AFTER 16 YEARS AS A BANKER FOR A CONSERVATIVE Chicago trust company, Frank Andonoplas was ready for a promised promotion to a much-coveted new position. So when he found out his job had been offered to another candidate, he was distraught. “I went over to Fourth Presbyterian Church and cried,” he says. “And in the middle of crying I felt this presence say to me, ‘Stupid! You're not meant to do this! Forget them!’”
Within a year, Andonoplas, who had been indulging his lifelong love of weddings by helping friends plan theirs in his free time, decided to turn his passion into his profession. He set up shop at home, joined the Association of Bridal Consultants and launched a new career.
Now one of only 22 ABC-certified Master Bridal Consultants worldwide, Andonoplas works on about 24 weddings annually — most in the $40,000 to $150,000 budget range. That's a far cry from the $200 he charged his very first client to coordinate her wedding-day activities, but Andonoplas says his commitment has remained constant from day one. “My tag line is ‘There is no such thing as a small detail,’” he says. “That's why they're hiring me.”
Andonoplas, winner of ABC's Dorothy Penner Heart Award for Passion and Excellence, and the current Chicago wedding expert for wedding Web site TheKnot.com, explains that personalization is his specialty. “I work with a lot of sisters. They don't want what their sister had. I make it really clear to them: ‘Everything is going to be about you now. It doesn't matter what your sister had. That was a lovely wedding … Next!’”
A gift for the personal touch has helped Andonoplas design memorable celebrations, including one he created for a young-at-heart couple in toy store FAO Schwarz that featured balloon artists, jukebox dancing, macaroni and cheese, and gooey S'mores. “People played with the toys, there was a Silly String fight — they absolutely had a ball,” he says. “I loved it because I got to think outside the box.”
A dedication to detail means Andonoplas is always seeking ways to enhance a theme or doll up a tabletop. While clients are “going back to simplicity,” Andonoplas says, thoughtful touches such as fresh blossoms on every napkin or orchid florets under inverted wine glasses have an enduring appeal. Client gifts such as Tiffany crystal boxes engraved with the couple's wedding invitation — a token of appreciation he reserves for top customers — never go out of style, he adds.
Frank Event Design
5555 N. Sheridan Road
Chicago, IL 60640
BORN TO DO IT
“I have loved weddings since I was a child. We'd be going to my grandmother's house — we had to drive clear across the city — and we'd pass bridal shops and I remember looking out the window to see the dresses. I went to my first wedding when I was six years old and thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. I even remember getting up to watch on TV when Princess Anne got married. Not Diana — Anne!”
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
“I spend the first half-hour with clients asking them questions and letting them do the majority of the talking. I'll ask: ‘Where do you like to go out to eat? Where do you like to shop? Do you have a favorite designer? Who is your favorite author or playwright? If you could take a day off from work, what would you do — would you stay in bed and read comic books, or watch Oprah and eat bonbons, or go golfing?’”
“I've seen people fail in this business by going out and saying, ‘I'm a wedding planner,’ and not knowing diddly. Do your homework. Don't walk into this and hang out a shingle without knowing your resources, your vendors, and how much things cost. I really recommend the training that the Association of Bridal Consultants puts out — they have a great set of courses.”