Captured & submitted by Lauren Ashley Studios
This wedding had it all. A custom designed bridal gown, a pier side wedding ceremony, fireworks, and one of the most stately wedding reception spaces in Chicago, the AON Grand Ballroom. Enxhi Zekthi and Egzon really went all out with their celebration, and together they created an endlessly refined red-carpet affair that never ceased to wow their guests.
Enxhi Zekthi & Egzon are proud to be part of the Albanian community here in Chicago. They wanted their wedding to reflect how strongly they feel about their roots, while also celebrating the city, and the country they call home. The backdrop of their celebrations was very much Chicago, but all the smaller, memorable details were very much Albanian. A delightful blending of cultures that we felt privileged to be a part of.
As we mentioned, following the big day, we asked the happy couple a few questions about their wedding, and their experience working with us. Today we’re very proud to be sharing Enxhi Zekthi and Egzon’s wedding photography, and their thoughts on the day.
We are both part of a group within the Albanian community, and we met through that group. The moment Egzon laid eyes on me, he did everything he could to persuade me to go out for dinner. After a few weeks of persistence, he finally got his wish! Our first date was at Travelle restaurant in downtown Chicago; unbeknownst to us at the time, our view was overlooking what would be our first home as a married couple, Marina Towers.
An Epic Proposal
Egzon planned a surprise cross-country road trip from Chicago to San Francisco to pop the question. The road trip was a once-in-a-lifetime moment to capture some beautiful memories that we could look back on forever. The morning after we arrived in San Francisco, Egzon had asked me to wake up very early, so we could take some pictures of the sunrise over the Golden Gate Bridge. Never one to turn down a photoshoot, I was more than thrilled to do so.
Knowing the area is generally busy with visitors, and often engulfed in the famous San Francisco fog, the fact there was not a cloud in the sky, nor a visitor in sight, assured Egzon that this moment was meant to be. And so, he quickly set up his camera on the tripod, and the rest is history.
Egzon created a proposal video as a special gift for me. You’re welcome to take a look! https://youtu.be/Pqp-Dv8KOks
What made you know they were the one for you?
For me, I loved everything Egzon stood for. His genuine heart, his unwavering support in all aspects of our life, and the way he cherished his, and my family was everything I needed to make me realize he was the one. In addition, our profound understanding, mutual respect, loyalty, and shared immigrant journeys connected us on a much deeper level.
For Egzon, it was during conversation on our first date that he realized I had the core values and character that naturally aligned with his. A person he could build a future with. Our conversation flowed so seamlessly that night, it reminded Egzon of his grandma’s advice, “find someone with whom you can have enjoyable conversations with for the rest of your life.”
A Dress to Impress
7 stores in 7 days! I had a vision of how I wanted my dress to be, but had difficulty finding a store that had the perfect one. I needed a traditional ballgown look for the ceremony and pictures, but also a dress that allowed me to dance freely.
Omaima Couture worked with me to custom-make a sparkly white, tight-fitted dress with an overskirt that combined the design talents of YSA Makino and Calla Blanche. I knew it was the right dress as soon as I put it on, as everyone, including myself, was in tears!
We did decide to have a first look. Getting ready with our respective families in the morning created anticipation and build-up for that special moment. Having the first look in a private area, away from the crowds of Navy Pier, allowed us to have a genuine, intimate moment together. Before all the festivities began!
Our wedding inspiration theme was Oscar’s night. The premiering of Enxhi and Egzon’s Hollywood love story! When entering the ballroom, guests were greeted with a long red carpet where they were able to take pictures with the bride and groom. This was a big hit during the wedding, as you can imagine! Guests were only too happy to show off their beautiful attire in front of the camera, which really helped set the tone for the evening. The lighting in the ballroom also played a significant role in creating the mood for each portion of the night.
We both grew up in the US from a young age, but we are also Albanian. Therefore, it was important for us to provide a traditional experience for our guests, one that reflected of our culture, from the music to the party favors. In particular, these cultural expressions were dedicated to our parents and grandparents in attendance, and those who were overseas. Family members who sacrificed a great deal for us to be able to enjoy a wedding in the heart of downtown Chicago. One that would make them proud and smile from ear to ear.
Most Memorable Moments
One of our favorite moments from the wedding was the outdoor ceremony. It was literally a breath of fresh air for us both, given that there were so many stressful parts leading up to that moment. It’s one of the few times during the wedding that time just stood still.
Another one of the moments that meant a lot to both of our families, and guests, was when we began the traditional Valle dancing with the iconic Albanian performers Merita Halili and the Raif Hyseni Orchestra.
The incredible fireworks display in the evening was the cherry on the cake. We got a chance to go on the private rooftop of the Aon Grand Ballroom with our photography team and capture some unbelievable moments during the display. It felt just like a scene from a movie!
While wedding planning can be a challenging process, especially if you’re planning it yourself. The sense of fulfillment you’ll feel when planning it with your partner, step-by-step, is unmatched. It’s a great exercise that teaches you how to work together to accomplish a clear goal.
Looking back on the process, one piece of advice we would offer, is to utilize each other’s skill sets. For us, my background is in finance, which meant I was able to manage the planning and budgeting of the various vendors. While Egzon’s design background was super helpful in visualizing the whole wedding experience. His professional presentations and digital modeling really helped all the vendors align with our ultimate vision.
We were very fortunate to have had a great experience with all of our vendors.
Location of Wedding Ceremony & Reception: Aon Grand Ballroom, Navy Pier, Chicago, IL
Band: Merita Halili and Raif Hyseni Orchestra
DJ: DJ Arvi Mala
Florist: Lavender Fields Flowers & Decor
Decor: LD Events Decor
Lighting: Show Services
Limo Service: Way To Go
Cake Maker: Oak Mill Bakery
Wedding Dress Boutique: Omaima Couture
Caterer: Levy Catering
Our honeymoon was special because we began by visiting our families back home in Albania, and Kosovo. For the first time ever, we got a chance to walk together in the neighborhoods we grew up in.
After spending time with family and exploring our birthplaces, we went on an ‘official’ honeymoon to Italy. It was the dream trip, one that ticked so many boxes for us! From experiencing the idyllic scenery of the Amalfi Coast, dashing through the alleyways of Naples on a Vespa. Exploring the ancient ruins of Rome, enjoying the vineyards of Tuscany, and shopping in the fashion capital of the world, Milan. Above all indulging in far too much pizza, pasta, and gelato!
Dress Store:Omaima Couture//Cake Designer: Oak Mill Bakery//Lighting:Show Services//Design and Decor: LD Events Decor//Floral Designer:Lavender Fields Flowers & Decor//Event Venue:AON Grand Ballroom//Photographer: Lauren Ashley Studios//