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Pre-Ceremony Reception, a Butterfly Motif & Non-Floral Flowers: 3 Weddings That Tweaked Traditions

photographer: KingenSmith | planner: Paulette Wolf Events | design/décor: HMR Designs | venue: The Standard Club

by Pamela Rothbard, Editor

Infusing a couple’s personalities and interests into their wedding makes for a meaningful celebration. We love how these three weddings overturned tradition to create totally unique experiences that were the perfect reflection of each happy couple. Read on to see how these couples worked with their event teams to make their weddings truly their own.  

Hosting the Reception Before the Ceremony, a Cake-Cutting by Sword, & Bagpipers

Hosting a wedding at a brand new venue can be exciting, but also anxiety-producing — unless you have the right team. In this case, that “right team” was led by the planners at Paulette Wolf Events (PWE), who produced a gorgeous Chicago wedding that incorporated military traditions while overturning other wedding rituals altogether. The innovative, vibrant celebration featured a reception that came before its ceremony, a cake cutting by sword, and masseuses offering reception foot massages.

The July wedding took place overlooking the waters of Lake Michigan from a newly-renovated space-turned-venue, Theater on the Lake. The July nuptials twisted tradition by welcoming friends and family into a reception, rather than beginning with the vows. “It gave guests time to get there — to manage traffic and parking — without feeling rushed. It was a lovely way to begin the celebration,” says Paulette Wolf, founder and chief creative officer of Paulette Wolf Events (PWE). V.I.P. Valet Service offered a warm greeting and quick assistance so that friends and family could begin celebrating.

Guests walked under chic modern brass chandeliers hung from trees into a pre-ceremony reception. They toasted sparkling strawberry lemon water and cocktails custom printed with fun photos of the wedding couple from The Grand Bevy. The al fresco reception featured light, fresh summer bites from Calihan Catering and lovely acoustic guitar music.  

To take advantage of the breathtaking views for the ceremony, PWE set the couple’s vows under a clear tent from Partytime-HDO Productions. The blue backdrops of water and sky were the perfect accompaniment to the creative décor from HMR Designs. We love how custom seat cushions on chic ghost chiavari chairs created an ombré of pinks. Brightly-hued florals draped the chuppah and entry, making a bold statement in the white-carpeted tent space. The groom, clad in his military uniform, lovingly watched his bride walk down the aisle in an elegant, ombré gown from Christian Siriano that mirrored the stylish design of the wedding.

At the ceremony’s end, the happy couple exited under a canopy of swords while guests followed the lantern-flanked path to the reception; all were greeted by Calvin Bridges’ 30-piece gospel choir singing “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars. “As the bride’s list grew to include more than 500 guests, it became clear at the last minute that a sit-down dinner was going to be impractical,” says Wolf. Instead of traditional assigned tables, guests were free to mingle between colorful lounge areas, banquettes, highboys, stools at the bar, tables, and luxe chairs from Nuage Designs. Guests roamed between delectable food stations including live sushi-making, peking duck and prime rib carving stations, raw bar, a pasta station before enjoying desserts from Mindy Segal of Chicago’s Hot Chocolate Bakery and an Eataly gelato cart.

Wolf’s background in design and textiles means that, often, her inspiration for celebrations begins with the fabric. This feté featured unusual European fabrics and linens from Tailored Elements, custom designed and printed exclusively for this celebration. The richly-hued party carried through the hot pinks from the ceremony and added chic Mandarin orange to the stylish mix. HMR added a luxurious feel to the industrial space with draping and chandeliers hung by KISBAUGH + PARTNERS, who also provided all of the sound and production.

In the middle of the reception, bagpipers from Chicago Pipe Band paraded the length of the venue to announce the pair as a married couple. In true nontraditional style, the newly-married couple cut their wedding cake with a sword. After all of the cheering and congratulating, partygoers danced the night away to the energizing Becca Kaufman Orchestra from Beatmix Music on a gorgeous, custom patterned dance floor. Exhausted feet were treated by on-site masseuses, while empty bellies were fed late-night passed Superdawg. Sheri Whitko Photography beautifully captured all of the festive moments. In a final sweet note, departing friends and family were offered coffee and donuts for the road from a Firecakes truck.

Oversized Acrylic Florals, Cocktails in the Round, & a Marble Dance Floor

This elegant modern wedding was the first to make use of the brand-new Faena Hotel in Miami’s hip South Beach area. For this celebration, Paulette Wolf Events again teamed with HMR Designs (bringing them to the sunny state with them) to create a stunning, unique vision. “The wedding list started at 200 guests and continued to grow,” says Wolf. The flow of the event was adjusted as the list grew to create an interesting, seamless experience.

We love how the team conjured a wow-worthy ceremony space with miles of chic white draping and an oversized clear acrylic floral installation “sprouting” from white feathers suspended over the aisle. A beautiful mix of transparent ghost chairs and gold Phoenix chairs from Nuage Designs offered guests perfect views of the all-white ceremony, which took place under a dreamy contemporary chuppah featuring glowing lucite supports and a cascading canopy of white and ivory blooms.

Guests enjoyed post-nuptial cocktails at a theater in the round space which was luxuriously outfitted in gleaming marble. Allowing the stark beauty of the space to shine, PWE and HMR added only soft pink uplighting from Frost Florida and a striking all-white piano at the room’s center. Kent Drake Photography captured every novel detail like the white flowers spilling from the piano down to the floor.

We adore how the exquisite post-cocktail reception design was heavily influenced by Miami’s culture and vibe. Glass tables filled with palm leaf arrangements alternated with brass tables and others outfitted in custom gold floral-patterned linen. Guests were taken by the room’s stunning dome which was hung with an eye-catching greenery-draped chandelier in the center of the space. Friends and family cozied into banquettes with chic palm prints echoing the tropical aesthetic.

While guests enjoyed dinner, the event team infused the ceremony space with fun décor for an engaging, stylish club feel. A custom marble dance floor featured a marble bar with lighting that subtly changed throughout the evening. Guests enjoyed stylish lounge areas which carried the design themes from the previous three spaces with brass and palm accents and gorgeous ghost armchairs. Once again, Wolf arranged for masseuses to ease tired dancing feet at the reception after Élan Artists kept the dance floor filled with their remarkable performances.

Handwritten Neon Signs, Overflowing Florals & All the Butterflies

This bride’s love for butterflies provided Paulette Wolf Events with an instant — yet chic — theme to carry through this elegant Chicago wedding, which featured three distinct aesthetics, one for each part of the celebration. It’s hard to choose a standout element from the ceremony, hosted in the beautiful ballroom at The Standard Club Chicago, but a favorite had to have been the thousands of custom-cut white butterflies strung from the ceiling on thin wires, creating the feeling of movement. “The bride cried when she walked in the room,” says Wolf. These delicate butterflies, created by HMR Designs, took two days to hang and were the first of multiple uses of butterflies. The aisle itself was surrounded by canals of water floating all-white candles and petals, and alabaster trees, which enhanced the romantic, wintery vibes.

Guests traded the all-white ceremony for an equally romantic, moody cocktail hour. “Entering each room of this wedding created a ‘wow’ moment,” says Wolf.  The cocktail hour featured a red piano (brought in from Miami) placed atop Parisian rugs and overflowing with lush florals. Each picture-perfect moment was better than the last — and KingenSmith captured every special detail. A neon “Love Love” sign mounted on a blush velvet wall displayed beautiful place cards attached to antique cream tassel keepsakes.

At the reception, butterflies made another appearance — this time on gold and silver-etched Christian Lacroix chargers at each place setting. The dining tables were made of glass and filled with red roses which proved a perfect backdrop for the delicate chargers. The reception was drenched in luxe velvet, from the draping to the custom banquettes and the bride and groom’s mustard-yellow chairs. Custom linens from Tailored Elements added even more depth to the design. Centerpieces varied from elegant trees draped with candles to red and pink roses — plus more candles for a flickering, dreamy ambiance.

“You Matter to Me” was both the couple’s first dance and yet another neon sign, written in the bride’s handwriting and displayed on the stage backdrop behind the band. Speaking of the band, West Coast Music, flown in from Beverly Hills, kept the dance floor packed all night — until the epic after-party. Elevated breakfast food, a white dance floor, and talented DJ Matt Roan kept everyone entertained into the wee hours of the morning.

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