Allison Sweet and Rob McLean were friends throughout childhood until Rob left Chicago to attend high school on the East Coast. They lost touch, but when word made it to him years later that he and Allison would both be attending Northwestern University, Rob jumped at the chance to contact her. They made plans to meet in the Windy City's Goudy Square Park, and according to Allison, "It was like no time had passed at all."
It was in that same park eight years later that Rob got down on one knee while Allison was sitting on a swing to ask if she would be his wife.
Allison's sister Stacy was set to marry six months after Allison and Rob became engaged, so Allison gleaned much from Stacy's planning process. With a June wedding in mind, Allison and Rob began designing a celebration that would distinguish their event from her sister's. "Stacy's incredible wedding was a hard act to follow, and since many of her guests would also be at our wedding, it was important to me to show them something unique, fresh, and singularly expressive of Rob's and my own personal style," explains the bride.
The first step was securing a quintessential Chicago venue so that their many out-of-town guests could experience the city with little inconvenience. The Four Seasons Hotel is situated right in the heart of the action on Michigan Avenue, and it provided both a prime sightseeing location and a refined backdrop for the chic decor Allison had in mind. As a book publicist, the bride is well versed in event planning and applied her professional theory that "small surprises transform the ordinary into the extraordinary" to her own personal experience. Subtle touches such as offering black beaded Chinese slippers to the female guests for more comfortable dancing, and serving a special late-night menu to keep the partygoers happy were just a couple of these small yet unforgettable surprises she incorporated into the affair.
Inspired by both the formal tone and look of the event were save-the-dates and invitations designed by Stacy, a marketing executive. The square pieces utilized a palette of white, black, and silver and a right-justified copy treatment unified the entire paper suite. The design was a fitting preview of the celebration's clean, elegant, and modern aesthetic, which began with the ceremony.
Ribbons of hanging white orchids and tall pole-like votive holders spanned the length of the aisle like sparkling curtains. They drew the audience's attention to the chuppah, a dramatic yet simple structure draped in ivory fabric and illuminated from its four corners. Preceded by bridesmaids dressed in long black dresses, Allison made her way toward Rob on her father's arm. "Walking down the aisle was surreal...it was ethereal and magical," remembers the bride. Like her grandmother, mother, and sister before her, Allison was married with her great-grandmother's wedding band, a tradition she hopes will continue with her own children one day.
Later, guests found their escort cards displayed on custom-made Lucite trays that emanated from a large crystal-cut ice sculpture vase. Two inches of red petals covered the surface of the table, which was swathed in red velvet. Coordinating cocktail tables were also adorned with trios of red roses. "We used red in the outer room so that the drama of all white would be a surprise when guests entered the ceremony and ballroom," explains Allison.
Each dining table featured a white-washed crystal "chandelabrum" centerpiece surrounded by various arrangements of white roses and several types of candles -- tapers, votives, and pillars. When the lights were dimmed, the profusion of candlelight against the pristine palette gave the room a sophisticated yet inviting look. Guests cozily indulged in a four-course meal that included a double dose of dessert: In addition to the three-tier square wedding cake filled with a symphony of five different flavors (designed by a dear friend of the bride), meringues topped with chocolate mousse and alternately wrapped in dark and white chocolate were served to each guest. "They were gorgeous and delicious. The stars of the dinner," admits Allison.
The bride and groom assigned a theme to the reception music -- movie soundtracks -- choosing "Love is All Around You" from Four Weddings and a Funeral for their first dance and Casablanca's "As Time Goes By" for Allison's dance with her father. Throughout the night, the band continued to inject Hollywood tunes into the play list of more popular dance songs, which kept the dance floor humming. Mini-grilled cheese sandwiches, mini-milkshakes, and donut holes with chocolate dipping sauce were passed around as the party neared midnight.
And just in case the chocoholics in the group were left unsatisfied, each guest departed the wedding with a black and white mini gift bag filled with three Godiva chocolate bars. The tags read "Sweet Dreams" -- a play on Allison's maiden name.