Dark, Moody & Romantic Wedding Inspired by Van Gogh in Chicago

Brittany Fischer and John Bowen

Photographed by: KingenSmithLocation: Chicago, Illinois, United States

“After living together for a few months, I had this moment where I realized how happy we were, and I could imagine spending the rest of our lives together,” reveals John Bowen describing the moment he knew he wanted to propose to his beloved Brittany Fischer. After asking for the blessing of her father, John coordinated an intimate proposal while boating in Croatia. “It was just the two of us – you couldn’t see another soul for miles around,” illustrates Brittany. Mustering up the courage to propose to the love of his life, John finally got down on one knee and Brittany happily accepted. 

The two enjoyed the next several days in Rome basking in the delight of their engagement. While discussing the details of their upcoming soirée, they decided they would wed in Chicago, Illinois, where Brittany hails from – and where many of their guests hadn’t yet visited. The couple also planned to incorporate details to honor John’s hometown of London, England, as well as New York City, where they fell in love. 

Desiring an indoor venue to avoid Chicago’s unpredictable weather, the bride and groom decided on a luxe venue that provided a clean slate – exactly what the bride needed to bring her vision to life. When meeting with floral designer Rishi Patel of HMR Designs, Brittany shared inspirational photos with him that were not only of weddings, but of starry skies, for example. “I’ve long admired Rishi’s work, and I’m so glad I trusted him when he dared me to be different because the design was like nothing guests had ever seen,” she reveals. “He created the most striking fringe ceiling installation with teardrop-shaped crystals suspended like raindrops overhead.” 

At 5PM on the big day, attendees filed in and walked up a flower-adorned staircase lined with violinists to enjoy Champagne and hors d’oeuvres. After an hour of revelry, a trumpeter called for guests to begin taking elevators up to the elaborate ballroom, which would serve as the space for both the ceremony and reception. The room was beautifully cloaked in draping the color of midnight. “The black background made all the features of the altar and aisle stand out and added a certain gravity and magical, other-worldly element to it,” describes the groom. Brittany explains: “The trend at the time was light, bright, all-white princess weddings, which are beautiful, but I wanted the opposite – something dark, moody, and romantic. Although it was not part of my original inspiration, the whole night now reminds me of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, which is one of my favorite paintings.” 

Brittany dazzled onlookers, wearing a gorgeous embellished gown with an open back. She carried a bouquet made of cascading grey stem-dyed orchids and baby’s breath. “The fact that my bouquet had a blue tint and included baby’s breath was so fitting because I had recently learned I was six weeks pregnant with our little boy, Charlie,” gleams the bride. Being that she and John were the only two to know that they were expecting, the bride loved how special the secret was between the two of them. 

The newlyweds made their way up the aisle, as hidden musicians popped up from the audience for a performance of “All You Need Is Love” by The Beatles – a surprise for the groom arranged by Brittany. “My mom and I love the movie Love Actually and were inspired by a favorite scene from the film,” confides the bride. “John was shocked!” 

Loved ones took their seats for the reception at long rectangular tables featuring alternating looks: black velvet chairs paired with sleek ebony tapered candles while others showcased blush chairs and light-grey candles. Impeccable floral arrangements of plump white peonies, vanilla Dutch hydrangeas, O’hara blush garden roses, champagne plumosas, grey stem-dyed phalaenopsis orchids, and ivory Vanda orchids graced both tablescapes. 

Opting out of a traditional cake, the pair chose to serve Portillo’s chocolate cake, a must-eat when visiting Chicago, in addition to dessert carts featuring city-specific treats as a nod to both London and New York City. With additional displays offering tequila and fun LED gear for the nighttime festivities, guests were entertained by touching speeches – which are an extra special part of British weddings, dancing to live music, and much merriment. 

“Being on the dance floor and looking around seeing people from all different parts of my life, from childhood through university, to my life with my now wife, people who live everywhere from New Zealand to Africa to Europe and all over the U.S., all laughing and mingling together with our families and having the time of their lives is one of my favorite memories,” says the groom. 

One major piece of advice the bride offers is to dare to be different. “If you force your team to copy a wedding you found on Pinterest, chances are there are tons of others doing the exact same thing,” she emphasizes. “A one-of-a-kind wedding is so much more fun to plan and to attend!”