When we first heard the news that Rachel Schwanz, Chief Creative Officer of A Perfect Event, was engaged to James De Marte, we needed the details—STAT. After all, for someone this grand and stylish—she is part of an extravagant team renowned for styling some of the most fabulous events in Chicago—we figured the proposal would perfectly follow suit, right? In fact, a scene that only Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez could have pulled off ensued instead. Schwanz fills Be U Weddings in on the details, from popping the question (hilarious timing), the ring (stunning), and the fiance (just right) to their upcoming wedding plans. (And be sure to check out these A Perfect Event extravaganzas on our Facebook page: A Perfect Pairing, A Perfect Event Book Launch, and BHLDN Pre-Fall Fete).
Photo courtesy of Rachel Schwanz
Q: You are the mastermind behind some of Chicago’s most talked about events. How was your own engagement executed?
A: I’d had a real tough week and was standing in the kitchen ripping apart a chicken to make chicken salad. James had just come from Costco and was in the middle of putting things away. I was complaining about life, etc., and he said “I got myself a gift.” Turned out to be a new sub woofer for our home theater system. Then he said, “I got you one too, but you can’t have it yet.” I just stared at him, and turned back around to tend to the chicken. Next thing I knew, he pulled out the tiny box and was down on one knee. My hands were still in the chicken! I, of course, look at him like “You’re doing this now??” and pulled my hands out of the bird. He proposed and then tried to shove the ring on my gross chicken hand. HA! Classic that a chef proposed to me in the kitchen, of course! He had told me he was going to wait until Friday, but that clearly didn’t happen!
Q: We adore your ring! You mentioned the original stone belonged to your grandmother. How did you two go about designing the final product?
A: Yes, she was married for 50 years, so the stone is over 70 years old. My grandmother left me her ring when she passed away years ago. I knew I wanted to use it [her center stone] in my ring one day, and that I wanted my engagement ring to look “Estate+Cocktail=Engagement.” I found an awesome designer/diamond guy [at Levy Creations] that friends had used, and shared my ideas with him, and voila! He nailed it. Exactly what I described.
Q: How did the pair of you reach this stage in your relationship?
A: We met at work! He’d just moved back from a decade living in Italy (he’s 100% Italian), and his dear friend Shawn is the chef at Entertaining Company, where I was working at the time. When Shawn found out James was moving back, he decided it was time for them to cook together again—they attended culinary school together—and James came on board as the Executive Sous Chef. When we met, we were so NOT into each other. I was like “Who’s the jerk in the kitchen?”, and he was like “Who’s the diva around town?” Clearly that changed. We became fast friends, and someone developed a crush. So cute. We’ve been together a year and a half, and at some point, like everyone says, you just know.
Q: Let’s get down to the important next step: planning! What have you envisioned?
A: We are super excited, and it’s so surreal. We’re planning Playa del Carmen, Mexico for April 20, 2013. Nothing but sun, booze, good food and fun. Oh, and all the best people—small wedding, all immediate family, wedding party/dear friends. Save the dates will be coming fast!
Q: A destination wedding, how fun! Is Playa del Carmen a special place for the two of you?
A: It is! We vacationed there this past March and fell in love with it, and the resort we stayed at, Paradisus Playa del Carmen. Brand new, not even a year old yet. So cool and modern, a top shelf all-inclusive [resort] with amazing food (which is VERY IMPORTANT, as we are both in the industry, and he’s a chef). We wanted to make it easy on guests. There are a million flights into Cancun, and [it's just] 30-40 min from there. And they don’t have to leave the property once onsite, can eat/drink whatever AND whenever they want, AND don’t have to carry a wallet. Uh, yeah! Being a wedding planner, there are just so many things I just don’t care about. My new slogan to guests? ”Our wedding is your vacation.” Think margaritas, fish tacos, palm trees and water. BOOK IT!
Q: Thoughts on where you will have your engagement party?
A: We are looking forward to a couple of parties hosted by dear friends in their amazing homes. I just love that. There are a million great places to do a shower, but someone’s home, especially when they are dear friends, in the wedding, etc., means so much more. Plus, these people know how to entertain (duh!).
Q: We’re going to pick your planner mind just a bit more. Where are some of your favorite engagement party/shower locations?
A: I know everyone loves to host a tea, but I’m SO not into that. I’m more than happy to plan it for friends and clients, but for me, well I prefer bourbon, or…
- On a boat! How fun is that theme/location? If you or your friends don’t have one, you can easily rent something. Have it catered, or bring your favorite dishes to enjoy. And themed cocktails, of course (my fave!). Ahoy!
- Picnic at the park, complete with lots of wine, cheese, and chocolate.
- Progressive party! Have three bridesmaids host, and hit one home for hors d’oeuvres, one for dinner, and one for dessert! The fun never stops.
- Trolley! Some of the best times I’ve had have been cocktailing on a trolley. Rent one, and throw the shower on there while seeing the sights of Chicago.
- Culinary party class where you learn to make something cool, gourmet hors d’oeuvres, etc. Great for girls who entertain.
Deep in the midst of bridal season, the happy, albeit busy, couple has not had a moment to fit engagement photos into their hectic schedules, but will soon enough. We can’t thank Rachel enough for sharing her comical proposal and engagement ideas with us. We certainly can’t wait to get our hands on those 2013 wedding photos!
Did your proposal not go as planned, leaving you with an endearing engagement story that will make us smile? Meaning, can you top Rachel’s chicken covered hands?! We’d love to hear from you.