Country and Private Clubs, General News, Local Spotlight, North, Northeast Wisconsin, Planning

Sam Dekker and Olivia Harlan Bring the Romance Home to Wisconsin

December 13, 2018
Sam Dekker & Olivia Harlan

Sound the trumpets because Wisconsin sports royalty is born anew! The granddaughter of a former Green Bay Packers CEO, herself an accomplished reporter for ESPN, Olivia Harlan has married her rightful partner, Sam Dekker. You may recognize Sam as Wisconsin’s 2012 “Mr. Basketball”, a second team All American for the Wisconsin Badgers team that advanced to the 2015 NCAA National Championship game, and currently a forward in the NBA for the Washington Wizards.

Combined the two make quite a team, and together they planned a wedding of which dreams are made. If Midwestern elegance is a wedding theme, these two showed us how it’s done.

Sam Dekker & Olivia Harlan rehearsal dinner | Photography by Paper Antler

Months before Sam and Olivia pulled off their stunning black tie wedding, Sam proposed to Olivia in his home town of Sheboygan. They were enjoying their summer, moving through an average day she hadn’t expected would result in an engagement. “It was very intimate and random!” Olivia laughs. “That day, we had worked out and gone to Walmart. I was so caught off guard! It was very romantic and simple.”

Romantic and simple might be the couple’s best descriptors, despite their impressive résumés. Their first date happened thanks to the recommendation of a shared friend, a set-up Olivia was skeptical of. They met at a bar and watched the Packers play, and things clicked right away. “Sam was so funny, quick-witted, sincere, humble, and easy to be around,” she says. “We fell in love very fast.” Just one month later, the magic of Green Bay endured. While attending a Packers game in person, Sam and Olivia exchanged those three little words, “I love you.” It wasn’t a leap from there to expect one day they would be planning their wedding.

Homage to their shared Midwestern roots was peppered throughout the rehearsal, ceremony, and reception, each held in the incomparable Door County, where Olivia’s parents reside. The rehearsal dinner took place at The Whistling Swan Inn and Restaurant, a favorite of her family’s. “All of the groomsmen stayed there as well, so we had the whole place to ourselves.” The next day, the party moved to Horseshoe Bay Golf Club, for both the ceremony and festivities to follow.

Olivia and Sam kept to a chic color palette of black, white, and cream, saying “I do” under a massive tent trimmed with sweeps of rich greenery and crystal chandeliers. Olivia walked down the aisle to the theme from Gone with the Wind, “a favorite movie in my family and my namesake, Olivia de Havilland.” During the Unity Ceremony, Olivia poured sand they had collected while visiting Jerusalem, symbolizing their foundation in faith. Sam’s parents added to that sand from Sheboygan, and Olivia’s from Door County, their respective hometowns.

In true Wisconsin fashion, two cocktail hours followed the ceremony, one before and one after dinner. A nod to local supper clubs, “we served traditional supper club drinks: a Grasshopper, Pink Squirrel, and Brandy Alexander.” Details like these helped to set the Midwestern summer vibe. Romantic seasonal lavender was incorporated throughout, with lavender sprigs in the champagne glasses, and a lemon-lavender wedding cake. The space was decorated with a mix of modern touches and antique furniture from Relics Vintage Rentals. Flowers were provided by Buds N’ Bloom in De Pere, Wisconsin. “Jerad was the best,” Olivia says. “His vision is so extravagant and beautiful. He worked tirelessly to transform the tent from the ceremony to the after party, while we had dinner.”

Supper club style didn’t end there. Honey-dipped cigars were hand-rolled on site by professionals, and Platinum, a live band based out of Milwaukee, were a must-book after having enjoyed them at a previous event. “No one wanted to leave the dance floor. We stole them from a friend’s wedding, and would do it again and again!” Fireworks mesmerized the attendees just after sunset, capped with a sparkler bedecked send-off. The night ended quite literally with a bang, and a twinkle.

The emotion of the day lives on in the couple’s shared memory. “I’ve never felt such tangible love in one place,” Olivia reflects. “It was overwhelming. You couldn’t tell who was Sam’s family or my family, his friends or my friends.” But don’t let the perfectly executed elegance fool you. This was at its heart, a very Wisconsin wedding. “Everyone became close over the weekend, and I loved looking out and seeing the non-stop laughter. We’re the first of our friends to get married, so it was a young, rowdy crowd. I wouldn’t have had it any other way!”


Sam and Olivia’s Wedding Vendors:

Event PlannerDoor County Event Planners (Carrie Baldwin)
Reception Venue Horseshoe Bay Golf Club, Egg Harbor
Rehearsal Dinner VenueWhistling Swan, Fish Creek
CakeMonzu Bakery, Green Bay
Florist Buds N Bloom, De Pere
Photographer Paper Antler
Music/Entertainment ACA Entertainment (Platinum)
Wedding Dress DesignerSareh Nouri
Bridal Salon Bella Bianca, Chicago
Groom's TuxBalani
Make-Up Artist Ashley Renee Makeup, Kansas City
Rentals Relics Vintage Rentals, Milwaukee
Transportation Door County Trolley
After the Wedding, Just for Fun, Planning, Reception, Style, Trends and Ideas

The Marital Send-Off: Leaving with a WOW!

December 2, 2018
Marital Send off ideas

Your wedding day is a story. It has a beginning, middle, and end. Like the beginning of any great story, the ceremony is there to set the tone and introduce yourselves as husband and wife. The reception comes next, and is the plot of the story. This is when your community of family and friends celebrates in unison while breaking bread and toasting one another, likely to excess if you’re throwing a Wisconsin wedding.

The end is your Grand Finale. Your portal into married life and happily-ever after. This moment is sometimes overlooked in modern weddings. Gone are the days of running off into a beer can strewed limo. Instead, guests trickle out, the DJ starts to yawn, and a child is found sticky and sleeping underneath the sweets table.

But there are many who have revived the Marital Send-Off and are giving it new life, thank goodness. Photographers love the tradition because it allows for beautifully candid moments that capture real emotion, a moment of unstructured whimsy. Now that it has become a no-no to throw rice at the exiting couple (because of the health risk to area birds, and also because it feels weird to throw food at people), we have all sorts of variations to choose from that might be better suited. How about giving your farewell to a path of attendees waving sparklers? How spectacular it might feel to run through a cloud of finely milled glitter, or seeing rose petals float down upon you. For an October wedding, dry fall leaves make a fitting (and free) substitute. Faux snow creates a stunning winter scene. I’ll bet one or both of you have a sports team you favor. How about rally towels? Landing a great spouse is a major victory after all.

The creativity allowed for weddings today means the options have broadened, and the tunnel of love through which the newly married couple escapes is sometimes replaced with or augmented by an event that creates a clear cap to the evening. Fireworks are a great opportunity to entertain all ages while saying “goodnight.” It might also be nice to collectively light and send away Chinese lanterns, the more the better on a clear night. Some even include an enclosed wish or prayer for the couple, which can be a nice way to incorporate spiritual beliefs, sending well wishes straight to the heavens. Similarly, releasing a pair of white doves symbolizes the purity and sanctity of the occasion, the joining of two lives into one shared journey, and the peace required in any marriage should it be expected to stand the test of time or holidays with the in-laws.

At a recent wedding, the groom’s family sang together a tune they have  used for years to teach younger relatives how to spell their very long and very Polish name. Only this time, they invited the bride to sing it with them since one day she would need to sing it to her kids. It was very special and unique to that particular brood, not a dry eye in the house. Perhaps there is a family tradition in your annals that can be shared with your guests. Making the conclusion of your wedding a show of family unity can be a powerful moment, and one they will talk about for years to come.

Send Off Ideas

Maybe your distinct Grand Finale is the vehicle by which you make your getaway. Limousines are classically elegant. A vintage car is charming, and the elders in your party will appreciate the nostalgia. If you’re English, a hackney carriage taxi is a cute option. A horse and carriage screams storybook romance. A motorcycle and sidecar is a kick to both ride in and watch zoom away. If it’s feasible in your location, a hot air balloon ride is over-the-top, both literally and figuratively. Think beyond the obvious for a send-off that is memorable and attuned to your personal taste or lifestyle.

It is important however to keep to a schedule if you decide this will be your farewell so your guests know when and where to be. Timing is critical. Ideally, your departure should occur late enough that your guests are growing tired, but not so early that you miss all of the fun. Additionally, remember that if there are children involved, safety is imperative. If the children in your party can’t be trusted with sparklers, maybe glow sticks or blown bubbles are a better choice. Other bad ideas include shooting pistols into the air or throwing snowballs at the happy couple.

Your story’s ending can be whatever you want it to be. You may choose no send-off at all. You may decide to be the one found sleeping under the sweets table. Many couples prefer to shimmy on the dance floor until the bitter, hazy end. But for those of you giving your guests one last romantic glimpse of you at your happiest yet, here’s to you and the road ahead by which you travel together.

Marital Send Off Ideas

To find more great tips and helpful vendors check out:

Ask the Right Questions, Before the Wedding, Catering, Milwaukee, Planning, Reception

Planning and Your Palate: From Pen and Paper…to Your Plate!

November 19, 2018

Name any celebration that doesn’t involve food. Be honest. You can’t. This is because, like you and your fiancé, food and emotion are inextricably tied. The transcendent joy of a great meal can numb bad feelings and amplify the good. What and when we eat expresses us at our core.

For weddings in particular, the meals we select not only add to the celebration, they tell our guests who we are. Consider the message we send when we serve five courses on fine dinnerware, or when a taco truck rolls up and its horn blasts “La Cucaracha.” Neither is better or worse than the other, but they each convey a mood and signal their own style of party. Your menu reflects your personality and preferences, while also entertaining your guests, because food IS entertainment when done right.

Options are endless in Wisconsin, what with our long tradition of multiculturalism, as reflected in the endless line-up of ethnic fests. Honor your own heritage or dabble in another you are drawn to. Nestle comfortably in classic American fare, whether it be fried and served on a stick, or a hand selected steak, plated and bathed in a balsamic glaze. Consider the possibilities of a cocktail and hors d’oeuvres hour, or a late evening recharge bar with pizzas and dessert. The charm of food trucks. The convenience of a self-serve buffet. The elegance of a seated dinner with wine service. The sky’s the limit!

So, how to choose? If you have fallen in love with and booked a venue, it is possible they will provide a list of preferred caterers, based on their own contracts or previous experience. These purveyors might be a great place to start, particularly if you are looking for a well-oiled machine, at ease in the reception site with great knowledge of set-up guidelines and already has a rapport with on-site staff. Whether employing these in-house favorites or an outside contender, keep the following checklist with you to help iron out the details.

What are my package options, if any?

Can the packages be altered or customized to our taste preferences? Can you provide entrees for my guests with special dietary needs?

Will we have an opportunity to schedule a tasting in advance of booking?

Have you provided your service at my chosen reception venue in the past?

Do you provide beverage service? What are my package options?

Is there an opening or corking fee to consider?

How far in advance of the wedding do you require a final guest count?

When will we need to finalize the menu?

Will you provide flatware, china, stemware, etc.? Do I have a selection to choose from? Can I provide or rent my own if I so choose?

Do you supply or arrange tables, chairs or linens?

What is the ratio of wait staff per number of wedding guests?

How will you and your staff be dressed? Is this negotiable?

Can I contact any references from previous weddings you have catered?

How far in advance must I book your services?

What is your cancellation policy?

How much is your security deposit, and when is the balance due?

Download the Questions Guide

With the dollars and cents squared away, your decision now comes down to your personal vision. So dream big, and remember who you are. Perhaps you’re an al fresco luncheon sort of bride. You might be a bib wearing, baby back rib enthusiast. Or are you a candle lit, high-art gastronomist? If you have no idea what that last thing is, you probably aren’t one. But that might be the whole point. Because showing love through food is what we all do, and yes, your meal can be the best way to do that for your guests.


For a Full List of Premier Bride Milwaukee Caterers, Click Here!

Pink/Blush, Real Weddings, Rustic / Barn, Rustic/Vintage Style, Summer, West, Whites/Grays/Silvers

Sam & Alysia’s Rustic Wedding at The Hay Loft

November 15, 2018
Alysia and Sam marry at the Hay Loft in Watertown WI

Sam, a guitar tech, and Alysia met through a mutual friend at a show in Sam’s home town of Watertown. “My friend Mike introduced us, and the rest of the night we couldn’t help but keep staring at each other!” Alysia fondly recalls. The band, along with Sam, left the next day to tour the U.S.—but not before he and Alysia found each other on social media. “We started chatting more and the rest is history!”

Sam planned an elaborate proposal at Silver Springs State Park in Florida, roping friends into the plan to help bring everything to fruition. While in Florida, Alysia’s friend Emma suggested a girls day at Silver Springs. “When we got there, Emma asked for a letter from the ticket booth,” Alysia says. Turns out, Sam had written a series of 10 letters detailing what he loves about Alysia.The last note was in a small amphitheater on the park grounds. “There was a white arch with flowers and tulle. After I read the letter, Sam came out from hiding, whispered sweet words, then got down on one knee and asked me to marry him!”


The happy couple planned a June wedding with a ceremony and reception at The Hay Loft Barn in Watertown. “We loved working with The Hay Loft. They were very helpful with information, and they were amazing the day of the wedding with turning around the barn very quickly. The venue is beautiful and has so many amazing details!”

For the style and theme of their wedding, Alysia describes it as rustic and delicate. “We had the barn take care of the rustic theme for us. We also used touches of blush and rose gold to soften it up and give it a warm vibe.” To decorate the space, Sam and Alysia did a lot of projects themselves, with the help of their mothers.

“My mother-in-law cut and stained all the hand-lettered boards we had. My mom and mother-in-law also assembled the centerpieces and added beautiful flowers. I loved being able to look at these things and take pride in all our hard work.”

Sam and Alysia’s ceremony focused on their love for each other and their shared Christianity, while including those of different faiths, too. “A really unique element was that we had our wedding party come around us and lay hands on us to pray over our marriage. We wanted the people that came to our wedding to feel a part of it. Our pastor also did a congregational vow of accountability, where everyone in the audience verbalized their support of the vows we made to each other that day.”

When it was time to take photos, the bridal party took a five-minute drive via GO Riteway to a bridge in Watertown called Tivoli Island. While the bride and groom took photos, the rest of the guests got the party started. “We had people exit the top of the barn where the ceremony was and go into the lower level and backyard, where we had snacks, drinks, and yard games. It was awesome to see kids and adults alike having a blast.”

For dinner, Alysia and Sam opted for a barbecue with pulled pork sandwiches, mashed potatoes, green beans, chicken, and donuts for dessert. “We barely got in a few bites before we started greeting each table,” Alysia laughs. “I am a social butterfly, so it was so much fun to have all my favorite people in one place!”

What surprised Alysia about her and Sam’s wedding? “It was nothing like I envisioned growing up! The things I thought I wanted, I ended up not wanting — and vice versa. I went in thinking I’d get a dress with long lace sleeves and bought one with straps!” Her WTOO dress came from Miss Ruby in Milwaukee. “When you’re planning your wedding with the love of your life, things change in what you want, whether it’s compromise or your tastes change.”

In the end, Alysia suggests that future brides include those wedding traditions that are important to them and not sweat the rest. “You don’t have to do every single wedding tradition out there. It’s your wedding, and I think that your wedding should look like an extension of yourselves and your personalities, but also an extension of your values. We value faith, so that was a big aspect of our ceremony. We also value community, so we had games for guests to play together.”

Ceremony & ReceptionThe Hay Loft, Watertown, WI
CateringGlenns Market + Catering
DonutsKrispy Kreme
Music/EntertainmentDJ Dylan
TransportationGo Riteway
PhotographerHuntley & Shay
VideographerMemento Video Production
GownWTOO from Miss Ruby- A Bridal Boutique,Milwaukee
FormalwearMen’s Wearhouse
Classic Style, Green, Lake Geneva, Orange/Coral, Planning, Real Weddings, Summer, Yellow/Gold/Ivory/Creams

Shannon & Drake’s Summer Wedding at the Grand Geneva

November 5, 2018
Groom's boutonnière by Lilypots

Shannon and Drake met in college at the University of Illinois. They got engaged during a magical family vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios. “My step-daughter is seven, so it was the perfect time to take her,” Shannon says. Everyone knew about the engagement except for Shannon—even her step-daughter. Once at Harry Potter World, everyone got wands and practiced spells all day. Standing on the bridge in front of Hogwarts Castle, Shannon’s mom requested a photo “for the Christmas card.”

“So we take the picture, and then my daughter starts to wave her wand at me,” Shannon recalls. “She says, ‘Hocus pocus, what will you say? Hocus pocus, turn Daddy’s way!’” Shannon turned to find Drake on one knee. “At this point, life slows down and I completely black out. I don’t remember a thing, except crying and nodding my head.”

Drake and Shannon set the date for a July wedding at the Grand Geneva. Everything from the rehearsal dinner to the ceremony, reception, and catering was handled by the Grand Geneva — even Shannon’s hair stylist and makeup artist! “The Grand Geneva really made our day what it was. They made it so effortless and catered to our every need.”

The ceremony was held outdoors, and Shannon and Drake wrote the entire thing themselves. “We incorporated so much of ourselves into it, and that made it really special,” Shannon says. “I said vows to our daughter and incorporated her as much as possible. My mother gave a speech about ‘choosing happiness,’ which has always been our motto. Even my father, a very Spock-like man, cried.”

Following the ceremony, photos were taken on the green at the Grand Geneva golf course, which Shannon describes as their “playground.” Ideal Impressions snapped the photos and filmed the day. “Ryan from Ideal Impressions really gave us an amazing photography experience.”

At the reception, to fill the space, Shannon tackled a long list of DIY projects. From custom photo and floral centerpieces at each table, to strings of tinkle lights and balloons, to welcome signage, to photo booth props — the list goes on! There was also a kids table with coloring books, bubbles, hula hoops, and glow-in-the-dark necklaces. Outside, guests could enjoy a game of Bags on a set that had been handcrafted by a friend for the bride and groom — or play beer pong, as a nod to Drake and Shannon’s college days, or sit around the fire pit and make some s’mores.

The Grand Geneva dinner included beef short ribs with sides like white cheddar mac ’n’ cheese and loaded mashed potatoes. For drinks, there was Spotted Cow for beer, and Shannon fondly remembers an “amazing Moscato from Caposaldo that went perfectly with the meal.” Dessert, also dreamed up by the Grand Geneva, was a white cake with strawberry filling — Shannon’s favorite!

Following dinner came a moment that sticks with Shannon the most: “Our first dance as the sun was setting. The light hit the dance floor just as everything faded away, and it was just my husband and I.” At the end of the day, Shannon says she wishes she’d known how fast it would go. “The day blew by so quickly, but my husband and I took little moments all day to just stop and smell the roses.”

Make-up & HairCecilie in the Well Spa at the Grand Geneva
Rehearsal DinnerThe Grand Geneva
CeremonyThe Green View at the Grand Geneva
ReceptionThe Chalet at the Grand Geneva
Catering, Bartending & CakeThe Grand Geneva
Custom SignageShannon Quigley
FlowersLilypots, Lake Geneva
Music/EntertainmentA Personal Touch
Photography & VideographyIdeal Impressions Photography
GownEssence of Australia from Genevieve's Bridal, South Barrington, IL
FormalwearMen's Wearhouse
RingsJames Allen, Rogers and Holland

After the Wedding, Ask the Right Questions, Flowers, Galleries, Milwaukee

Petals for Patients: A Second Act for Your Floral Arrangements

November 2, 2018
Petals for Patients: A Second Act for Your Floral Arrangements

We have all come to the close of a well decorated wedding and wondered what would happen the next day to all of those stunning floral arrangements. Where do they wind up once the dance floor has cleared and the lights have come up? While the bridal bouquet will often be preserved, many of your centerpieces and archway will have served their purpose, and will soon be put to pasture, or more likely to a dumpster. How sad that something so essential to a wedding’s design can be enjoyed for just one brief, albeit spectacular day.

Enter the great people at Petals for Patients. This organization gives your floral décor new life, filling the rooms of the sick and terminally ill from Milwaukee to Chicago with personally crafted bouquets. Your gently used, although well loved arrangements will continue their work of being beautiful by brightening the bedside of a deserving patient. Nothing goes wasted when flowers that made you gasp in awe upon first laying eyes on them, will soon give that same awe to someone who is ailing, and their family. “I love meeting the brides and grooms who are so excited and happy that their gorgeous (and typically very expensive!) reception flowers are going to be repurposed and given to those who are suffering and broken-hearted,” said Wendy Hopfensperger, founder of Petals for Patients.  “The recipients are usually in disbelief that a bride and groom would do something so generous, and that they’d actually go through the effort to make certain their flowers were delivered to them. The reaction we tend to experience from patients and their family members is shock, silence and tears, but most common of all is a heart of gratitude.”

What’s better is the ease of working with Petals for Patients. You certainly aren’t expected to hand deliver the pieces from the trunk of your limousine. Instead immediately upon the departure of your guests, the team at Petals for Patients arrives to dismantle any large arrangements, and collect any blooms you don’t wish to enjoy or repurpose for yourself. The flowers and plants are then stored overnight before being restyled into their next life as comfort bouquets. With your florist’s approval, Petals for Patients will utilize any rented vases and return them to their rightful owner the following week. “Local wedding florists are our biggest supporters and advocates,” explains Wendy. “They inform their customers that donating their flowers after the reception is in fact an option, and advise them to reach out to us. We are so appreciative of our partnerships, and thankful that they’ve helped turn our our once small dream into a reality!”

Additionally you, the generous donor, will be provided a tax deductible receipt for the associated service fee. The décor used by corporate galas, fundraisers, and memorial services have all been great contributors to this effort, as have many a bride and groom. Perhaps this cause is a great fit for you, too.

Petals for Patients welcomes your call for a quote, or contact Petals for Patients for an online inquiry.

Please click here to view talented SE Wisconsin florists.

Ask the Right Questions, Galleries, Milwaukee

Exploring Rentals and Simplifying the Process

October 29, 2018
Susan and Michael Wedding

At some point during your wedding and reception, your guests, and possibly you, will expect to sit down. While an area tree stump or upturned milk crate will do just the trick, you also have the option to upgrade your seating, dinnerware, and accoutrements by renting them. Possibly as an add-on option from your chosen venue, or from a variety of experts local to the ceremony, these services can do more than sit your guests comfortably. Consider the mood of gold chiavari chairs versus a hay bale. Both make an impact and send their own message as to who you are as a couple. Table coverings, drapery, lighting, tents, even flooring can all be customized to your personal style, and carefully selecting them can mean the difference between planning a wedding and planning your wedding.

We are long past the days of your choice of white linens, or a more daring ivory. Unique cultural hallmarks, personal interests, and family tradition can all be accommodated by working closely with your chosen professionals. In any case, choosing who to rent from, and what to rent, can be an overwhelming process. It will help when learning about your potential rentals partner to know what your priorities might be, and to rank them. Is it ease of service, and seamless assembly and pick-up? Perhaps it is the quality of the dinnerware, or an aesthetic you would like to accomplish. Related questions to what matters most to you should be the first to ask, so that any companies unable to fulfill those needs can be crossed off your list right away.

For whomever remains in the running, consider the following checklist to be sure you can avoid any hidden costs, are receiving the best possible package, and you aren’t surprised the day of your wedding with a setup that inconveniences you.

  • Is a deposit required? If so, when and how much?
  • Do you provide delivery, set-up, and pick- up? Is this included in the cost?
  • What is the rental fee? Are there package rates available, or do you rent by the item?
  • Who will be my contact the day of my wedding?
  • How far in advance do I need to book your services?
  • Have you worked with my ceremony & reception venue before?
  • When would the items be delivered and picked up? Specifically, at what time and on which date?
  • Will you move decorations from the ceremony to the reception site if needed?
  • What is your cancellation policy?
  • What are the policies for lost or damaged items?

With the important questions addressed, and your gut feeling, you will find that winning vendor. And although this is certainly an option if it suits you, the business of event rentals now extends well beyond just a guy with a truck full of folding chairs. Consider the possibilities of your wedding as executed by a great collaborator who shares your vision. Bring your ideas to the right team, and allow them lift the stress of your big day, and curate a memorable wedding with your own personal stamp.

Click here see a full list of Premier Bride Milwaukee Vendors!

Fall, Green, Real Weddings, Rustic / Barn, Rustic/Vintage Style, South

Mayyadah & Joshua’s Cultural Fusion Wedding at The Farm at Dover

October 25, 2018
Mayyadah and Josh marry at the Farm at Dover in Waterford

Mayyadah and Joshua met years before they started dating. When their paths crossed again, the stars aligned for the two to get together. “We often joke that it seems to have been a matter of when rather than if.” Joshua proposed to Mayyadah at Harry Potter World, while snapping a picture together in front of the Hogwarts castle. “As I started to walk away, Josh grabbed my hand and tugged me around,” Mayyadah recalls. “I found him on one knee, the ring tied to an Amortentia bottle — also known as Love Potion in the Harry Potter universe.”

The happy, Harry Potter-loving couple planned an October wedding with a theme of cultural fusion. “Josh’s dad’s side of the family is Italian, and my dad’s side of the family is Middle Eastern — but we were both born and raised here in the U.S. We wanted to bring who we are as individuals and who we are as a couple into our wedding, thus the fusion. We also incorporated a little bit of our love for Harry Potter, which has played such a huge role in our childhoods, our relationship, and our engagement. If you look closely, you can find a little Harry Potter magic hidden throughout our décor and theme.”

In preparation for the big day, Mayyadah attended a handful of bridal shows, including the Bridal Expo in Brookfield and the Dekoven Center Bridal Show. For colors, the couple landed on emerald green and silvery grey. Mayydah found her wedding dress at Amelishan Bridal in Hubertus and had it personalized to make it exactly what she wanted. Josh’s parents hosted the rehearsal dinner at The Cotton Exchange in Waterford.“It was the perfect location and aesthetic for a rehearsal dinner. The food was delicious, the staff was incredible, and the hall was beautiful.”

Both the ceremony and reception were held at The Farm at Dover in Kansasville, Wisconsin. “The Farm at Dover was the first venue we toured — and our only. The second we stepped foot on the grounds, we knew we were about to cancel every other venue visit we had planned for the rest of the weekend. The space, the décor, the lighting — every detail was so well thought out, and the whole place screamed romance. It was impossible not to fall in love.”

“Tom and Juan at The Farm are incredible. They were so patient with our every question, request, and need while planning the wedding. They went above and beyond to make our day as special as it was, even when our plans for an outdoor ceremony were cancelled due to pouring rain. They were on top of things, made the barn everything we dreamed of and more for our vows, and we couldn’t be more grateful. From the groom and bridal quarters, to the ceremony and barn space, to the many gorgeous paths and gardens outdoors, our friends and family have not stopped talking about our beautiful wedding venue. It was truly the most perfect, magical day, and it really is all thanks to the incredible owners, staff, and location at The Farm at Dover.”

During the ceremony, Mayyadah and Joshua exchanged their own vows written from the heart. “This is something Josh, to my surprise, insisted on,” Mayyadah says. “It was so heartfelt and sincere, sharing what we loved and admired about one another and how we would choose each other every day, forever.” Mayyadah also says that it was very special for her to involve two of her father figures in the ceremony. “My best friend and Matron of Honor’s dad walked me down the aisle and gave me away to Josh, while my other father figure officiated our ceremony. These two men have always meant the world to me, and having their love and support on one of the biggest days of my life is something I will cherish forever.”

At the reception, the cultural fusion really came into play. “I think anyone who attended our wedding would agree that the Henna hour definitely is what made our reception unique,” Mayyadah reflects. “After our first dance, I changed into my handmade Indian sari, and the DJ began to play Arabic music. My family took over the dance floor and taught Josh the traditional dance done at weddings in my culture, and our Henna artists began painting Henna on our guests. Although I share as much of my culture and tradition as I can with Josh in our everyday lives, sharing these wedding traditions with him that day made me feel that much closer to him.”

The cultural fusion continued with the food, which featured three entrée options: a Middle Eastern plate of chicken shwarma, an Italian plate of chicken bruschetta, and an American plate of braised beef short ribs. Dessert was a buffet complete with Italian cookies and cannolis, mini pies, platters of an Arabic dessert called kanafeh, as well as a lemon poppyseed wedding cake. As favors for their guests, Joshua and Mayyadah infused olive oil with seasonings and herbs used in Middle Eastern and Italian cooking, then poured the oils into little glass bottles and added a custom label. “They were a huge hit!”

There was also a basket of tissues next to the wedding programs with a note: “For your happy tears.” For the kids, Mayyadah and Joshua made boxes with handmade coloring books, crayons, puzzles, snacks, stickers, and more to keep them entertained all evening. The Best Man made all of the wooden signs on the road leading guests to the venue. “They were absolutely stunning and some of our favorite décor pieces of the day.” The evening ended with an unforgettable sparkler send-off.

Mayyadah’s advice to other brides who are currently wedding planning: “Take a break when the planning gets intense. Go on a date with your guy, leave your phone in your purse, and do not talk about the wedding! Focus on one another and the reasons why you’re planning this wedding in the first place.”

Bridal Shows Attended Dekoven Center Bridal Show in Racine and Bridal Expo in Brookfield
Make-up ArtistKelly Schubel at Lustrous Beauty Studio in Brookfield, WI
Hair StylistTrish, The Look Salon in Racine, WI
InvitationsSave the Dates handmade by best man Brandon Gauntt
Invitations by
Rehearsal DinnerThe Cotton Exchange in Waterford, WI
Ceremony & ReceptionThe Farm at Dover in Kansasville, WI
CateringZilli Hospitality Group in Waukesha, Wisconsin
BartendingDrink Inc in Burlington, Wisconsin
Cake/DessertsJessica Meyers
Chalkboard/Custom Signage ArtistWooden signs outside venue and throughout ceremony: Best Man Brandon Gauntt
Table signs:
FlowersJulie Haecker, All That Blooms in Glendale, WI
Music & Photo BoothVital Image in Muskego, WI
PhotographerEngagement photos: Reverie Photography in Cross Plains, WI
Wedding photos: Dana Ann Photography in Glen Ellyn, IL
VideographerZach Swee Photography & Film in Orlando, FL
GownAmelishan Bridal in Hubertus, WI with alterations by Lyn Semler at Lyns Needle & Thread in Silver Lake, WI
FormalwearAmelishan Bridal in Hubertus, WI
RingsBride's Engagement Ring: Brandt Jewelers in Racine
Bride's Wedding Ring: Kesslers in Brookfield
Groom: Rasmussens in Racine
Henna ArtistHands of Henna by Anita in Milwaukee, WI

Blank Canvas, Blue/Aqua/Navy, Classic Style, Downtown, Real Weddings, Summer, Yellow/Gold/Ivory/Creams

Nicholas & Mary Claire’s Classic DIY Wedding at the Best Place Pabst

October 15, 2018

Nicholas and Mary Claire have known each other since kindergarten. “We lived down the street from one another. When both of our families moved to the suburbs of Chicago, we ended up at rival high schools.” The two reunited on Mary Claire’s 21st birthday and started dating three weeks later. “We got engaged after six years of dating and got married after eight years together.”

Nicholas proposed on a beach at sunrise on a freezing winter’s morning. “He was down on one knee in the sand,” Mary Claire recalls. “With tears in his eyes, he asked, ‘Will you marry me?’ I screamed at the top of my lungs, ‘YES! Of course!’ for all to hear at 6:30 in the morning!” The couple planned an August wedding that was classic and simple, but with lots of personality and “DIY to the max.” The ceremony was held at Christ King Catholic Church in Wauwatosa, with a reception at the Best Place Pabst.

In between the ceremony and reception, the couple stopped for photos in downtown Milwaukee with their photographers from Ideal Impressions. “Ryan and Gio were incredible! They were so easy to work with the day of the wedding, and thankfully our entire wedding party listened to them, so we breezed through photos. We can’t recommend them enough, especially as a team. We had all of our wedding photos by 10 a.m. the next morning!”

Then it was time to party at the Best Place. “We had so many favorite parts, but being able to share time together alone in the reception hall, while all of our guests were at cocktail hour, was really special. It was our time to let it all soak in and enjoy everything we planned together. We also exchanged gifts and cards, which held eight years worth of love and emotions. We’d been waiting for this moment for such a long time, and you could feel that.”

Outside of all the “mushy love stuff,” as Mary Claire calls it, the bride and groom say they had an absolute blast at the reception. One cool feature was a Tall Boy station. “It was basically a cooler filled with Tall Boys that our guests could just grab. And we had koozies made for them to use!” Koozies were just the tip of the DIY iceberg. Mary Claire also made all of the bouquets, corsages and boutonnieres, and centerpieces, plus the seating chart windows and signage throughout the venue. Mary Claire’s Grandpa Bill and Uncle Tim made their wooden slab guest book.

Another highlight for Nicholas and Mary Claire was turning out an unforgettable first dance. “We nailed all of our dips with no formal training — all self taught!” Mary Claire laughs. “But honestly, that first dance was so special — we’ll never forget it.”

Make-upMakeup by Nicole Marie
HairElle Arrigo & James
Rehearsal DinnerMo’s Irish Pub, Milwaukee
CeremonyChrist King Catholic Church, Milwaukee
Reception & BartendingThe Best Place at the Historic Pabst Place, Milwaukee
CateringIrene’s Catering, Milwaukee
CakeAggie's Bakery & Cake Shop, West Allis
Music/EntertainmentPhil Trocchio, Chicago
TransportationBlackline Limousines, Oak Creek
PhotographerIdeal Impressions Photography, Lake Geneva
VideoNicholas’ cousins Riley & Delaney made the video with their GoPros!
GownTheia from Lovely Bride, Chicago
FormalwearJos A Bank, Glenview, IL
RentalsIrene’s Catering
Blank Canvas, Blue/Aqua/Navy, Orange/Coral, Real Weddings, South, Themed

Emma & Jack’s Tiki Wedding
at South Shore Pavilion

October 1, 2018
Emma and Jack marry at the South Shore Pavilion in Bay View Wisconsin

Jack and Emma are both from upstate New York, but met in Milwaukee. Jack proposed in Disney World, in front of Emma’s family. “He was very nervous about smuggling the ring through TSA without me seeing it,” Emma laughs.

Their wedding theme was unique indeed: Tiki! A color palette of aqua and coral kept things bright, upbeat, and fun, and Emma found her lovey dress at at Eva’s Bridal. Both the ceremony and reception were held at South Shore Pavilion and featured rentals from Well Dressed Tables by Arena Americas and loads of DIY projects by from the bride and groom.

“It was hard to find tiki-themed wedding decor!” Emma says. “I love that we had an actual tiki bar for our reception and that our guests had tiki glasses as favors.” The two also made lanterns, table signs, special cocktails, wedding programs, and coloring books for the kids.

For the ceremony, Jack and Emma wrote their own vows and had their good friend Sarah officiate. “It was a very funny and sweet ceremony. We both promised to disobey each other,” Emma adds with a wink. Following the ceremony, photos were taken outside at South Shore Park along the lakefront. Emma says that Kara from Kara Reese Photography was “so helpful in figuring out our timeline and keeping us on track.”

Dinner was a scrumptious Hawaiian buffet with whoopee pies for dessert. “Whoopie pies are an east coast thing, so it was a nod to where we are from.” Then the dancing started. One of the bride and groom’s favorite memories: “When we made a giant conga line with all of our guests during Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing.’” Emma’s advice to future brides is to not worry so much. “Everything came together just fine in the end,” she says. “And anything that didn’t come together didn’t matter!”

Make-upBlush by Brittany
HairLauren Heiden from Neroli
Rehearsal DinnerCounty Clare
Ceremony & ReceptionSouth Shore Park Pavilion in Bay View
CateringOno Kine Grindz
DessertWicked Whoopies Whoopie Pies
FlowersWild Petals Florist
EntertainmentA Personal Touch DJ
PhotographerKara Reese Photography
GownJustin Alexander from Eva's Bridal
FormalwearMen's Wearhouse
RentalsWell Dressed Tables by Arena America's
Blue/Aqua/Navy, Classic Style, Downtown, Historic & Unique, Real Weddings, Spring, Yellow/Gold/Ivory/Creams

Sarah & Mike’s Lakefront Wedding
at the War Memorial

September 18, 2018
Sarah and Matt get married at the War Memorial in Downtown Milwaukee

Sarah and Mike, who met at their Crossfit gym, got engaged on the first night they spent in their new home together. “We were so excited to begin this next chapter of our lives,” Sarah says. “We agreed that on our first night, we would take some time to enjoy the experience out on our porch.” In the moment, however, Sarah was intent on unpacking more boxes. “Unbeknownst to me, Mike had already hidden the ring under the porch chair and lit candles in the yard. It took two hours of convincing to get me outside!”

Once there, Mike pulled out his bucket list journal, which Sarah had given to him for his birthday three years prior. “He read his top nine list aloud, then let me read the 10th: ‘To marry the girl of my dreams.’ I felt like the moment couldn’t have been more perfect, and I love that it was shared just between the two of us.”

Mike and Sarah planned a June wedding at the War Memorial in downtown Milwaukee. The ceremony was held at the Fitz Plaza with the reception at Memorial Hall. “The venue was remodeled over the winter, and although we were privy to the mock-ups, the results exceeded our expectations. The venue overall felt competitively priced, modern, and flexible. The on-site coordinator, Jennifer, was extremely patient and responded quickly to our many questions. She helped us find a few of our vendors and proactively addressed details of the day that we hadn’t even considered.”

On the day of the wedding, Sarah wore a Paloma Blanca dress from White Dress. Mike says one of the moments that sticks with him the most was watching Sarah walk down the aisle: “My heart was doing backflips.” Sarah says one of the best parts of the ceremony was their officiant. “We asked my 85-year-old grandpa to dust off his old minister robes and officiate our ceremony. He did an amazing job mixing tradition and religion with humor and personal stories. Having someone we both love so much marry us was one of the highlights of the wedding.”

At the reception, some of the most memorable moments happened on the dance floor. “The dance with our moms is among my favorite,” Mike says. At the beginning of the song, Mike danced with his mom and Sarah danced with hers. Halfway through, they “mom-swapped.” “It was non-traditional, but a special moment for the four of us.” For Sarah, one of her favorite memories is their surprise first dance.

After joking about “Wagon Wheel” being their song, Mike had the DJ switch their chosen first dance song to the Darius Rucker tune. “He even went a step further and pulled out an American cowboy hat to dance in,” Sarah laughs. “That moment felt so special because Mike is not a country music fan, and the song felt so highly untraditional — but he put these facts aside to remind me that the night was about the two of us.”

Another personal touch came with the late-night snack. “Mike walked out of the kitchen carrying a platter of hot, homemade mac and cheese,” she says. “I was shocked. His family helped prepare the dish, and the caterer helped with the logistics. Mike’s thoughtfulness was just another reminder of how lucky I am to call him my husband.” More than just mac and cheese, there were also five different desserts following dinner, including a scrumptious cheesecake from Simma’s.

For Mike, one thing he wishes he knew while planning the wedding was how much the guests would love their wedding favors. “Just a week before the wedding, we decided to place candy bags on the tables, and we were surprised what a big hit they were. We also didn’t realize how much our guests would like the elephant place-card holders. Many people approached us throughout the night, complimenting us on this special touch. We wish we would have made it clear that these were gifts, as we heard many times after the fact that guests wished they knew they could have kept their elephant.” When all is said and done, Sarah and Mike agree: “We wouldn’t change a thing about our day.”

Make-up ArtistMarissa Connet
Hair StylistErin Larkee
InvitationsZanna Paper (found on Etsy)
Rehearsal DinnerBollywood Grill
Ceremony LocationFitch Plaza at the War Memorial
Reception LocationMemorial Hall at the War Memorial
Catering & BartendingZilli Hospitality Group
Chalkboard Artist & FlowersAdorn
Music/EntertainmentThe Latchkeys (cocktail hour); DJ Double Platinum (all other music)
PhotographerTom Nicol Photography
Photography second shooter ( Guys getting ready)Pink Spruce
Wedding Dress DesignerPaloma Blanca from White Dress
FormalwearMen’s Wearhouse
Rings12Fifteen Diamonds (Sarah’s)





Historic & Unique, Lake Country, Pastel, Pink/Blush, Planning, Real Weddings, Summer, Traditional, West, Yellow/Gold/Ivory/Creams

Anna & Jacob’s Elegant Wedding at the Red Circle Inn

September 6, 2018
Anna and Jake marry at St Paul Catholic Church

High school sweethearts Anna and Jacob got engaged during a holiday trip to Munich, Germany. “We had a nice dinner and were walking around the Christmas market,” Anna remembers. “He proposed by the giant Christmas tree in the middle of the market.” For their wedding theme, the two aimed for elegant romance, with a church ceremony and a reception at the Red Circle Inn. Anna found her gorgeous dress at Bliss Bridal, and she and Jacob turned to Coqui Paperie for their invitations and signage. On the eve of the wedding, the two celebrated with family and friends at a rehearsal dinner at Water Street Brewery in Delafield.

During the ceremony at St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Anna says one of her favorite parts was seeing Jacob’s face for the first time as she walked down the aisle. “I also really enjoyed saying our vows to each other,” she says. “It was a special moment for the both of us.” Between the ceremony and reception, the bridal party went to Frame Park and the Fox River in Waukesha for photos. To shuttle guests from here to there, the bride and groom chose a 33-passenger mini coach from Go Riteway.

How was the reception? “It was everything I dreamed of,” Anna sighs. “It was so much fun to have all of our family and friends there to celebrate with us.” Dinner was catered by the Red Circle Inn and featured a choice of chicken or steak paired with green beans and potatoes, plus a vegan option of veggie-stuffed red peppers. “We received numerous compliments from guests on how good the food was. People didn’t know how the steak could be so good when cooking for so many people!”

Anna and Jacob also elected to have an open bar for most of the evening. “Many people came up to us and said how friendly the bartenders were.” Anna says the Red Circle Inn bartenders handled the six-hour open bar “like champs” and that they “continued to be quick and delightful the whole night.” For a sweet treat, the couple chose cheesecake from Simma’s Bakery. “It’s the absolute best, in my opinion,” Anna asserts. “Everyone wanted seconds!”

Beyond the delicious food and top-notch service, one of the things that makes the Red Circle Inn a unique space for a reception is its layout. The dining room is separate from the cocktail and dancing space, allowing people lots of room to mingle, while also allowing a quiet space apart for guests who are less inclined to dance. Anna truly can’t praise the Red Circle Inn enough: “They made everything so easy for us. Norm has been doing this for a long time and communicated everything really well. We relied on him for questions, planning, and the flow of the day. He provided great insights and truly made our day special. We can’t thank him enough!”

Through this entire process, Anna and Jacob admit that the Red Circle Inn has now become their favorite place to eat. In the overall planning, Anna says there wasn’t any one aspect she enjoyed better than the rest. “We had such a wonderful day, and our vendors made it a dream come true.” Her final word of advice for future brides and grooms: “The time goes by so fast. Enjoy every moment of the planning, even if it’s stressful, because you will look back and know it was all worth it. Be in the moment on the day of your wedding, because before you know it, the day will be over!”

Bridal Shows AttendedBridal Expo 
Make-up and HairAnton’s Salon and MSpa
InvitationsCoqui Paperie
Rehearsal DinnerWater Street Brewery, Delafield
Ceremony LocationSt. Paul Catholic Church, Genesee
Reception, Catering and BartendingRed Circle Inn & Bistro
CakeSimma’s Bakery
Chalkboard/Custom SignageCoqui Paperie
FlowersAvant Garden
Music/EntertainmentXcite Entertainment
TransportationParty Bus from Blackline Limousines
TransportationShuttle Service provided by Go Riteway
PhotographerMcNiel Photography
GownWtoo from Bliss Bridal
FormalwearThe Black Tux
RingsJ. P. Haase Jewelers