Frank J. Andonoplas is convinced that when, not if, same-sex marriage becomes legal in Illinois, his wedding consulting business will spike dramatically within the LGBT community, perhaps by 50 percent.
Andonoplas' clientele now includes about 20 percent same-sex couples. After all, Andonoplas isn't just one of the best, most respected wedding planners locally, but worldwide. He is one of only 71 master bridal consultants in the world, an honor presented by the Association of Bridal Consultantsand he's the first male to achieve the title. He has won Special Event Magazine's coveted Gala Award and last year won the Spotlight Award and was named Event Planner of the Year by Event Solutions Magazine.
"A wedding is a wedding, period, Andonoplas said. "I'm [hired] because most clientele are working professionals who like things done correctly and don't have time to manage an event [as large as a wedding.] They are hiring me for my expertise and my creativity."
With 20 years of experience, Andonoplas offers a meticulous, unmatched attention to detail, with an amazing personal touch to reflect the couple's style.
"I sit down with the couple after being hired for a getting-to-know-you meeting, and ask them a lot of personal questions to truly know and understand their style" he said.
Andonoplas wants to know such details about his clients as where they like to go on vacations, their favorite colors, what they like to eat, what they do in their spare time, their hobbies, and moreall to prepare the perfect wedding.
"From there, I pick out things that will work within the details of the event to really showcase their personalities and style," said Andonoplas who, for instance, worked with a couple that really enjoyed wine. So he suggested a wine bar instead of the traditional open bar. "It worked out perfectly," he said. And at that wedding, he heard an attendee say, "Oh my God, this is so them."
Andonoplas was all smiles.
"One thing I really pride myself on is, none of the weddings that I design and coordinate look or feel the same; each is based on that couple's originality, personality and style," he said.
Andonoplas lives in the Edgewater neighborhood with his partner of 24 years, Shawn, and Fenwick, their Bichon Frise. His studio also is located in Edgewater, in the arcade of the Edgewater Beach Apartments. They had a commitment ceremony, commonplace years ago, to celebrate their 10-year anniversary with family and friends. They also had a private civil union ceremony in 2011.
"As soon as [same-sex] marriage [becomes legal] in Illinois, this [industry] is going to go through the roof," said Andonoplas, who admits he is constantly monitoring the legal updates.
Andonoplas, the owner of Frank Event Design, accepts only one wedding per weekend, a long-standing policy of his to guarantee full support and dedication to the couple.
"I never envisioned, way back when, doing this for 20 years. I thought I would be a [life-long] banker as I was in the banking industry for almost 16 years before starting this," he said. "I've put a lot of work into this job, a lot of heart, soul and passion, too."
And he has plenty of memories to reflect upon. Such as the 2012 wedding he coordinated for two women at the Adler Planetarium "that was off the hook," and even featured in CS Brides Magazine. "It was amazing. We branded the wedding with a custom logo, and [that logo] appeared on everything from the invitation to the stamp to the pillows in the lounge to the dome of the Planetarium when you were leaving [the building.]"
Andonoplas acknowledged that his own wedding ceremony certainly has helped him professionally. "You have a completely different experience from that perspective as opposed to just planning," he said. "It was very emotional. To say those [commitment] words in front of all our family and friends meant so much to us.
"I got a better sense of how the couple feels during the day, and truly understood and appreciated how I make it easy, special and memorable in all the right ways."
And yes, Andonoplas did hire a wedding consultant to be there the day of his wedding, "to make sure everything ran smoothly," he said. "It was an awesome day, so special and meaningful."
The same feeling Andonoplas has helped literally hundreds of other couples enjoy.
Andonoplas can be reached at 773-275-6804 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
View the special wedding section here: www.windycitymediagroup.com/pdf/WCT_20130501_weddings.pdf .