All posts by Renaissance Place

14 Perfectly Elegant Wedding Themes

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floral bouquet on table with sparkling back drop: outdoor touch for summer weddingIf you’re a couple that wants a wedding theme as upscale as your beautiful wedding venue, these wedding ideas are for you. They are also the start of a one-of-a-kind wedding day, because no two themed weddings are alike. Every detail of these wedding themes can be as unique and as extraordinary as the couple being celebrated.

cake with floral arrangement from an elegant vintage wedding

Vintage

A vintage wedding day is a step back in time with all the details of a favorite era. Couples can celebrate the Roaring 20’s, 30’s, or 40’s (especially with the right historic wedding venue ask a backdrop). For a Hollywood spin, you can even indulge in every detail of a Great Gatsby party. The choice is up to you, but be ready to enjoy all the little touches of a vintage wedding: floral, lace, lanterns…the vintage possibilities are endless.

couple cutting cake on wedding date

Romantic

A romantic-themed wedding is all about the love in the air. This wedding theme is all about creating a formal atmosphere with the sweetest touches. Most couples use formal, floral touches but the interpretation of this wedding theme is entirely up to you.

birch containers with elegant wedding centerpiece

Outdoors (Inside)

Many couples associate events that bring the feel of the outdoors in as casual or rustic, but the truth is that this wedding theme can be the perfect fit for an elegant affair. A formal event with this wedding theme should include all the elements of a beautiful garden, such as flowers, topiaries, and greens.

red carpet in lobby at 1451 Renaissance Place

Red Carpet

A red carpet wedding reception can be a grand theatrical event or an event fit for a movie star (with a stunning background suitable for this incredibly formal wedding theme). Either way, this is your chance to roll out the red carpet (literally) for your guests and create a night with all the drama of the stage and big screen.

wedding venue with centerpiece lights and guests at wedding reception

Holiday Theme

The winter holiday is a wonderful time to celebrate a couple who loves this time of year. A winter holiday wedding theme also comes with numerous opportunities for unique décor. A holiday themed event can be a cozy event filled with touches of cranberry and velvet or a striking affair with a neutral background and beautiful holiday poinsettias.

winter wedding venue feature wall with beads and uplighting

Winter

A winter wonderland includes all the touches of the season, which is different for every couple. For some couples, this wedding is a bright and shining event with crystals and lights. For others, a winter wedding is more of a muted affair with subtle touches of the season. The possibilities don’t end with décor; a winter wedding is a fantastic opportunity to include a hot cocoa bar (with all the fixings) or another seasonal favorite.

welcoming wedding venue foyer with warm fireplace

Autumn

This season is a beautiful time of the year, and a wedding themed around the season should be nothing less. An autumn wedding is the perfect occasion to include all the scents, tastes, and touches of the season. The exact nature of those touches is different for every couple: apple cider, seasonal wines and ales, rich colors, pumpkins, leaves, and other classic seasonal touches.

floral centerpiece with tall gold vase and lilies

Spring

A spring wedding is a fresh event with all the touches that make guests glad winter is over. The menu and décor can be just as energetic and bright as the season. A spring wedding menu includes fresh flavors and décor that embodies the beauty of the season: flowers, greens, fresh produce, and delectable spring cuisine.

elegant wedding centerpieces with simple rose arrangement

Summer

This seasonal wedding theme is a chance to bring the essence of summer alive; though those themed details are different for everyone. A summer wedding is a chance to incorporate bright colors, fans, umbrellas, and all the freshest tastes of summer (personalized summer cocktails, anyone?).

masquerade ball decor

Masquerade Ball

A masquerade ball is a wedding theme that is uniquely different, but incredibly fun. This theme also lends itself to bright and coordinated décor set against a stunning wedding venue. For a theatrical twist, couples can consider a Phantom of the Opera event. For a whimsical wedding reception, couples can incorporate the colors and feel of Mardi Gras (plus the entertainment!).

holiday wedding with babys breath centerpieces and cranberry napkins

Traditional

A traditional wedding theme is a nod to favorite wedding traditions of the past or to your ethnic heritage. As such, there are a million different ways couples can create the perfect traditional wedding day. With a formal traditional wedding theme, every detail should be black-tie worthy and dressed to the nines.

beautiful wedding day after couple organizes wedding planning

Garden Wedding

Everything about a garden wedding should be dreamy, from the invitations to the décor. The venue can be a beautiful outdoor garden or an indoor venue with garden décor (this option is perfect for an off-season wedding).

mandap with floral garland

International

An international wedding can be full of ethnic and cultural details that make guests feel like they just arrived. As with other wedding themes, an international wedding reception is a chance for couples to pick-and-choose their favorite details. Modern couples can select their favorite details while hosting a wedding reception with all the amenities.

wisconsin wedding venue with beautiful love sign and local flavors

Local Flavor

One of the freshest and trendiest wedding themes is a wedding reception with a wonderful local flavor. The effort is creating a bit of a destination wedding. Think tasting stations with brews and wines from local businesses, a menu with local, fresh dishes, and a surprise visit from a local celebrity or band.

How to Avoid the Worst Wedding Budget Mistakes

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

Setting a wedding budget isn’t as much about the total number, but about divvying up the funds you have. It is possible—especially if you avoid these common wedding planning pitfalls that almost every couple makes.

Not asking the hard questions

A solid wedding budget starts with a conversation between you and your fiancé. Discuss the total fund amount, how much you each have to contribute, and where the funds are going to come from (plus these other important wedding planning questions).

Skipping this question—or all of these questions—is a far too common occurrence among couples. The conversation may be awkward, however the discussion is an important first step in discussing finances—and avoiding later conversations about wedding day debts.

Being unclear with friends and family willing to chip in

There are two parts to this common wedding planning mistake: 1) assuming that people want to contribute to your big day, and 2) not confirming the amount of the gift. Couples can avoid any misconceptions (and drama) by asking if the relative or friend wants to contribute (even if they have previously expressed interest in helping you out). Never assume—not even about your parents!

If your friend or family still wants to contribute, make sure expectations are set about the amount they want to contribute. You don’t want to book your dream venue for $2,000, only to find out that your friend or family was expecting a bill for half the amount.

Not using a wedding budget spreadsheet

A wedding binder (either paper or digital) is more than just an awesome place for all your wedding day ideas. It’s also a central spot for all the documents that keep you organized, including the wedding budget spreadsheet.

Wedding budget spreadsheets are an excellent way to allocate funds to areas that make the most impact on guests: the venue, food, and entertainment. If you prefer digital tracking, there are several wedding budget apps that can do the same and track your expenses. The goal of both methods (paper and app) are the same: to keep your wedding costs within budget so you don’t have any post-wedding buyer’s remorse.

Throwing receipts away

Setting a wedding budget is the first step in the process; to many couples, that’s as far as wedding budgeting goes—and the chief reasons many couples go over budget. Don’t neglect the vital next step: tracking all the expenses and recording the expenses. It may seem like a lot of work, especially when all those wedding planning deadlines add up, but it’s well worth the effort when you have a healthy amount left over for the honeymoon.

Spending too much on the littlest details

Beautiful dresses and cute favors are an incredibly tempting splurge, but all those overages add up—often without impacting the overall experience. Instead, allocate the majority of funds for the “big ticket” items that guests love (and remember). At the top of that list is the wedding venue because it is a huge part of guests’ first impression and the stage for all those other details. (This wedding venue checklist helps narrow the options). After the venue, plan on investing the majority of your funds in items that play a big part in the overall experience, including the catering and entertainment. This budget checklist suggests that up to 50% of the overall budget go toward the reception.

Ignoring the fine print

“Who has time to read through all these contracts?” This mantra has been uttered by many couples, but it can also lead to hidden charges and additional fees. To avoid those unpleasant surprises, read through contracts from start to end. Avoid asking open-ended questions (“how much is the cost of your service?”) that don’t give you a full view of the cost. Instead, add questions like “how much time is included in the venue cost?” and “what other costs should we expect?” to your venue interview list (and vendor questions).

Another way to avoid unexpected charges is to book a venue that gives couples a full list of charges at the final planning meeting. This simple step allows couples to make adjustments to the final wedding reception plans that bring the overall cost into budget.

BIG Mistakes to Avoid When You Start Wedding Planning

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milwaukee wedding venue with dramatic uplightingThe first step of starting to plan a wedding is to stop worrying! You don’t have to be an expert wedding planner to jump into planning your big day. You, do, however, need these wedding planning tips that keep you from making some very common planning mistakes.

Avoiding the “talk” with your fiance

The first step of wedding is to sit down and talk about what you both want (and don’t want) on your big day. (Their answers may surprise you!) No matter how tempting it is, don’t do anything until you’ve both sat down and discussed the major details of your big day. Talk together to narrow down the major details, but remember that they don’t have to be exact. Ask questions like, “what city do we want to get married in? What time of the year is right for our big day?”

From there, find out what each of you expect from your big day. Decide whether you want a big celebration or smaller, more intimate affair. Think about the style of your big day and what you both envision. Sort through harder questions, like the wedding budget, and who is responsible for each expense. Ask yourselves how much wedding planning you can take on, and what do-it-yourself projects you have time for (plus these other questions that start your wedding planning). Finally, ask yourselves, “what is one thing (or things) you’ve always wanted on your wedding day?”

Not setting a wedding budget

A wedding budget is the second step of wedding planning—and not a step that should be overlooked. This wedding budget checklist can help spur the discussion. As you discuss the wedding budget, make sure that you allocate more funds for more impactful items, like the wedding venue and menu.

Skipping the wedding venue tour

After setting a budget, the “how to start wedding planning” guide starts with setting a date and booking a wedding venue. While wedding venue websites and social media can be invaluable when looking for the right wedding venue, don’t get so caught up in the photos that you don’t see the venue in person. During the tour, ask important wedding venue questions and to see every space that you, your attendants, and guests are going to be in (including the restrooms). Sometimes those photos don’t do the venue justice; other times, the photos may be hiding unpleasant surprises that you don’t want to deal with on your big day. A full tour gives you the full picture of the venue and eliminates any buyer’s regret after you’ve signed the contract.

Ignoring the guest list question

Any bride or groom can tell you that one of the most common questions they get from vendors ask is about guest list question (“how many guests are you expecting?”). While you don’t have to know exactly how many guests you want joining you on your big day, you should have a general idea. This decision may not be entirely made by the bride and groom, so the first step of setting a guest list is usually a sit-down with anyone else financially or emotionally invested in your big day (plus using these tips for setting the perfect guest list.)

Thinking you don’t need to de-stress

It’s easy to jump into wedding planning headfirst without giving even a thought to de-stressing. Remember that wedding planning is a marathon—not a sprint—-and that an occasional de-stressing day can keep you from getting overwhelmed and staying sane throughout the process. (These ideas for de-stressing days come highly recommended.)

Viewing a wedding planner as an all-or-none proposition

The biggest (and most common) wedding planner misconception is that every decision, every detail is decided by the wedding planner. To be clear, sometimes hiring a wedding planner can mean handing over the keys (especially if that’s what is wanted!). However, there are wedding planners that can be hired on a part-time basis. If you only want a wedding planner for the wedding reception, it can be incredibly helpful (and practical) to hire an event planner at the wedding venue. In addition to knowing the ins and out of the venue, these event planners can be incredibly helpful in selecting the best local vendors for your big day.

Not getting organized

The long wedding planning checklist can feel overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be that way, especially if you can break your vision down into smaller to-do lists. Start gathering all the details you envision in your big day into a digital or paper folder (or binder). This step helps you stay on track with your vision as you plan, even if it’s not with the exact ideas in the folder. Treat your folder as a central hub for your wedding planning checklist, vendor contracts (and contact information), receipts, and any other documentation. (These other ideas for organizing your wedding planning can help too.)

7 Tricks for Organizing Your Wedding Planning

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beautiful wedding day after couple organizes wedding planningPlanning your special day comes with a whole list of wedding planning tasks, all of which can leave couples asking, “How am I going to get it all done?” The answer is organizing your wedding planning, though getting the process of setting every detail of your large, formal or small, intimate wedding may not feel as obvious (plus it can be slightly overwhelming!)

Fortunately, wedding planning doesn’t have to feel like navigating through a maze—or make you as crazy—if you use these tricks that organize your wedding planning. As an added bonus, organized wedding planning also can make you feel on top of things and perfectly okay about taking an occasional break.

Trick #1: Hire a wedding planner (even a part-time one).

The first wedding planning tips that definitely helps with organization—and sanity—is to hire a wedding planner. Every couple’s needs are different. Some couples want a part-time wedding planner that can assist with a few key details. Others need a full-service wedding planner that can manage every detail.

Both options give you the chance to give input and plan as much—or as little—as you want. When selecting a wedding planner, consider hiring a professional that is intimately familiar with your wedding venue, which gives them an edge planning your big day. (And gives you the chance to actually enjoy the planning!)

Trick #2: Find the right apps.

If you’re a couple that prefers phones and computers, it’s time to search for the best wedding planning apps. Ideally, those apps should have a wedding planning checklist and wedding budget calculator. A good wedding planning checklist app should help you track deadlines and details. The wedding budget calculators help allocate funds and keep you within budget so you still have money throughout the process. (Tip: even if you use a wedding app, still have a paper with the contact information for each vendor just in case your phone or tablet goes down on your big day.)

Trick #3: Use the binder method.

Even in the digital age, traditional wedding planning binders are still a common choice for engaged couples. The paper binder is convenient and easy-to-access for busy couples. Every wedding planning binder should have a wedding planning checklist, budget calculator, wedding venue staff contact information (and any other forms), vendor information, payment envelopes (for passing out cash payments on the wedding day), and anything else needed for your big day.

Trick #4: Make the process visual.

If you want to take color-coded wedding planning to another level, take a large bulletin board or wall calendar and use post-its to mark all the deadlines and meetings. For a smaller organizational tool, enjoy the task of color-coding a small paper planner. All that color-coding makes the process visual and easy to break down into easy-to-tackle pieces.

Trick #5: Create an e-mail address just for wedding planning.

Crowded e-mail addresses can make wedding planning e-mails hard to spot. To avoid trying to sift through a million e-mails trying to find “that one e-mail,” create an e-mail just for wedding planning. A wedding e-mail also makes it possible for you to step away and take a break (if you can ignore the urge to open the inbox!)

Trick #6: Delegate.

If you have friends or family that have offered to help, it’s completely acceptable to take them up on their offer to help with wedding planning. You should proceed with caution; many couples have had issues with a friend or family member who didn’t follow through or tried to plan it their way. Instead, make sure you set deadlines and regular check-ins to ensure that every detail is planned the way you want it.

Trick #7: Take breaks.

De-stressing may not help with organizing your wedding planning , but it definitely helps to keep couples sane! (Use this list of de-stressing ideas for enjoying some downtime.) Schedule regular dates with your fiancé (with no talk about the wedding) and outings. Enjoy yourself—and enjoy planning your big day.

Wedding Reception Ideas: How to Add Local Flavor to Your Big Day

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wisconsin wedding venue with beautiful love sign and local flavors

We may be a little biased, but we love Wisconsin weddings. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of wedding reception ideas for couples who love getting married in Wisconsin as much as we do. These traditional and modern ideas are sure to add a bit of local flavor to a wedding day (without being cheesy).

Select a Wisconsin wedding venue

Planning your special day starts with the biggest decision: choosing the right Wisconsin wedding venue. Because our weather can be incredibly unpredictable (no matter the season), make sure the wedding venue is temperature-controlled and covered. Make a list of wedding venues in the right location and with the right amenities. For guest comfort, choose a wedding venue with parking nearby so guests don’t have to trudge through the cold, snow, rain, and wind.

Serve appetizers and dishes with a local flair

For an upscale flair and decidedly local flavor, select dishes with fresh ingredients from local lakes, farms, and fields. There are quite a few ideas, such as summer wedding dishes with fresh cherries, a cheese platter, or a fresh fish fry. The flavor doesn’t have to end with wedding cuisine. Select wedding drinks that your out-of-town guests want to take home.

Host a wine or ale tasting station

Wisconsin is known for its local wineries and breweries. Incorporate those tastes into your wedding by adding a wine or ale tasting station to your wedding entertainment line-up. (Plus, you can plan a fun outing with your partner so you can choose the right wines and ales together.) Before planning a tasting station, ask your venue staff if outside alcohol is allowed in the venue.

Serve a delectable Wisconsin dessert instead of cake

Wisconsinites love their desserts, and out-of-town guests love to enjoy sweet local dishes. The list of dessert ideas with a local flavor are endless: ice cream, Kringles, cream puffs, cherry desserts. (Ask your caterer for fun ways to display the desserts, such as with a dessert wall or interactive food station.) You’ll know this wedding reception idea was a hit when your out-of-town guests beg for the recipes (or a local retailer) at the reception.

Personalize your Old Fashioned recipe

Wisconsin is known for its cocktails, especially a good Old Fashioned. If you want to make a favorable impression, add an Old Fashioned to the menu and advertise it with appropriate décor and signage. For a fun twist, add other local cocktails to your wedding bar and give each one a unique name.

Mix up your wedding dance music

Wedding entertainment makes a big impression on guests, which is why couples should add dance music to their list of wedding reception ideas. To bring a local flavor to the event, hire a local, well-known band or add Wisconsin favorites to your dance play list.

Surprise guests with a local celebrity

This wedding reception idea is sure to get guests talking, but does require secrecy and advanced planning. For the ultimate surprise, hire a local celebrity to make a surprise appearance during the wedding reception. The celebrity can be a local, well-known chef, band, or mascot. To pull this wedding reception idea off without a hitch, keep the appearance is a secret and let the entertainment knows about the surprise so they can help make the moment a memorable one.

Choose wedding favors your guests can’t get anywhere else

The cherry on top of a fantastic Wisconsin wedding is the one-of-a-kind local favors that guests appreciate. These unique local favors can be found at local shops, on local vendors’ websites, and at local restaurants. (Ask your wedding venue staff for other fine favor ideas.)

Quick Tips that Help You Find the Best Wedding Vendors

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wedding pictures from beautiful wedding done by wedding vendorsHiring wedding vendors may seem simple (just google “wedding vendors near me,” right?), but the fact is that choosing the wrong wedding vendors can lead to drama and disappointment. It’s so common that this excellent article with tips for breaking up with problematic wedding vendors was written.

Obviously, the best way to avoid vendor drama (and breaking a wedding contract) is to choose the best wedding vendors. Extensive research is the key to finding the best wedding vendors and hiring them for your wedding reception. However, we know that planning a wedding comes with a long list of steps that don’t always leave a lot of time for finding the best wedding vendors. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of quick tips that can help you find the best wedding vendors for your big day.

Have a system.

The first step is to get organized. There are quite a few wedding apps and planning checklists (like this wedding planning checklist from Real Simple) that can help in the process. Start at the top of the list of wedding vendors and work your way through each vendor:

  • Wedding Venue
  • Wedding Attire (Dress & Tux)
  • Invitation Printer
  • Wedding Website (use these tips to create an excellent wedding website)
  • Photographer
  • Videographer
  • Caterer
  • Baker (for the cake or a non-cake dessert if the caterer cannot)
  • Entertainer (DJ or Band)
  • Florist
  • Table Décor

As you go through the list, this is where the quick checks in each box should slow. The process for hiring each vendor should start by finding wedding vendors and compiling a list of options.

Don’t hesitate to ask for recommendations.

The path to finding wedding vendors doesn’t have to be a lonely one. One of the best ways to find vendors is to ask other wedding professionals for recommendations. You (hopefully) hired your wedding venue staff for their expertise. Don’t be afraid to ask them to recommend vendors they have worked with in the past. If you don’t have the time to do vendor research, choose a venue with experienced event planners you can utilize to do some or all of the wedding planning.

Your friends and family may also have suggestions for vendors. Be careful when taking this approach. After asking, you may get, “my friend used…” or “my brother runs…” Try to weed out these second-hand recommendations from reviews that stem from first-hand experiences.

Research, research, research.

Once you have a list of wedding vendors, do your research to ensure you are working with are quality vendors. Look for common red flags such as bad business reviews, no business address, or any hint that the company has a lack of experience. Ask every wedding vendor if they have a contingency plan for those “just in case” situations. What is their plan if an employee is sick or there is an equipment breakdown? Choose wedding vendors with favorable reviews, photos, videos, satisfactory business ratings, and a back-up plan.

Interview every vendor.

Once you have a list of vendors, contact each vendor and ask about basic details, such as if they are available on your wedding day and cost. You may be able to cross vendors off the list that aren’t available and don’t fit your budget. (Use this specific list of questions for your wedding venue.) A meeting with a wedding vendor is a standard part of finding wedding vendors for your big day. Head to every meeting with a list of questions such as:

  • What services do you offer?
  • What does the cost cover?
  • Do you have any past experience?
  • What is your business back-up plan in case of an emergency?
  • Do you carry insurance?
  • How should we contact you?
  • What deadlines do we need to meet?

Be prepared to walk away from vendors who don’t have a business location to meet, seem inexperienced, don’t listen to you, have hidden fees that push the cost over budget, or want you to sign a contract with fine print that makes you uncomfortable.

20 Elegantly Fun Wedding Reception Games

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bride and groom dancing at summer wedding reception in beautiful wedding venueJust because you want a formal wedding reception, doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun at your wedding reception. In fact, we’ve put together a list of fun wedding reception games that suit your elegant occasion—and your guests’ expectations for fun!

These wedding reception games can keep your wedding guests entertained from the moment they enter your wedding venue until the moment they head for the door. (Many of these games are also suitable for a long cocktail hour if you choose to hold your ceremony and reception at the same venue.) We’ve also included games that your youngest and more experienced guests can enjoy, all without breaking from the formal occasion you’ve been working so hard to plan. (After all, that’s why you chose that elegant wedding venue with beautiful architectural details.)

Table Games

  • Table trivia
  • Mad Libs
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Wedding advice cards
  • Scavenger Hunt (to find items)
  • Scavenger Hunt (to find another guest with…)

Wedding Dance Games

Kid Wedding Games

  • Coloring pages
  • Game books
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Pinata (in a kids room with a babysitter)
  • Bubbles (let them blow them when the wedding party enters!)
  • Kids-level Mad Libs
  • Fortune Teller Making Sheets

12 Adults-Only Wedding Do’s and Don’ts

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couple cutting cake on wedding date

Couples who want a late night of dancing and adult fun, these wedding planning tips are for you. An adults-only wedding comes with the “normal” wedding planning checklist (like choosing the right wedding venue) PLUS a few do’s, don’ts, and the wording that communicates your wishes.

Adults-Only Wedding Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do be polite about the adults-only request.
  • Don’t use negative terms like “no kids” or “kids are not welcome.”
  • Do feel free to reach out to guests who plan to bring kids.
  • Don’t be surprised if guests express displeasure at your decision.
  • Do arrange for babysitting (a kids room) in another space if your venue and budget allows.
  • Don’t make exceptions for certain guests.
  • Do include kids in your wedding party if that is what you want.
  • Don’t hesitate to include adult touches in the wedding reception, such as a wine or beer tasting.
  • Do put the request for an adults-only wedding on your website (along with this wedding website information).
  • Don’t think you have to plan your adults-only wedding alone. Hire a wedding planner to help with planning an unforgettable adult occasion.
  • Do let friends and family know about your wishes so they can help spread the word that the reception is adults-only.
  • Don’t feel like you have to give a reason for your decision. If you do have a reason (such as a limited amount of space or budget) and want to share it, use the appropriate wording to communicate your decision.

Adults-Only Wedding Wording

  1. Address invitations only to adults (no “plus family”)
  2. Include the line for “Number of adults to expect” on the wedding website or invite
  3. “We would appreciate your presence at our adult reception.”
  4. “Due to limited space, we are hosting a dinner and reception for adults only.”
  5. “Our reception is an adult affair. Babysitting for children will be provided in another space at our venue.”
  6. “We are planning an adults’ night out to celebrate our special day. Please let us know how many adults will be joining us.”
  7. “Our wedding reception is an adults-only occasion. We are arranging for babysitting in another room. Parents will be responsible for the caretakers’ compensation.”
  8. “We will be including our youngest family members in our wedding, however we ask that the wedding reception be an adults-only affair.”
  9. “Our wedding reception plans are for a late night of dancing and fun. Please RSVP with the names of adults that are joining us for the celebration.”
  10. “We love your children, but we cannot accommodate them at our wedding reception. Please respond with the number of adults that will be joining us.”

How do I book a wedding venue?

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wedding couple dancing at wedding venueFinding a wedding venue may be as simple as typing in “wedding venues near me,” touring the venue, and signing on the bottom line. But booking the right wedding venue isn’t that easy for everyone!

There are so many beautiful wedding venues (especially true in the Milwaukee area). It’s hard not to feel torn between wedding venues—especially when the choice is so important. Your wedding venue is more than just a backdrop. It’s the foundation of every wedding planning detail, the first thing your guests see, and the place you constantly contact as you set other details in stone.

Fortunately, the process of choosing a wedding venue doesn’t have to be excruciating—especially if you follow these steps for finding and booking the “one” wedding venue that’s right for your big day.

Decide on a location for your big day.

The first step of finding and booking a wedding venue is a simple conversation. Talk to your fiancé and discuss key details of your wedding, such as whether you want a big wedding or a smaller occasion with close friends and family. Come up with a general number of guests you want to invite; your guest number doesn’t have to be exact, but you should have an estimate when contacting wedding venues.

Talk about your time; do you have time to plan your wedding? If not, add “wedding venue with a planner” to your list of wedding venue criteria. This is also your chance to find out if there are any “musts” either of you has to have. (Use this list of wedding questions to steer your discussion and get answers that guide your wedding planning.)

Most importantly, discuss where you want to hold your wedding ceremony and reception. What country/state/city do you want to get married in? Talk about whether you want a destination wedding or to get married in your hometown, the city you met in, or your current “adopted” city. If you have a favorite part of town, narrow down your location criteria even further.

Next, discuss the criteria for your venue (or venues) in your chosen location.  What do you want in a ceremony site?  Do you want a religious ceremony?  Or would you rather hold your ceremony and wedding reception at the same venue?  Do you need a venue near hotels for your out-of-town guests?

Set a budget.

Once you’ve narrowed down your location criteria for a wedding venue, set a wedding budget for the venue and vendors; this wedding checklist from Real Simple or a wedding budget app can be invaluable during wedding planning. In addition to setting numbers, have an honest conversation with your fiancé about where funds for the wedding is coming from.

Your wedding budget conversation may need to go beyond the two of you. If any friends or family has offered to help with the wedding financially, ask them for specific details and an exact gift amount. To avoid any misunderstandings, try to avoid general statements. “I can pay for the venue” or “I can help with the wedding dinner” is a generous offer, but also one that can lead to drama later; the gift amount they are picturing may be very different than the actual cost.

Decide on style and season.

The location and budget are the first of several criteria for your wedding venue search. Next, decide on the style of venue that fits you as a couple. What kind of big day do you both picture? Decide whether a rustic barn, urban loft, or an elegant wedding venue fits your wedding day vision.

Now it’s time to ask the big question: what is the right day for our wedding? If you’re completely blank on where to start, use this list of ways to set a wedding date (i.e. favorite season, special day, etc.) You don’t have to come up with an exact date. In many cases, a month or season is enough to start a wedding venue search.

Use your answers (and this wedding venue checklist) to create a short list of venues in your chosen location. If you have a set date, contact the venues and ask if they are available on the day. For couples not sure about the date, ask venues what dates are available during your favorite month or season.

Use interviews to narrow down the list of venues.

Don’t worry. You don’t have to set up a million wedding venue tours (pro tip: never book a wedding venue without a tour). Narrow down your list of wedding venues further by contacting venues and asking these questions:

  • Will my wedding be the only event held at the venue?
  • What is the guest capacity of your venue? Can your venue hold a ceremony and reception?
  • How much is your venue rate? How many hours are covered by that rate? What is the overtime fee if my wedding goes beyond that length of time?
  • Does your venue rate include any services and staffing? Is wedding planning services offered?
  • Does your venue carry liability insurance? (This can be important in case a guest is injured.)
  • Is there a cancellation policy?
  • Does your venue have a list of required vendors? Can we use our favorite vendor (i.e. caterer, photographer, etc.)?
  • Does your venue have a policy pertaining to alcohol? Do we need to bring in alcohol or hire bartenders?
  • Is there parking available? How far do guests have to walk to the parking lot?
  • Is the wedding venue handicap accessible?
  • Can I tour the wedding venue?

Set up venue tours.

A wedding venue tour is your chance to see the space guests see and the spaces you use. Ask the wedding venue staff to see the main spaces where guests circulate, as well as the restrooms, changing spaces for you and your attendants, and parking lot. Use this checklist for touring the wedding venue.

As you tour and contact the wedding venue staff, make sure you include your impression of their customer service into your final decision. Do they respond promptly? Do you feel comfortable interacting with the staff? As you plan, you are going to have to interact with staff quite a bit; make sure you are comfortable with the staff and their level of customer service.

Review and confirm.

Before you sign on the dotted line, review the contract for any red flags. Carefully look over the overtime fees and cancellation policy. Feel free to ask venue staff members any questions and don’t feel obligated to sign. Once you have your wedding venue booked, it’s time to move on to the next step of wedding planning and enjoy every step of the process.

6 (BIG) Wedding Planning Lessons that Pay Off

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wedding reception with MR & MRS letters in front of a shiny background at a rainy weddingWhy jump into wedding planning blind? Head into planning your wedding with the lessons that pay big—both in time and precious budget funds. Best yet, these lessons come without those “I wish I’d…” regrets that so many couples have about their wedding day.

Interviewing vendors is not an option.

Contracts may seem like a boring and tedious part of wedding planning, but the “blah, blah, blah” of the fine print can make a big impact on your choices and budget. If reading through every contract isn’t your first choice (even if it is…), use an interview to find out the fine points. Ask wedding vendors about important details, such as overtime fees and cancellation policies.

If you have a “have-to-have” wedding vendor, make sure to ask your wedding venue about whether you can bring in your preferred caterer or photographer. Choosing a wedding vendor can also be a budget-friendly choice because couples can select the service within budget. Some wedding venues require couples to use a specific catering service or other vendor. Wedding venues with an open vendor policy allows you to use who you want (and bring in the touches you’ve been dreaming about).

Delegate with direction (and not without).

Organized wedding planning is an essential part of staying on top of things (use these tips to stay organized during wedding planning). As you start checking off tasks on your wedding planning checklist, asking for help is a “must” of wedding planning—but it comes with a disclaimer. If you’re set on using friends and family, always make sure you give input and clear deadlines. Many couples have shed tears when their ask for wedding planning help results in drama.

For wedding planning assistance without the drama, consider hiring a wedding planner (or choosing a wedding venue with an on-staff planner). A wedding planner can plan as much or as little as wanted or needed. Plus, a wedding planner isn’t related to you, so you don’t have to worry about any drama popping up years down the road.

DIY is not always worth it (at least not for everything).

Do-it-yourself projects may seem like the answer to every part of wedding planning; many couples are surprised to find out that DIY projects are not always the time- and dollar-saving answer. They’ve learned the hard way what you can learn the easy way. Always research projects to determine the cost of the project (including the amount of time) versus hiring a wedding vendor. Procrastinators, beware: DIY projects need to be started (and finished) early (use these other tips for successful DIY wedding projects).

De-stressing is not an option. It’s a lifesaver.

Be wary of taking the “pedal to the metal” approach to wedding planning. Even when you feel pressed for time (like when you have days or months, not years), schedule de-stressing days when you can relax. We’ve given you a few ideas for ways to take some time off from wedding planning (just make sure you actually disconnect the whole time). Feel free to plan some date nights and outings with your besties—and make sure your significant other does the same. A day off from time to time can help you mentally and emotionally, especially when the process feels overwhelming.

Wedding day preps are worth their weight in gold.

Your wedding day should be a relaxed occasion without worrying what else needs to be done—or how to fix a problem. A few last-minute wedding preps can make that possible. Pack an emergency kit with essentials like a sewing kit, stain remover, first aid supplies, and a few other important must-haves.

To keep the day running smoothly, send out a schedule to every involved in the day. Let your attendants and family know where they need to be, a general timeline of the day (this may be thrown off a bit), and anything you need them to do.

For vendors, make as many payment arrangements in advance as possible. If vendors requirement payment on the day of, put payment in envelopes carefully labeled with their name. Ask someone you trust (not an attendant) to pass out envelopes so you don’t have to.

Relax. Have fun!

Your special day is supposed to special. Expect that not everything is going to go exactly the way you planned. Be flexible, and enjoy all the benefits of your wedding planning.