When I launched my wedding planning business, Anticipation Events, I knew three things for sure: I was going to give it my heart and soul, and the foundation of my business model would be all about delivering great customer service. I also knew I wasn’t much worried about being an entrepreneur in the wedding industry as a woman — because women rule this space.
Weddings are, by their very nature, a more tender and emotional experience, so the vibe can be very different than a corporate setting. They require a delicate hand that meets the client where they are and someone that understands how important this day is even when you’re planning weddings for a dozen clients at once.
Amazing customer service is key. After working on the event team at a large venue [Shedd Aquarium] for over four years, I knew that planning weddings means you enter into a relationship with your client that can last a year or longer — and offering outstanding customer service is how you keep that relationship a happy one. I’ve made this a cornerstone of Anticipation Events — but there’s more to running a business than just happy customers.
I realized quickly that the actual wedding planning was only part of my job — I also have to do all the accounting, billing, marketing, social media and be my own webmaster. It can be pretty overwhelming when you first launch your business, so it’s comforting to watch and connect with other women doing the same thing.
Luckily, along the way, I have met some of my #sheroes — other women in the business who inspire me. There are so many amazing people out there doing their thing and doing it magnificently. Without further ado, meet these rockstar women:
For Flowers: Elizabeth Cronin, Asrai Garden
Elizabeth is an incredible artist, and her arrangements are breathtaking. Asrai Garden specializes in fab custom-made creations, as well as eye-catching hanging baskets, mirrors, planters, and more. She also specializes in accessories ideal for weddings, like birdhouses and fountains. She opened Asrai Garden at just 23, and after much trial and error, she’s created a fantastic community of customers — surprising absolutely no one because her arrangements are utterly magical.
“The talent of the staff I have been continually graced with year after year inspires and amazes me,” Elizabeth says on her website. “Asrai is the space that brings together the people and beauty that make my life full of joy. I am told it brings something similar to others as they walk through the door. I suppose it is simply my gratitude and wonder on display.”
For Music: Liz Pesnel, bass player for Gussied
Gussied is Chicago’s only Bluegrass-inspired wedding band, and they will get everyone at your wedding up and dancing. Liz grew up playing the upright bass and earned her Bachelor of Music from Syracuse University (majoring in Music Business and Music History, with a minor in Upright Bass and Harp Performance — what a mouthful!). She’s also extremely driven and detail oriented which is super helpful when you hire them for your wedding.
Liz grew up in a musical family and is described as “a hybrid of Peggy and Joan from Mad Men.” Her day job is at The Windish Agency, a Chicago-based booking agency. On top of all that, she’s also teaching in the Arts Entertainment and Media Management Department at Columbia College Chicago.
For The Dress: Kpoene’ Kofi-Nicklin, Mignonette Bridal
If you want a wedding dress that’s rich in luxurious details and unabashedly feminine, you need to visit Mignonette Bridal. Kpoene’ founded Mignonette after studying couture at FIT and fine-tuned her skills as a retail and museum buyer in San Francisco before landing in Chicago. She’s a perfect example of ideal customer service, and even those who buy gowns elsewhere rave about it.
Kpoene’ is passionate about the feminist history of clothing — wedding gowns in particular. She’s been a contributor to Martha Stewart and the NY Times. Her gowns have been featured in Martha Stewart, Style Me Pretty, Green Wedding Shoes, Huffington Post, Crains, and the Knot, and Kpoene’ has written advice columns for Jezebel, Catalyst, XO Jane, and the Sun Times.
For The Cake: Emily Nejad, Bon Vivant Cakes Chicago
If you want your cake to be the colorful star of the wedding, then you want Emily of Bon Vivant Cakes to bake your cake. She really gets to know her customers, down to playing their favorite band, while she bakes her masterpieces. It all started with a love affair with a red kitchen mixer and a spectacular birthday cake that launched Emily into being a cake baker.
She’s incredibly talented and hardworking and so meticulous with detail—there’s no way you won’t have exactly the cake you want. Since she launched Bon Vivant Cakes, she’s made every kind of cake out there — weddings, birthday, quinceanera — you name it, she’s baked it. Bon Vivant has even started hosting private parties and cake decorating workshops, so you can learn from the master. I have so much admiration for her amazing style.
For Fun: Emily Vaca of Minnidip, The First Designer Inflatable Pool
You might not think you need a snazzy little inflatable pool at your wedding, but Minnidip might just change your mind — especially if you’re having an outdoor wedding in the summer. These safe, non-toxic and phthalate-free vinyl pools offer a sleek-looking collection of small pools, ring floats, and beach balls. They’re cute and fun and can really be fun at any event.
Emily drew on her ten years of experience in the advertising, packaging and design industry when she founded and self-funded Minnidip. It took her over two years to find the right manufacturer for her labor of love, but all that effort paid off — and now you can find her products at big chain retailers like Target.
Like A Boss
When it comes to the wedding industry in Chicago, women are definitely leading the way. I am in awe of these women and we are lucky to have them here in Chicago. I look forward to seeing what they all do next!
Author: Elizabeth Tulipana
Bio: Elizabeth Tulipana lives in Logan Square with her human companion, Tom, and their canine companion, Walter. Prior to founding Anticipation Events in 2009, Elizabeth worked as an event planner for four years at one of Chicago’s most beloved cultural institutions, Shedd Aquarium. She stays busy in her free time with a variety of creative pursuits—she’s written pieces for the likes of Marie Claire Magazine and Conde Nast Traveler, and she continues her globetrotting adventures every chance she gets. Her best dance move is the running man, her favorite sandwich is a gyro, and her spirit animal is a flamingo.