If you want a completely original wedding, simply choose an original venue... then custom design every aspect of the event yourselves. That's what Barbara Anderlik and Steve Hearn did after Steve proposed on the steps of the site where the couple would be building their dream house. Just as they were strategizing every step of construction on their new home together, Barb and Steve would build a wedding that was uniquely theirs -- all from the ground up.

The first order of business was to select a site that was as unusual as it was visually stunning. "We wanted a unique experience for all of our guests, at a place not common for weddings," Barb explains. The imposing Art Institute of Chicago had just begun hosting weddings on site, and the museum's grand architecture, international renown, and exquisite courtyard made it the perfect location for Barb and Steve.

With the site of the wedding settled, the couple set out to create a "look" for the event that had never been seen before. The one-of-a-kind cake design of large fondant flowers and butterflies in shades of linen, espresso, and sky blue became the couple's inspiration for the rest of the wedding. Their hand-engraved invitation suite was custom designed to reflect the theme, as were the coordinating Save-the-Date cards, wedding programs, seating cards, and favor bags. "Creating the perfect invitation was at the top of my list, as it sets the tone for the wedding to come," asserts Barb. "Plus, a great invitation can really get people excited!" The couple planned the color scheme for the wedding to correspond with the look as well.

On the big day, Barb and Steve spent some quiet time strolling along "The Magnificient Mile"-- the most scenic part of Michigan Avenue -- before joining the bridal party on a trolley that transported them to the ceremony site. The Grand Staircase at the Art Institute set the magnificent scene, with the wedding party ascending and the bride and groom descending two splendid staircases to meet on a middle landing between them. Guests were gathered on the top floor looking down on the scene, and the building's breathtaking architecture stood court over all.

In addition to implementing the completely unique processional and seating plan, the wedding couple wrote the entire ceremony for the officiant as well as their vows. "We wanted to express our love and commitment to each other in a way that was specific to us, and special and unique to our family and friends," says Barb. "We wrote every detail of our ceremony, creating a warmth and intimacy that our friends and family were invited to share with us." Even the signing of the marriage license was special: The same song that was arranged to play during Steve's proposal was played as the couple declared their new status in writing.

Following the ceremony, guests were invited to browse the institute's famous Impressionist Gallery where one of the world's most spectacular collections of Impressionist artwork is housed. The party then headed to the museum's "hidden gem" -- a courtyard complete with fountain and water sculpture. "The trees surrounding the arches of the museum's limestone facade and the fountain in the middle created an environment that was so grand, so special, so elegant," Barb says. Artful lighting in dramatic colors was the perfect foil to the sea of round tables set with neutral linens and tall, creamy centerpieces of hydrangea, roses, lilies, and orchids. Guests immediately took to the dance floor until the bride and groom made their grand entrance and began their first dance. A choreographed routine melding foxy, cha cha, tango, and some choreographed moves and steps, the couple's first spin as man and wife was a wonderful surprise for guests, and Steve's favorite memory of the entire evening. "It made quite an impression!" Everyone took to the floor at the behest of the band until dinner was served, and then the dancing commenced as soon as the meal was over. "The band was phenomenal and kept everyone on the dance floor!" Barb exclaims. "Steve and I did not leave the dance floor the entire night!"

A carriage ride back to the Peninsula Hotel for their wedding night was a romantic end to the couple's perfect evening, as well as one of Barb's favorite highlights. "It was a special time for Steve and I to talk about the day and take in the moment as husband and wife against the clip-clop of the horse-drawn carriage." Since every other beautiful memory of the wedding was planned to perfection, we wouldn't have expected anything less.