High school sweethearts Abigail Bartolotta and Brian Flynn first met as freshmen in 2002, but it wasn't until the summer of 2004 that they actually began dating. "Through all of the homecoming dances, basement parties, and late-night Instant Messenger sessions, we knew our relationship was something special," says Abby. They attended nearby colleges, and Brian spent his final year of school planning an epic proposal. On the couple's seventh anniversary, in July of 2011, Brian took Abby out to dinner at their favorite Spanish restaurant (a nod to their semester abroad in Barcelona), then brought her back to his house. "The backyard was decorated with candles and flowers, with a book of our travels on a table," Abby describes. "At first I thought it was just an over-the-top anniversary celebration, but by the time I'd read through a book of all of our favorite memories, I realized this was it." As she turned the last page, Brian got down on one knee and asked her to marry him. "Even after seven years together, I was genuinely surprised!" she says.
They didn't rush into planning a wedding, and waited nearly five years for their April 9, 2016, celebration at Gallery 1028 in Chicago. The self-proclaimed design buffs opted for a residential-inspired theme, creating a simple and sophisticated space where guests felt comfortable, welcome, and like they were being entertained in the couple's home. "We were drawn to the blank slate nature of the venue, and the fact that we could make it our own," says the bride. "We knew our guests would be shocked pulling into to such an industrial area, but we hoped they would love the surprising transformation inside!"
The couple's invitation suite featured modern calligraphy paired with a sleek font — an incredibly simple design that looked chic and elegant. Luxe gray ribbon and a gold wax seal added just the right amount of dimension to the timeless design.
After trying on a series of strapless, sweetheart mermaid gowns, Abby still hadn't found the one. "On a whim while shopping on my own, I gave a long-sleeved dress a try. I didn't immediately feel daring enough to pull it off, but I couldn't get it out of my mind," she says. She headed back to the salon with her mom in tow and tried on the dress in question, as well as this stunning Yaki Ravid wedding dress with a plunging neckline and intricate beading — the gown that would ultimately be the winner. "I thought I wanted something simple, but this dress blew me away!" says Abby. She paired the gown with white leather Manolo Blahnik heels and a classic cathedral-length veil — the perfect classic accessories for a fashion-forward bride.
Brian wore a classic tuxedo, but chose a shawl collar for a modern twist.
The couple wed in a traditional Catholic ceremony at St. Michael's Church in Old Town Chicago. Says Abby, "My father walked me down the aisle. I laughed so hard when we got the photos back, because he was fist-bumping his friends the whole way!"
Although the two exchanged traditional vows during the ceremony, they still shared their private thoughts on their wedding day. "We wrote notes to one another, and had them delivered while we were getting ready," the bride says.
Instead of traditional bridesmaids' dresses, Abby had her 'maids choose Natalie Deayala dresses in white, each selecting their own style. "I loved the sophistication of having everyone in white, as well as the simplicity of the long silk gowns," she says. " My maid of honor even had hers hemmed to above the knee so she can wear it through the summer!" To fight off the Chicago chill, the bridesmaids slipped black leather jackets over their dresses. So edgy!
At Gallery 1028, the couple displayed two oversized prints from their engagement session, including this one behind the white orchids and candles on the escort table. The wood-front bar, surrounded with metallic shelving and design-focused objects, also featured a piece from the couple's home: A Roman-inspired bust. "Brian loves it, so I snuck it out of the house and brought it to our venue. It blended in with the rest of the décor perfectly!" says the bride.
Next to the bar, a large lounge area featured couches, patterned pillows, and lots of candlelight. "It gave the space a very home-like feel," Abby says.
As guests arrived, they sipped cocktails inspired by the couple's favorite drink at Fig & Olive. "We called it the 'It's About Thyme,' since we had been together for over 10 years and engaged for nearly five," says the bride. The drink combined gin, muddled blackberries, lime juice, and a rosemary-thyme simple syrup.
A long, mirrored head table created a focal point next to the dance floor. A series of chandeliers were hung throughout the space, inspired by the couple's favorite hotel, the Public Chicago. "We love how the hotel smells, so we even found candles with a similar scent and scattered them throughout the venue so it would smell like the hotel as guests arrived," Abby says.
The glow from the chandeliers, as well as the mix of pillar and votive candles on each table, cast a warm glow over the space — and could have been straight out of a Restoration Hardware catalogue!
Round tables featured vignettes of hydrangeas and blush roses and pillar candles, surrounded by gold votives.
Brushed silver chargers were topped with crisp white napkins and a printed menu finished with the same wax seal used on the couple's invitation. The customized menu included an antipasti trio with burrata, marinated vegetables, and charcuterie, alongside the pair's favorite gluten-free cheesy popovers from The Reel Club. And for late night snacks? "We had fried chicken and cheddar waffles with bourbon maple syrup, as well as truffled grilled cheese with Jamon Iberico," Abby says.
For dessert, the newlyweds served three ruffled cakes, with the larger confection layering lemon cake with lemon buttercream and raspberry preserves while the smaller two featured almond cake with Nutella buttercream.
Of course, there was also a dessert bar, with s'mores cake pops and miniature cupcakes fueling the dance party. "I'll never forget looking around late in the evening and seeing my dad, brothers, and high school friends rapping along to 'Palmdale' by Afroman. We still know every word!" says the bride.
Abby's best advice is to hire great people to bring your wedding vision to life. "Our wedding day was the opposite of stressful because we had such amazing vendors, friends, and family members there to make sure everything flowed smoothly. Surround yourselves with people you love and everything will fall into place!"
Ceremony Venue: St. Michael in Old Town
Reception Venue: Gallery 1028
Wedding Planner: Estera Events
Shoes: Manolo Blahnik
Hair & Makeup: Nika Vaughan Bridal Artists
Groom's & Groomsmen's Attire: Formally Modern Tuxedo
Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands: Fey & Co.
Floral Design: Kehoe Designs
Music: Style Matters DJs
Catering: Calihan Catering
Cake: Elysia Root Cakes
Videographer: Delack Media Group
Photographer: Emilia Jane Photography
Can't get enough of this incredible day? Then you'll surely get inspired by another couple's Chicago wedding, seen below.