluster “design session”, our consultant, Joanne, left to get cake and filling samples for us. She dropped off the samples and quickly explained the four cake flavors in front of us. She mentioned that we had the choice of several more flavors, but that these are not available for tasting. We both found this very upsetting. If they only wanted to prepare four types of cake, shouldn’t we at least be able to choose the flavors? It’s impossible to choose the flavor of cake you want if you are unable to try it. It’s also hard to ask questions when no one is there to ask.

Then, Joanne left the room for several minutes to get us our beverages. While she was gone, we started tasting. We were trying to find our preferred combination of cake and filling flavor. When Joanne returned, she was upset we had started on fillings without deciding on cake. We were quite surprised to be chastised for mixing and matching. How were we supposed to decide what we wanted if we couldn’t mix them? Regardless of Joanne’s opinion of how a cake tasting should be run– which is different from any cake tasting that we have ever been to– we are the customers. We should be able to mix the frosting and fillings with the cake.

After explaining that they prefer to separate the two, Joanne explained the filling and frosting options and quickly left. Again, she was unavailable for questions. After several minutes, Joanne returned to record our selections and to wrap up the tasting.

All in all, we spent about 20 cold minutes at Rolf’s. After spending one and half hours with the baker when doing the tasting for our groom’s cake, we found this extremely disappointing. The reluctance to help us customize the cake, the lack of cake flavors at the tasting, the lack of availability for questioning and the generally rude demeanor of our consultant really left us with no confidence in Rolf’s. In addition, the cake and frosting were mediocre. We are really disappointed with the experience.

In fact, we’re torn with what to do next. Rolf’s is the Allegro’s preferred vendor, but we have little to no confidence in them and are having trouble booking anything with them. However, to go another route would see the wedding cake part of our package with the Allegro go unused.

What would you do?

a) Suck it up and use Rolf’s. It’s free.

b) Find a new fabulous bakery and bring in our own cake.

Tipping Vendors

Tipping is a sensitive subject. However, couples should include tips as part of their wedding budget so that they may plan accordingly. The list below was compiled from Brides magazine as well as Emily Post.


Ceremony Musicians
$15-20 per person

Delivery & Set up Staff$5-10 per person



Hair Stylist & Make-up Artist


Photographer/ Videographer$50-200 per person

Reception Musicians
$20-25 per musician

Reception Staff
If gratuity is not included:
15-20% of food and drink bill
$200-300 for maitre d
$20-25 per bartender
$1 per guest for parking attendant

If gratuity is included:
On Site Coordinator/ Catering Manager
$100-200 optional

15% if not included as part of the package

Wedding Planner/ Coordinator

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.)

Pick up the Phone… or your Laptop

What is it with wedding vendors not returning your phone call or email?? Everytime I do a vendor search, I email about 10 places. It seems about one of ten places choose not to return your call/email.


I was very excited about working with an upscale, modern boutique hotel in Chicago. After an intial phone call, I followed up with some questions. No response. I sent a second email. No response. I called. No response.

If I am going to give you $15,000+ of business, can’t you at least pick up the phone??