Despite their instant connection during a blind date, Natalia Gaj and Mark Piotrowski didn’t start dating right away. “Unfortunately, my career change and Mark’s busy work schedule prevented our relationship from blooming for the next couple of years, but our love for each other never stopped. We reconnected in December of 2014 over dinner and have been inseparable ever since,” Natalia reveals. Two years later, Mark proposed on a terrace in Italy with a breathtaking view of the Amalfi Coast.

The lovebirds decided to exchange vows locally and elected venues that would accommodate their large guest list. They also hired Carasco Photography to take snapshots of the fabulous fête. “I would say ‘modern traditional’ [was our theme]. Our ceremony was very traditional, but the venue was very modern,” the bride explains. In addition to performing Catholic wedding customs, the couple was overjoyed to include two priests who are family friends in the service. “The personalized component of the wedding ceremony was having our family priests partake in the ceremony,” she says. After saying their I dos, the couple traveled to the reception venue in an antique wedding car.

After the newlyweds took multiple photos throughout the Chicago metropolitan area, attendees gathered at a downtown hotel for an energetic reception. Everyone enjoyed the sit-down dinner service, six-tier confection, and unforgettable entertainment. “The most memorable moment of the day was our first dance, which was to ‘Everything’ by Michael Bublé. As many guests have said, it showed the amazing chemistry that the two of us have,” Natalia muses. Everyone danced to the sounds of a live band and indulged in delicious selections served from food trucks later in the evening. “For our late-night snacks, we hired two Chicago food trucks that were parked outside of the venue serving tacos and specialty fries,” the bride remembers. “The guest loved them [and] it was a perfect way to end the night and start the after-party.”

While she affirms the benefit of hiring a wedding planner, Natalia insists that engaged couples should not let others dictate their decisions. “Gracefully listen to others’ advice and opinions, but you don’t have to follow through. Everyone has their own opinion, but this is your day.”