They met on a blind date and quickly discovered they had grown up near each other in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago and even attended Northwestern University at the same time. “We believe that our paths must have crossed, but the universe knew the perfect time for us to connect,” says Erin Clifford.
“As we grew closer and I learned that her physical beauty was dwarfed by her kindness, intellect, and compassion, it was only a matter of when not if I would propose,” confides her beloved, John Kalantzis. He secured her father’s blessing before a big trip he and Erin had planned to Europe. Trekking through Italy together, the pair visited Rome, Florence, and Siena, but it wasn’t until their last stop in Erin’s favorite region that he finally got on bended knee. “John proposed to me in Tuscany in a lavender garden under the star-filled sky. I love lavender!” she exclaims.
The celebration was set to take place in Lake Geneva, where Erin’s family has had a home since she was a little girl. It was her dream to get married at the private club that overlooked the lake. With her love of Tuscany gardens as her guide, the bride elected to host the sunset ceremony in a massive clear tent, heavily decorated with floral masterpieces. Towering 15-foot-tall olives trees were situated around a vintage gazebo where guests would enter. The entire space was bedecked in jaw-dropping arrangements of fresh blooms. “As the sun started to set, the candles began to twinkle, and the ambience took on an even more romantic tone,” illustrates Erin.
The bride’s entrance alongside her father was very sentimental, so photographers Bob and Dawn Davis were sure to capture the tender moment. “My dad and I came over from our home to the venue on our family’s handcrafted wood boat. The weather was a little rainy, so I wasn’t sure it was going to happen, and I was so bummed,” she shares. “But the skies cleared just enough for us to pull it off.”
Erin was resplendent in a strapless ivory lace gown. Her bouquet – comprised of roses, thistles, rice flowers, silver dollar eucalyptuses, and rose-gold lotus pods – was a perfect pairing with her sophisticated bridal look and also mimicked the autumnal theme of the wedding. “She was absolutely stunning,” remembers the groom. “Everything and everyone else faded away, and I was focused solely on her making her way to me.”
The nondenominational service included a nod to the groom’s Greek heritage: a special blessing of the couple’s rings in Greek that the groom’s brother presided over. At the conclusion, Erin and John walked up the aisle to “I Gotta Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas as a way to set the tone for the celebration to come.
The unique fall concept and impressive floral structures were also seen at the reception. Erin and John wanted the room to feel elegant and glamorous while maintaining a sense of warmth. Suspended from awe-inspiring archways were cascading wild smilax, orchids, roses, and dahlias. Loved ones took their seats at custom white marble pastry tables, as well as antique wood styles finished in rose-gold stains to make them sparkle.
Tablescapes were stunning, showcasing exquisite centerpieces of roses, amaryllis, cymbidium orchids, calla lilies, anemones, dahlias, and more, all in assorted hues of tangerine, peach, apricot, yellow, and rust. Colored glassware, glittering charger plates, personalized menu cards, and candlelight completed the look. “The room was beautifully decorated,” describes John.
The dance floor – which was surrounded by 20-foot-tall LED trees – was packed due to the energy from the live band that performed new hits, classics, and Greek music. “No one wanted to leave the dance floor, and I saw people dancing that I had not seen dance in years!” adds the groom.
One of the most memorable moments for the newlyweds was the drone show. “It featured fireworks in the sky and fabulous music – everyone was in awe,” says Erin. For the groom, it allowed a moment of reflection: “I paused and soaked in the fact that we just had the most fantastic night of our lives.” It was the perfect way to start the after-party, where the new Mr. and Mrs. and their guests danced until dawn.