Meet our friends at FIG Catering

Molly (picture by Steve Garret)

As you know we love local but that is not the only reason we like FIG Catering, there food is absolutely FANTASTIC,  and we are thrilled to have had the opportunity  to interview Molly Schemperl. Find out about the FIG Catering team and get some inspiration for your wedding catering needs.

For people who may not be familiar with FIG Catering, can you share a bit on how you got started in the wedding industry?

When we first started our business (my husband and me) we wanted to focus on smaller events and we handled mostly in-home parties including showers, dinners, and holiday cocktail parties. We eventually started doing in-home weddings and when we began catering full time and got our own kitchen (before we were working in a shared kitchen) we started reaching out to venues and expanding to do more weddings. This year (2012) we catered almost 50 weddings. We still stay on the smaller side of the catering industry and only handle 1 wedding per day and only up to 150 guests.

What services do you offer?

Drop-off (casual) and full service catering for groups from 2-150 guests. Full service includes bar, staff, and rental procurement.

Jamie Kelter/Greenhouse Loft

FIG Team (photo by Jamie Kelter/Greenhouse Loft)

Tell us  about the FIG Catering team:

Justin, my husband, and I are the owners. Justin is our head chef and oversees everything in the kitchen (in addition to being on-site at almost all of our weddings). I’m the head pastry chef, but also handle some wedding sales and marketing. Elyse Moore is our dedicated Wedding and Special Event Coordinator and handles almost 75% of FIG weddings. In addition to customizing proposals for couples, meeting for tasting and walk-throughs, she is on-site from the start to the end of your wedding.

What is the biggest lesson you learned working as a caterer ?

Take time to get to know your client and listen to what they want. Customized service makes us unique and allows us to be flexible with couples needs.

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

Laid back couples who are primarily concerned with the quality of the food at their wedding and are willing to spend a little more on it (versus spending on décor, music, or other items). People who cook for themselves and understand/appreciate hand crafted food. Also, people looking for less traditional food like vegan/vegetarian or ethnic cuisines.
What is the first thing a couple do when thinking about catering?

They should think about the style of wedding they want and how they/their families and friend eat: Do you tend to be big eaters who like options? Then a family-style or buffet dinner may be better than a plated meal. Do you tend to be picky and/or want to socialize during a meal then an hors d’oeuvres stations menu may work better. Any option can be cheaper or more expensive due to the menu options and rentals you choose; you should rather think about what will work for you and your crowd the best and figure out how to make that work within your budget.

Due to the fact that at FIG we use seasonal produce, they should think about the season they are getting married in and what is available then. If you’re favorite foods are corn, melon, and tomatoes, you should not be getting married in April or May.

Picture credit 1-5 Jamie Kelter/Greenhouse Loft, 6 Brian Kinyon, 7 FIG, 8, Alix Klingenberg Photograph

What are some of your favorite location for weddings?

Greenhouse Loft, Floating World Gallery, Pleasant Home in Oak Park, Kitchen Chicago, Salvage One, outdoors in your backyard (keep in mind – this is probably not going to be less expensive than a venue with tent rental, kitchen set-up, etc.)
Can you tell me about 1-2 of your favorite requests/ ideas that a bride has come to you with?

To accommodate a large percentage of non-drinkers at a fall wedding, offer hot chocolate, coffee, and hot apple cider with toppings and cordials (for those that do drink).
Fresh nectarines or other fresh, locally grown produce as favors
Cheese tasting bar for dessert – Someone who wasn’t that into sweets got a small cutting cake, but then had a wide variety (10-12) types of cheese paired with wine, mini cocktails, and liqueurs for the main dessert.

What are the trends you are seeing for 2013

Ombre linens, Return of the plated dinner, Banquet style seating

Quick one sentence getting to know you questions:
– what is your rule of thumb you live by? Don’t be mean.
– what do you do in your free time? Eat out, swim (in a public pool)
– If you were to turn on the TV right now what would you choose to watch? Mad Men or PBS
– what book are you reading right now? or what is the last book you read? Just finished reading The 100 year old man who jumped out a window & disappeared. I usually read fiction when I read, but just picked up a client’s self-help book titled The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self which I’m looking forward to reading. I’ll have more time in January and February.
– what do you cook for yourself? Unfortunately I rarely do. When I do it’s usually something healthy soup, chili, or lentils.

Finally we have to ask but what is an item you would have on your wedding registry?

I had a very limited registry, but I’m a sucker for nice towels, sheets, and blankets.

Bamboo sheets

Advertisements

Meet our friends at Soirée Weddings & Events

We recently got to chat with one of our favorite ladies: Tiffany from Soirée Weddings & Events.

Soiree Team

For people who may not be familiar with you or your work, can you share a bit on how you got started in the wedding industry? Before I got into weddings, I worked in Sales for a communications company. I was good at it, but I didn’t feel that I was using my skills to their full potential. When I began to plan my wedding I realized that I had a passion for the wedding industry. My wedding photographer, Cristina Giurgea, was the one that convinced me to start my own business as a wedding planner. It was an intimidating idea, but she made me realize that I could do it and that I had the talent to be successful. I have to say, my sales skills helped me along the way too. Some of the best business owners started as sale reps. We understand the importance of the sales process and customer service. I started the company almost 3 years ago – I am amazed by our growth and I am excited to see where we are headed in the future!

(picture courtesy of Anthony Yoon Photography)

What services do you offer? Everything from Full planning, Partial Planning, Event Design and Weekend of Coordinating.

Who are your team? Our team consists of myself, Owner and Senior Event Planner; and my two Associate Coordinators – Molly Blonn and Rebecca Niziol

What is the biggest lesson you learned working as a wedding planner? Well, I found that I am always learning. I learn something new at every wedding we do. It allows me to grow, change and adapt. But the biggest thing that I have learned it to always stay calm. I am the Director for the evening and everyone is relying on me. If I look stressed or frazzled, then everyone else will start to panic or lose confidence. I internalize any stress while maintaing my composure. As wedding planners, we just need to come up with the solution to any challenge!

Is there a particular bride style you feel you cater to best? I feel that I work best with urban brides with realistic budgets. I can design traditional weddings, glam weddings, contemporary weddings and even rustic weddings. However, all my clients have varying budgets – so it is my job to deliver a wedding that “wows” while staying within budget and complimenting their design style.

(Photography by left to right, top to bottom: Cristina G, Kristen Lynn, George Street Photo, George Street Photo, Carasco, Carasco, Nick Gerber, Nick Gerber, Cristina G)

What is the first thing a couple should do after getting engaged? First of all, they should try to enjoy the engagement a bit before jumping straight into wedding planning. Have an engagement party and enjoy the high you are still on from the proposal and the ring! Then…call me! I can give you a step by step timeline for the planning process. Chicago is very competitive when it comes to selecting a venue and date. Many popular Chicago venues book out 2 years in advance during the popular wedding season months. Venues have to be able to accommodate your guest count, fit in your budget and also your style. Those are important things to look for when choosing the venue for your wedding. After we have selected the perfect venue, then we can start the vendor selection process!

What are the best tools for a couple to use when planning for their wedding? I always recommend for my clients to join Pinterest. Pinning photos to your wedding inspiration boards is very helpful when shopping for a dress, meeting with florists, decor companies and even photographers. It helps those vendors visualize our design style. Another helpful tool are wedding websites. This allows you to relay important information about your wedding to your guests. Things like hotel rates and contact info, ceremony and reception location and fun facts can all be listed there.

What is your favorite part/moment of a wedding? Every wedding is different – but they all have moments that touch the heart. Sometimes it is when the bride is walking down the aisle, sometimes it is a heartfelt toast or a first dance. I love when there is something inserted into the wedding that is special to the couple – a fun song for the cake-cutting, a family tradition like the polka or the hora – I even had a bride get up on stage and sing Black Velvet with the band – she was amazing!!

Sami + Mike Wedding Trailer from NightOwls Media on Vimeo.

Can you give me 1-2 of your favorite requests/ ideas that a bride has come to you with? One of my couple’s asked me to do a Step and Repeat/Red Carpet for the entrance into the reception venue. The couple used to live in LA and they thought it was a fun way to incorporate a little bit of Hollywood into the wedding. The couple’s logo along with the logos from the venues printed on the back drop. The guests loved it! They all had their photos taken as they entered the venue. It was a cool and different take on a photo booth!

What are the trends you are seeing for 2013? I am seeing eclectic menus for food. More and more of my clients are “foodies” and want to wow their guests with an interesting dining experience. Also, Color for bridal gowns… and even no color for Bridesmaids – like ivory and white dresses. food trucks are a huge craze right now – why not have one pull up at the end of the reception so guests can grab some late night snacks to-go? Grooms are taking more of a role in wedding planning now too- If you have to room in your space think about adding a lounge area for the men : Whisky or bourbon tastings, flights of different craft beers, and your groom’s favorite sweets – even the men will appreciate the details!

Getting to know Tiffany 

– what is your rule of thumb you live by? Always be nice, respectful and professional. You can get further in life that way. Also, be proactive – not reactive.

– what do you do in your free time? I love to be outside (in the summer!) but spending time with my husband, dog and cat is one of my favorite things. Yoga, running and spin class is what I do to sweat. and I love to shop online!!

– If you were to turn on the TV right now what would you choose to watch? I love my reality tv! everything from Bravo to HGTV! But I love me some Dexter and Homeland!!

– what book are you reading right now? or what is the last book you read? The last book I read was The 19th Wife. It was pretty good. I don’t read the “fad” books that everyone is raves about – they are usually poorly written. I prefer the classics, like Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.

Finally we have to ask but what is an item you would have on your wedding registry? Choose a china that you can use everyday. Even if it is fine china. Most people leave their china boxed up or locked away in a china cabinet – I think that is such a waste! I used my china every day, I want to enjoy it! Also – make sure to register for china that fits in your cabinets!! So many dinner plates are oversized now – and they don’t fit in standard “city” sized cabinets!

Basic dinnerware from Simon Pearce

Meet our friends at Naturally Yours Events

Meet Carlene Smith of Naturally Yours Events the must go to event planner for any couple interested an eco-chic and green wedding. She knows all the great local vendors and has great tips and suggestions to keep the carbon foot print of your wedding down to a minimum.

What services do you offer? Full, partial, and day-of event or wedding planning, baby showers, bridal showers, bachelorette parties, birthday parties, anniversaries, mitzvahs

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photos courtesy of Cage and Aquarium, Jeremy Lawson Photography, Julia Franzosa, Chrissy Deming

Tell us a bit about you and your team?

I am the owner and lead planner for Naturally Yours Events. I do have an extra pair of hands, the amazing Jessie, that helps on certain events.

What is the biggest lesson you learned working as a wedding planner?

I would say that nothing is black and white and sometimes things don’t go as planned. You have to be able to roll with it to have a successful event.

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

I really cater to the non-traditional couple who wants their wedding to be tailored to them. My clients tend to value choosing smaller independent businesses to work with on their special day and many value having a greener event.

What is the first thing a couple should do after getting engaged?

It is very important to figure out what type of wedding they want to have, what’s the most important element, how many people they plan to invite, and how much they want to spend.

What are the best tools for a couple to use when planning for their wedding?

I love blogs and pinterest to figure out the style and design of the day. But the most important tool is a good, well-kept spreadsheet that has all the details- guest list, vendor information, budget, music and ceremony information, etc. These are all tools I provide my clients and we update them together.

What is your favorite part/moment of a wedding?

I love the moment the bride walks down the aisle. She looks at me with anticipation right before I signal her to walk down the aisle. With a huge grin she begins her processional and I end up crying, every time!

Can you give me 1-2 of your favorite requests/ ideas that a bride has come to you with?

I had a client who was very into music and we named each table after their favorite record and the escort cards were concert tickets. My client next year is doing an interactive S’mores bar with flavored handmade marshmallows. Super excited!

What are the trends you are seeing for 2013?

I am seeing a lot more mixing of platinum colors such as silver, gold, and coppers. I am also seeing couples choosing to do standing ceremonies for a more intimate setting.

Quick getting to know Carlene questions:

what is your rule of thumb you live by? I guess, I just try to do the right thing and live with integrity.

what do you do in your free time? Biking to new places, watching movies, and trying new local brews.

If you were to turn on the TV right now what would you choose to watch? I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and Parks and Recreation.

– what book are you reading right now? or what is the last book you read? Right before wedding season I finished “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.”

Finally we have to ask but what is an item you would have on your wedding registry?

I would go for a good set of knives. Everyone needs the right tool to do the job

See a little video of one of Naturally Yours Events wedding

Find out more

Email: info@naturallyyoursevents.com

Phone: 312 – 752 -5890

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!!!