As wedding professionals based in Chicago, planner Michelle Durpetti and photographer Collin Pierson were destined to eventually meet. She contacted him via email for headshots of her team, and when the shoot was complete, he asked her out to lunch. “Honestly, I don’t know that either of us were really looking for anything serious at the time that we met, but we clicked on a myriad of subjects and had very similar values,” the bride muses.

Thinking they were going to dinner to celebrate Collin’s birthday, Michelle was stunned when he popped the question. “He had our favorite table with beautiful red roses and when we sat down, we ordered cocktails and he very sweetly proposed,” she remembers.

Despite their expertise in the wedding business, the pair decided to hire a team of professionals to ease the stress of the planning process. “Even though I am a wedding planner myself, the task of planning my own wedding was daunting to me. Collin and I wanted to enjoy the process and not have it feel like work, so for us, hiring a planner was really the way to go,” she confides of her decision to hire Marina Birch of Birch Design Studio.

Their dear friend officiated their church ceremony, which included personalized prayers for late family members. “I wrote our prayers of the faithful, which allowed both Collin and I to make sure we included loved ones that were no longer with us,” she shares. The newlyweds processed out of the church to the sounds of a gospel choir let by singers Becca Kaufman and Tina Jenkins Crawley. “It will forever be a highlight to hear Tina’s beautiful voice and to have the entire church delighted and moved by the surprise of a gospel choir popping up,” Michelle remembers.

The couple rejoined their guests at The Breakers for a lovely reception. They elected the venue not just for its reputable service but also because Michelle’s horses were stationed nearby. “I am an amateur equestrian [and] my horses are actually down in Wellington at that time of year, so the decision was really easy!” she explains.

The sounds of violins, as well as soprano and alto singers, filled the space as attendees entered. This enhanced the Italianesque ambience of the occasion, also a nod to Michelle’s grandparents. “The entire day was inspired by the countryside in Tuscany between Florence and Lucca. The goal was to bring the outdoors inside: Cypress trees, magnolia leaves, whites, nudes, and greens,” the bride illustrates. “Renny & Reed was instrumental in bringing the florals to life – it was unlike anything Collin and I imagined.”

Lavender was also an important element of the celebration. Attendees participated in an Italian wedding tradition of tossing lavender buds as the couple exited the church, and the bride showcased the purple plant in her bouquet and on her gown. Friends and family were delighted by the extravagant cake, a surprise performance by a Four Seasons tribute band, The Four C Notes, and an overall spectacular evening.

From the wedding planner herself, Michelle affirms the benefit of hiring a professional. “Hire a wedding planner! I am one, I tell people this all the time, and of course I followed my own advice,” she tells. “The expertise, knowledge, organization and care that a planner brings to a wedding is invaluable.”