About two weeks after her wedding, every bride suffers from a unique breed of buyer's remorse.
No matter how long the wedding has been in the works, it's a good bet that it has been a whirlwind experience full of stress, indecision and other people's unsolicited advice. Now that all the gifts have been unwrapped, the cake frozen and the wedding dress put in storage, the bride has time to do what she barely had time to do during the planning process: to think. She goes over all the details of the carefully-choreographed day, from the from the morning hair appointments to the evening limo arrangements.
I am one of those former brides, and I find myself picking apart every decision I made about the planning of my Milwaukee wedding. What I did right, what I did wrong, and what I would do differently if I had the chance. There are a lot great things I stumbled upon, and a lot of mistakes I made. So fresh from planning my own Cream City wedding, here are ten tips I would give Milwaukee brides before walking down the aisle.
- Find a community. Connect with other Milwaukee brides. Sites like Theknot.com have amazingly useful forums and special message boards for specific geographical areas. You can get invaluable referrals regarding local vendors, pricing ideas, hair salons, florists – everything. Plus, after the wedding when you have a basement full of centerpieces and tablecloths you no longer need, you've got a ready-made market for used wedding items.
- See your DJ in action, and have plenty of communication with them beforehand. There are so many great DJ's in this city, but just as many bad ones. What you want is someone who will communicate with you about how the night is going to go and who asks for your preferences (you know your guests better than they do). The only way you can really see how effective they are at their job is if you see them do a wedding firsthand. I went with a DJ based purely on price, sight unseen, and frankly, I would have been better of going without one entirely. Furthermore, don't rule out a band - it may be a little pricier, but it usually gets the crowd a lot more enthused. My friend Lauren's wedding had a band, and I've never seen guests so engaged and excited.
- Check out the Milwaukee County Parks ... early. Whatever the size of your reception, the Parks Department will probably have the perfect room, building or garden for you, regardless of what time of year it is. Better yet, the cost is shockingly low – a lot of places can be gotten for under $1,000 – and many do not have catering requirements. But be sure to investigate early. The facilities get snapped up fast.
- Don't be afraid to think out of the box. If you're looking to save money on food, investigate your local groceries. You'll be surprised by how many of them offer upscale catering services at low prices. Sendik's catering service is probably the best-kept wedding secret in Milwaukee. They sell food by the pound, which ends up saving the bride and groom a lot of money. Certain Sendik's stores also do beautiful and cheap floral arrangements. As for the cake, buy a beautiful one-tier creation from your favorite bakery - and get a couple delicious sheet cakes from Costco.
- A picture is worth a thousand words, and unsurprisingly photography is one of the most important elements to any couple on their wedding day. Don't necessarily choose a photographer based on referral - your style might be completely different from someone else's. That's why I loved Ari Rosenthal Photography; he employs several well-respected local freelancers (like my wedding photog, Dan Zaitz) so I could choose which one best suited mine and my husband's taste. We got exactly what we wanted.
- Investigate your jeweler. Do they offer free sizing throughout the lifetime of the wedding and engagement rings? Will they replace your diamond if it gets lost? On a practical note, will they be in business for a good, long time – as long as you'll need them? Ultimately, you might just want to go with someone you trust - your family jeweler who sold your grandparents their wedding ring will probably not railroad you into choosing a pricey ring you don't really want.
- Make sure that your out-of-town guests enjoy their stay here in Milwaukee. It's customary to reserve a block of rooms for a discounted rate at a local hotel, but go the extra mile and make a Milwaukee gift basket to be waiting for them at reception when they check in. This could include cute Brew City souvenirs, locally-made soaps or other toiletries, snacks, or a list of your favorite restaurants and bars. (Or, you could just direct them to OnMilwaukee.com for all their entertainment needs.)
- If Milwaukee city is where you met and fell in love, be proud of that. Incorporate elements of the city into your photographs, reception decor, food or bridal party gifts. One of my friends had her reception at Joey Buona's because that was where she met her husband. I had my photographs taken at the new Hilton Garden Inn on Broadway because the architecture firm my father works for handled the renovations there. Don't be afraid to be unorthodox – you want everything to be meaningful. But make sure your photographer scouts the location first, and be aware that some places (like City Hall and the Domes) charge a fee.
- Vintage is a hot wedding trend right now, but you don't have to break the bank to create your brooch bouquet or to find the perfect '40s-style shoe clips. Milwaukee's versatile selection of vintage, consignment and thrift stores is not to be beat. ReThreads, St. Vinny's and Goodwill are just a few.
- Don't rule out close-by areas for a honeymoon, or for a quick getaway after the wedding if you're postponing the honeymoon. We Milwaukeeans are fortunate to be not more than a stone's throw from world-class resorts where you can relax after your big day. The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, the American Club in Kohler and the Grand Geneva Resort are all fantastic getaways with spa services, restaurants and local attractions – and I haven't even mentioned the Wisconsin Dells. You could even stay here in Milwaukee and treat yourself to a weekend at The Pfister or another legendary hotel you've always wanted to visit.
Colleen Jurkiewicz is a Milwaukee native with a degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and she loves having a job where she learns something new about the Cream City every day. Her previous incarnations have included stints as a waitress, a barista, a writing tutor, a medical transcriptionist, a freelance journalist, and now this lovely gig at the best online magazine in Milwaukee.