Meet our friends at Crystal Gardens at Navy Pier

We recently got to interview Sharon Plucinski, Catering Sales Manager handling the Social/ Wedding Marketer for Crystal Gardens to get her thoughts on Wedding Planning process and get her tips.


If you have not yet visited Crystal Gardens it is this amazing oasis in the middle of Chicago.   It is an incredible one acre indoor botanical garden, with over 80 beautiful palm trees,  lush foliage, hanging “twinkle lights,” and dancing “leapfrog” fountains, it makes an unbelievable setting for your special day.  With its location in Navy Pier it makes it a fabulous location for your quintessential Chicago wedding!  And of course lots of amazing places for great wedding picture opportunites

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For people who may not be familiar with Crystal Gardens can you tell us a bit about the location?

The Crystal Gardens is a perfect and unique location to host your event. The Crystal Gardens is a beautiful indoor, one-acre – botanical garden. This six-story glass atrium with a 50 foot arched ceiling holds over 80 live palm trees, lush foliage, hanging “twinkle lights” and dancing “leapfrog” fountains.

Sharon tell us a bit about you and your team?

I feel in love with the hospitality industry at an early age, I’ve always loved throwing parties and being creative. While studying Art & Design at Iowa State University, during the summer months I would come home and work as a florist. I got to see many different venues, set- ups and break downs and got to spend lots of time being creative surrounded by flowers! After my Senior year fall semester studying abroad in Italy, I figured out I wanted to go into events full time and learn the ins and outs. I was lucky enough to get connected to a lot of fabulous people in the city of Chicago. I started my career at the Sheraton Chicago as a Catering & Convention Service Assistant and then worked my way up to the Food & Beverage Sales Manager for all of our outlet spaces. After 4 years at the Sheraton I moved to our sister property The Westin River North as a Catering Sales Manager where I sold & serviced Corporate Events 0-100 people and Social from 0-175. I learned so much “growing up” in hotels, there is never a day that goes by that I don’t use the skills I’ve learned from hotels. I jumped at the experience to join the Phil Stefani Signature Events team this past July as their Catering Sales Manager, selling the Crystal Gardens at Navy Pier for all weddings. I love weddings and have had a love affair with everything weddings for many, many years. Down the road I do wish to own my own Bed & Breakfast…somewhere beautiful that I can also sell for social events For now, I’m in love selling & living the dream!!!

Our team at Crystal Gardens also comprises of 3 Sales & Catering professionals with over 20 years experience in creating an award winning events. It includes Kate Samuelson is our Senior Sales Manager handling the Corporate Market and our GM Pete Laliberte.

What services do you offer?

Full service catering and event space to service sit down events up to 525 guests and receptions up to 1,500 guests.

Is there a particular bride style you feel you cater to best?

The non-traditional, out of the box bride and the Foodie bride would be the style type we best cater too.

What is the first thing a couple should do after getting engaged?
After jumping up and down and telling all of your loved ones the next thing you must do is sit down and agree on a date/month/ or time of the year for your wedding. Then starting the selection process for venues, typically in Chicago if a Bride & Groom have a particular date or time frame in mind it’s best to book at least a year out if not a year and a half depending on venue.

What is your favorite part/moment of a wedding?
If we are hosting both the ceremony & reception my ultimate FAVORITE part is the VOWS, you feel so personally connected to the bride & groom by the time their big day gets here that it’s touching to hear what they are personally vowing to do for each other. If we are only hosting the reception my favorite part is when I ask the bride & groom how everything is going and they answer with “AMAZING!!!” I love making their dreams for the day come true!

Can you give me 1-2 of your favorite requests/ ideas that a couple has come to you with?
We get quite a few requests and ideas one that really stands out was….since it’s pretty much a jungle in here would it be alright if my dad rents a monkey for the night to swing from the trees, that takes the cake. Unfortunately, the request was denied….

What are the trends you are seeing for 2013/14?
Trends wise for 2013 -2014, Brides & Grooms are booking way in advance.
They are also way more educated on food trends and wine, we have quite a bit of “FOODIE” Brides & Grooms that we love to cater to and get creative with their menus.
Sweet stations are still all the craze and more and more couples are choosing to do Late Night snack comfort foods.
Colors wise we are seeing lots of the purple and silver moving forward I think we are going to get more of the yellows and greens.
Within our venue less is more on the décor side since the environment is already so unique so floral arrangements vary in color and texture and help to accent the final finishing touches with glowing candles and our hanging lights.

So who is Sharon when you are not at work:
– what is your rule of thumb you live by? “No Regrets”
– what do you do in your free time?  Go out to eat and hang out with friends, if I have lots of time CRAFTS
– If you were to turn on the TV right now what would you choose to watch? My DVR’d shows: New Girl, Nashville, Heart of Dixie and Walking Dead… I have A LOT stored on my DVR right now.
– what book are you reading right now? or what is the last book you read? I just finished a quick read: The Time Keeper, By Mitch Albom and started The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (I love to read!)

Finally we have to ask but what is an item you would have on your wedding registry?
Since I currently am in the process of planning my own wedding and starting on my own wedding registry I personally have to say I LOVE the idea of being able to register for massages, they are my guilty pleasure I think something like that is a personal touch and a fabulous shower gift!!!

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