Help Raise Money for the Leukemia & Lymphona Society!



I’m running the Chicago Marathon this year to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through the Team in Training program. To help me meet my fundraising goals, I’ve decided to discount my wedding day coordination services for one couple (getting married in July, August, or September) to $1000. I’ll donate all of the proceeds to LLS. /mvanderbaa

Email me if you are interested!


“Brides Against Breast Cancer” Charity Gown Sale



This is a press release from “Brides Against Breast Cancer”:

Where: VICTORIA PARK, 1700 S. Elmhurst Road, Mount Prospect, IL

When: Friday, March 20 – 10 am to 8 pm & Saturday, March 21 – 10 am to 6 pm

The Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to granting last wishes for men and women suffering from Stage 4 (metastatic) breast cancer, has received thousands of wedding gowns for its “Brides Against Breast Cancer” Nationwide Tour of Gowns.

On March 19 and 20, the Tour will return to the Chicago area with a truckload of grand and beautiful bridal gowns from well-known sources in sizes ranging from 2 to 44. Most gowns in the collection have been donated by members of the bridal industry; some are runway samples, modeled at recent Market shows. Others are gifts from individuals across the country. The selection – one of the largest assembled in the U.S. — will include hundreds of current styles from a long list of well-known designers and manufacturers at unbelievably low prices. An impressive array of veils, crinolines and other accessories will also be offered.

Most gowns have been marked down 40% to 75% below traditional salon prices. Prices range from $99 to $799 for values to $3,500. A collection of Designer and Couture bridals retailing to $8,000 will also be included, with none priced higher than $2,499.

Admission for the sale is FREE. Cash and Credit Cards will be accepted for payment.

Every gown purchased at the sale will help Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation to fulfill it’s Mission: To educate and grant wishes for those individuals who are losing the battle against breast cancer.

What was your favorite wedding?



“What was your favorite wedding?’ is a difficult question to answer because I have had the great fortune to work with so many clients who are truly happy and in love and focused on the “right” part of the wedding…the relationship with their spouse. My favorite wedding memories are favorites because of the people I’ve worked with, not because they’ve had a million dollars to spend on flowers and fireworks.

Here are just a few of my favorite couples and families…you know who you are!

My Lake Geneva couple…We worked together for over a year to plan their casually elegant, family-oriented wedding. My favorite part of this wedding was watching the bride and groom look at one another like they couldn’t believe how lucky they were to have found someone so special. Their love truly inspires me!

My golf-obsessed family…Your fun-loving spirit and positive energy made this wedding a complete blast to plan and execute. I felt like a member of the family on the wedding day. One of many favorite parts of this wedding was listening to the bride toast her father, “Big Papa P,” and dance a Conga Line in his honor. It’s not something that we typically see at weddings, but it was adorable!

My sarcastic-family…This bride and her family have such a hilarious relationship. I hope someday to have something similar with my own children. You can tell that they truly enjoy being together and that they get one another’s sense of humor. They communicate back and forth with hysterical one-liners. Love it!

My laid-back North Shore couple…They completely trusted me and my team and they let us do our job. The bride was so relaxed on the wedding day that she enjoyed every second. She took the time to thank us repeatedly and I appreciated it so much.

My Mother’s Day Weekend couple…They were so excited to be married that they didn’t even realize how lucky they were to be getting married at one of the most fabulous private clubs in Chicago. Everything about the wedding was top-notch, but they were only focused on one another. And, they had the cutest first dance!

My January couple…whose wedding day was so perfectly “them” that I could cry! The groom had to step in and do a lot of the planning since the bride worked full-time and was in graduate school. He did a great job!

My Boating family…I worked with the mother of the bride mostly to coordinate her daughter’s beautiful wedding. She was a loving mom who put such care into carefully choosing every aspect of her little girl’s big day. It was the sweetest gift.

There are many, many more, but I’m sure you’re tired of reading! I am so lucky to have the chance to be a part of my wonderful clients’ lives.

Thank you everyone!!

What’s the worst thing that’s happened?



People always want to hear wedding disaster stories. It’s a sick obsession that I’m happy to indulge! Really, if we can’t laugh when things go horribly wrong, we should be in another business.

The first story was one that I alluded to last week in my “Drinking at Weddings” post. At a recent wedding, we had a groomsman who had a lot to drink throughout the day. Somehow he made it through the serious part of the ceremony without any problems. But, about halfway into cocktail hour…and more than all the way gone…he started stripping off his clothes in the middle of the very upscale venue, surrounded by guests. He was trying to fight with anyone who so much as looked at him the wrong way. Luckily, another quick-thinking groomsman came to his rescue. He whisked the half-naked fighter off to the men’s room to regroup. It wasn’t pretty.

At this same wedding, a dinner table collapsed as the guests were being seated. Thankfully, no one was injured or too upset. One of the coordinators at the venue produces a hair dryer and the lady who got the bulk of the water from the pre-set glasses dried herself off. My favorite moment was when she answered her phone and started telling a friend what happened. She was laughing with disbelief! Just so you know, the catering company sprang to action and the whole thing was fixed within minutes. The photographer, Jeremy Lawson, got a great shot of the action, though!

I’ve had two weddings on Marathon Sunday. Both were in downtown Chicago. Both had little…shall we say…glitches.

The first was in 2006. The bride’s uncle was a minister and she wanted him to participate in the ceremony. Unfortunately, he got stuck on the other side of the marathon traffic and was 45 minutes late (even though I warned him about that!). We started the ceremony at about the time when it should have ended and I was worried that the couple wouldn’t get any photos together. However, the two ministers sped through the vows and we only ended up being about 15 minutes behind schedule in the end. Whew! My favorite thing was that there were guests who still showed up 10 minutes late to the ceremony that started 45 minutes late. What? Why bother!

The other Marathon wedding was in 2007. This was the year that the temperature was so high that the marathon was shut down. So, the bride asked me to pick up Garrett’s popcorn for her candy buffet prior to heading to her ceremony. No problem. I mapped out the path of the marathon and timed my trip to Garrett’s (which are only in the downtown/marathon area of course) to be at a point where the race should have been over and the path reopened. BUT…as I was pulling up to the intersection about two blocks from Garrett’s a police car sped around me. It turned on its lights and blocked the road in front of me. The next thing I know…a huge group of runners is barreling down the road! They were re-routing the race right in front of my eyes. I was concerned at this point because I still needed to get the popcorn and get out of the downtown area to do setup at the reception. Bless his heart, my husband came to my rescue! He came and sat in my car so I could get the popcorn. Then, he helped me find a route to get the heck out of there!

After dealing with this popcorn debacle, the minister in the un-airconditioned church refused to perform the wedding ceremony until he was ready. He made us wait an HOUR in the uncomfortably hot church until he was ready to come out and marry the couple. I kept going to the back of the church where he was hiding and asking how long it would be. He kept sending me away! What the heck? I was tempted to perform that ceremony myself!

I guess the moral of the story is that we can’t control every situation. We can plan and prepare, but crazy things happen. We can only control our response to each situation…


Is Being a Wedding Planner “fun”?



Another question we get asked all of the time is, “Is being a wedding planner fun?”

We always laugh and say, “Of course it is!”

But, there’s more to the story. You have to understand that ours is a real job that we take seriously. I’d liken our job to being a doctor who delivers babies. Sure, it’s “fun” to see a new life come into the world and to be a part of a family’s most precious moment. It’s rewarding and exiting and energizing. However, there is so much at stake! I’m not saying that we are dealing with life and death situations or that our job is anywhere near as important as theirs, but you can see the similarities. Right?

On the wedding day, we’re responsible for overseeing all aspects of the event. We have to make sure everything is in place and everyone is informed and prepared for her role. We assist vendors with delivery and set-up, guide family members into place, herd bridal party participants, and calm nervous brides and grooms. We’re all over the place. It’s all worth it when we get to watch a couple’s reaction to seeing their reception venue for the first time or listen to the father of the bride’s speech about his little girl.

When we’re working with full or partial planning clients our work is cut out for us. We have the job of reading minds, anticipating problems, and dealing with (over)reactions. However, we’re talking about things like flowers, cakes, and photos. Does it get any better than that?

As a business owner, my role is even more complex than the associates. I have a long list of daily activities that don’t even involve my clients. I blog, balance the books, schedule, research, email, network, and plan. Ah, but I can do it watching TV in my pajamas!

I’m not sure that I completely answered the question, but I wanted to make a couple of things clear:
1) Yes, being a wedding planner is a great job. We love it and have fun with it. It’s wonderfully rewarding!
2) But, it’s a job like any other that is full of responsibility and hard work.


Here I am (having fun) getting the beautiful Liza and her father ready to walk down the aisle:

photo credit: Dave

photo credit: Dave Wittig