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How To Plan An LGBTQ+ Wedding (Part 2: Getting Personal)

A Perfect Event’s chief eventeur, Debi Lilly, shares some trend-forward advice for personalizing your wedding, including sustainable decor, incorporating colors that soothe and more. By Elise Hofer Shaw A Perfect Event’s motto is, well, perfect: “Celebrate. Live. Love. Laugh.” And that’s exactly what we love so much about the Chicago event firm’s founder and lead event planner, Debi Lilly. While her approach to parties—weddings, corporate functions, galas, birthdays, dinners and more—is simple, her attention to detail is anything but. With Lilly, nothing is ever an afterthought. From pretty place cards with hand-scripted calligraphy to color-coordinated balloon walls and artful floral centerpieces that wow, A Perfect Event consistently delivers special events that sing with sentimentality and stand out with style moments your guests won’t soon forget. Thus, it comes as no surprise that A Perfect Event is an award-winning event planning firm—and that Lilly has been recognized time and time again for her innovative design and flawless execution. (A Perfect Event has been named World’s Top 10 Event Planner by Departures magazine, top wedding planner by Martha Stewart and The Knot, top event planner by Global Black Book, and top event innovator by BizBash.) Her reputation for setting trends and conceiving of tony touches precedes her—and her more than 13,000 followers on Insta tag along on her annual inspiration trips to Paris and Nantucket, taking careful notes on her spins on industry trends, contemporary color combinations and creative solutions for personalizing parties great and small. “We’ve been producing memorable and unique events of all shapes, sizes and styles for more than 20 years,” says Lilly, who is currently sheltering and working from home in Lakeview with her husband, two teenagers and their French bulldog, Jacques Louis. “It all starts with getting to know our clients and their unique love story—how they met, their hobbies, passions, where they’ve traveled, special memories, what makes them laugh and smile… A wedding should be a reflection of the couple, and listening intently to what sparks joy for them is the genesis of our planning process at A Perfect Event.” When the world opens up again, make a point to visit the A Perfect Event studio on Lincoln Avenue. “Our full service, start-to-finish details and services make our studio the perfect start for all things party style,” says Lilly. “It’s a marvelous, French-y little escape from reality. You can peruse the top new design trends, color palettes, florals and gifts for every occasion leading up to and including your wedding. From planning, styling, florals and lighting to rentals, stationery, party favors and coordination, we promise to always go the extra mile to incorporate elements that are highly personal to you.” For example, Lilly recently planned a wedding for a gay couple who loves to garden and spend time outdoors. “Pandemic life has created a real desire for calm, happy colors that soothe,” says Lilly. “And organic colors, like various shades of green, do just that—make people feel good.” Taking the trend a step further, Lilly and her team incorporated a ton of sustainability elements into their big day, too: plants as centerpieces instead of cut flowers, mosaic-style vessels made from coffee bean and almond shells, and clusters of soy candles. “Guests can take the plants home and replant them in their gardens,” adds Lilly. With pandemic, and likely post-pandemic, gatherings forcing people to scale way back, A Perfect Event launched a “micro-wedding” division this month called A Petite Affair that specializes in producing and personalizing smaller soirées. “For now, we’re focusing on weddings for 10 or less people for Phase 3 of the opening up of Chicago,” says Lilly. “And then we’ll pivot for Phase 4, when gatherings of 50 or less are permitted.” One to always find a silver lining, Lilly is liking the creative possibilities that smaller weddings can accommodate. “Imagine an elevated cocktail party with a mixology bar, where there’s a highly skilled bartender teaching intimate groups how to make their own Old Fashioneds, with gorgeous ice balls infused with orange zest and cut-crystal glasses. You could never pull this off at a 200-plus-person wedding.” Speaking of scaling down, it just so happens that Lilly has two chic, modest-sized event venues: DL Studio (capacity 50 persons) and DL Loft (capacity 40 persons). “Love is love,” says Lilly. “DL Studio and DL Loft are safe spaces for goodhearted humans of all orientations. Your special love equation deserves a safe and joyous space to celebrate your happily ever after—and we have options.” Flawlessly staged with Flokati rugs, gilded antique mirrors, romantic candelabras, and Parisian flea market finds for beaucoup romance, both DL Studio and DL Loft are perfectly sized for wedding showers, bachelor/bachelorette parties, and intimate weddings. “Our lovely, natural light-kissed loft is styled, set and celebration-ready with a lounge, chef’s kitchen and a rooftop garden. And DL Studio is our swanky street-level suite boasting three lounge areas and space for five dining tables complete with ghost chairs and white linens. Et voila! Just add guests.” For LGBTQ+ couples starting their planning journey, Lilly has some sage advice to consider. “A lot of the historically ‘traditional’ wedding elements that apply for hetero couples don’t make sense for LGBTQ+ couples,” shares Lilly, citing the father/daughter dance as one example. “There are no rules, so have some fun and come up with your own traditions that make you happy. At A Perfect Event, we love nothing more than reinventing what I like to call ‘traditions with a twist.’ How about two groom’s cakes? Or two cakes for two brides? You can cut your personalized cakes side by side. Or how about foregoing the hetero-traditional lineup of bridesmaids and groomsmen altogether? Instead, honor your friends and family with heartfelt toasts. Oftentimes there isn’t this Leave It To Beaver, nuclear family supporting modern couples. Their friends have become their family—their chosen family. Honor them during dinner with sentimental toasts to your nearest and dearest. We can create signature His & His cocktails, Hers & Hers cocktails, etc. Once you release the notion that your wedding needs to check all of these outdated boxes, the options are endless.” Still feeling daunted by the details? Let A Perfect Event curate your vendor team for you. And if you’re warming up to the idea of A Petite Event, Lilly has you covered there, too. At $6,000 all in, your A Petite Event wedding will include the DL Loft venue and a curated vendors team for a micro-wedding experience: A Perfect Event for planning, Bittersweet for the cake, and Grey Garden Creative for photography. (All events will adhere strictly to CDC and state guidelines, natch.) “Love isn’t cancelled. And your beautiful wedding moments shouldn’t be either,” enthuses Lilly, who can also build in upgrades like an antique getaway car, a ceremony officiant, hair and makeup, a musician, a black-tie-clad bartender, custom stationary, and custom decor based on your wants and budget. “A Petite Event is our answer for couples who have been forced to postpone their big wedding [but still want to celebrate on a smaller scale now] or who dream of a more intimate affair.” In this new pandemic world we all live in, it appears that Lilly has adopted a new motto: “The party must go on.” And we’re here for it. “A lot of people are really confused, and that’s OK,” she says. “It’s our job to stay on top of the state restrictions and relay that information to you. As vendors, we need to educate ourselves and kindly, sweetly share that information with our clients so that they are aware of the party parameters. It’s going to be tricky for everyone. Vendors, couples and guests will need to work together to support each other through the management of all of the variables in order to be respectful of different levels of concern and worry. But there are always ways to make it fun. Custom-embroidered masks for your guests?! We’re all over it.”

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