The Party Planning Guide
Parties are best when they can actually be enjoyed: Whether it’s a kids birthday, a landmark anniversary, or a wedding, there’s no reason it has to involve blood, sweat, and a fat rolodex. Here, a comprehensive list of trusted vendors for everything from vintage tableware rentals to organic-only catering to gourmet cotton candy carts. And if all else fails, a slew of skilled event planners.
A New Leaf312 S. Dearborn Ave., The Loop | 312.427.9097
With three locations and a newly minted event space—boasting two levels of exposed brick and a courtyard—A New Leaf is a pretty sizable operation with a boutique-y, refreshingly approachable sensibility, which is good since special occasion and wedding florals are their jam. In fact, we asked them to beautify a number of Chicago goop pop-related events. And while they happily take phone orders, we suggest stopping by the Old Town flagship in person to DIY a bouquet from a garden’s worth of cut flowers and color-coordinated ribbon wall. There are also two outposts in Old Town.
The founder of Brix Catering was a sommelier before he broke off to start his own catering business, which means the bar and the wine pairings here can always hold their own against the well-crafted menus. Scale wise, they'll do everything from a few charcuterie plates to a multi-course, formal dining experience. If your event doesn't call for staffed catering, you can pick up one of their "Brix boxes" a day in advance and throw everything in the oven before your guests arrive (we’ve heard that their Thanksgiving boxes can rival even the best home-made spreads).
With four full-time planners on staff, LK offers some serious resources to put behind large-scale events like galas and corporate shindigs. They’ve been working in Chicago for ages, meaning that you can reap the benefits of their long-term relationships with all of the best vendors in town.
Becky Hill Photographybeckyhillphoto@gmail.com
Becky Hill is really good at taking photos of camera-shy people. If you’re the kind of person who might cock your head in the most unflattering direction right when the shutter starts, she’ll kindly and gently steer you in the right direction.
Nimble Well Rentals773.680.0229
Nimble Well's vast collection of rentals includes everything from antique champagne coupes to colored glass goblets to a huge collection of vintage bottles. This means that founder Kelly Connolly can give you great tablescapes without having to spend any hours at the flea market.
Pen/Carlson Photography| 773.761.3955
Brett and Kiri are an adorable married couple with a great eye, and they can do pretty much anything; a quick review of their weddings shows urban shots for an art-obsessed couple and black-and-white portraits for an elegant city wedding. We should also note that these two are especially talented at photographing pets.
Gerber Scarpelli Photography312.455.1144
With a large team of talented photographers in their quiver, Gerber Scarpelli are seasoned pros. Their photographers all have a lot of experience, which means they know how to capture an event without getting in the way—you'll also be grateful for the reliably fast turnaround times.
DJ Megan Taylormegan@figgy.net
It's no surprise that we're excited about DJ Megan Taylor, who's quickly making a name for herself as one of Chicago's best DJ's in what has traditionally been a very male-dominated space. Ask for her Backstreet Boys and N’SYNC remixes (seriously, trust us on this one). Photograph by James Gustin
DJ Jem is extremely sought-after on the Chicago nightclub circuit (this is the guy that opened for Calvin Harris when he was in Chicago), but despite all of his success, you can trust him to adapt his set to your event.
Gold Coast All Stars312.898.4073
For the kind of event where your guests leave with hoarse voices from belting it out all night, bring in the Gold Coast All Stars. An insanely energetic 12-piece band that covers all of the classics, they are the ultimate big party band. Expect their singers to be down on the floor dancing with the crowd.
Great Life Music312.361.3615
Great Life founders Colby Beserra and Brian Schwab are seriously plugged into the Chicago music scene, so they can really tweak the entertainment to your specific taste. You can turn to them for everything from a string quartet to a seven-piece band, and they also represent some excellent organists and pianists. Colby and Brian are amazing performers and songwriters in their own right: if your event can handle a large ensemble, make sure to book their personal band, The Party Faithful.
Amy Blessing Event Planningamyblessing@me.com | 213.400.1127
Amy is probably best described as a stylist rather than a planner, as her services go far beyond booking vendors (though her rolodex is packed with cool creatives). Her true talents lie in perfecting the thoughtful little details that make events awesome—be it party favors, place settings, floral crowns, or craft stations for kids. Amy co-owns Apartment Number Nine in Chicago with her sister, and they do event work there as well.
Magbooth502.930.0043 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Magbooth is kind of like the people's photo booth: Take your pick of prop and custom logos and never worry about going over some preset picture limit. The best part, though, is that ever rental includes an attendant, which significantly minimizes mid-party technical difficulties.
Nico and Lala Custom Invitations312.867.7385
With a signature preppy style, the team at Nico and Lala does more than design invitations—they'll create an entire brand around an event. Favorites include a construction-themed kids party (tagline: can you dig it?) and a clever happy hour celebrating the 12th birthday of one lucky gentleman's beard (BYOBeard).
Magnificent Milestones Paperie472 W. Erie St., River North | 312.951.8300
In addition to invitations, Magnificent Milestones produces great event accessories like matchbooks, napkins, custom stamps, and toothpick flags, helpful if you're trying to stick to a consistent theme. Unrelated but good to know: They make beautiful custom holiday cards.
Elizabeth Grace Paperie2438 N. Clark St., Lake View | 773.447.9830
Housed in an adorable stationery boutique, the team at Elizabeth Grace will handle the entire invitation process for you, from design, to calligraphy, to actually popping everything in the mail.
Green Inc. Florals312.266.2806
Family owned and run by a mother-son duo, this place has been around forever with a reputation that speaks for itself. Repeat clients love that there's no need for detailed direction: Let them do their thing and you won't be disappointed.
Fleur Chicago Flowers773.395.2770
The bouquets at Fleur are consistently elegant and original without ever feeling over the top. Their environmental creations are particularly outstanding, like the verdant floral chandelier they created to hang above the tables at this wedding.
Jayson Home Flowers1885 N. Clybourn Ave., Lincoln Park | 800.472.1885
You might know Jayson Home for the gorgeous store (great furniture and other home goods), but their floral department is one of Chicago's best-kept secrets. The proof is in the pudding: See the elegant white-and-green bouquets they arranged for the Chicago #gooppop dinner. So simple, and so good.
So Dressed Up Event Planning and Styling773.220.9410
If you tend to get wires crossed and dates confused (or if you're just busy), Katie Jackson-Meara is probably your dream event planner. Veteran clients gush that her detailed itineraries plan everything out to the minute. She's also a stylist, which is clutch for brides who need a neutral opinion on dresses, hair, and makeup leading up to the big day.
Chicago’s Girl on the Go Personal Assistant312.371.0596
The concept behind Jancy Audet's company is kind of genius: She and her team come in to handle all of your most-dreaded errands, from booking travel to handling repairmen and contractors to her specialty, parties. Jancy's background is in event planning, so she's well equipped to take on everything from a 300-person wedding to the kids birthday party you don't have the time to put together.
Truffleberry Market Catering630.301.2669
With a client list that includes Chanel, Prada, and Louis Vuitton, you can be sure that Truffleberry Market has been properly vetted. Their events are known for adventurous menus and presentation, with dishes like mini lobster corn dogs, cucumber sandwiches wrapped in a delicate bow, and goat cheese cones. The team here is always up for a challenge, making them a great option if you have an ambitious theme.
Boutique Bites Catering773.313.3211
While Eliana Vazquez's full course meals are some of the best in town, her true specialty is passed hors d'oeuvres. Expect creative menu items like lobster tacos, mini Chicago-style hot dogs, and truffle French fries, all presented with artisan toothpicks, labels, mini cones, and paper products worthy of a dedicated Pinterest board.
Since they’re famous for jaw-dropping Cirque du Soleil-style public performances, few know that Redmoon’s ridiculously talented performers also do private events. With specialties ranging from music to dance to acrobatics, their whimsical performances (and over-the-top costuming) can be easily customized.