Our ethos is that you should host the event that you want to have, even if something is “over” – who cares?

Amy Nolan + Carolyn Johnson

Owners and Co-Founders

Location: Chicago, IL

We met in the spring of 2008 when we performed together as Marty and Rizzo in a Chicago production of the musical Grease. We quickly discovered a shared love for books, animals, and alphabetizing color-coded lists of lists. Our friendship was formed over sushi and the perfect Chicago summer when we realized that with our powers combined, the spark of an idea might become something real.

500+ events and 10 seasons later, these Pink Ladies are immensely proud of our little company – the wealth of strong industry relationships, the dream team we’ve assembled, and the thousands of happy moments we’ve worked hard to create.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced while planning an event and how did you overcome it?

We were hired to Day-of Coordinate a wedding that was to be held at a restaurant. The restaurant owner decided to close her place…two weeks before the wedding! We hustled and scrambled with the help of Lauren, one of our excellent Lead Consultants, to find them a new venue. And we did, on such short notice! This job can be so fun and stressful, and in the end, when the couple smiles down the aisle, it’s all so worth it.

What are 2 trends in the event planning industry that you’re excited about?

To be totally honest, we’re not a big fan of this question! We recently read an article saying the photo booth is no longer trendy, and that’s so silly! Guests love a photo booth.

Our ethos is that you should host the event that you want to have, even if something is “over” – who cares? Do it anyway. We have seen so many interesting and different choices made in the last ten years. Trends can be fun, but our focus is to make sure the event is all about our clients.

What are some tips for creating an elegant and memorable event on a tight budget?

It can certainly be done! The most important thing is to understand your limits with a tight budget. Adjusting your expectations is so important; for example, you can’t have a fantastic floral ceiling installation without a bigger budget! However, there are so many ways to create a beautiful event at any level. Choosing the right venue is key, as well as considering your needs for decor. What can you thrift, reuse, DIY, or recycle? We have loved creating decor out of stacks of old books, small figurines, bud vases with wholesale wildflowers, paper or sheet music flowers…the list goes on. Checking out a few wedding recycle websites is a great idea, too! And here’s a protip: candlelight, candlelight, candlelight! Buy a bunch of wholesale candles, and the romantic vibe will be undeniable.

If you had unlimited resources, what would your dream client and event look like?

Our dream clients are chill, kind humans who are jazzed about hosting a big party for all of the people they love, to celebrate their commitment to each other. That’s all we ever want.

How important are your relationships with vendors and what are some ways that you successfully cultivate and ensure good rapport?

Our relationships with vendors are extremely important to us. We’ve been in this industry for ten years, and have worked closely with so many vendors that we love. We know how much support they need from us and we need from them, and we consider each of our events a team effort! We are there to make sure the clients have an incredible day, and everyone who works with us knows that we will support them in any way they need. Together with the vendors, we share a collaborative attitude that ensures we are all able to do our jobs effectively to execute a fabulous event. Our relationships with the people we’ve met on the job are invaluable.

What inspired you to launch your own company in the event industry? How long did it take from initially having the idea to setting up and starting to attract a client base?

Coming from theatre, it was an easy transition! When Amy was planning her wedding, we realized that perhaps starting a business in wedding and event planning would be fun and different from what we’d been doing, while staying in the same skill set. Event planning is production and stage management, and we translated our many years of theatrical experience to the company. We began advertising right away and immediately started booking clients — our price point then was very attractive! From there, we built up the experience and reputation and have been working steady ever since. We have attracted the coolest people in the world because of our background and our company name. We truly love the less ordinary.

What are some things you wished you knew before starting your businesses?

How all-consuming it can be! Running your own business, especially in an industry where each event is a once in a lifetime experience for your clients, is a very personal affair. It’s exciting, it’s thrilling to work for yourself, but that means that everything that happens, the ups and the downs, are your responsibility. It rests on our shoulders, and we take our clients and their needs very seriously.

Anything else you’d like to comment on while we have you?

It is such a joy to be able to call this our job. Not everyone is built to plan events — it takes a very certain kind of brain! But there’s nothing we love more than planning and executing moments of joy for the people who entrust us with their special event, whether it’s a book launch, a film festival, or a wedding. We love what we do at AELO.

(photo cred for headshot: Ingrid Bonne Photography)

Carolyn Johnson
Author: Carolyn Johnson

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