I was a weird bride. I never dreamed of my “Big Day.” Mostly, I thought (and still think) weddings are just overpriced celebrations. For awhile, I was even set on eloping! A little favor that usually costs $1, will no doubt cost you $10 a piece if it’s a “wedding favor.” Just, ridiculous.
I also felt totally in the dark when it came to weddings. None of my close friends are married and the last wedding my relatives planned was over a decade ago. Plus, my style is no where close to my family’s style. So there’s that.
While I’ll be sharing a few of the main details later in the week, I wanted to share the major decisions we made and places we chose to make our wedding so special. Hopefully, if you’re planning a wedding (especially in the Milwaukee area) this will help you too!
For our reception, we booked The Pfister–a historic hotel in downtown Milwaukee. More on this decision later because it was a doozy. Because we booked through The Pfister, I received a $200 gift card towards the Wellness Spa, located downstairs in The Pfister. I was also able to snag a special, where if 4 of my bridesmaids got their hair done at the Spa, I would get mine for free. So, after the trials and paying for my make-up, I only had to pay about $40. It’s still not cheap, but their prices were comparable to other boutiques in the area and I wouldn’t have to leave the building.
So on The Day, I woke up early and went downstairs to get my hair and make-up done.We had already gone through trials a few weeks back, where I brought in a ton of Pinterest photos (very necessary), so I wasn’t too nervous.
For my hair, I asked for a very lose, low up do. I didn’t want it pulled straight back. Yuck. I wanted waves and knots and a very elegant, but thrown-together look. For my makeup, I really wanted attention brought to my eyes and to have my face contoured. Fake eyelashes and blush worked a charm! Seriously though, I can’t recommend fake eye lashes enough. They give an effortless, put-together look throughout the whole day, even if the rest of your makeup has melted off your face.
The robes were part of a gift I gave my bridesmaids, though of course I had to have one too! They were beautiful and ideal for running around like a chicken with your head chopped off, trying to corral family and friends. Just Cottons (the Etsy shop I purchased the robes from) was also very sweet and accommodating to my timeline. Highly recommend her.
That was another thing that was very important to us–we stay as local and handmade as possible. Of course, that wasn’t always possible, but whenever we could, we wanted our day to feel made with love. And a big part of that was having things that were made by hand. Giving the money back to artisans and locals, rather than big corporations.
Now, my dress. I ADORE it. Again, not a huge wedding or dress person (same as my parents who had literally NO reaction to any dress I tried on, ever), but I loved this one. In fact, it was the first dress I tried on. And I was thinking, “No way. Can’t go with the first dress!” so I indulged a few others from BHLDN, a cute little boutique in L.A. called Bride Boutique (which I HIGHLY recommend – the woman who owned the place was seriously awesome and I was this close to bringing home a beautiful handmade silk dress, but couldn’t because it felt too heavy for a summer wedding), and even looked into Grace Loves Lace (which was sold at Bride Boutique). I REALLY wanted all these dresses, but none of them fit quite right.
In case you haven’t noticed, I have the body of a 17 year old. And I don’t mean that’s in a good or bad way, other than I can drown in fabric. There’s just, not a lot to hold onto. So none of the beautiful, bohemian lace dresses I tried on really did the trick like that first one.
It took some convincing, since the dress wasn’t handmade. However, it was from a local bridal boutique called Elaine’s Bridal, so that made me feel better. My dad, being the salesman he is, managed to get the dress off the rack to save us a few bucks. The sales people were also all very sweet, and even helped me make a decision on my shoes. And the seamstress was insanely talented. It was a one stop shop for my dress, and that’s what I needed!
Aside from the lace, I loved my dress because it had an insanely gorgeous train. Which is also why I went with the cathedral veil. For such a large space, the train and veil made a huge statement, and could be taken off (or bustled) later for photos.
P.S. Don’t mind this weird face I’m making. Even though I was excited, I was so nervous to have everyone look at me while I walked down the extremely long aisle, I apparently found it difficult to look up and smile!
Ryan and I met at Marquette University, which has a beautiful church called Church of the Gesu. This, coupled with the fact both of our families are very traditional, we decided to get married in the church. Lucky for us, it’s a gorgeous church: open, with stained glass everywhere and lots of natural light. Not a bad deal. Plus, for what it’s worth, our priest was awesome. Like, a perfect hippie, chill guy who gave an inspiring sermon. Our guests literally asked for a copy of his sermon (the gist of which was true love is strongest when it’s born out of friendship). After the ceremony, it was time for more pictures!
We chose Joe Hang as our photographer and LOVED him. We originally fell for his editing style, but after meeting with him, felt like we could be best friends. He was calm and helpful leading up to the wedding and on The Day Of, he was a huge bucketload of energy. Ryan and I were both taken aback by how much he could rally and get people excited to take another photo. On top of that, he got us our photos in a really fast (and cute) way. And he just gave them to us! No watermarks, nothing. 1500 photos for us and our families! It’s because of that, I’m able to share all of these photos with you today (thanks again Joe!).
We chose four different places to take our photos: Marquette’s campus/John of Arc chapel, in front of Milwaukee Art Museum‘s Calatrava/on the lake, in an abandoned warehouse close to UW-Milwaukee and in a park.
Luckily, we had time for all this because of the “Catholic Gap,” or, what happens when you have an 11AM ceremony and aren’t serving food till 5PM/dinnertime. The Catholic Gap was my biggest fear–I didn’t want people to be uncomfortable or unhappy while waiting for the reception, but it ended up working out well! Because many of our guests were from out of town, they took the time in between the ceremony and reception to catch up with family, get situated in their rooms or explore Milwaukee. I never heard any complains, which made me WAY too happy.
Anyway, the day of our wedding it was supposed to rain. And, it did rain, on and off. Midwest weather, I swear. But we really lucked out.
While traveling to the church – no rain. While the ceremony was going on, sunshine. Finally, at the end of the ceremony it started raining, but everyone was still inside. We ducked out during a break in the rain to take pictures outside, but didn’t make it quick enough before we all started getting pummeled. So what did we do? We dipped inside the Raynor (Marquette’s library) to take shelter from the rain, and ended up having an impromptu photo-shoot for a half hour. After that, the rain let up and it never rained again that day!
After the library, we took pictures in front of John of Arc Chapel and the surrounding area. Which was even more beautiful after the downpour.
Don’t the bridesmaids dresses look gorgeous? That was also a huge hassle. My parents definitely had a different, more traditional view of what my bridesmaids should wear, but I stood strong.
The dresses were purchased through BHLDN, and I helped chose a specific color for each bridesmaid and gave them free reign on what dress style they wanted. After a few…debacles…everyone chose their dress and altered it accordingly (I wanted knee length). I also let them buy whatever nude shoe they found, as long as it was matte. For their hair, I just asked they incorporate a braid and have it up a little (except for my maid of honor, who had short hair).
After a few hundred photos around campus, we hopped in the limo–driven by an odd Russian limo driver who smelled of smoke but made for an interesting travel companion–and headed to the Calatrava.
We originally weren’t going to take pictures around the area because it felt so over-done and cliche, but I do love art and the lake was beautiful. Plus–that storm guys! It didn’t touch us again, but damn, it made for some awesome photos.
We also (collectively) decided to pretend we were all running away from an imaginary sea monster in the lake, which made for a few hilarious shots.
After this, we headed to an abandoned warehouse, which scared the shit out of our bridal party. Though, all the thanks goes to our videographers (I’ll share the video later in the week) who found this awesome spot. It was grungy, but it was beautiful. The area surrounding the building was overgrown with weeds, which also made for some gorgeous photos. And my bridesmaids and I took some one-on-one shots in front of graffiti. Meanwhile, everyone explored the area and Instagrammed. Oh, and a random guy passed through and told us to go take photos up on the roof. Um, yeah no thanks, guy. I’d like to live past my wedding day.
Basically, I’m a flower person. I was somewhat flippant about most things, but the flowers–nope. NEEDED lots of gorgeous, “wildflower-like” flowers. We interviewed a few different florists, but decided on Emily Watson of Stem Cut Flowers because she ONLY did seasonal. And she was local. A sort of one woman florist (which, of course, we loved). Plus, she mentioned we could donate our centerpieces to patients in hospice care through Petals for Patients, which is something very close to my heart.
We were sold.
Oh, and Emily was awesome. She was always on time, always thorough and always happy. I could’ve hugged the florals she put together! I was literally yelling at everyone to take pictures of the flowers to make sure I could always look back on them. So beautiful.
We made it back to The Pfister tired and disoriented. Everyone wanted food, and I’m pretty sure I strolled into the reception like a hungry bear, ignoring everyone and filling my plate high with good food. But, before that, Joe wanted to catch a shot of me in downtown Milwaukee. What can I say, the floral crown was popular!
So, originally, I didn’t want to have our reception at The Pfister. My parents loved it, which probably made me fight it more, but I wasn’t a fan of the “upscale” vibe of it all. I mean, there was an oil painting of a lion on the wall in our ballroom! The staff kept reassuring me I could make it into whatever I wanted to–that the ballrooms were just one big canvas–but I was hesitant. The carpet was gold and red paisley!
We toured a lot of other spaces around downtown Milwaukee, but all the ones we wanted weren’t giving us the natural light we so craved. On top of that, when you do the math on renting a space, bringing IN the food and decor and tables and all that, it can get really pricey. Plus, most of our family and friends were coming in from out of town.
Ryan’s from California, and I have family and friends who live all over the U.S. now. Basically, a hotel made sense. And I did really love all the beautiful windows in the Imperial Ballroom (our ballroom), which overlooked all of Milwaukee.
We were given a coordinator named Sarah to work with (we found out later, we were her last wedding before she left for another job…sad) and she was amazing. It paid off double because we didn’t have to hire a day-of coordinator, which we would’ve needed to coordinate all the vendors. But, nope! She coordinated the chair vendor (we went with ARENA), the dj (a friend), the florist, all the food, the cake (VandeWalle Bakery, a family friend)–everything. She even set out photos, name cards and other little decor in the cocktail room.
Even before The Big Day, Sarah was checking in with us, keeping us on track–giving us recommendations, coordinating our menu, and being patient with our ever-changing guest list.
Basically, choosing The Pfister was a godsend. Lord knows, there was no way I could’ve coordinated all of those things while still enjoying my day.
A few other takeaways:
- Price is always negotiable. Between my dad and myself, we were a negotiating machine. I managed to cut costs on The Pfister, my hair/makeup, our chairs, and my dress (to name a few) just by asking for a lower price, cashing in on a deal or saying it didn’t fit within our budget (which, in all honesty, most of the time it didn’t).
- You will probably disagree with your family on many things, but try to hold strong in what you want. My parents disagreed with me on so things–from bridesmaids dresses to decor–but when they experienced the day, all together, they could not stop telling us how beautiful everything was.
- When you get married, you will definitely find out who your true friends and family are. It’s weird, but there’s always some sort of drama. But you just have to look at that as a lesson learned on where you rate in peoples’ lives.
We also made sure our guests all had a ton of fun during our reception. That was really our main goal. We did that a few different ways:
- We had a cocktail hour, with wine served throughout dinner and four hours of open bar after dinner.
- We brought in board games and cards for kids or grandparents to play with in the corner of the ballroom, away from the loud noise of the music.
- We hired a DJ we loved and trusted (a friend) who would play the type of music we liked.
- What stole the night: A photobooth. We purchased a package through The Traveling Photobooth and have them set up after dinner for about 3 hours. It was a HUGE hit. Not only did we get one copy of every photo our guests took (all compiled in one book), but our guests got to take home a photo from the night. Many of which were drunk and hilarious. Our only regret would probably be adding more hours to the thing. It was anarchy when the attendant had to shut it down and take it away!
All in all, we couldn’t have dreamt up a better day. It went off without a hitch and we felt so loved and lucky.