Oh hi there! If you are ready to be overloaded with wedding pictures and want to be nosy (I love being nosy, so I’m not judging) about our wedding, this is the place for you. There are approximately a billion pictures in this post and if you want to just skim them and glass over the text, totally cool with me! Just know that the pictures were done by the lovely and talented Danielle Simone Photography . If you are looking for a wedding photographer in the Milwaukee/Chicago area, you need to contact her. She’s sweet, talented and all around a really cool lady. Ok, now let’s move onto the wedding details!
When we got engaged, we knew we were going to have a pretty long guest list. Between AJ coming from large families and us both having a lot of friends whom we love dearly, it was hard to imagine cutting anyone out! So first off, one of the biggest struggles when we were wedding planning was finding a space that would accommodate 250 guests (we had 175 attend) and allow the ceremony and reception to be held in one place (in November). Since Milwaukee is gorgeous in the summer, but unpredictable in the fall/winter months, we also didn’t want to mess with even thinking about an outdoor space. October/November was our general timeline, so we knew we had to be inside. After a lot of research (so many hours on Google) and several e-mails later, we settled on the Mitchell Park Domes.
The Domes are right in Milwaukee, close to downtown and have some of the most gorgeous indoor greenhouse space that I’ve ever seen. We had been to the Domes a few times previously, but looking at it as a wedding space was a whole new option we never even considered. We were able to hold both the ceremony and reception in the same building and there was plenty of parking available, win win. My word of advice for looking into wedding venues? Keep an open mind and keep a spreadsheet with all the details from all the spaces. Between sifting through e-mails from potential sites, remembering who could accommodate what, and needing to be able to share all the info with my mom (best wedding helper EVER), creating some shared planning documents in Google Drive was a total lifesaver. I actually had passed over the Domes when we were initially looking into venues, thinking it wouldn’t work for us. Good thing I looped back around and took a second look! The Domes are technically park of the Milwaukee County Parks System, so the fee was much lower than other places and it was super easy to go visit the venue when we were planning things out. Don’t overlook your parks system, there can be hidden gems in there.
The day of the wedding the whole bridal party got ready at the hotel where we had reserved blocks of rooms for our guests, which ended up working out great for us. It was so nice to see people as we were running around the hotel getting ready and much easier for the bridesmaids, since they could hang out in their individual rooms while we were getting ready, eliminating the chance that the ‘getting ready’ room would get overwhelmed with people or anyone would be hangry/cranky or need time alone. I paid a little extra to have hair/makeup come to us and it was also totally worth it! I know some places charge extra for this service, but for me, it was worth our time and smooth operation of the day just to have them come to us (If you are curious, Martha at MKE Shears did my hair and Katie at Harmony Salon and Spa did the makeup). I would also recommend plenty of snacks, water and lots of time. I stressed out majorly about planning the timeline and honestly, it all went off without a hitch. Build in plenty of time in case something goes wrong, someone gets lost, etc. and you should be right on track. Things are probably going to run behind and not everything will be perfect. Sit back and have a mimosa and forget about it!
My absolute biggest piece of advice for the day of a wedding: get a day of coordinator. Hands down, this is some of the BEST money we spent. I luckily have a close family friend who plans events for a living, so he was the perfect choice to coordinate our wedding day. He thought of things we didn’t even consider and took a lot of the last minute tasks off of my plate so I could fully enjoy the day. Our day of coordinator even put together a pretty bomb last minute photobooth when our photobooth didn’t show up (Having a wedding right after Halloween=allllll the props for a perfect photobooth are on sale). If you are going to splurge a bit on something extra, hire a day of coordinator, you won’t regret it!
Finding a good place to take wedding photos was another hurdle we had to get over after our original plan fell through. At the time, it seemed like the biggest disaster on Earth and I kind of lost my mind thinking about re-planning the whole dang photo plan. Luckily enough, I was a.) marrying someone who kept me very calm and b.) had a photographer who jumped in and helped right away. These two things were essential to ensuring that we found somewhere that was inside (it was in the 40s on our wedding day) and was beautiful, so we would be able to capture photos we loved. Ultimately, we decided to take pictures at the Iron Horse Hotel, which ended up being perfect. Not only is it a gorgeous old building, but the staff was more than accommodating and there is a bar right inside where we were taking pictures. Wedding pictures and a cocktail? Yes please! I’m not advocating for anyone to get drunk before the wedding, but having a couple cocktails beforehand just eases those nerves and stresses about the day.
Our ceremony was pretty short and sweet, which suited us perfectly! AJ writes as part of his job, so he took the helm on putting together the ceremony script for our officiant and deciding on all of that jazz. This was another big thing that I was SO happy to not worry about, especially since he is a lot better at it than I am. Fun fact about our officiant: he is actually the person who set us up on a blind date in the first place! (He was also there when we got engaged). We sort of joked about having him officiate the wedding, since he has been part of our story for so long, but then we found out that he was already ordained, so we knew it was meant to be. Not everyone has this unique situation, but honestly, if you aren’t religious or don’t already have someone in mind, finding someone who you both know and love to officiate the wedding is so much more fun. Our officiant added in a few anecdotes about both of us and we felt so much more comfortable during the ceremony, since it was being conducted by someone we’ve known for so long.
Like I said, our ceremony was short and sweet. We aren’t religious, so we didn’t have a lot of specific criteria we wanted met for the ceremony. We did a few short readings by the officiant, he added in his own reading and we did our vows. I think total, the ceremony lasted maybe 15-20 minutes, which we heard was well liked by the guests. At that point, we wanted to just be married and move on to the party part of the celebration!
Now onto the good stuff! Food is obviously important to me, so when it came to food, we were excited about going with a somewhat untraditional route of serving heavy appetizers. Overall, everyone loved it and there was plenty of food, without breaking our budget. Luckily, we not only got to serve our guests several kinds of appetizers, but a pasta bar too, so everyone was carbed up and ready to go. Our caterer, Zilli Hospitality (they are amazing and you should use them if you need a Milwaukee wedding caterer), was the exclusive caterer for the venue. Having just the one choice in caterer actually made life a lot easier, because we didn’t have to spend time researching, going to tastings, etc. My words of advice for catering is to have someone who has done weddings a lot, especially in your specific venue. It was so nice to just tell them what we wanted and trust them to make it happen, especially since they had done countless weddings in our venue. They were also really accommodating with modifying appetizers to be vegan or gluten free, since we had a wide variety of diets to please. We also got married at a lower point in the wedding season, so we got a few freebies for getting married in that in-between time (hello fancy drinks and more apps). For the appetizers we had so many different types but the highlights were crispy pitas with hummus, bacon wrapped chicken (for the GF guests!), polenta bites, and cucumbers with olive tapanade. Between all the apps and a variety of pastas, our guests left full and happy.
For the reception, I wanted super simple decorations that wouldn’t involve me DIYing the crap out of my weekends. Some people love that stuff, but for me, it would have been more of a stressor than an enjoyable activity. For the centerpieces, I got a ton of wine bottles from a winery back in Central Illinois (hi Sleepy Creek!) and told the florist to just stick some flowers in there. We did a combo of hydrangeas and baby’s breath and the result was perfect. I’m not super into big flowers that make it hard to see the person sitting across from you, so really fit the bill. For the table numbers, I hired out a family friend who does calligraphy and had her do small tented cards for each table. Lucky for us, the florist threw in the votives on the tables for free and decorated all the food tables with stuff they had on hand, so everything was just right for our space. If you can’t tell, the reception was actually held in the lobby of the venue, so it turned out wonderfully for being something that is normally just a forgotten space.
Moving on to the cake! I already knew that big, tiered cakes were expensive and note my style, so I went ahead and ordered a small cake for us to cut and sheet cakes to serve to guests. This strategy ended up being really great for our size of wedding and we even had a TON left over, so we enjoyed it for a few weeks after the wedding too. Every single piece of cake was a completely vegan red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting (ordered from Beans and Barley). No one knew the cake was vegan unless we had previously told them and everyone absolutely loved it! Lucky for us, the bakery we ordered the cake from is also a grocery store, so I went in and purchased individual slices of a few cakes we were considering and tried them at home. This eliminated the whole cake tasting fee and pressure on making a decision right there in the store.
Now moving onto one of my favorite parts, DANCING! I live to dance at weddings and we are lucky enough to have quite a crew of friends from all walks of life who love to dance. The DJ we went with played all of the songs from our play list (listen to the DJ wedding playlist on YouTube to get a good idea of the best songs) and really kept the flow going with the perfect songs to keep everyone going. We also spent some of the best money and rented a pair of people dressed up in sausage costumes to come to the wedding, whattt?! This may sound absolutely crazy, but Milwaukee’s baseball team, the Brewers, has a set of sausages who race every home game during the 7th inning stretch. After a bit of research, we found out that you can pay to rent the sausages and they will come and dance around at your wedding. It’s kind of hard to describe exactly what they are, so watch this then come back for more pictures.
Just having that extra piece of iconic Milwaukee at our wedding made our out of town guests love the experience even more and really got the party going. We did have an incident where one of the sausages got a little into the Cupid Shuffle and his too-tall sombrero broke a part of the ceiling, but we cleared the debri away and continued to boogie anyway. If you have an option to rent something like this for your wedding and you can afford it, DO IT. We only had them for an hour and it was a good amount of time for everyone to take pictures, dance around and really get into the fun of the night.
At the end of the night, we were exhausted, happy and our hearts were so full. The old addage really is true, at the end of the day, you will be married and that’s all that really matters. For all the times I woke up from a panic dream about forgetting things or sent my friends photos of me eating cookies on the couch while stressing about timeline, it was totally worth it. Almost everything could have gone wrong and I think we still would have felt the same way. At the end of the day, you are surrounded with everyone you love, get to eat cake and be married, what more could you ask for?
If you have any questions about vendors, planning a wedding, etc. Feel free to reach out! I couldn’t possibly fit everything here and my fingers got a little tired from typing, so I’m an open book if anyone wants to know more specifics.