Category Archives: wedding planning tips

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

How long is a wedding reception?

Planning a wedding reception timeline is about piecing together all those wonderful details into the perfect wedding day timeline. It starts with “how long should our wedding reception be?” (a reception should last 4-5 hours) and ends with an amazingly coordinated wedding reception that fits your unique style.

How to plan a wedding reception

Choose the right wedding venue

A spectacular wedding reception starts with an amazing backdrop, though the amazing shouldn’t end there. The right location comes with a wedding venue checklist that should be checked off. You should plan on asking wedding venue questions about:

  • Availability (use these tips to get a wedding venue if you don’t have your heart set on a particular wedding date)
  • Location (city and area)
  • Style (that matches who you are as a couple)
  • Parking/access to parking (for guest convenience)
  • Interior space for the estimated guest list
  • Spaces for wedding day (restrooms, wedding party suites, etc.)
  • Venue staff availability (for pre-planning and managing activities night of)
  • Cost (ask about amount of time included, overtime fees, and extra charges)
  • Insurance (just in case of an emergency on the wedding day)
  • Vendors (whether there are required vendors or if the couple can bring in their favorites)

If you need wedding planning services (either full or part-time), this is the time to ask if the service is offered and the cost. Remember to always ask about the best way to contact the venue. Wedding planning is full of pre-wedding day calls and e-mails; it’s important to choose a wedding venue that responds quickly to your routine—and emergency—calls.

Start with a wedding day timeline

Every wedding day is different, but there is a general wedding day schedule you can use to start planning your big day:

  • Cocktail Hour
  • Dinner
  • Toasts
  • Cake Cutting
  • Wedding Dances (Wedding Party Announcement, First Dance, Mother-Son Dance, Father-Daughter Dance, Etc.)
  • Last Dance
  • Cake Cutting

Select the right vendors

The next step in planning a wedding reception is to start selecting the wedding vendors that can make every part of the reception come to life (and capture every moment of it!) Typically, you should book the following vendors:

  • Décor
  • Equipment Rental (such as tables and chairs if the venue does not provide it)
  • Florist
  • Caterer
  • Photographer (and videographer, if desired)
  • Bakery (for cake, if caterer does not provide)
  • Entertainer (band or DJ)

Selecting the right vendors is process; as tempting as it may be to Google and hire vendors, resist the urge. Choosing and hiring wedding vendors requires research and an in-person contacts. As you look for wedding vendors, always be diligent about watching for these red flags:

  • No business address
  • Delay in responding to calls or e-mails
  • Asking for full payment up front (when the charges are substantial)
  • Reluctance to provide customer testimonials or proof of satisfied customers

Be cautious about hiring wedding vendors that you don’t have experience with, such as friends of friends or family members. As well meaning as your friends may be, “my brother can cut you a deal” is a risk that often results in sub-par service.

Contact every potential vendor with a list of questions:

  • What services do you offer?
  • What is included in the quoted cost?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • What is your business’ back-up plan in case of an emergency?
  • Do you carry insurance?
  • How should we contact you in the future?
  • Are there any deadline we should be aware of?

If you need assistance finding local vendors, don’t hesitate to contact your wedding venue. An experienced wedding staff member can recommend local wedding vendors that have delivered fantastic services to other couples in the past.

Coordinate the details

Once you have hired your vendors, it’s time to coordinate the details that turn your vision into the wedding reception of your dreams. This is the wedding planning step where you start setting a wedding day schedule, checking off steps on your wedding planning checklist, and looking forward to a very special and spectacular big day.

wedding pictures from beautiful wedding done by wedding vendors

7 Must-Have Free Wedding Planning Printables

A wedding planning binder can be a powerful tool—and an organized one too, with these free wedding planning printables. If you want to tackle every part of your wedding planning—or just select parts with the help of a part-time wedding planner—these sheets are the perfect way to start turning ideas into the day of your dreams.

In addition to these wedding planning printables, couples should also add pockets to the binder for ideas (i.e. pictures of dresses, cakes, etc.), wedding vendor contracts, receipts, and contact information. This is where organization counts! Every item should be arranged so that everything is easy-to-find when needed.

Wedding Discussion Questions

Always use this list of questions FIRST! These questions are the perfect first step that can guide every wedding planning decision. Print out this blog post and write down you and your fiance’s answers (some of those answers might surprise you!); you’ll love to have those answers on-hand as you navigate through the wedding planning process.

Wedding Planning Checklist

A wedding planning checklist is the ultimate step-by-step guide that gives you an idea of when to contact vendors. This can be incredibly helpful as you decide what needs to be done next. If you use a part-time wedding planner, this checklist can help you divvy up tasks and assign deadlines.

Wedding Planning Checklist from Real Simple

Wedding Budget Worksheet

A wedding budget is often one of the most overlooked steps of wedding planning (which is why couples tend to make these wedding budget mistakes). It doesn’t have to be, especially with this wedding budget worksheet that helps you track expenses and stay within your wedding budget.

Wedding Venue Checklist, Tour Checklist & Questions

One of the most important first wedding planning decisions is choosing a venue and ceremony site. In some cases, this location may be one venue (use these tips for choosing the perfect ceremony and reception venue). The wedding venue is the foundation of all those other wedding details, which is why it’s important to select the perfect backdrop for your big day.

As you contact wedding venues, use this list of venue questions that can help you select the sites that fits your timeline, style, budget, and vision for the day.

Never choose a wedding venue without touring the site. This Wedding Venue Tour Checklist is a great aid to make sure you have found a venue that checks off all the boxes.

Wedding Reception Timelines

These wedding reception timelines can be a great start to setting a wedding reception timeline. You can use any of these wedding reception timelines, or customize it into the wedding day of your dreams.

3 Sample Wedding Reception Timelines from Lover.ly

simple elegant wedding centerpieces with silver vases and purple roses

8 Pros and Cons of Hiring a Wedding Planner

If you’re not sure about taking on that long wedding planning checklist, this list of the pros and cons of hiring a wedding planner is for you. A wedding planner can be a huge asset during wedding planning OR take away all the fun of planning your day you’ve always dreamed about.

If you’re a list-maker (and if you’re planning a wedding, you have to be), this list can help you decide whether to add a wedding planner to your team or organize your wedding planning and get ready for the next step.

Pro: A wedding planner can take on as much of the planning—or as little—as you want.

It’s one of the most common wedding planning myths—and misunderstandings—that can get in the way of hiring a wedding planner. Many couples believe that hiring a wedding planner is an all-or-none proposition; the truth is that many wedding planners can take on as much or as little as the couple wants. To make sure that your preferred wedding planner is willing to take on the task on a part-time basis, ask them if they provide full- and part-time services during your first meeting.

Con: Not everyone wants to let go of the planning.

Before hiring a wedding planner, ask yourself, “Do I enjoy planning events? Have I been looking forward to wedding planning?” The answer is different for everyone. Some couples love to dive into every detail of wedding planning while others prefer to dabble in the process.

If your answer is somewhere in the middle, the answer might be a part-time wedding planner. If this is your choice, make sure that your lines of communication are open and that everyone is on the same page. You can find a part-time wedding planner through your venue or at your venue; many venues offer wedding planning services. The benefit of utilizing venue services is that the staff are intimately familiar with every aspect of the building.

Pro: Wedding planners know local vendors that can turn your ideas into reality.

One of the biggest advantages of a wedding planner is their network. Because wedding planners work within the community, they know who to go to for every kind of task: catering, lighting, décor, etc. Wedding planners can take on researching and making out-of-the-box requests reality, saving you time and adding their expertise to the process.   

Con: You may feel detached from the process.

If you’ve always dreamed of planning your big day, hiring a wedding planner might be a let-down. While wedding planners coordinate every detail, couples can feel like it’s someone else’s event. This can be especially true if couples aren’t in touch with wedding planner on a regular basis.

This con can also show up when a friend or family member offers to plan the wedding. While this may seem like an ideal arrangement, sometimes even the most well-meaning acquaintance can start planning their day—and not yours.

Pro: You can still enjoy the parts of wedding planning you want to do.

For couples that want to handle their favorite details, hiring a part-time wedding planner can be ideal. It’s a chance to handle the details you really want to do. If you and your partner are foodies, you can enjoy caterer tastings and traveling around to find the best food favors. For those who love to dance, you can scout wedding entertainers and plan a really spectacular first dance.

Con: Wedding planning adds another expense to the wedding budget list.

Obviously, hiring a wedding planner does come with a cost. If your wedding budget is tight, you may not want to stretch it any farther (though you may want to use these wedding budget tips). In these cases, it makes cents (literally) to hire a part-time wedding planner for only the most essential wedding planning tasks or to take on the task yourself. If the latter is your only choice, these tips can kickstart your wedding planning and help keep you organized as you plan your wedding.

Pro: A wedding planner can troubleshoot any wedding planning problems.

This is where the experience of a wedding planner can be a huge advantage. In addition to having connections to local vendors, an experienced wedding planner has usually been there and fixed that. Their experience allows them to solve even the most unusual problems and fix the most common problems quickly and efficiently.

Pro: You have more time!

Most married couples can attest to the fact that wedding planning is like a second job (which is why a date night is essential!) Hiring a wedding planner makes that job seem more part-time, allowing couples to enjoy the process and have more free time.

bride and groom dancing at summer wedding reception in beautiful wedding venue

(Fun!) Ways to Enjoy Your Milwaukee Wedding Planning

Planning your wedding in Milwaukee can feel adventurous or overwhelming. These cool ways can make it feel more adventurous than overwhelming—and give you and your partner a chance to enjoy the site of your big day.

Plan a date night at one our fantastic Milwaukee breweries or wineries.

Milwaukee is known for its distinctive ales and unique breweries. If you’re a lover of an occasional brew (or fanatical about your ales), a night out at one of Milwaukee’s breweries can be a great way to choose ales for an interactive tasting station at your wedding reception. A night out at a brewery can also give you the clues you need to decide if it would be a good stop for a toast after your ceremony—or for the big wedding dinner toast.

If you have a palette more for a delectable wine produced at one of our Wisconsin vineyard, schedule a field trip with your fiancé—or your wedding party—to find a wine that was suitable for your big day. A local wine can be the perfect wedding favor (with customized labels) or addition to welcome baskets for out-of-town guests.

Enjoy your time visiting Milwaukee wedding venues and caterers.

Your wedding venue and menu are the highlights of your big day—so why shouldn’t you enjoy the selection process? Once you’ve narrowed down the options for your wedding venue, plan a fun night visiting venues (through a scheduled visit or at an open house) with your significant other. (If you don’t have a lot of time for lots of visits, choose a wedding venue with an on-site planner that can turn your vision into reality.) Caterer tastings can be just as fun—especially if you choose a venue that gives you the option to bring in your favorite.

Scout your favorite photo opp locations.

In Wisconsin, couples typically take two different approaches to photos. The first approach is to head to a favorite location for photos after the ceremony (and to a few local bars or eateries for a wedding party toast). The second approach is to choose a wedding venue for every part of your big day: ceremony, photos, cocktail hour, and the reception.

Whatever approach you take, one of the best wedding planning outings can involve scouting unique locations that make the best sites for unique wedding shots. There are so many options in Milwaukee and around: state parks on Lake Michigan, along the Milwaukee River, at a local museum (think the Milwaukee Public Museum, Harley Davidson Museum, Milwaukee Art Museum, etc.), the Milwaukee County Zoo, or at one of our cool historic sites. The possibilities are endless, and picturing your wedding day during a pre-wedding visit can be just as fun.

Make an adventure out of finding local tastes to include in your big day.

Local tastes can add a one-of-a-kind flavor to any wedding day—and the search for those tastes can be the perfect pre-wedding adventure! In addition to breweries and wineries, enjoy sampling and choosing your local favorites at local Farmer’s Markets, farms, restaurants, and diners. The search can be as fun as incorporating them into your menu, in interactive tables, as favors, or in welcome baskets for special guests who choose to be part of your big day.

Enjoy planning the perfect surprise.

If you love secrets, this wedding planning task—a wedding reception surprise—is the perfect addition to your wedding planning list. The possibilities for a wedding surprise are endless: a choreographed dance, a surprise visit by a favorite Wisconsin mascot, a pop-in from a local entertainer, or one of these fantastic wedding reception ideas.  

BIG Mistakes to Avoid When You Start Wedding Planning

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 Ways to Minimize the Wedding Planning Drama

wedding figures for top of cake after wedding budget planningWedding planning can bring out the worst in anyone (anyone!). We’re not sure what it is that stirs up the emotions; if it’s the budget, stress, or just the enormity of the occasion (or a combination of all three), somehow wedding planning can bring out hurt feelings, heated exchanges, and its fair share of anger. As event planners who assist couples with wedding planning, we’ve seen the tears and heard the tales. Unfortunately, some couples can’t seem to avoid the family and friend drama that accompanies wedding planning. However, there are ways to keep the drama minimal so you can plan and enjoy the process (and the actual day!).

Have the necessary conversations early.

To make sure you are on the same page, start having those necessary conversations early—especially with your fiance so you are in agreement on the big details! Don’t avoid discussions (even the difficult ones) with family and friends who are vested in your big day. Talk to family members who have expressed an interest in helping out (financially or otherwise). Ask what their expectations are, such as the budget for the item they are offering to pay for or the deadline for a task they are helping with. Likewise, be open about major decisions, like who is walking you down the aisle, the number of guests they can add to the list, or the names listed on the invitation. A simple conversation can minimize angst later—and (hopefully) keep you on good terms until your big day.

Organize, organize, organize.

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed; realize that same feeling can lead to negative reactions when you are in the middle of wedding planning. Use a wedding planning checklist or app to help keep you on track during the process and organize all documents in one place so you can easily find vendor names and contact information when needed (use these other tips for organized wedding planning to keep on top of it all). If it all gets to be too much, don’t hesitate to hire a wedding planner.

De-stress.

Unfortunately, stress and wedding planning seem to go hand in hand. Throughout the wedding planning process, step away from it all to de-stress. Have special nights out with your fiancé to reconnect, and designated nights with friends to relax. (We’ve listed a few local wedding planning de-stressing activities here.) When you take a day or night to de-stress, try (it can be really hard!) to not talk about wedding planning.

Unplug.

Electronics are a necessary part of daily living, but they can also add to the stress—especially when everyone is continuously contacting you about the wedding! Take some time to unplug, whether it’s at the spa, concert, or for a weekend of camping. Come back from your “unplugged” time refreshed and ready to tackle the next wedding planning task.

Don’t be afraid to consult the experts.

It’s natural to receive A LOT of advice during wedding planning. We mean A LOT. Everyone has an opinion, and they’re not afraid to voice it. “Go here….” “Are you sure you want to do that…” “We did….” All the advice can make you want to scream (or elope!). Be patient with the advice; it’s part of the process. Remember, also, that all that advice, however well-meaning as it is, may not be correct. Don’t hesitate to contact the professionals for recommendations and advice. (Use these tips for hiring reliable, professional vendors.) You hired your wedding venue coordinator, DJ, caterer, and photographer for a good reason; don’t be afraid to lean on their expertise.

Make it a team effort.

If you need help, ask for it. Remember, though, to be realistic about it! Your best friend probably can’t get that huge task done in a weekend, and your friends may not produce Pinterest-worthy DIY projects. If you do trust a friend or family member with a huge wedding planning task, be clear about the deadlines and expectations. If you don’t think that person can meet either of those, bring in the professionals so you don’t end up with hurt feelings and angry texts.

Keep the lines of communication open.

As you schedule and make plans, send out communications about the plans to everyone so no one feels left out. Send out wedding schedules to the whole wedding party. If you do have a detail that might miff family members, make sure you and your fiancé are on the same page to avoid bickering and family drama.

Tips from the Pros: 15 Tips (and Tricks!) that’ll Kick Start Your Wedding Planning

newlyweds cutting white wedding cake at wedding venue with bloomsWhen you’re engaged, it can seem like everyone’s a wedding planning expert. From the day you announce your engagement, it can seem like everyone has some advice about your wedding venue, dinner, flowers…

We’ve guided a lot of couples through wedding planning over the years, and we know the process can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put some of our top tips (and tricks!) into a list that you can use as you plan your special day.

Wedding Venue

Wedding Budget

Wedding Vendors

Get Organized: Wedding Planning Tips that Keep You on Top of Things

bride and groom dancing at summer wedding reception in beautiful wedding venueStress free and wedding planning. Believe or not, these two concepts can go together (like PB & J!) if you take an organized approach to planning your special day.  Even the simplest affairs can be a big (and sometimes overwhelming) wedding planning task, but easier if you take these wedding planning tips from our pros (literally professional event planners) to heart.

Don’t procrastinate.

We clearly remember the story: within minutes of her engagement, our friend’s mother started pressuring her to start planning her day.  All our friend wanted to do was enjoy being engaged, and she didn’t take it well.

When starting wedding planning—and throughout the wedding planning process—you have to take the same approach: enjoy being engaged but don’t wait too long to tackle your list of wedding planning to-do’s.  Mark items off the list as soon as you can so you know you have all your bases covered.

Use a checklist and a system.

Whether you prefer to use a paper or electronic system of wedding planning, make sure you lay it all out at the beginning of the process.  Use a wedding checklist for the whole process, and make sure you break down each task, like finding a wedding venue.  Booking a wedding venue is a task on your list, but comes with a whole sub-checklist such as identifying your venue needs (more info on choosing the right venue here), vetting each wedding venue (ask them this full list of questions), and setting appointments to see each wedding venue.

Make it a friends and family affair—but set deadlines.

You shouldn’t have to shoulder the endless list of wedding planning tasks alone.  Feel free to delegate items on your wedding planning checklist to your fiance, friends, and family (at least those who have offered to help) BUT set deadlines.  Use alarms on your phone, an electronic organizer, or an app to make sure you can manage all your wedding planning deadlines (i.e. when to submit your guest list, follow up with wedding entertainers, etc.).  Follow up with your family and friends when each deadline comes up (without being obsessive or a huge pain in the you-know-what).  You don’t want to find out about all the tasks that haven’t been done later and have to scramble to book last-minute vendors.

If you’re worried the wedding planning checklist is too long, and you (and your family and friends) won’t have enough time to meet all those deadlines, add an on-site event planner to your list of wedding venue must-haves.  An on-site planner can help you coordinate all the details of your big day and is intimately familiar with your venue so you get a beautiful result.

Be smart about DIY.

We all want to save money on our wedding, but be realistic about the amount of time you have to devote to do-it-yourself projects.  Sometimes the cost of your time (and sanity) outweighs the benefits of the money you save.  When delegating tasks, be smart about deciding what you should take on as a DIY project and what you should outsource.

Take time for yourself.

Wedding planning takes a lot of time, so allocate accordingly: plan to spend at a least a day a week for wedding planning and an occasional day of fun to counteract all your efforts.  Head to the spa, plan a night out with your fiance, enjoy a day with your friends—whatever you need so you have some time where you’re not worried about wedding planning. If you’re organized, it should be easy to pick up where you left off.