Susan Smith and Zach Rosenfeldt came together when the industry they all love came to a sudden stop, yet their collective creativity couldn’t be contained even during a pandemic. 

They brought flowers, balloons, and plenty of bubbly. The spectacle that drew curious neighbors to their windows had been dreamed up months earlier by a group of wedding planners and vendors. 

“At the beginning of the pandemic, we were all sitting around as vendors and as most people, just not able to do anything and feeling like our hands were tied and feeling really helpless, and yet these essential workers were out there doing everything they could for everyone,” said Jenny Barktus with JPB Designs.  

So the team decided to pool their resources for a cause and offer one lucky couple – essential healthcare workers – their services and a venue all free of charge.  

Love, organizers decided, was also essential during a pandemic, and together they still had plenty to share. 

So when Smith and Rosenfeldt arrived home from another long shift back in September 2020, the couple were greeted by a sparkling surprise.  

Out of 150 entrants, with not one but two weddings canceled during Covid, winning the contest meant the couple was finally marching forward to a happier tune. 

“I was shocked because I didn’t think we were going to win in some ways,” Smith said. “I felt like there were so many people who were deserving of it, so knowing we were chosen, it’s the best feeling I’ve had in a long time.” 

Rosenfeldt cares for in-patients at the Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago as a clinical pharmacist practitioner. 

“Making sure that we’re using things are dosed correctly, using the correct drug out of a class of drugs,” Rosenfeldt said.

Susan works at the same facility – in the Veteran’s Suicide Prevention program. 

“So, our role here is we will monitor and provide support for any veteran who has had a recent suicide attempt,” Smith said. “Throughout that whole process, we are with that patient along the way making sure they get enhanced care, checking in with them more often.” 

“They are so deserving, and their jobs are fascinating,” Bartkus said. “They have just been giving and giving and giving, and we want to be able to give to them.” 

Nearly 18 months after winning “The Love is Essential” contest, and with the work of dozens of talented vendors on display at the old post office in Chicago, Susan and Zach were ready to celebrate after the long road it took to get here. 

“I bought the dress before the pandemic hit and it’s been sitting in a bag for two years untouched and unseen,” Smith said.  

They even had a new addition to their wedding party – daughter Shiloh born in August. 

“It’s amazing this wedding is finally happening,” Rosenfeldt said. “It seemed like it was just this fantasy future event that would happen someday, and now here we are. It’s reality.” 

“We’re able to celebrate and have all of our family,” Smith said. “This is the first time I think all of our family is getting together since the pandemic.” 

Their dream wedding, made possible by generosity and kindness, was a smash. 

“Our hope is that this idea becomes a movement and that maybe other cities will take it on,” Bartkus said. “We’ve put the infrastructure in and documented our process along the way so we can hand it over to another city and say, ‘Here you go. Take this and find vendors who can help you run with it,’ because it would be great to see it continue.” 

List of vendors who helped with the “Love is Essential” wedding contest:


Tricia Clarke Beauty @triciaclarkemakeup 773.377.5749


Tablescapes @tablescapeschgo 312.733.9700


BBJ @bbjlatavola


DeFloured @deflouredbakery


Vale of Enna @valeofenna 614.377.1902

Yanni Design Studio @yannidesignstudio 770.815.3930


The Wedding Dresser @theweddingdresser


AEG @atmosphereeventsgroup 847.814.0223


The Old Post Office @post433events 847.682.0139


JPB Designs @jpbdesigns 312.771.7056


Something Blue Photography @somethingbluephoto 224.558.6854/847.845.6510


Blue Plate Catering @blueplatechicago 773.510.7706


Ink, Love, and Paper @inkloveandpaper


Amp Event Professionals @ampeventproffessionals 630.267.3576


Jeff Livorsi 847.494.9131


Rabbi Evan 312.550.5665


Emanuele Tuxedo Rental


Simply Scripted Ink @simplyscriptedink


Vanille @vanillechicago

Nothing Bundt Cakes @nothingbundtcakes


Cortland’s Garage @cortlandsgarage_ah

Breakthru Beverage Group @breakthrubeverageil

Arizona Beverage Co @arizonabeverages

Haymarket Brewery @haymarketbeer

Maplewood Brewery & Distillery @maplewoodbrew

PepsiCo @pepsico