Conversation came easy to Grace Lee and Stephen Hahn as soon as they met via a dating app. Still, they chatted for over a month before finally meeting for dinner. “The most memorable thing about our first date was how nervous Steve was feeling,” describes Grace. “It was cute.” Stephen admits being very nervous. “I also remember the heel of my shoe fell off during dinner!” he laughs of the embarrassing moment.
Stephen had suspected early on – before even meeting in person – that Grace was The One, so it felt like a natural progression when it came time to ask for her father’s blessing. Grace soon found herself accepting Stephen’s proposal under the dome of the Chicago Cultural Center while live musicians performed a version of Doris Day’s “Dream a Little Dream of Me.”
After the magical evening, the couple enjoyed their engagement for 10 months before hosting 185 loves ones at a unique venue for an amazing autumn celebration. “We loved the outdoor element where guests could feel like they’re in a hidden garden, tucked away in the middle of the city, and ending their night under the stars,” illustrates the bride. “We also liked how the ceremony and reception would be at one location, so that our guests didn’t have to drive through city traffic.”
The groom was very helpful throughout the planning process and helped to develop design details that would make the day feel more personal and one of a kind. For instance, within the elements of their customized invitation suite, they included a sketch of their pup Sammie, who also served as a member of the wedding party. “He was quite the showstopper during the ceremony!” exclaims Grace of Sammie’s picture-perfect moment being wheeled down the aisle in a vintage red wagon by two adorable ring bearers.
Since Grace and Stephen are both of Korean descent, they wanted to incorporate a traditional paebaek to honor their heritage and families. They held this customary Korean wedding ceremony at their rehearsal dinner. “It’s also tradition to give a rose to each side of the family to honor and thank them during the American ceremony,” explains the bride of the additional custom they incorporated.
Grace loved the idea of an Old World, romantic theme, so she opted for a color palette consisting of cream, blush, taupe, and touches of pale blue and grey. A beautiful asymmetrical arch was arranged beneath a clear tent bedecked in twinkle lights. “It still takes my breath away when I look at our wedding photos,” Grace muses. The bride, herself, was a vision in a classic strapless white gown, carrying a lush bouquet of hydrangeas, ranunculuses, phalaenopsis orchids, snapdragons, lisianthuses, Veronica perennials, roses, and delphiniums. She walked down the aisle to the song “Best Part” by Daniel Caesar featuring H.E.R. performed by a family friend and the same ukulele player who was at the couple’s proposal.
“We loved the outdoor element where guests could feel like they’re in a hidden garden, tucked away in the middle of the city, and ending their night under the stars.”
Following the heartfelt vow exchange, the Old World garden aesthetic highlighting a muted color scheme was carried over into the reception décor. Grace had arranged for numerous customized details, such as wax seals on dinner menus that indicated the meal preference of each guest and “place card” macarons handwritten in edible ink and placed in mini cloches.
Linen-covered round tables were kept understated and romantic dotted only with gleaming crystal glassware, intimate candlelight, and lovely short flower displays. The head table boasted a “floating” floral piece down the center. “Florals are such an important element to me, so we also made sure to bring that in throughout the design,” illustrates the bride of the artistic creations.
The wedding cake was also a masterpiece. “As an owner of a dessert company, I had to design and make my own wedding cake. I didn’t have it in me to hire another bakery!” she confesses. “I actually baked the cake layers and prepped the buttercream the day before my rehearsal dinner and my team took care of the rest.” The confection incorporated both fresh florals as well as 36 handmade sugar peonies and roses, cascading down a four-tiered vanilla cake paired with Swiss meringue buttercream. In addition, Grace had arranged for a full dessert table for guests to enjoy after dinner. “I couldn’t have pulled it off without my team of bakers, so I’m truly grateful for them,” she confirms. Wedding favors were as cute as they were delicious: sugar cookies with edible sketches of the bride and groom.
Guests as well as the new husband and wife danced beneath the stars, just as the couple had imagined. The one piece of advice they received and urge others who are engaged to follow is to hire a wedding planner. “She made sure every single detail was executed without a hitch,” describes the bride of the dreamy celebration. “From the start of the day, through all the photography, ceremony, reception, dancing, and the world Grace envisioned for our wedding, it was all worth it,” confirms Stephen.