Falling in Love

When a fall wedding in Chicago takes the cake

Working in the wedding industry has many perks, but undoubtedly one of the best is having the opportunity to work with such great couples. There’s a reason we do what we do—being a part of a bride and groom’s special day is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Recently, we sat down with our newly married bride Ellie to discuss all things wedding. From their sweet and surprising proposal to craft cocktails, the road to “I Do” was filled with incredible memories. Enjoy!


A Fragrant Design Wedding Story

Couple: Ellie Banakis & Jamie Kearns

Wedding Date: October 17, 2015

Tell us a little bit about your love story. How did you meet?

In the middle of a February blizzard, we went on our first date at PJ Clarke's. We had a cooler date planned, but half a foot of snow and me in a walking cast meant we weren’t going too far from my condo.  At the end of the date, Jamie said, "This was a really good first date - you know they're normally not this good.” For the record, I know only too well how terrible first dates can go, so I was also pleasantly surprised, but played it cool (kinda).

It was, however, on the second date when we both knew that this was "the one.” We went for brunch at The Publican, followed by wine tasting and neighborhood hopping in Bucktown. Several hours later, we were both pretty sure that this was going to go somewhere.

How did you get engaged?

On the day after Christmas, Jamie came back to Chicago from Ohio so that he and I could open presents with each other. He got home in time to hide the ring under the Christmas tree skirt before picking me up from the train station. He had planned to open presents by the tree before getting the ring and asking the question over a bottle of champagne, but when he suggested opening presents on the floor, I thought it would be a good idea to use the tree skirt as a blanket.

Needless to say, he had to change plans on the fly and move presents to the couch. Jamie opened up a slew of presents but I thought I was only getting a few things from him (and I even later remarked on how I thought he had "phoned in Christmas.”)

At the end of opening presents, he got up to get "one more thing." I knew it was either a tree ornament or a ring and I had to look happy either way. When he came back with the ring and asked me to marry him, I cried and made a lot of happy dolphin noises before saying yes.

What were you most looking forward to about your wedding day?

We were both really excited to have so many people we love in one place. It is overwhelming in the best possible way to have so many people with you celebrating your love.

Jamie was looking forward to the cocktails and wine selection we made at Tortoise Club. Part of why we choose Tortoise Club was their craft cocktails and they did not disappoint. I was looking forward to the dance party with my little cousins. I chose songs they would like to be played early in the night. I grew up attending their parents weddings and wanted to make sure the next generation had a good time.

Describe the vibe of your wedding. What was your inspiration for planning?

We wanted to throw a truly fabulous dinner party for the people we love most, in the city we love. We didn’t want our wedding to feel like a “production”—we love to host dinner parties and for us, our wedding was a dinner party but on a grander scale.

Between the two of us, we have lived all over (Texas, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Carolina, New York, Wisconsin and Washington DC) but Chicago is where we fell in love and we wanted our guests to experience “our” Chicago. Tortoise Club was a restaurant we loved and our ceremony was at our neighborhood church.

Decor wise, we were inspired by the old supper club feel of Tortoise Club. My mom had vintage glassware she had received as a wedding present and we used those as vases for the florals. We also replaced the pictures at Tortoise Club with family photos.

Looking back, what was your favorite moment of the big day?

The speeches! My sister wrote a rap to the remix of “Ignition” and both our fathers gave deeply heartfelt toasts. It was such a special moment to really be able to look out at all those who were there to celebrate with us.

What was one detail that came together better than expected?

Every single floral exceed our expectations, but most notably the large arrangement at the entrance was spectacular.

How many people attended?


How many bridesmaids and groomsmen did you have?

3 of each.

Why did you choose Fragrant Design?

A coworker recommended Fragrant Design after they did the florals for her wedding. When we were interviewing florists, what blew us away, was that Floral Design “got” our vision and could articulate it in ways I hadn’t dreamed of. We interviewed several leading florists in the city, but only Fragrant Design felt like they were artists who used floral as their medium.

How did Fragrant Design help bring your wedding day vision to life?

What we got beyond exceeded our expectations: the use of my family glassware, the showstopping entrance piece, the use of floral, fruit and succulents to create these lush warm arrangements. Everything was spectacular and enhanced the already beautiful space.

Thank you, Ellie! We are so happy to have been a part of your and Jamie’s special day. We wish you two only the best in this new adventure!