Inspired Chicago | Splendid Weddings & Events

Hey, friends! SO excited to share this new Inspired Chicago feature with you of the beautiful, caring, and talented Sandy Alvarez of Splendid Weddings & Events! This ongoing series highlights women in Chicago's vast creative industries, takes a look at their inspirations, and learns a little bit about how they got where they are now. I've always felt it was important to hear from voices that have worked from the ground up to follow their dreams to inspire others to pursue their own. If you haven't seen the first Inspired Chicago interview with Nichole Johnson of XO Design Co. I encourage you to do that!

For this feature, the absolutely amazing Sandy was kind enough to invite me into her studio, answers every question I had, and then give me personal feedback on my own pursuits of photography. No joke, the interview/photographing portion was done by 5, and I stayed until 6:30, drinking champagne, listening to Sandy's journey, talking about our cute parter's and their goofy sock habits, and getting support from a woman that I find incredibly inspirational. I can't thank you and your beautiful soul enough, Sandy! 

Chicago portrait photographer Katharine Hannah visits Splendid Weddings & Events
Sandy Alvarez of Splendid Weddings & Events in Chicago

Q. How did you get into event planning?

I believe it was fate. I felt passionate about so many different things that I wasn’t sure what career path I was going to take so it took me some time to realize what I really loved in life. I think that finding your purpose in life, identifying your true calling is a journey of self-discovery and it’s a process we all experience.

I found my passion for event planning and design while working in catering and corporate events. I enjoyed the fast-paced environment of corporate; I liked the management and organization, but I realized that I wanted to do more; I wanted to have a direct and close relationship with my clients, and also have the freedom of working on my own terms by creating crafted experiences that people would remember. So I began to provide my services as an event planner focusing on social events and I fell in love with weddings! Helping my couples with one of their most important and significant days in their lives, a rite of passage is an honor. Getting to know them on a personal level, guide them through the planning journey and creating the wedding of their dreams is so gratifying.

Splendid Weddings & Events interview on west side in Chicago
Inspired Chicago feature on Katharine Hannah's blog
Kate Spade inspiration at Splendid Weddings & Events

Q. What's the difference between event planning and event design?

Event planning is the development, organization, management, and coordination of an event. As an event planner, I bring all the elements necessary to create an event including, analyzing and determining the scope and purpose of the event, budget management, find the right vendors, services, and products, venue scouting, time and event management. I take care of all the details leading to the event and orchestrate the "day of" to make sure my clients can enjoy their special day to the fullest!

Event design is the visuals and aesthetics of an event – from the space to the floral, lighting, fabrics, props, installations, stationery, and every element needed to create the desired experience and atmosphere. As an event designer, I like creating a personal brand for my clients, understanding their style and what they want to accomplish with their event. What atmosphere do they want to create? We begin with a consultation, style questionnaire, and create an inspiration board to help my clients define what they want. Then I take that information and create a design presentation that incorporates all the elements needed to create their dream event.

I think that planning and design go hand-in-hand that’s why I became a certified wedding and event planner and also studied floral design, and continue to get educated in event design so I can offer my clients a complete full-service event planning experience. I love improving things and transforming spaces and seeing my client faces when they finally get to see what we created for them thanks to the wonderful service providers I get to work with.

Ornate chandelier in Splendid Weddings & Events Chicago studio

Q. Which part of your job do you love the most?

I like all the aspects of wedding planning and design! Planning, design, and coordination are all important, however, what I love the most is making people happy, my life’s purpose is to help people create lifetime experiences. Working closely with them, guiding them thru the planning journey, watching them laughing, sharing those special and tender moments with their significant other, friends, and family is what fills my heart with joy!

Splendid Weddings & Events interview by Chicago photographer Katharine Hannah
Splendid Weddings & Event interview with Chicago photographer Katharine Hannah

Q. Why did you choose to do event planning here in Chicago?

Chicago is such a beautiful city and is definitely my kind of town. Cities are a great opportunity for this type of service that many can consider a luxury service. I think most city couples understand the role and the need of a wedding planner. With the busy city life, many couples look for a planner to help them with their wedding planning needs so that they can focus on their daily activities and most importantly in their relationship. Chicago is so diverse and there are so many options for event locations, and amazing service providers that as a wedding planner I have all the tools I need to serve my clients, plus my studio has the skyline view so my clients can feel inspired.

Rose champagne to celebrate Inspired Chicago feature with Sandy Alvarex

Q. Do you feel like you’re connected to a creative community in Chicago?

In the event industry, I get to work every day with my tribe that is, the creative community, musicians, florists, designers, photographers, calligraphers, and more. I respect the work and art of all the creative people who make this world a better place. I really like the Rising Tide Society because I share their values and perspective on how we should all work, “community over competition”. I think that there are opportunities and ideal clients for everyone and that we should support, be inspired, and respect each other. I do have a connection with the creative community; starting with photographers because I admire them so much- they really work hard and pour their soul and time into each event so I feel we have that in common. When I’m working with them I feel as they are part of my team, sometimes in the middle of our crazy busy events, we look at each other like communicating in silence our thoughts and sympathy. We cheer each other up!

Sandy Alvarez of Splendid Weddings & Events interview
Downtown Chicago skyline view from wedding planner studio

Q. Do you feel it’s helped you?

Oh yes, because the wedding/event industry is ultimately a community, at the end of the day we are only people working on our dreams, we work together to serve our clients and that is inspiring. Being part of a creative community has been an enriching and learning experience; it has helped me grow into a better professional and business owner. I am open and willing to giving back to the creative community thru sharing my time and knowledge when there is an opportunity, “community over competition.”

Chicago portrait photographer and wedding planner interview

Want to be featured on Inspired Chicago?

Katharine Hannah

Katharine’s work has graced the walls of institutions such as The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Harold Washington Library of Chicago, and local galleries such as Dreambox Gallery, Siragus Gallery and Blick Art Materials. She has also been featured on websites such as the Huffington Post, Phlearn, Fstoppers, Tigress Magazine for Girls, Bitchtopia, and Golden Boy Press.

In addition to photography, Katharine has been a mentor and educator in the arts since 2013. She has worked with students in various organizations and projects over the last two years, including Hive Chicago’s PROjectUS initiative and Digital Youth Network’s Digital Diva’s and Chicago City of Learning programs.