bride above a beautiful wedding reception

How to Plan an Amazing “Wedding Reception Only”

This guide is for couples who want a small wedding ceremony and are planning a “wedding reception only.” While the “only” part may make the planning sound easier, it’s still an overwhelming wedding planning task (but it doesn’t have to be!) We’ve broken down the task of planning a wedding reception only into a few easy steps, plus provided a few checklists and apps that keep you on track.

Where to Start Planning a Wedding Reception Only

It doesn’t matter why you decided to plan a wedding reception only or where your wedding ceremony was (though plan on answering a LOT of questions about it at the reception). The steps for planning a wedding reception only are the same, though they can get mixed around. (Except for the first step!)

Talk with your fiancé.

The first step of planning a wedding reception only is to have a conversation with your fiancé. Discuss with your fiancé key details, such as the location, wedding style, wedding budget, size of wedding reception, and other key wedding details. (Here is a complete list of questions to ask before planning your wedding reception.) This discussion is your chance to have an honest talk about your finances and anything else you or your fiancé really want at the wedding.

Choose your wedding date and venue.

The next steps are to set a wedding date and choose a wedding venue—and these steps are totally interchangeable! Some couples have their heart set on a wedding date and make a list of wedding venues that are available (plus fit their estimated guest count and budget) on their wedding date. Other couples contact their favorite wedding venues and ask what dates are open, then choose one of the available dates. The exact sequence is up to you; if you’re stuck, here is a complete guide for choosing the best wedding venue and selecting the right wedding date.

Set a schedule.

Do you want a wedding reception with a cocktail hour and dinner? Or a dance only? The answer to these questions can help you set a schedule for your wedding reception, which you can relay to your wedding vendors when you hire them. (Professional tip: always leave plenty of time for photos. Your wedding photographer can give you an exact estimate of the amount of time needed.) Typically, the wedding reception schedule is something like this: cocktail hour, meal, dance (with cutting of cake). (Click here for a more detailed breakdown of the wedding reception order of events.)

Hire the best vendors and entertainment.

The next step is to start hiring vendors and entertainment. Typically, this list includes a caterer, photographer, videographer (optional), entertainment (i.e. DJ, band, DIY), bakery (for cake), florist (if applicable), and reception décor vendor. Some couples might also need to hire staff (i.e. bartender, coat check, etc.) if staffing is not provided by the wedding venue. (Use this guide to hire the best wedding vendors for your big day.) If this checklist feels overwhelming, it’s okay to hire a wedding planner. Some wedding venues even have planners on staff, which is a big help because they are already familiar with the venue and local vendors.

Wedding Reception Only Tips

  • Organize, organize, organize! Make a binder with all your paperwork (i.e. contracts, receipts, wedding planning checklist, etc.) or establish an electronic storage system. You can also use a wedding planning app to stay on top of deadlines and details.
  • Be creative about telling your story, including your wedding ceremony, at the wedding reception. There are so many options, such as a video or photo board.
  • Plan on wording your wedding invites just a bit differently than a ceremony plus reception invitation. (Use these tips for wedding reception only invite wording.)
  • Set up a wedding website with helpful information for your guests, such as the cost of parking, directions to the venue, etc. (Here is a complete list of items you should include in your wedding website.)
  • Spice up your wedding entertainment with table trivia, lighting, photo booth, dance floor games, or one of these other fun wedding entertainment ideas for an enjoyable evening.

Wedding Planning Apps & Checklists

Wedding Planning Checklist

Best Wedding Planning Apps/Websites

Wedding Budget Worksheet

Wedding Budget Tips and Tricks

outdoor picture of newlyweds at Milwaukee wedding venue

Start Planning an Amazing Summer Wedding in Milwaukee

A summer wedding in Milwaukee is a beautiful occasion. Even when it’s hot, a summer Milwaukee wedding is an amazing chance to enjoy the outdoors and even bring the outdoors in. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to plan a summer wedding Milwaukee, especially with this step-by-step guide (and a few tips unique to the Brew City!)

How to Plan a Summer Wedding in Milwaukee

It’s important to remember that everyone’s path to a summer wedding in Milwaukee is different. Some of these steps can be switched around, but they all lead to a beautiful summer wedding in Milwaukee.

Choose a date.

Your wedding date is an important part of planning a summer wedding in Milwaukee, but it doesn’t have to be the first step. Couples can select a date and contact the venue and vendors to see if they are available, or contact venues and vendors to see what dates they are available. (If you choose the latter, select a month or season so you have a shorter list of dates.)

If you decide to choose your date first, you can select a summer date based on:

  • The day you met (or another special date)
  • A special day for your family (i.e. parent’s or grandparent’s anniversary, birthday)
  • Date that works with your professional calendar

If the date you choose is taken, remember that you can always choose a Friday, Sunday, or another weekday near your favorite date. (Make sure you send out ‘save the dates’ so your guests get the date on their calendar.)

Select the perfect Milwaukee wedding venue.

The wedding venue is one of the most significant parts of the wedding. It’s the backdrop for almost every part of the wedding (especially if you are searching for a ceremony and reception venue). A wedding venue also plays a huge role in guest comfort—hopefully providing convenient parking, a comfortable setting (in summer, that means cool), and plenty of space for mingling and celebrating.

To find the perfect venue for your summer wedding in Milwaukee, start by deciding your style (elegant, modern, etc.), setting a budget, and making a rough estimate of your guest count. These decisions can be made by talking with your fiancé (plus you can discuss these big wedding details). Then, make a list of wedding venues that fit your criteria and contact wedding venues with a list of venue questions. Once your list of venues is narrowed, set up a in-person tour to see each venue.

Hire a wedding planner.

The next step is contact wedding vendors. This can be done by the couple or by a wedding planner. Fortunately, Milwaukee is full of wonderful wedding planners and wedding venues with on-staff event planners. Both options are a good choice for couples who want help from a professional who can tie all the details together.

If you want to tackle the wedding planning yourself, use these tips for choosing the best wedding vendors in Milwaukee. Some wedding venues require couples to use wedding vendors, while others have an open vendor policy that allows couples to hire and bring in vendors of their choice.

Summer Wedding Tips

Make sure your guests have plenty of ways to cool down.

Guest comfort should be one of your top priorities when planning a summer wedding in Milwaukee. Put out plenty of cool water, fans, and other supplies to cool down guests. If you’re planning an indoor wedding reception, choose a venue with air conditioning and make sure the walk from the parking lot to the venue is short. (And make sure there is parking!)

Make sure you leave time in the schedule to get beautiful pictures.

Milwaukee is full of amazing spots for wedding pictures. Leave enough time in your wedding day schedule for getting some memorable shots, and look for a wedding venue with beautiful settings for photo ops.

Stay cool.

While you want to look glamorous, be careful not to overdress. Choose light and cool wedding attire so you don’t have a meltdown—and make sure you take time to take a break and cool off during the day.

Plan for a light menu, but don’t plan too light.

It’s normal to plan for a lighter meal with fresh seasonal tastes, but make sure you don’t leave guests hungry.

Pack for emergencies.

A summer wedding in Milwaukee can throw a few curve balls your way, so make sure you pack an emergency kit for those “what ifs.” Your kit should contain a stain remover, plenty of deodorant, small sewing kit, and few other much-needed wedding day emergency kit supplies.

couple cutting cake on wedding date

12 BIG Milwaukee Wedding Budget Tips for Trimming and Tracking

A wedding budget is an integral part of planning a Milwaukee wedding—but it doesn’t have to be a complicated part! These wedding budgets tips are just the ticket for any Milwaukee couple serious about setting, trimming, and tracking their wedding costs.

Setting a Wedding Budget

Talk with your fiancé.

The first step of setting a wedding budget—a chat with your fiancé!—may surprise you, but it’s one of the most important parts of wedding planning. Your discussion can focus on the wedding budget or be an opportunity to ask key wedding planning questions (including the budget). Either way, you need to discuss:

  • how much you have available for the wedding,
  • how you are planning to pay for it,
  • if there are any friends or family that have expressed an interest in helping financially,
  • your current finances (i.e. savings, credit card debt, student loans, etc.)

This is your chance to discuss your finances! Once you are on the same page about the total wedding budget, it’s time to choose a wedding budget checklist or wedding planning app that you can use to divvy up your budget into columns where the funds are needed. (More than 40% of your budget should be allocated for the venue, food, and other hospitality.)

Have key discussions with family members.

If any friends or family members have offered to help financially, talk to them about their gift before you start wedding planning. Your discussion should include the specific amount of the gift (not just “food” or “wedding favors”) so there are no misunderstandings later about the gift (and to keep your wedding budget on track).

Use a cost per guests as a guide.

Once you have set a total wedding budget (including friends and family gifts), determine the cost-per-guest. You can do this by adding together your estimated venue, caterer, and entertainment costs. (You can get an estimate of charges by contacting a potential wedding venue.) Once you have an estimated cost-per-guest, multiply that number by your estimated guest count. The estimated cost-per-guest helps you settle on a guest count that fits within your total hospitality budget (i.e. venue, entertainment, food). Remember, there are going to be other costs, such as your attire and wedding favors, so your total hospitality budget should be less than your total wedding budget.

Ways to Trim Your Wedding Budget

Choose a wedding venue that’s stunning.

This may sound like an odd way to keep wedding costs down. Simply, a stunning wedding venue can keep décor costs down because it doesn’t need extensive lighting and wedding décor. These wedding venues may be within budget, so don’t count a venue out until you’ve inquired about the price.

Trim your guest list.

This wedding budget tip seems obvious, but does come with a caveat. If you need to trim your wedding budget, consider trimming your guest list. (Use these tips for a less stressful guest list trim.) The caveat is that some wedding vendors offer discounts for larger guest counts. In these cases, it may make sense to add a few more guests to the list. (Use these tips for crafting the perfect guest list for your Milwaukee wedding.)

Hold your wedding on an “off day.”

Wedding venues and vendors often give discounts for non-weekend days and during months that aren’t popular with couples. Basically, it’s often less expensive to hold your wedding from Monday to Thursday, or in a month like January or August. You can get an estimate by contacting the venue with potential dates and few key wedding venue questions.

Consider a wedding venue with an open vendor policy.

Some wedding venues require couples to use certain catering and photography/videography services, while other venues allow couples to bring in vendors of their choice (an “open vendor policy“). The latter policy gives couples the chance to bring in favorite vendors and to choose a vendor that fits within their wedding budget.

Choose in-season flowers.

Bouquets and floral arrangement costs can add up quickly—especially if those flowers are considered off-season. For example, lilies are typically more expensive in early spring than during summer. Often, a simple change to in-season flowers can trim the price tag, while still creating an absolutely beautiful effect.

Select a less-expensive dinner service.

Another easy way to trim costs from a Milwaukee wedding is to change to a less-expensive dinner service. There are typically three kinds of dinner service: sit-down, buffet, and food stations. The sit-down option is usually the most expensive, and a change to a buffet or other food service can lessen wedding costs.

Be smart about wedding favors.

Wedding favors are a sweet gift from couples to guests, but the cost-per-item can quickly add up. If you need to trim the budget, consider a less expensive wedding favor or simply order less. The latter can be an easy way to cut costs and keep you from having to find a home for extra favors.

Tips for Tracking Your Wedding Budget

Set up a solid tracking system.

Just like wedding planning, a wedding budget is a marathon and not a sprint. It’s important to set up a system that not only sets the budget but tracks it before and after the wedding day. Couples who prefer paper can use a wedding budget worksheet and a folder or binder to keep receipts. Another option is to use an awesome wedding planning app that you can enter the budget and expenses in. Either way, it’s important to continually add expenses as you plan.

Ask for final quotes before your big day.

Wedding expenses add up very quickly. It can be easy to get an unpleasant surprise—a huge bill or additional fee—after your wedding day. Whenever possible, choose a wedding venue or vendor who can give you a final quote with all your costs before your wedding. This simple step makes it easy to cut expenses so you can stay within budget and still enjoy the Milwaukee wedding of your dreams.

couple at 1451 Renaissance Place after wedding planning during covid19

6 BIG Lessons Learned from Wedding Planning During COVID-19

Wedding planning during COVID-19 in 2020 was crazy. Stressful. Unforgettable. Honestly, there really isn’t a word in the English language to describe this year of wedding planning in Milwaukee.

While we can’t put words to this year, we can look back and review some of the lessons learned from wedding planning during a pandemic. Many of these wedding planning lessons are lasting, and are going to be around long after the pandemic is over and we can all be together again.

Lesson #1: Communicating with guests is really, REALLY important.

While solid communication channels have always been a big deal, we all learned they are REALLY important while wedding planning during COVID-19. Wedding websites, texts, and social media have all become vital parts of letting guests know about precautions, postponements, and other important details during the pandemic.

Takeaway: Don’t plan a wedding without setting up a wedding website or social media site where you can keep your guests updated and in-the-know about addresses, parking, and schedules. (Use this wedding website guide to make sure you create an awesome communication tool.)

Lesson #2: Be flexible.

This year has been a test of couples’ flexibility. The pandemic has been an evolving situation for wedding planners with ever-changing capacity limits and gathering guidelines. Couples have had to stay abreast of the situation and adapt plans for their big day—sometimes several times!

Takeaway: Couples need to flexible and able to adapt their celebration as situations change. You can do this by knowing there are always “bumps in the road” and preparing for any situations that may arise as you plan.

Lesson #3: Organization is key.

Organization is an essential part of wedding planning, which is why many couples opt to hire a wedding planner. In 2020, the need for organization during wedding planning was off the charts, as couples had to keep careful records so they could easily contact vendors and adjust their plans.

Takeaway: We can’t even stress how important organization is when wedding planning. Fortunately, these wedding planning apps and checklist are available for easier wedding planning, as are these tips for organized wedding planning.

Lesson #4: De-stressing while wedding planning is not just necessary. It’s vital.

Stressful isn’t a strong enough word for wedding planning during COVID-19. This year has been full of twists and turns that were incredibly stressful for couples planning their big day. It became vital for couples to relax and de-stress, even if the ways of wedding de-stressing during COVID-19 were different than in the past.

Takeaway: De-stressing is a necessary part of wedding planning, and a chance for couples to “get away”—even for a few minutes when trying to juggle all the details of wedding planning. When you need a break, select one of these ways to de-stress in Milwaukee or a safer alternative for de-stressing during the pandemic.

Lesson #5: A good team behind you is a valuable asset when planning a wedding.

2020 may have revolved around social distancing and staying apart, but this year has demonstrated the true value of having a good team on board for wedding planning. Couples have had to lean on their wedding planners, wedding venue staff, caterers, photographers, videographers, and entertainers as they rescheduled and adjusted their plans.

Takeaway: Don’t take the job of choosing the right wedding venue and hiring wedding vendors for your big day lightly. Use this guide for choosing the best wedding vendors. Always make sure you choose a wedding venue with a supportive staff who communicates promptly and is an excellent resource as you plan.

Lesson #6: Keep your eye on the prize.

This last lesson of wedding planning during COVID-19 has been a hard one, but a significant one. With so much uncertainty, couples have to had to mourn the loss of their 2020 wedding (if they chose to postpone) and look to a new—and possibly different—future wedding date.

Takeaway: It’s vital to remember that the prize is a wonderful wedding day and marriage. While situations may change and evolve, keep your eye on these goals.

winter wedding venue feature wall with beads and uplighting

7 Tips for Planning a Wonderful Winter Wedding in Milwaukee

A winter wedding in Milwaukee is an opportunity—a beautiful one! Our cold Milwaukee winters provide a wonderful opportunity for couples to plan a memorable event with a stunning seasonal décor and gorgeous once-a-year details. (Plus, this “off-season” is a great time to book beautiful Milwaukee venues and vendors!)

So where do you start planning an extraordinary winter wedding in Milwaukee? You can start with this list of tips that help you make the winter wedding of your dreams a reality.

Wedding Planning Tips

Think about your favorite parts of winter.

The first step of planning a beautiful winter wedding is to brainstorm with your fiancé. Think about what you love most about winter, such as a favorite holiday play, seasonal dish, or beautiful winter scene. If you want to tie it all together, select a winter wedding theme and make it your own.

Choose the perfect date for a winter wedding.

Generally, winter weddings span from December to February. Narrowing down your perfect wedding date depends on a number of options; you can use our guide for choosing the right date for your Milwaukee wedding. In addition to the typical factors, there are a number of other factors that play into choosing the right date for a winter wedding. If you want snow in your winter wedding photos, there is typically a better chance for snow in January or February. Another way to choose a winter wedding date is to select a date on or around your favorite winter holiday, such as Christmas, New Year’s, or Valentine’s Day.

Ask potential venues about parking.

Once you’ve chosen a wedding date or month, don’t forget to ask your Milwaukee wedding venue about parking. It’s particularly important during winter when guests don’t want to tromp a long way in the cold and snow. Besides parking, make sure you ask wedding venues these other wedding venue questions.

Consider your guests’ comfort.

It’s no secret that Wisconsin winters can be incredibly cold, which is why you should start looking for ways to warm your guests up as you plan. Fortunately, there are many ways to warm guests at a winter wedding, such as a cozy fire and warm drinks.

Don’t forget about your wedding party’s comfort.

Beautiful pictures in the snow or at a scenic Milwaukee landmark are one of the most wonderful perks of a winter wedding. When planning your wedding day, dress up your pictures—and keep your wedding party cozy—with soft blankets and shags for you and your wedding party.

Look for beautiful spots for wonderful winter pictures.

Milwaukee is full of beautiful spots for wedding pictures, plus there are always photo opportunities at your wedding venue. As you tour wedding venues, look for perfect locations for photo opportunities—both indoor and outdoor. You can also use lighting and décor to create breath-taking scenes perfect for a picture.

Be festive with winter wedding favors.

There are so many wonderful ideas for winter wedding favors. Mittens and blankets are an amazing way for couples to keep their guests warm. Couples can also say, “cheers!” with wines, ales, and warm drink packets (cider, cocoa, coffee, etc.) If you are planning a holiday wedding, it’s wonderful to give guests ornaments and holiday treats. A candle with a seasonal scent makes guests feel like every day is a winter wedding, as will any of these winter wedding favor ideas.

Winter Wedding Theme Ideas

  1. Winter Wonderland
  2. Holiday Wedding
  3. Nutcracker
  4. Cozy Cabin
  5. Traditional Holiday
  6. New Year’s Ball
  7. White Winter
  8. Modern Winter Wedding
  9. Silver and Gold
  10. Romantic Winter Night
  11. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
  12. Holiday Feast
simple elegant wedding centerpieces with silver vases and purple roses

How to Trim Your Wedding Guest List

Trimming your wedding guest list is a matter of choice and, in some cases, necessity. It can also be an incredibly stressful part of wedding planning. Many couples don’t want to say no. The couples that do have family or friends that aren’t on board with their decision to trim the guest list. This guide can hopefully make the process a little easier for you—and less stressful—as you plan your Milwaukee wedding.

How to Trim a Wedding Guest List BEFORE Sending Out Invites

It’s normal to start with a huge wedding guest list and pare it down to a number that fits the venue capacity and your budget.

Go from family to adults-only.

Trimming the wedding guest list to only include adults is an easy way to cut the guest list. This decision may come with some negative feedback; not everyone appreciates finding child care and leaving their kids at home.

You can make the decision by weighing the pros and cons of an adults-only wedding. A definite pro is that an adults-only wedding allows for many fun wedding entertainment opportunities, such as a sampling bar or a risqué trivia game. The biggest con is the negative feedback that comes with the decision. If you are leaning toward hosting an adults-only wedding, the best way to deal with this feedback is to have solid reasons for your decision. Guests are more likely to understand if your decision is based on venue capacity limitations or a tight budget.

Make categories.

One of the easiest ways to break down a wedding guest list is to break up your guest list. You can do so by dividing the list into categories, such as “friends,” “family,” or “professional acquaintances.” To make those lists smaller, set a limit on each category. At the top of each category list, put the “must haves”—the people that mean the most to you or you see most often—and put those guests that would be “nice to have, but not essential” at the bottom. This process can make it a bit easier to cross potential guests off—without guilt (or much guilt).

Use the 70-15-15 rule.

When you’ve got a big wedding guest list, it can be hard to divvy up the guest list with family. When your guest list number is smaller, every seat is even more important. To help with the task—and avoid any unnecessary family drama (hopefully)—inform your family that you will be abiding by the 70-15-15 rule. Basically, this means, if you have 100 guests, you and your groom would get to name 70 guests, your parents would get to add 15, and your partner’s family would add 15.

Stay within venue capacity.

Venue capacities are set for the safety of everyone. It’s important to stay under that number when setting a wedding guest list. You can get the venue capacity number when you contact the venue with your list of wedding venue questions.

How to Trim a Wedding Guest List AFTER Sending Out Invites

In certain circumstances, it’s necessary to trim the list even further after sending out invites. As you go through the process, remember to continually communicate with guests about any changes and the reasons for the modifications. There are two ways to do this, through in-person conversations, calls, social media, and via a wedding website. (Use these tips for building a solid wedding website.)

Consider hosting an adults-only wedding.

If you need to trim down a guest list, an option is to change your big day from a family affair to an adults-only wedding. You can post this change on your wedding website or social media site, but it’s also important to contact close friends and family about the change. These conversations may be difficult; it’s important to be open and honest about your reasons for switching to an adults-only wedding.

Cut any extras.

Another way to decrease the guest list is to ask guests not to bring a plus-one. Again, this change can be posted on social media or your wedding website, but you should also follow up with close friends and family affected by the change.

Though it may be more difficult, you can also divide your guests into categories and place guests you don’t talk to on the bottom of each category. These categories could include “friends,” “family,” and “parent guests.” The guests on the bottom of the lists should be crossed off, and contacted with the option to join the event online (if you choose to live stream your wedding day).

If you need to trim the guests list because of a health situation, you can also identify guests who may be reluctant to come. It may be hard, but the best approach is to contact these guests directly, ask if they are interested in coming, and explain your reasons for trimming the guest list.

Give guests the opportunity to live stream.

While it may be difficult to contact guests and ask them not to come, you can still offer them the chance to be a part of your big day. Fortunately, there are many companies offering live stream services that make it possible for guests to login and see your ceremony and reception. In addition to mentioning it to guests directly, you can also post the link on social media and your wedding website.

Work with a wedding planner or venue.

An independent wedding planner or venue planner can make the task of trimming a bit easier. While they can’t actually cross names off the list, they can coordinate communications with guests and vendors.

wedding couple dancing at wedding venue

When to Book Your Milwaukee Wedding Venue

It’s one of the most common wedding planning questions: “when do I book my Milwaukee wedding venue?” Once you’ve figured out who the “one” is, choosing the venue is the logical next step—right after you sit down and have an honest conversation with your fiancé and ask key wedding planning questions.

When to Book Your Venue

Most wedding planning checklists say you should book your Milwaukee wedding venue 9-12 months before your wedding date. There are some wedding venues that are in high demand, however, and should be contacted as soon as possible (as soon as 2 years before!)

If you are uncertain about your exact wedding date, contact your favorite Milwaukee wedding venue and ask them for open dates during your favorite season or month. This is also a great strategy for couples whose preferred wedding date is already taken. You can also ask about wedding days around your favorite wedding date (like a Friday or Sunday). (If you don’t have a date in mind, use these tips for choosing the perfect wedding date.)

How to Find the Right Milwaukee Wedding Venue

It’s not hard to find a list of Milwaukee wedding venues, but it can be hard to narrow down the list to your favorite! To find the right wedding venue, follow these steps.

Decide on your favorite venue style.

Your wedding venue is the backdrop for every wedding detail, so it makes sense to choose a wedding style before searching for your wedding venue. Is your style modern? Do you love historic details? Are rustic touches your style? Have you always dreamed of an elegant wedding in a glamorous wedding hall?

Set a budget.

Setting a wedding budget is a key wedding planning step. It’s one of those key details you should discuss with your fiancé before you start wedding planning. You can use a wedding budget worksheet or do it on your own.

If you choose the latter, remember that most of your funds (typically 40-60%) should be designated for “big ticket” items that make a big impact on guests. Namely, these areas include your Milwaukee wedding venue, food, and entertainment.

Once you have a budget set (and have talked to anyone else willing to contribute), use the estimated amount to narrow down the list of wedding venues. Contact each Milwaukee wedding venue that fits your style and guest count and ask them for the total cost and if they have any other fees (i.e. overtime fees, equipment charges, etc.) (Remember, never assume that a wedding venue isn’t affordable. Some of the most beautiful Milwaukee wedding venues are actually very budget-friendly.)

Estimate your guest list count.

Don’t panic! You don’t have to sit down and come up with an exact guest list, but it is helpful to have a general guest count. (Plus these tips for crafting the perfect guest list.) Do you want a big wedding? Or a smaller, more intimate event? An estimated guest count is useful to make sure that you choose a wedding venue that is the perfect size for your big day.

Your guest count can also be set by setting a wedding budget. If your budget is tight, it may make sense to limit your guest count so you are not stretched thin.

Consider your wedding date (or season).

Think about when you want to get married. Do you have a favorite season? Is there a special date you want to use, like a family wedding date or the day you met? If you’re truly at a loss, use these tips for choosing the perfect wedding date.

Think about whether you really want a particular wedding vendor.

Have a favorite wedding caterer? Is there a wedding photographer or videographer you can’t wait to use? If so, look for a Milwaukee wedding venue with an open vendor policy (and add this question to your list of wedding venue questions). An open vendor policy allows you to bring in any wedding vendor. (If you don’t have a favorite vendor, ask the wedding venue staff for recommendations.)

Ask friends and families for recommendations.

Once you’ve set your criteria for a venue (i.e. budget, style, guest count, etc.), don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for recommendations for a Milwaukee wedding venue. This request does come with a risk however; be ready for friends or family that say you “absolutely have to” use their favorite venue. (Remember this is your decision!)

Look online for Milwaukee wedding venue reviews.

Booking a Milwaukee wedding venue is about more than just style. It’s also about the total experience—both on the wedding day and during planning. To find out what other couples’ experience has been, look online at wedding review sites. These sites, like The Knot, Wedding Wire, and even social media, give you insight into what other couples thought about the venue and their staff.

Consider logistics.

Your wedding day should be a wonderful experience for everyone, so don’t forget to consider the logistics of every wedding venue. Do they offer free parking? If so, how far do guests have to walk? Will you need to rent an extra van or bus to transport your wedding party and guests?

Questions to Ask Wedding Venues

When contacting a Milwaukee wedding venue, always ask these wedding venue questions:

  • Is my wedding date available? -OR- What dates are available around this date or in this month?
  • Does your wedding venue host more than one event at the same time?
  • Do you carry insurance?
  • Are there wedding planners on staff that can help me plan my wedding day?
  • What is the capacity of your wedding venue?
  • Are tables and chairs included in the cost?
  • What is the cost of the wedding venue? How many hours does the cost include? Are there overtime fees?
  • When is payment due?
  • Are staff included in the cost (i.e. bartenders, coat check, etc.)?
  • Is there a curfew we need to follow?
  • Are there any vendors we have to use? Can we bring in our favorite vendors?
  • Does the venue provide a bartender and alcohol? Or would we need to bring in alcohol?
  • Is there parking near the venue? If not, how much does local parking cost?
  • Are there local accommodations for my out-of-town guests?
  • What is the venue cancellation policy? What is the policy for rescheduling?
  • Is the venue accessible for guests with mobility issues?
  • When can I schedule a wedding venue tour?

wedding day at a reception hall with bride and groom dancing after wedding planning

Your (Quick) Guide to Planning a Wedding in Milwaukee

Planning a Milwaukee wedding is a process full of questions, which is why we’ve put together a guide that quickly answers some of the most common questions we hear from busy couples.

What is the first step when planning a wedding in Milwaukee?

The first step to planning your Milwaukee wedding might be a bit unexpected—but it’s completely necessary! It’s important to start on the same page (both about your wedding and marriage!), so the logical first step is to discuss important details with your fiance about your big day. This is your chance to set a date and budget, choose a style, consider how much time you have for wedding planning, and discuss anything you really want at your big day. (This full list of questions can help you start—and finish—this important conversation!)

How can we choose the right wedding date for our big day?

The right wedding date is a core detail that almost every vendor is going to ask you about. Because of this, it’s a detail that couples should set as early as possible. For some couples, it’s an easy question that they’ve already considered. For other couples, setting a wedding date is a process. There are a number of factors to use when setting a wedding date, including:

  • Venue or Vendor availability (ask your favorite Milwaukee venue or vendor for available dates)
  • Special relationship dates (i.e. first date, day you met, etc.)
  • Professional schedule
  • Family dates (i.e. parents’ anniversary, grandparents’ anniversary, etc.)
  • Holidays (choose a wedding within a holiday season or on a favorite holiday)

These factors (one or all of them) can help you narrow down to the specific day. The year of your special day depends on a number of factors—and the availability of the Milwaukee wedding venue. Once you have your date (day and year), contact your wedding venue to get it on the calendar. (If your wedding day is coming up fast, use these tips to plan your wedding in 6 months or less.)

What are our options for wedding planners in Milwaukee?

There are so many options for couples planning a wedding in Milwaukee. Couples can plan every detail of their special day, only the details they want, or they can put their vision into the hands of a professional.

There are several options for couples who want an experienced wedding planner in their corner. Couples can hire an independent wedding planner, or a wedding planner at their Milwaukee wedding venue. Either option gives couples the chance to plan as much or as little of their big day as they want.

What wedding planning checklists and apps are available to help me plan my big day?

Wedding Vendor List & Hiring Tips

Wedding Planning Checklist

List of Wedding Planning Apps

Where can we find wedding favors in Milwaukee?

There are many different options for wedding favors that contribute to almost any theme or add a Wisconsin flair to your wedding. Many restaurants and shops in the Milwaukee area offer wedding favors, and there are quite a few wedding favor ideas.

Couples can give out ales or wines from a local brewery or vineyard, or chocolates from a local chocolatier or candy shop. There are also many local goods that can fit with a themed wedding, such as mittens, ornaments, local coffees, and bottle openers. Ask your wedding venue or wedding planner for favor recommendations if you’re at a loss.

How can we add some local Milwaukee flavor to our wedding?

If you’re planning a Wisconsin wedding, and want to incorporate local touches, it’s time to start brainstorming with these Wisconsin wedding ideas. Couples can start by choosing a venue with history and character, such as columns and rich historic features. If your style is more modern, find a Milwaukee wedding venue with the perfect location.

In addition, you can add sampling stations to your wedding reception with local dishes and drinks. Guests are going to line up at a sampling station with local brews, wines, or desserts. Couples can also offer a custom mixed drink with a local flavor, or serve a drink that’s completely Wisconsin (like an Old Fashioned). Another idea is to incorporate a local celebrity into the reception (like as a surprise!)

What accommodations are available for guests in Milwaukee?

It’s important to consider the comfort of your guests, both before, during, and after the wedding. Fortunately, there are plenty of local accommodations for out-of-town guests in Milwaukee. In addition to hotels and accommodations, you should also consider a Milwaukee wedding venue with convenient parking and easy transportation for in-town and out-of-town guests. 

heart cookies for wedding guests

25+ Ways to De-Stress If You’re Planning Your Milwaukee Wedding During COVID-19

Planning your Milwaukee wedding is an overwhelming task. Planning a wedding during COVID-19 is overwhelmingly stressful. There’s continually updating your wedding website, possibility of postponing, an evolving list of local health guidelines…and that’s just the start of the list of worries that come with a pandemic. Fortunately, there are things you and your fiancé can do to lessen the stress in Milwaukee, even during a pandemic.

De-stressing is an important part of planning a wedding in Milwaukee, though it’s different for every couple. Some couples ban smartphones during their special time, or any mention of their big day. Other couples combine wedding planning and de-stressing, making their outing a chance to choose a wine or favor for their big day. We think we’ve covered both options in our list of de-stressing ideas for couples planning a wedding in Milwaukee during COVID-19.

The right de-stressing idea is different for every couple, and depends on your comfort level during the pandemic. Don’t think you have to stop at just one! Instead, plan regular de-stressing days in between setting a wedding date, choosing the right Milwaukee wedding venue, organizing your wedding planning, and checking off items on your wedding planning checklist. As you plan, use these wedding planning during COVID-19 tips, tips for postponing your wedding (just in case!), and ideas for celebrating your original wedding date (if needed). If you do need to postpone your wedding, connect with your wedding venue staff and wedding planners for advice. In the meantime, dream of your wedding day when we can all be together again.

milwaukee wedding venue with dramatic uplighting

Small Wedding Ideas for Your “Micro” Milwaukee Wedding

Unfortunately, the pandemic has made the “minimony” and “micro-wedding” the newest wedding trends. Fortunately, there are small wedding ideas that make your special day feel larger-than-life.

Of course, if you want to hold your “minimony” or “microwedding,” the first step is to check local health regulations for specific guidelines. The other option is to reschedule your big day with these wedding postponement tips. When deciding, talk to your fiancé and venue to make a decision right for you. If you decide to host a small special day, take these small wedding ideas to heart.

Choose a venue that makes a big impression (and has a ton of space).

A wedding during the pandemic is a bit of an oxymoron. It revolves around choosing a big space for a smaller guest list. In addition to substantial square footage (and these spaces to look for during your wedding venue tour), the venue should make a big impression on guests. You can choose the right wedding venue by asking these wedding planning questions and touring potential venues. (Never choose a venue without scheduling a wedding venue tour, even if it’s virtual!)

Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Communication is key when wedding planning during the pandemic because there is so much information to pass along. In addition to “normal” information (i.e. parking, schedule, etc.), you should pass on information about safety measures, if masks are required, and any other directions.

There are several ways to communicate, but the most important goal is to reach everyone. You can do this with a wedding website or social media site, as well as with mailed reminders. This wedding website guide can help you build the perfect site where guests can go for the latest updates.

Make guests feel special.

One of the biggest benefits of a micro-wedding is that you can focus on your guests (because there are less of them!) There are several ways to show guests you appreciate them. Personalized favors and cocktails (or ale or wine) add a meaningful touch. You can also add table games to bring guests together—even when they are trying to stay apart. Make sure you make these table games a group activity by having an emcee discuss the answers. You can also make this personalized entertainment more fun by setting up an online quiz about the couple, asking everyone to answer quiz questions on their mobile device, and having people’s answers show up on the screen!

Consider creative seating arrangements.

A micro-wedding is a family affair, and guests can feel like it with creative seating arrangements. This is your chance to set up unique setting arrangements that make a one-of-a-kind impression. Family seating or unique table layouts can make the day as extraordinary as the couple.

Lean on an experienced wedding planner for assistance.

Wedding planning during an uncertain time is full of uncertainties, so it makes sense to hire a wedding planner to make the experience as smooth as possible. You can hire an independent wedding planner or a wedding planning pro at your wedding venue. Both options are helpful, especially when choosing and hiring wedding vendors.

A wedding planner at the wedding venue comes with another advantage. Wedding planners that work at a venue are intimately familiar with the location and local wedding vendors. They can make recommendations about photographers, local hotels and accommodations, and décor because they know the building and the community.

Look into live streaming.

Inevitably, there are going to be some guests that are uncomfortable attending your wedding. For these guests, ask your wedding venue about local wedding vendors that can live stream and record the important moments of your big day. Guests can feel like they are part of the festivities, even when separated by a pandemic.