Reception, Reception 101

Reception Sites 101: Ballrooms

March 13, 2019
The Grain Exchange

When people think of wedding receptions, most picture the traditional ballroom. It might be a hotel ballroom or any facility with a large banquet hall. A ballroom is a classic choice for a reception, offering old-world sophistication and (most times) the convenience of an all-inclusive experience.

To decide if the ballroom aesthetic works for you, visit multiple sites in person; the decadence varies from one room to the next. Some ballrooms are set in historic buildings with lavish architecture and crystal chandeliers. This means very little decorating for you, as these ballrooms are naturally beautiful. Many have ornate lobby areas for hosting a cocktail hour, followed by a dramatic opening of the ballroom doors for dinner and dancing. While these glitzy ballrooms offer plenty of glamor, other halls or large conference rooms are more streamlined and unfussy — a blank canvas for you to transform. Aesthetics aside, the biggest draw of a ballroom reception is the on-site amenities.

“On-site” means that many of the necessary services are provided by the facility in question — and this means less stress for you. Hotels and conference centers are pros when it comes to throwing a wedding reception. They often have a wedding coordinator on staff to work with you every step of the way to handle food, drinks, wait staff, shuttles for you and your guests, and so much more. In fact, most ballroom venues either provide their own food service or require the use of pre-approved caterers, immediately simplifying your choice. You’ll be able to choose from a menu of dinner options provided by the facility, allowing you to meet your budget’s needs while knowing that you’re working with a trusted caterer. However, if you have your heart set on an un-affiliated caterer, it never hurts to ask — the venue might make an exception.

If not the caterer, you can still build your own reception package and make personal decisions, like opting to upgrade to finer china, fancier linen and glassware, or adding a balloon drop or champagne toast. The nice thing about these package deals is the ease of it all. The options are yours for the picking, and you can customize your reception to suit your budget and style within the confines of that venue’s affiliates.

In addition to a ballroom reception being easy planning for you as a couple, it’s also easy on your guests. Ballrooms are typically spacious, and many can accommodate hundreds of people. Since giving wedding receptions are old hat for these facilities, they know how to offer exceptional customer service and keep your guests comfortable throughout the evening. Speaking of comfort: There’s nothing like a ballroom reception in the heat of summer. You can rest assured that banquet halls are air-conditioned.

If you decide on a hotel ballroom (emphasis on hotel), your guests will love you for it. There’s nothing easier for out-of-town — or even in-town — guests than a hotel party. Hotels typically offer special room rates for guests of the wedding, and it’s convenient to be able to stop back at the hotel room during the down time between the ceremony and reception. Guests can also enjoy the open bar without having to worry about getting a taxi back to their hotel across town. And the next morning: continental breakfast. Need I say more?

As for ballrooms without a hotel attached, many venues will gladly arrange a shuttle service to and from a nearby hotel. Special room rates are normally offered, too.

Scroll down for great Ballroom Images.  For more information on reception venues, check out our Advanced Venue Search at There you can search by the number of guests, price range, and type of venue.

To get you started, here’s a list of Southeast Wisconsin facilities with ballrooms and banquet halls. We’re also including a few “Real Wedding” links from venues!

Traditional Ballrooms

1451 Renaissance Place
Chandelier Ballroom
Davians Banquet & Conference Center
Grain Exchange Room
The Rotunda

Hotel with Ballroom or Banquet Space

Best Western Plus Milwaukee Airport
Crowne Plaza Milwaukee – West
Crowne Plaza Milwaukee Airport Hotel
Delafield Hotel
Four Points by Sheraton Milwaukee Airport
Grand Geneva Resort & Spa
Hampton Inn & Suites
Hilton Milwaukee City Center
Holiday Inn Pewaukee- Milwaukee West
Hyatt Regency
Ingleside Hotel
Milwaukee Marriott West
Radisson Hotel Milwaukee
The Ridge Hotel
Sheraton Milwaukee Brookfield Hotel
The Astor Hotel
The Pfister Hotel

Real Weddings

Real Wedding: Melissa & Alan held at 1451 Renaissance Place
Real Wedding: Aleah & Donald held at Geneva National

Ballroom, Blue/Aqua/Navy, Dark, Downtown, Fall, Green/Olive, Real Weddings, Red, Traditional

Rachael & David’s Performing Arts Center Wedding

March 11, 2019
Rachael and David's wedding at the Milwaukee Performing Arts Center Milwaukee

David and Rachael’s love story started at Marquette University. “David was my first friend at Marquette,” Rachael says. “We both did Army ROTC and met on the very first day of school. We became best friends instantly and remained best friends for about two years until we started dating.”

Both David, now a logistician, and Rachael, now a nurse, were stationed at Joint Base Lewis McChord in Tacoma, Washington, when David proposed. “David and I love to hike in our free time, and he knows I love mountains,” Rachael says. “David proposed to me at the top of a mountain with Mount Rainier as the backdrop. I immediately broke into tears and said yes.”

The two planned an October wedding at the Marcus Center for Performing Arts in Milwaukee. “We both love the rustic farmhouse style, but felt that our venue was too classy for that. So we decided to go with a floral, only slightly-rustic theme. We absolutely loved it! Our colors were burgundy, navy, blush, succulent green, and frost green.”

The ceremony was held where their romance began: on Marquette’s campus. “Our favorite part of the ceremony was getting married at our Alma Mater’s on-campus church, Gesu.” Rachael was also baptized at Gesu and her parents were married there. “The church itself has a lot of meaning to us.”

David says that his favorite moment of the day was standing at the altar and seeing Rachael walk toward him, clutching her father’s arm. “Gesu has a very long aisle to walk down,” he says. “From afar, I could only slightly see what Rachael’s gown looked like, but that was it. As she walked toward me, I loved seeing all the little details come to life — her smile, hair, makeup, jewelry, the dress. Rachael looked, and is, so beautiful. Watching her come to life as she walked down the aisle was amazing.”

After David and Rachael said “I do,” the party moved to Milwaukee’s Performing Arts Center (PAC). The space was decorated with signage by Coqui Paperie, who had also done the invitation suite. “They were absolutely amazing! All of our “Coqui” paperie products turned out fantastic!”  “The PAC did an amazing job coordinating and planning our wedding. We were both stationed in Washington State, and the PAC still did a wonderful job planning with us from afar via email and phone calls. When the day-of coordinator we had hired cancelled the morning of our wedding, the PAC seamlessly took over the tasks. They were so helpful before, during, and after the wedding. Karin, our coordinator for the PAC, was especially amazing. We can’t thank Karin and PAC enough!”

Saz’s  catered a dinner of tenderloin spiedini, salmon, and a mushroom vegetarian option. “The food was fantastic! We also had gourmet popcorn as a late-night snack: cheddar, parmesan, caramel, and truffle.” But Rachael’s favorite part of the reception? “Dancing! The Performing Arts Center is one huge ballroom, and we had a live band knowing both of our families love to dance. The Bluewater Kings Band rocked the dance floor all night long.”

When all was said and done, Rachael’s major advice to future brides is just to relax and enjoy. “Stop all wedding planning and prepping at least three days before the wedding. Give yourself time to relax, grab coffee with a friend, or do yoga. Keep busy and visit with family. If something isn’t set three days before the wedding, it’s not worth stressing over. Also, remember that it’s okay to be assertive. Give trusted people tasks the day of. Most of all, enjoy your wedding day! You don’t want to look back and think about how stressed you were.” With the help of good vendors and the support of family and friends, a stress-free wedding can be a dream come true.

Make-upSamantha Kalkopf Artistry
HairAlex from Piccola Salon
InvitationsCoqui Paperie
Rehearsal DinnerRock Bottom Brewery
CeremonyThe Church of Gesu
ReceptionMarcus Center for the Performing Arts
CatererSazama's Fine Catering
DessertO&H Bakery
Custom SignageCoqui Paperie
FlowersImpressions by Esther Flemming
Music/EntertainmentBluewater Kings Band
TransportationAdonis Limousine
Photographerleo&jenny photography
VideographerHedge Visuals
GownEssence of Australia from Something Blue Bridal Boutique, Puyallup, WA
FormalwearMen’s Wearhouse
RingsKay Jeweler
Marquee LettersEZPZ Marquee
Before the Wedding, Cakes, Just for Fun, Planning, Tradition / Theme / Culture

6 Sensational Cake Trends for 2019

March 8, 2019
hoop wedding cake, 3 tiered cake with gold and floral accents

If you’re into tiers of white cake festooned with soft pink rosettes, this may not be the article for you. Celebratory sweets are going non-traditional, personalized, and couture. In 2019 guests will enjoy one-of-a-kind pieces that belong as much on Instagram as in their bellies. Let’s take a look.



There was a time when adding custard between layered white cake was considered a fun surprise. Not anymore, honey (pun intended). This year couples are opting away from bland, one-size-fits-all cakes and instead serving a personal favorite. Non-cakes have been on our radar for a while, but they'll officially take over in 2019. Varying flavors of iced bundt cakes, doughnut pyramids, cultural pastries such as Kolaches and Kringle, family recipes, and yes, you guessed it—cheese wheels (perfect if you and your partner prefer savory over sweet) will amuse in 2019. 

Cake Noir

"A new trend you’ll see for 2019 is a black wedding cake with touches of an edible 24k gold leaf." Peggy Carollo, owner of Simma's Bakery explains. "This simply elegant look can be modern, romantic, unique, nontraditional yet timeless." Black, dark aubergine, deep navy, and smoky charcoal colors are wowing tables all over 2019. If a cake can be sexy, this is the one.

Watercolor Cakes

Watercolor wedding cakes are enjoying the spotlight, and for good reason. With each brushstroke in varying colors, shades, and marbling these beautiful edible works of art are a stunning wedding day dessert. Watercolor cakes come in all styles: floral, marble, or abstract, and showcase your wedding day dessert in all its storybook glory.


Geode Cakes

Taking Pinterest by storm is the Geode cake. Think back to your 8th grade Geology class - those hollow rocks filled with sparkling crystals and minerals. Guests who are used to seeing traditional cakes adorned with delicate flowers will marvel at cake tiers literally slashed open revealing a rock candy core designed to look like one of nature’s most beautiful rock formations.

Structural Wonders

If Salvador Dali were a baker, these would be his specialty. Confections need not take on the predictable shape or texture of cakes of old, so get your head right out of the box. Surreal designs with unexpected appendages, odd surfaces such as faux stucco, or tree bark, and gasp inducing trimmings like the greenery pictured here, take cakes to an artistic level. 

Simma's - Floral Cake

Floral Focused

We love the look of edible flowers on cakes—especially when executed like this. They look like pressed flowers which feel at once both nostalgic and super fresh. Combine fresh flowers with fondant petals for a beautiful and decadent dessert.

Click here for a list of local bakeries.

Blue/Aqua/Navy, Green/Olive, Neutrals, Outdoor & Tented, Pastel, Real Weddings, Rustic / Barn, Rustic/Vintage, Summer, West

Q&A with PB Rewards Winners Stephanie & Ryan

March 7, 2019
Stephanie and Ryan marry at Vintage Fields at Farmin’ Betty’s

Twice a year, we team up with local vendors to treat lucky brides and grooms to Premier Bride Rewards! The rewards range from luxury hotel stays to unique group experiences to the chance to be a model in a wedding fashion shoot. This year as a part of our Premier Bride Rewards, we’re shining a spotlight on a few local brides and their stories.

Today, meet Stephanie and Ryan! We asked Stephanie some questions about her and Ryan’s engagement and wedding. Here’s how their love story unfolds:

Where are you both from?
I’m from South Milwaukee and Ryan is from Sussex.

How did you two meet?
We had both dabbled in the world of online dating, neither finding success. However, we had both heard good stories from loved ones about the site Coffee Meets Bagel. Around the exact same time, we each decided to join the site and give it a go. We found each other only a day or two after being on the site.

How did Ryan pop the question?
We crossed the pond and landed in Dublin for a week of exploring Ireland. On the third day of the trip, we made it to the Cliffs of Moher. After about 40 minutes of walking the edge of the cliffs, I asked a stranger to take our photo. Ryan knew I would do this because I always do! As soon as they took the first shot, Ryan reached into his pocket, grabbed the ring, and got down on one knee. The moment was such a blur! But the woman who took the picture did a fantastic job, in spite of the fact she was crying. The amazing thing was, she and her husband were there on their 27th wedding anniversary.

Tell us about the season and style of your wedding!
We had a summer wedding in late August. The style was pretty, fun, rustic, and timeless, with colors of neutrals, greenery, and dusty blues.

Where did you host the ceremony and reception?
Both outdoors at Vintage Fields at Farmin’ Betty’s.

What were your favorite things about your ceremony?
Ryan’s Uncle Ron officiated our wedding, which truly meant the world to us. I had both my parents walk me down the aisle. We had our English Cream Golden Retriever pup, Bentley, be our ring bearer. Since we got engaged in Ireland, we did a whiskey unity barrel using an Irish honey liquor and whiskey. Having it outside was amazing!

What were your favorite things about your reception?
We had our dinner and speeches inside the barn, then moved outside to let guests get ice cream for dessert. We also had an outdoor bar. We loved having all the dancing outside under the stars and twinkling lights.

Tell us about the food, drinks, and dessert!
For food, we had a taco truck serving signature tacos and Mexican corn. We had two signature cocktails: margaritas and brandy old fashioneds, along with beer, wine, and soda. The margaritas were to go with the tacos we served at dinner, and the old fashioned were perfect for a Wisconsin wedding. For dessert, we had cake and an ice cream cart. The ice cream was my must-have for the wedding — I’m obsessed!

Did you do any DIY projects?
Yes! Almost everything was done by myself and my mom, dad, mother-in-law, bridesmaids, and matrons of honor (I had two). My dad made all the table number card holders and the wine rack for our guest book. My mom and I made my hairpiece together. One of my bridesmaids, one of my matrons of honor, and I created all the signs that were in the wedding. I hand-wrote each name card that was written on magnolia leaves and displayed with string across two vintage ladders.

Did you take a honeymoon?
We took a mini-moon to Door County, and at the end of February we went to Italy and Greece — two places that we can check off our bucket list.

What’s your best advice for couples who are wedding planning?
You don’t have to follow those wedding checklists you see everywhere online. Do your own thing and quit worrying about what everyone else is doing. We only had a four-month engagement and didn’t follow any checklist. It can be done in any timeframe!

Congratulations to Stephanie and Ryan on their wedding and being a Premier Bride Rewards winner! Special thanks to our Premier Bride partners who helped make their day a special one: Dress shops Amelishan and Savvy Bride. 

Hair & Make-upEilerej Blowout Designs & Imagery
Invitations/Custom SignageStephanie Marie Photography & Design
Rehearsal DinnerJust Smokin’ Barbecue
Ceremony & ReceptionVintage Fields at Farmin’ Betty’s
CateringEl Grito
BartendingPour Inc.
DessertsBride and Groom Cake: Dessert MD
Sheet cakes: Costco
Ice cream: Mijo Frozen Treats
FlowersStudio Botanica LLC
Music/EntertainmentMidwest Sound and Design
PhotographerTaylor Kelley Photography
VideographerSwan Visuals
GownJacquelin Exclusive from Amelishan
Bridesmaid GownsSavvy Bride
FormalwearKohls – Apt. 9
RentalsDandy – Midventurious Modern – Krueger sign
RingsBride: Kesslers; Groom: MNH

Downtown, Fall, Modern/Industrial, Pink/Blush, Real Weddings, Whites/Grays/Silvers

Kylli & Jason’s Industrial-Chic Wedding at the Harley-Davidson Museum

February 25, 2019

Kylli from Dousman and Jason from Mayville met at a college conference in St. Louis in 2013. “He went to Concordia University and I went to Marquette University,” Kylli says. “Probably wouldn’t have crossed paths if we didn’t go to that conference!” Jason proposed in one of Kylli’s favorite places: Bayfield, Wisconsin. “It’s where my dad grew up and my Grandma still lives there. Jason and I walked the ferry dock around sunset; it overlooks Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands.”

Kylli says Jason tried to keep the proposal a secret, but she had her suspicions. “Deep down I knew he was going to ask me at some point that weekend, which was the weekend after I graduated from my Masters program. I told him it was important to me to finish school, so naturally he is impatient and chose the weekend after graduation to propose!”

Jason and Kylli decided on a church ceremony followed by a romantic, industrial-chic wedding reception at the Harley-Davidson Museum. “It was the first and only venue we looked at for our reception. The moment we saw the space, we knew this was where we wanted to celebrate our big day. It has the perfect view of Milwaukee and the canal, with modern and industrial touches without even decorating.”

Leading up to their wedding day, Kylli attended the Bridal Expo at the Brookfield Sheraton to get ideas. She found her Paloma Blanca dress at Miss Ruby’s: “From the moment I stepped in this boutique, I knew I was buying my dress here! That staff was amazing and their space was industrial-chic. Also, I loved my dress — it had pockets!” On the eve of the wedding, Jason and Kylli hosted a rehearsal dinner at Zarletti in Mequon. “It was excellent! We rented the room upstairs for about 40 people.”

On the day of the wedding, guests gathered at the Concordia University chapel for a ceremony officiated by Jason’s home church pastor from Mayville. “Jason is very religious, so having a ceremony in a church was very important to him. I just wish he didn’t pick the church with the longest aisle ever!” Kylli laughs. To decorate the church, the couple chose to go minimalistic. “A few roses and eucalyptus leaves lined the pews. We had an ivory aisle runner, and we had our flower girl use eucalyptus leaves instead instead of flower petals.”

For the flowers, Kylli worked with Nancy at Fantasy Flowers. “She worked tirelessly to make sure the flowers and all the details were perfect. All the bouquets and boutonnieres were perfectly designed for our vision, and we received so many compliments from wedding guests on how beautiful everything was.”

En route to the reception, the bride and groom stopped for photos at the Iron Horse Hotel before taking more pictures at the Harley-Davidson Museum. “Our reception was held in the Rumble Room and Patio 13. With the help of all our vendors, it turned into the most modern, industrial, and romantic scene.” Kylli especially loved all of the candles. “I joked that if we didn’t set off the fire alarm, there weren’t enough! We incorporated details throughout the reception venue, such as our logo and metal pieces — the cake stand, centerpiece holders, and succulent planters — to drive home the industrial feel. From the moment our guests walked up the stairs to sitting down at their tables, the space felt cohesive.”

Dinner and drinks were catered by Levy Restaurants at the Museum. “10/10 would recommend. Levy outdid themselves.” Guests had their choice of three entrées: Braised beef short ribs with a red wine demi-glaze, pan-roasted salmon with Meyer lemon butter, or a vegetarian pumpkin butternut squash ravioli in a brown butter sauce. “Everyone raved about the food — the beef especially. People said it was so good, the portion wasn’t enough!” For drinks, Jason and Kylli opted for an open bar. “We couldn’t decide on which drinks to host, so we allowed our guests to pick whatever their hearts desired. It was a hit!”

“The Harley-Davidson staff made the entire process seamless. It was great to work with everyone and trust them with our decorations and vision. It allowed us to let loose and actually enjoy our day, knowing we were in such good hands.”

The following day, Kylli and Jason planned a brunch with close family and friends at the Iron Horse Hotel. “That was truly special. It was a chance to relive the night before and send everyone off with a big hug the next morning. Plus, we had donuts. Who doesn’t like donuts?!”

Bridal Shows AttendedBridal Expo Brookfield – Sheraton
Make-upDiana Elise, Beauty by Diana
HairCheane Sartler, HoneyComb Salon
Rehearsal DinnerZarletti, Mequon
CeremonyChapel of Christ Triumphant – Concordia University Mequon
Reception LocationHarley-Davidson Museum, Rumble Room
Catering & BartendingHarley-Davidson Museum (Levy Restaurants)
DessertDelicately Delicious
FlowersFantasy Flowers
MusicSound by Design
TransportationPartridge Family Party Bus
PhotographerAlex Good
GownMikealla by Paloma Blanca from Miss Ruby- A Bridal Boutique
FormalwearMen’s Warehouse
RingsShallow Jewelers
Before the Wedding, Just for Fun, Planning, Rings

Average Spend on Engagement Rings State by State

February 20, 2019
engagement rings spend average cost

Engagement season basically runs Thanksgiving through Valentine’s Day, and with February being the celebrated month of love, proposals are at an all time peak!

According to online diamond retailer Ritani, Americans on average, spent roughly $6,324 on an engagement ring in 2018. But many factors go into pricing a diamond engagement ring. Diamonds are graded and priced based on the “four Cs,” which are cut, carat, color, and clarity. Each of which can affect the price.

Below is a full list of what the average ring spend is state by state sorted from the highest to lowest spend.

Ritani – Ring Spend State by State

1. California – $9,809

2. Minnesota – $9,063

3. Florida – $8,473

4. Kansas -$8,402

5. Colorado -$8,178

6. North Dakota -$7,938

7. Georgia -$7,796

8. Pennsylvania -$7,735

9. New York -$7,718

10. North Carolina -$7,596

11. Washington, D.C. -$7,553

12. Alaska -$7,455

13. Texas -$7,435

14. Nevada -$7,434

15. Massachusetts -$7,394

16. New Jersey -$7,282

17. Connecticut -$7,220

18. Illinois -$7,110

19. Michigan -$7,028

20. Maryland -$6,893

21. West Virginia -$6,811

22. Wyoming -$6,738

23. Washington -$6,721

24. Arizona -$6,592

25. Kentucky -$6,421

26. Idaho -$6,351

27. Montana -$6,211

28. Virginia -$6,162

29. Tennessee -$6,153

30. South Carolina -$6,127

31. Louisiana-$6,066

32. Alabama -$5,945

33. Missouri -$5,851

34. Maine -$5,833

35. Delaware -$5,606

36. Arkansas -$5,582

37. Wisconsin – $5,469

38. Utah -$5,456

39. Hawaii -$5,454

40. Vermont -$5,082

41. Indiana -$4,905

42. Ohio -$4,815

43. Rhode Island -$4,812

44. New Mexico -$4,798

45. New Hampshire -$4,588

46. Nebraska -$4,576

47. Oregon -$4,445

48. Oklahoma -$4,058

49. Iowa -$3,400

50. South Dakota -$3,178

51. Mississippi -$2,793

Looking for the perfect engagement ring? Click here!

Ask the Right Questions, Before the Wedding, Gowns, Planning, Trends and Ideas

5 Tips to Unspooling Gown Alterations

February 20, 2019
wedding gown, dress alterations, dress designer, dress maker, dress fitting, wedding gown questions

You have found it. THE dress. It is nothing like you expected you would fall in love with. Or maybe it was the dress swooshing around your imagination since childhood. In either case, you zipped yourself into it and you knew.

This is only the beginning, I’m afraid. Because it is rare for that perfect dress to fit, well, perfectly. We are all born with a unique mish-mash of mom and dad’s proportions, and because of that you might need additional bust support, some length off the bottom, not to mention multiple bustle options and additional creative elements to add a bit more flair. It’s mostly unavoidable, your dress is going to need a tune-up, and believe it or not, that’s a good thing. When all eyes are on you, the dress will appear made just for you, to your contours and personal style.

Now that we have accepted this fact, let’s dive into some tips to make the process as seamless and satisfactory as possible.


1. Look, it’s going to cost you some money.

This is the painful part of course. Alterations can run anywhere from a breezy $75 all the way up into the gulp-inducing several hundreds of dollars. It’s going to depend on a few factors, like the complexity of what you are having corrected, who is performing the service, and how much time has been allotted to complete them. The best thing you can do to stomach these necessary fees is to consider the alterations a built-in cost of the dress. For instance if your budget for a dress is $3000, when browsing, limit your search to dresses in the $2500 range. The money left over is already set aside for adjustments to the dress, veil, accessories, etc. No surprises, and no scrambling for additional funds.

2. These things take time, and multiple fittings.

If you don't want to see a tailor’s blood pressure shoot upward in real time, give them a month to perfect your dress. To you, a month is eons. Handing your dream gown over to a stranger for weeks on end can be agonizing, and your faith they won’t ruin or lose your dress is all you have to go on. 

First, calm down. These seamstresses don’t want to ruin your dress any more than you want them to. They are in this business because they are good at what they do, they love happy brides, and they are passionate about their craft. Because of this however, trust them when they ask for several weeks to complete your alterations and see you through multiple fittings. You will likely need more than one fitting. Give the dress the time it deserves, the more the better.

3. Your neighbor's cousin’s gardener’s sister should not be completing your alterations.

You are going to be tempted to cut corners and find a friend to take care of these things for you. Professional tailors are the only people who should be even touching your dress once purchased. They know the delicate fabrics, how to navigate around beading and lacework, they understand how your dress is supposed to move when you are gliding on a dance floor, where the darts go so that when you sit down to eat the entire thing doesn’t split up the backside. The person who hems your jeans is likely not skilled in shaping your dress. And when your friend with a sewing machine gets it all wrong and you are down to the wire, you will have no recourse. Stick with the experts, ideally the personnel who sold you your dress will have a great recommendation, or a reputable tailor in your area with proven wedding gown experience.

4. For the first time in your life, size UP your dress.

This is not a dig on your winter weight, and it’s not a fun game the sales staff plays to convince you to pay for alterations. This is a practical measure taken by people with experience, who know it is much easier to take a dress in than it is to make a small dress bigger. Imagine spending what feels like a fortune on your fairy tale dress, to discover there’s just nowhere to go with making the dress big enough to fit you. Purchase a dress that is just a touch too big, no more than one step up from your current size. This gives just enough play at the seams, but not so much play that the entire cut of the dress would change by removing large swaths of fabric.It stands to reason that you should be at or near your desired weight while trying on dresses in the first place. Huge variations in your body dimensions make alterations an impossible task, so get to whatever weight you want and stay there. And don’t overthink this part. You are beautiful just the way you are, and an ideal size for the person dying to marry you.

5. Make each fitting an au naturel dress rehearsal.

If you want an accurate visual for how your dress will lay the day of your wedding, it should follow that all of your fittings would include the little details that complete the look. Bring with you the jewelry, shoes, veil, bra, underwear, and any shaping undergarments you are planning to wear. Switching from one bra to another can alter the bust line all together, and throw off measurements for the rest of the dress. And your jewelry might not appeal to you as much once paired with the dress. Your fittings are opportunities to trial options both under and over your dress.Additionally, if it’s a hot day outside, cool down before trying on your dress to avoid any sweat or deodorant transfer. And while on the topic of transfer, imagine your dream gown smeared with self-tanner or make-up. Instead show up to your fittings baby faced and fresh, and bring with you your maid of honor or trusted family member. You will need this person with you as another set of eyes, to learn how to zip, button, or tie you in, handle your train and bustle, and do lunch with you afterward. These are happy moments to be celebrated, so share them with someone you love.
Fall, Green/Olive, Historic & Unique, Orange/Coral, Real Weddings, Traditional, West, Yellow/Gold/Ivory/Creams

Karissa & Ryan’s Autumn Wedding in Downtown Waukesha

February 11, 2019
Karissa and Ryan marry at the Rotunda in Waukesha

Karissa and Ryan had a 12-hour first date. After matching on E-Harmony, the two chatted for a bit before deciding to meet for a daytime hike at Devil’s Lake. “It was one of the hottest days of the summer and we were both drenched in sweat by the first 10 minutes. So much for trying to make a good impression!”

Later in the hike, storm clouds rolled in and unleashed buckets of rain. “Ryan had packed a picnic for dinner, but we were completely soaked and it was still raining,” Karissa says. “So we went to the local Wal-Mart, bought dry clothes off the clearance rack, changed, and went out to a restaurant for dinner.” Before they knew it, they’d had a 12-hour first date. Ryan proposed to Karissa during another hike near the bluffs by La Crosse. Fun fact: Both Karissa and Ryan went to undergrad at La Crosse, but their paths had never crossed.

The happy couple planned a late September wedding at the Rotunda in downtown Waukesha. Keeping all of their festivities west of Milwaukee, the rehearsal dinner was held at the Delafield Brewhaus, and pictures were taken at Nashotah Lake and the Retzer Nature Center. “We also took some nighttime photos in downtown Waukesha.”

Leading up to the wedding, Ryan and Karissa practiced their first dance in their kitchen. “I would wear my heels and the hoop from under my wedding dress, as I didn’t want Ryan to see the dress itself before the wedding, and he would wear his formal shoes,” Karissa says. “Our dog thought it was a game and would jump up to try and join the dancing.”

Ryan and Karissa had loads of help from family and friends to make their day unforgettable. “I remember the night before, all the bridesmaids, groomsmen, and family spent several hours helping us decorate,” Karissa says. “Each person used their time and talents to bless our special day. We had friends and family come from all over the world, including Honduras and Australia. It was such an amazing outpouring of love from those that mean the most to us.” Ryan’s mom made the invitations and thank-you cards, his aunt handled all of the flowers, and the Maid of Honor made a “Pup of Honor” bandana for the dog, just to name a few.

Karissa wore her grandma’s dress: “I always knew I wanted to wear my grandma’s dress,” she says. “She wore it in 1963 and my mom wore it in 1987. I had also always dreamed of an autumn wedding. The style of the day took shape from there. We found the Rotunda, which was an elegant ballroom. The bridesmaid dresses were olive green with autumn-colored flowers and decorations.”

The bride and groom said “I do” with a Christian ceremony also held at the Rotunda. “Ryan and I wrote our own vows. We wrote them together, and they were very unique and personal to our relationship. We currently have a copy hanging on our bathroom mirror so that we are reminded of them daily.”

At the reception, the food and drinks were catered by Chef Jack’s. “Everything about it was amazing! We did a semi-sit down style.” Guests were served a fresh autumn salad, then were invited up to a buffet dinner. The menu included a vegetable medley, Parisian oven-roasted potatoes, penne pasta Alfredo with sun-dried tomatoes, bourbon peach chicken, and chef-carved roast sirloin with mushroom sauce. “Everything was absolutely scrumptious. Tony and the team did a fantastic job, and we had many people comment that this was the best wedding food they had ever had.”

Instead of appetizers, Ryan and Karissa chose to serve a late-night snack of quesadillas. There were three flavors: brie and spiced pear, grilled chicken with caramelized onions, and roasted asparagus with bacon. For drinks, beer, wine, and soda were hosted all night. For dessert, multiple flavors of cupcakes. “Our baker made Ryan and me a private stash of cupcakes that was placed in our car to eat the next morning,” Karissa says. “This was so thoughtful, especially since I didn’t get to try any at the wedding!”

One memorable moment from the reception, aside from the hoppin’ dance floor, was the bouquet toss. Karissa’s first attempt went a little long. “My brother ended up catching the bouquet near the bar,” she laughs. “I decided to try the toss again, and my college roommate caught the bouquet. She got engaged the next day! I guess what they say is true!”

Looking back, Karissa’s advice for future brides is to remember that it’s okay not to have everything you see on Pinterest. “Your wedding day will be special because of the people, not the things. Take time to incorporate meaningful details and family heirlooms; it will mean a lot to those you love. Make sure to stop at several points throughout the day to look around and take it all in. You only get married once, so enjoy it!”

Hair stylistRoots Salon, Brookfield
Rehearsal dinnerDelafield Brewhaus
Ceremony & ReceptionThe Rotunda, Waukesha
Catering & BartendingChef Jack’s
Cake Designer/DessertExtra Special Touch Bakery, Waukesha
Music/EntertainmentSmoov Music, Mukwonago
PhotographerThe Paper Elephant, Brookfield
GownBride wore Grandma’s dress from 1963 that was also worn by her Mom in 1987
FormalwearJad Brothers, Alpharetta, GA
Bridesmaid DressesDaisy Formals
RingsKrikawa Rings
Decoration RentalsVintique Rentals, Oconomowoc
Bridesmaid's EarringsWillow Lane Jewelry
Unity Candle & Guest PlaqueEtsy
Flowers, Just for Fun, Planning, Stylized Shoots, Trends and Ideas

Action! Staging Your Scene with Backdrops

February 8, 2019
wooden plank backdrop with couple's initials, greenery, white linen couch and coffee table

Backdrops can be tricky. On the one hand you want them to be beautiful, but only as an accessory to the bride and groom. The prettiest thing up there should be you. Your guests shouldn’t say “excuse me, lady in white? You’re blocking the view.” However at some point you won’t be up there yet, and the backdrop is there to set the scene, to provide some context. It is an expression of, “This is our vibe. This is the party you’re attending, as represented by our decor.” It’s the hors d’oeuvre to the main course, the couple in love.

You have an opportunity for this design choice not only at the altar, but also behind the head table, should you decide to have one. It can also be used at the entrance to your reception where guests may want to take a photo, or where your cake or gifts will be displayed. Perhaps each of these places could use the same background, or something similar to jive nicely while being unique to each location. Lisa Loosen with Heavenly Creations Events notes that trends lately lean toward the earthy, nature based aesthetic, “with or without the greens, the flower strands, anything wood, metal or round (hoops). Bohemian/boho-chic, metallics, geometrics.” She suggests softer colors in keeping with today’s style, however as with all fashion, deeper colors are on the horizon.

Rustic touches like these might be right up your alley in keeping with a romantic, ethereal atmosphere. After all, weddings can be many things- playful, exciting, elegant, even casual, but romance should be the thread woven throughout. Danielle Cole with Alfa Flowers has also seen a demand for neutral tulle designs incorporating lots of greenery, even a floral swag to tie in with other arrangements in the ceremony. Hoops are big for these designs as well, noting “using one hoop as a focal point really brings your eye to the center where all the action is happening anyway, with the added bonus of only having to hang one.” Imagine the subtext of standing together in front of a golden toned or birch hoop while giving your vows, as though you are standing in a spotlight, or a full moon. What emphasis that small detail adds to such a moment in your lives.

Other more “boho” options you might consider according to Melissa Maas at Bank of Flowers could be a macramé curtain or tapestry, a hedge of potted arborvitae or boxwoods, or a floral wall, which is just as it sounds. What a dreamy scene, marrying amidst a blanket of ranunculus and peonies, wafting your way with every breath. And don’t forget the original backdrop, Mother Nature herself. If you are planning an outdoor wedding, it’s possible the landscape behind you is more striking than anything you could have ever designed yourself. If indoors, is there a fireplace or eye-catching decor you could incorporate? In either case, a simple arch or standing planters frame your ceremony perfectly while bringing the focal point back to where it belongs: You. (Okay, your fiancé, too.)

If your opinion of arches is of lackluster predictability, well, think again, according to Stephanie with Cover it with Class. This old standby has come a long way, with updated triangular and circular shapes for a more modern or new age feel. Think about creating a vignette within the arch, “with backdrops featuring crystals and chandeliers to create positive vibes and energy for the evening.” Stephanie suggests using imagination with your ceremonial mandap or chuppah as well, noting cultural tradition need not be staid or stale either. Incorporating warm lighting with cultural regalia “will create a glow and enhance the design of the overall look.”

Lisa reminds us glitz is always “in,” with many couples opting for strands of crystals, pearls, glittering lights, and billows of curtains. The inherent shimmer and drama of these elements really dresses up a space, adding sophistication while keeping things spirited and fun. Play with lighting so that it hits the sparkle just right, experiment with uplighting for an old Hollywood feel, or soft, twinkly lights for a magical, wintery mood.

Abstract and creative scenery can be a memorable touch, since it more pointedly speaks to your personalities. An idea might be to blow up your vows, a love note, or your fiancé’s proposal speech, and have them printed onto a neutral backdrop, in your own handwriting or an elegant font. Using a light projector, cast your new shared initials onto a darker colored screen, or a symbol that means something to you both. For example, two passionate deer hunters may choose to stand before a silhouette of trophy antlers. Another idea is to incorporate photographs and repeat your vows amongst countless images of framed family wedding photos, a welcoming to the tribe of “’til death do us part.”

Like all wedding décor, altar designs are your opportunity to set a tone. However because its whole job is to highlight you, it carries with it a special responsibility. You might say your backdrop is your wingman. It should contrast you just enough that you stand out, but also blend seamlessly with your style. It should look great on its own, but it must really let you shine once you enter the room. It should make a statement, but not so loudly no one hears your “I do.” Basically, it should have your back.


Looking for the perfect backdrop for your big event? Check out these coordinators & consultants  and rentals, florists, decor, and signage vendors to help turn your vision into a reality!

Ballroom, Blue/Aqua/Navy, Downtown, Green/Olive, Pink/Blush, Real Weddings, Summer, Traditional

Amanda & Jordan’s Intimate Downtown Wedding at VUE

February 4, 2019
Amanda & Jordan at the Hyatt Milwaukee

Amanda had moved to Milwaukee after college for a job and Jordan had moved for his master’s degree when the two met through a mutual friend one night at a dive bar called Fink’s. “We ended up sitting at the same table and chatting all night about our love for dogs, hockey, beer, and BelAir salsa.” Soon after, Jordan asked Amanda on a date, and the rest is history! Jordan proposed during the nighttime water show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. “I had no idea he was going to pop the question,” Amanda says. “My first words were, ‘Is this for real?’”

It was real as could be, and soon the couple had set a date for June of 2018. While planning, Amanda attended the Wonderful World of Weddings show and the Alfa Flowers Bridal Open House. She and Jordan ended up going with Alfa Flower & Wedding Shop to create their ceremony arch, bouquets, and all of the floral décor. “The flowers were so fresh that the arrangements were still in tact after coming back from our honeymoon!” Amanda says. “I was even able to replant the succulent from my bridal bouquet.”

The wedding color scheme was actually inspired by succulents, playing off the natural blue, green, and soft pink tones. “We had steel blue bridesmaid dresses, light gray suits, natural greenery, and hints of soft pink with both gold and silver accents. The stationary, bridal bouquet, and party favors all incorporated succulents. Plus, the plant is a nod to Las Vegas, where we got engaged, and San Diego, where we honeymooned.”

Both the ceremony and reception were held at VUE at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Milwaukee.“We wanted an intimate wedding with around 60–100 guests,” Amanda says. “But it was proving to be very hard to find a venue in the city that was small yet still celebrated the fact that this was our wedding day. When we met Brit from the Hyatt, it was the best wedding gift we could ever have received! She was energetic, genuinely happy for us, incredibly helpful, and knew her stuff. She was organized and had our best interest at heart. It felt like we were planning our wedding with a friend.”

“Having our wedding at VUE gave us Milwaukee, the city where we met, as our backdrop. The Hyatt recently remodeled the space, so it was clean, modern, and truly stunning. It was the perfect alternative to a ballroom, if you want more unique views and don’t need to accommodate hundreds of guests.”

The location allowed Jordan and Amanda to take all of their photos right in downtown Milwaukee, too. “There was beautiful and iconic Milwaukee scenery all around us, so we didn’t have to rent transportation to take photos. Everything was within walking distance. The time saved meant we got to enjoy our entire cocktail hour! It was really important to us that we got to participate in our full wedding day, along with all of our guests.”

Dinner, drinks, and dessert were all catered by the Hyatt. Immediately following the ceremony, guests were invited to drink at Bar 333 in the hotel lobby, while Amanda and Jordan snapped some pictures with their families. Then, during cocktail hour, there was marinated beef satay, mini Monte Cristo sandwiches, potato-wrapped shrimp, and an open bar.

Dinner started with a simple romaine salad and three entrées: asiago chicken, lemon and chive pinko-crusted salmon, and vegetarian napoleon with cheese and roasted tomato sauce. On the side, there were smashed potatoes and asparagus, plus mini hot pretzels with cheese for a late-night snack.

Dessert was a devil’s food cake with chocolate chip cookie dough frosting and filling. The cake topper was a special hit. “It was a 3D print of us wearing our rival hockey team jerseys!” Amanda laughs. “I’m a Blackhawks fan and Jordan is a Penguins fan. Guests ended up taking the topper out on the dance floor, passing it around and even taking pictures with it! It was unintentionally the best party favor!”

Another incredibly special and unforgettable moment was Amanda’s dance with her dad: “He had a massive stroke in 2012, and we thought we lost him. It took some recovery and he is getting progressively better, however, he is still paralyzed on one side. But he was determined to dance with me! So, he went to extra therapy just to work on standing with more stability. And he did it! We had our father-daughter dance together and he stood for it! I know how hard that was to accomplish, and I am so grateful to have a family full of love. Everyone went out of their way to make our wedding day so special for us.”

Bridal Shows AttendedAlfa Flowers Bridal Open House and the Wonderful World of Weddings
Hair StylistAshley @ashleypauline_aveda & Jessica @Jessica.milaeger
InvitationsBluebird Paper Company (Chicago)
Rehearsal DinnerTransfer Pizza, Milwaukee
Ceremony, Reception, Catering, BartendingHyatt Regency Milwaukee – Vue Rooftop Ballroom
DessertGigi’s Cupcakes, Wauwatosa
Custom SignageBluebird Paper Company (Chicago)
FlowersAlfa Flower & Wedding Shop, Wauwatosa
Music/EntertainmentDream City Strings (Jared)
Engagement Photography Leo & Jenny Photography
Photographer WeddingHappy Gnome Photography
GownDavid’s Bridal Collection
RingsBrilliant Earth Chicago
Photography & Video, Planning, Trends and Ideas

Getting Ready Right: making the most of your wedding moments

January 24, 2019
Bride looking in mirror putting earrings on

Contributed by Marie Schneider of Wild Elegance Photography & Video

Try this: go onto Pinterest, and search “getting ready wedding pictures” and just sip a mimosa and prepare to be floored by the fluffy dress, handsome men in bow-ties, and dazzling shoes. As a couple about to get married, these images look carefree and easily flawless.

It is industry secret time: each of those pictures was painstakingly planned and used four basic elements to achieve a level of perfection that most couples desire on their wedding day. In order to ensure your getting ready moments are camera-ready, consider these big components to making every picture rock.

Giving you and your wedding party enough time to get ready is one thing. Allowing enough time for your photographer to create all those magical shots is another.

One big thing to consider, especially if you are not getting ready at the same location as the ceremony, is how much time you will need to get from point A to point B. If you want to capture both groups of the wedding party getting ready, hiring a second shooter is also helpful.

Another thing to consider is the detail shots: the rings, the dress, the centerpieces…all of those little things you have spent months planning out need their time to shine, too. Your photographer and videographer both need time with those items, which can be done while you finish up make-up or play some pool.

The big thing to remember is that you need to plan for lateness. It is better to hurry up and wait, than to be in a hurry and leave everyone waiting. While the party doesn’t start without the happy couple, a snowball effect can roll through the day if the getting ready portion of your day is not amply timed. Factor in an extra 15-30 minutes more than you think. Just bring an extra case of mimosa supplies in case you have some time.

The root words in photograph literally translate to light writing. That should give an idea of how important light is to pictures.

While every photographer can bring lighting in to make your space perfectly illuminated, natural lighting gives a lot of the drama, which can be found in the absence of light – shadow.

Find a clean, sparsely decorated room with windows on multiple walls for getting ready to deliver a light, airy look with your getting ready moments.

Conversely, if you prefer things dark and moody (I see you, Daria), find a darkly-appointed space with windows on one side of the room. By utilizing natural light, you can create a vibe and mood for your whole day. Plus, our skin just looks better in natural light.

If your getting ready options are limited, consider checking the light bulbs. Traditional light bulbs, or overhead fluorescent bulbs, create harsh, yellow lighting. If you can change them, do. If you cannot, talk to your photographer and make sure they have the equipment needed to lighten the space.

In addition, to making your pictures work, proper lighting helps in achieving the best makeup looks. Those selfie phone cases were created for a reason, after-all.

While getting ready in a beautiful chateau overlooking the Swiss Alps with floor-to-ceiling windows sounds dreamy, it is not always possible. In fact, it is rarely the case.

Not to worry, though. You can create magnificent backdrops with a few little tweaks:
Move: If the getting ready location is cluttered with furniture, doilies, etc., that do not match your style, MOVE IT. Let the venue know and ask for help. Appoint wedding attendants to help. Ask your photographer for advice.

Decorate: Sheer white curtains over ugly wallpaper can make a huge difference in your background. Get creative and do what you need to make the space match your vibe.
Declutter: This one is for the wedding attendants: keep your stuff neat. Bring a nice overnight bad to keep your things in, and clean up as you go. By keeping your clutter out of the shot, or at least making it cute clutter, you greatly increase the impact and beauty of those getting ready shots.

Relocate: Sometimes, no matter what, the basement at church just will not fill your vision for wedding day posh. If that is the case, check out other options like a friend’s house or boutique hotel.

Consider outside: If you have a secluded, private space and it is great weather, consider putting that dress on in nature. Maybe you will have a Cinderella moment and the animals will help you get dressed. Even if you aren’t that magical, the lighting will be beautiful and so will you.

People + Details
Be picky over who you have getting ready with you. As much as having a large wedding party and all your favorite cousins and friends in the room with you, it gets overwhelming. Be specific about who is allowed in the space, and who is not, and assign a wedding attendant to enforce that rule.

Pick people who will make you smile more, or bring out your happy tears. Emotions are what make pictures worth it.

Aside from who you have in the room with you, what you have in the room with you matters.

Give your wedding attendants gifts that will make your pictures look publication-worthy, too. A cute makeup bag, a monogrammed flannel, or a custom flask are great accessories that can be in pictures without the space looking messy. A photographer can use these accessories to stage detail pictures, and create backdrops.

Bottom Line
No matter what, do you.

May your wedding day be everything you dreamed of and more!

Ask the Right Questions, Before the Wedding, Planning, Reception, Tradition / Theme / Culture, Venue Type

Ask the Right Questions: The Reception Site Edition

January 21, 2019
Hawks View reception

You’ve just executed your legally required first kiss and signed on the dotted line. You’re married! And you’re starving. The last thing you ate was a glass of champagne in your bridal suite and the premarital jitters have morphed into dance floor yearnings. It’s time to boogie.

But where to? You have options, options, and oh yeah, more options. Event spaces of every vibe, capacity, and price point line your city, as do barns, hotels, outdoor expanses, even restaurants. Not only is the ideal fantasy reception space within reach, you likely have a handful within that category from which to choose. So visit them all, see them first hand, be clear on the details that are important to you, and most importantly, Ask the Right Questions.

Bring this handy-dandy list with you when calling upon your potential reception space:

What number of people can your space accommodate?
What timeframe is the space available to us?
What are the deposit terms, and when is the balance due?
Are there differing rates depending on season, and day of the week?
Is there a private space for the bridal party and groomsmen?
For outdoor areas, is there a contingency space in the case of inclement weather?
Am I limited to your catering or catering partners, or can I bring in my own preferred vendor?
For sites providing food and drink, can a tasting be arranged?
What sort of tents, tables, linens, and dinnerware can be provided, and is there a fee associated?
Can our preferred bakery be used? And when are they permitted to deliver?
Will bartender services be provided? Can we supply our own alcohol?
Where can my guests park? And is there an additional fee?
How many restrooms are there? Are they handicap accessible?
If located in a hotel, is there a discounted room rate for my guests?

To see a full list of ceremony site questions, download the guide below:

Download the Questions Guide

Ease of planning might be a priority for you, which might mean a more “all inclusive” reception site would be a great fit, for instance with hotel ballrooms or professional event spaces. Some venues can provide everything but the groom, with beautiful options for décor, exciting menu selections, even an onsite coordinator for the day. Many brides envision a unique experience more attuned to the particular style and traditions of the couple, in which case a site with flexibility in who is feeding you, entertaining you, and keeping your glass full might suit you better. (In which case, see our previous posts for selecting your own caterers and rental companies.)

Whatever your preference, there are a plethora of providers capable of pulling off a poppin’ party. Visiting with them in advance and asking the right questions will take your long list from a mish-mash of Maybes to one drop-dead, devastatingly dream Definitely Yes.