Wedding Wednesday: You Name It Events + Floral Wonders Geneva

Back in 2010 when I was new to the world of weddings, I didn't know any wedding planners, or florists, or makeup artists or bridal boutiques. The weddings I was privileged to photograph first were weddings of friends who knew I would overcompensate my little experience with preparation, planning, enthusiasm and energy or clients on extremely tight budgets. I was 20 years old. I had enormous amounts of energy and time to expend, but I ran myself ragged with the added responsibility of timeline planning and creating photographs with atmosphere and ambiance at weddings mostly without professional florists or planners. Now, with 6 years and over 100 weddings later, I've learned three things:

A wedding photographer is only as good as the other vendors. If your wedding day timeline and details and decor aren't well planned, it doesn't matter if it's Jose Villa shooting your wedding. Good photography elevates atmosphere and emotional moments, but it can't create what's simply not there.

Not everyone can plan a wedding. Planning a wedding requires creativity and skill with managing logistics- and being able to envision the entirety of the day spatially and chronologically. Brides, if you invest in the best venue and most expensive decor but your timeline is not paced properly, your wedding day vision may not be realized. Be kind to yourself. Remember that even though you're a whip-smart, incredibly productive and stylish superwoman- on your wedding day, you want to enjoy the symphony, not raise the curtain, conduct it and sit first chair all at the same time. As an special example: Leanne (the incredible planner featured today) wears a FitBit and averages 20,000 steps per wedding.

There are no flowers like flowers arranged by a professional. In the age of Pinterest and DIY-everything, it may seem like wedding flowers are an easy affair. They're not. TRUST. (If you still don't believe me, read on...)

All this being said, I've invested in meeting and working with wedding planners and florists who bring an attitude of service and talent to elevate a wedding day celebration.

You Name It Events and Floral Wonders are two of the best teams in the business. When I approached owners and visionaries Leanne and Eva about doing this feature, both brought fabulous ideas to the table (literally) in a gorgeous way.

In this feature, the work speaks for itself.

Leanne Valdes of You Name It Events (St. Charles)  & Eva Kamieniak of Floral Wonders (Geneva)

Leanne Valdes of You Name It Events (St. Charles)  & Eva Kamieniak of Floral Wonders (Geneva)

Special thanks to Bianca Sansosti Artistry

Special thanks to Bianca Sansosti Artistry

LEANNE, do you have a pre-wedding day routine? How do you prep for a big day?

Our weddings vary so much in terms of how we customize our services, where they're located, what time we start the day- so each wedding day is different. I do like to surprise our fabulous clients with something fun when I can though... sometimes I'll swing by Starbucks and bring the couple drinks labeled "Bride" and "Groom"! Since there's really only one day they can enjoy that, it's always a fun little surprise! It doesn't take much for me to get excited for wedding days, but if the weather is nice enough for me to rock some loud tunes with my sunroof open, I'm off to a great start!

EVA, how does your unique background inform and refine your work?

My interior design degree and fine art background as well as the love of all things beautiful influence my work tremendously! I consider the style and scale of the space, as well as the floor plan and lighting and then figure out the best way in which my floral designs as well as other design elements like linens and draping can create the desired feeling. Did I mention I dabbled in psychology too? It’s all about creating the right emotions and happy memories!

LEANNE, how did you come to be where you are today?

Before I started You Name It Events, I earned a bachelor's degree in sociology and a master's degree in educational leadership. I worked for years with university students to develop their leadership skills in California and Boston and loved it! When I moved back to Chicago, there wasn't much available in my field, so I branched out to executive administration. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't something I wanted to do forever. Around that time, I served as my sister's Maid of Honor and de facto wedding planner. It was that experience, combined with some suggestions from friends and family that encouraged me to pursue a career in event planning. I found the field difficult to break into, but I come from an entrepreneurial family, so decided to go totally crazy and start my own business. Nearly 6 years and 100+ weddings later, I still love what I do and am sometimes overwhelmed with joy that I get to do this for a living!

Cake by The Sugar Path (Geneva)

Cake by The Sugar Path (Geneva)

EVA, what is a common misconception about what you do?

That it’s a walk in the park!

Try this: 25 three feet tall centerpieces with clear glass vases (the vases need to be sparkling clean), 12 bridesmaids’ bouquets, 20 boutonnieres, the bride’s bouquet, fabric draping and flowers on an 8-foot-tall arbor, aisle decorations, cocktail tables, head table, maybe a flower wall. That’s about 12,000 stems of flowers ordered from all over the world, are processed and then put into the designs! Sometimes all of this happens in 90-degree heat and you only have 3-4 hours to set everything up.

I have an awesome team of talented, dedicated and hard working people that help make it all happen but days leading to the weddings are very long. But then you see all of it come together and the beaming bride and it feels so wonderful you forget about all those crazy hours! I love that feeling!

LEANNE, what's one item you could not survive a wedding day without?

My phone!! It's my watch, it's a great problem-solving tool (think: traffic & maps!) and it helps me capture cute little moments throughout the day.

My favorite is when I snap a quick picture of our clients before the big walk down the aisle. We usually text that photo to them and also Instagram it with one of my favorite tags: #lastsmilebeforetheaisle!

I've had some clients say that is one of their most treasured personal moments from the day.

A wedding day is an experience to be enjoyed in the moment but also through the photographs for decades to come. How do you plan an event / design floral arrangements with photographs in mind? 


Our goal is that our couples are satisfied with ALL aspects of their day. To us, this includes the memories they are creating for a lifetime through their photographs. Often there are special details that are planned over the course of months/years and we take the time to explain those details so the photographers don't unknowingly miss something. We assist by pointing out important guests and tracking the formal photo shot list. We take care to plan wedding day timelines with the photographers' technical or personal needs in mind: we'll even try to help make sure the photographers stay hydrated, because we know it's a long day and any time they have to leave the "action" to grab a water, there's a chance they might miss an important moment.


When I create, I always keep in mind what my designs will look like in photographs. It's part of the whole experience for my brides! I also always make sure that flowers are delivered and boutonnieres pinned on before photographers arrive to make their jobs easier! 

LEANNE, what's your favorite trend for 2016?

Bold color! I love blush and gold and white, really- I do! But I'm so ready for and enjoying the bright and bold colors this year has brought, as well as deep, rich jewel tones. Color can be so fun!

LEANNE, where do you find inspiration? Do you have any current style crushes?

(hover and click the names for links)

All over the place! Some of my favorites to follow on Instagram are actually paper companies: Rifle Paper Co., Sugar Paper & Paper Source. I love La Tavola event linens and Casa de Perrin event rentals... and anything BHLDN makes or sells. I am a huge fan of CB2 and West Elm. As for fashion, Kate Spade, Cynthia Rowley and Cabi totally have my number. Romona Keveza is my dream wedding dress designer.

Timeless is a word brides love to use to describe their wedding day vision. What is your interpretation of timeless?


Timeless to me means not following trends that are so bold they risk being passé in a very short period of time. Timeless weddings are like little black dresses: always in style!


I think the best way to plan a timeless wedding is by staying true to yourself and not overly reliant on what is trending.

What's your best advice for brides?


"A wedding is a party not a performance. If at the end of the day you're married to the one you love, then it all went perfectly." I'm not sure who said that (I've tried to find out because I want to read everything else the author has ever written, but in my opinion it's the best philosophy.

Invest in the things that matter the most to you! Of course, in my opinion, one of the best investments you can make to enjoy the planning process and your wedding is to find a great planner. If a planner isn't for you, then plan the rest of your budget according to your priorities. 


Go for what you like and do not be swayed by the opinion of others. It's about you and the person you marry. Make sure to take time to enjoy each other and feel the love. Leave the work to the pros so you can enjoy your day! 

How do you gather information from a couple about what they are looking for with their flowers and overall wedding day style? What’s your process of creative development?


We typically start with some in depth discussions about their tastes, styles and preferences. Our focus during that process is both listening well and asking really good questions. From there, we bring in visuals from Pinterest, magazines, or wherever else the couple has been collecting ideas. Then we start to determine which vendors will be the best fit for creating the vision the couple has for the day and we bring those folks in to help hone the final plans.


I love having couples come to the studio and finding out their dreams for the big day! It’s so much fun to find out what their vision is, look at pictures and brainstorm ideas. I always ask to see anything that inspires them because it gives me a great idea of their style.

From the wedding gown to bridesmaid dresses, vacation destinations and vintage cars I always say I want to see it all!

Find out more information about booking and availability on Eva and Leanne's websites: