We have a new feature on the blog to coincide with our new retail book offering. Once a month, we'll be featuring information about our retailers: The fine boutiques that carry the Sarah Drake line. You may remember we came out with retail invitation books late last year, and are now excited that they are offered in New York, California, and right here in Chicago, which is where our first retailer is located. Kara and Kirsten own and operate two distinctive businesses, respectively Magnificent Milestones and Smitten, which are housed under one roof in the West Loop of Chicago. This January marks their one year anniversary of combining forces and they have some lovely features: tons of invitation books, wedding workshops, consulting services and much more for so many details of your wedding. I interviewed Kara a couple weeks back, and this is what she had to tell me about the two businesses! Read on for the full interview.
How does the Smitten/MM arrangement work? Smitten Boutique and Magnificent Milestones are two businesses housed under one roof. Although we have the same address, our businesses remain completely separate entities, allowing us to stay in control of our own start-ups. That being said, we are constantly giving each other advice and brainstorming new ideas together. After taking a step back and looking at our own business goals, we have decided to work on some new projects together and branding these services and products as coming from both Smitten Boutique and Magnificent Milestones. How long have you been in business? Magnificent Milestones opened its doors in 2007 and Smitten Boutique opened in 2008. We “moved in” together in January, 2009. What trends are you noticing in invitations? Some invitation trends right now are either printing or wallpapering on the back of the invitation, custom fonts such as hand calligraphy, and printing on other materials than paper such as wood or plastic. Over the past couple of years people are moving away from doing the double envelope for the invitation. How long are brides taking to plan their weddings? The year to year and a half time frame is still pretty standard, although there are brides that start planning two years out and others that pull everything together in six months! Has the economy affected how brides are spending? Wedding experts, brides and grooms are all thinking more and being more creative. Forgoing add-ons that add up: favors, Sunday brunches, etc. What do you offer for brides? (tell me about your workshops and any other exciting news!) Brides, grooms, and their family and friends are such a huge priority for both of us. We want our brides to see that there are endless options to help make their day special. The Magnificent Milestones Invitation Studio has dozens of albums from some of the best designers that are all customizable. Smitten Boutique has wedding details special-ordered or found at trade shows that can’t be found anywhere else in the Chicago area. After years of planning weddings, we noticed that many brides and grooms get engaged, call everyone they know with the news, and then have no idea what to do next. So we decided to begin Wedding 101 classes that guide couples through the first crucial steps toward planning their weddings. The classes are offered monthly and included four sessions in which we will go over budget, vendors, venues, etiquette, guest lists and timetables. These classes are catered by four premier wedding caterers including Calihan, Roti, Blue Plate and Berghoff. The classes are held in a group setting inside Smitten during the lunch hour for the convenience of working couples. All couples also receive swag bags, information on our preferred vendors, and discounts on invitations and Smitten gift items as well as discounts from some of our favorite vendors. Keeping on track with both of our objectives to offer a variety of services for our brides, we have just begun production on Welcome Bags filled with treats and Chicago regalia for out of town wedding guests. We have also created “Will you be my bridesmaid?” and “Will you be my maid of honor?” boxes that brides can present to their wedding party to make the moment even more memorable. In addition we have apothecary jars, card boxes, classic frames for table numbers, yard games and even a 1957 356 Porsche Convertible (available for photo sessions), all available for rental. A project we are REALLY excited about right now is our Candy Bar design and production. We will be offering our services to set up custom candy bars for weddings, showers and more. Candy bars are a really popular trend right now that we both think will last!