21 (Fun!) Wedding Reception Surprise Ideas

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bride above a beautiful wedding receptionEveryone loves a surprise—especially when you include a surprise into plans for your big day.  Suddenly, your big day becomes bigger (or at least your guests’ eyes do when they see your surprise!) and different. As an added benefit, you can customize your wedding day surprise to something entirely you.

So without further ado, here are a list of fun wedding reception surprise ideas that you can customize into an amazement that fits your personality and your big day:

chalk sign on sidewalk to welcome wedding guests

  1. Surprise them at the door with a fun mural, backdrop, or drawing
  2. Have the happy couple arrive in an unusual vehicle (i.e. in an old car, in a carriage, etc.)
  3. Host a beer (this is Milwaukee, after all!) or wine tasting
  4. Serve a surprise dish
  5. Schedule an appearance by a celebrity impersonator
  6. Have an unexpected friend or family (that you didn’t expect) appear on the dance floor (or on a video call!)
  7. Break out a fun (well-practiced) dance routine by the bride and groom (or father-daughter or mother-son dance)
  8. Have a favorite sports mascot crash the party
  9. Include surprise entertainers in the night that reflect your heritage
  10. Make your awesome dessert part of your décor (i.e. donut wall, interactive dessert food station)
  11. Have one of the newlyweds appear unexpectedly during the reception (coordinate the appearance with the DJ or band)
  12. Add sparklers or fireworks to the night’s festivities (ask your venue about limitations first!)
  13. Give your guests dinner and a surprise show (hire entertainers to make it happen!)
  14. Make a (cool!) wardrobe statement with an unusual dress or dress change
  15. Turn your reception into a trivia night
  16. Confetti drop (outside or on the dance floor-ask your venue to ensure it is allowed)mandap with floral garland
  17. Make a statement with décor in a big way
  18. Give your guests unexpected wedding favors
  19. Host a (surprise) game show
  20. Play dance floor games
  21. Tell your guests thank you with a unique sign or message (i.e. in fortune cookies, with elegant cards set up with each word, etc.)

7 Ways to Minimize the Wedding Planning Drama

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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.

7 Wedding Day Curve Balls (& How to Deal with Them)

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wedding day at a reception hall with bride and groom dancing after wedding planningWedding emergencies. Even the best-planned wedding day can be hit with a series of fast pitches and curve balls that can throw even the most flexible bride and groom for a loop. We’ve seen it happen; that’s why we’ve put together a list of the most common wedding emergencies, what you can do about it, and how you can prepare so you’re not struck out by a wedding emergency.

Rain

Our Wisconsin weather is notoriously unpredictable; plan for the unexpected! Never plan an outdoor wedding without a plan B. If you want an outdoor ceremony, search for the ideal outdoor site while also looking for a wedding reception hall with space for the ceremony (just in case!). Be prepared for the possibility of soggy weather (you’ll need these rainy day wedding tips). Communicate with your venue and vendors accordingly so you can still have a beautiful wedding day even when the weather takes a turn for the worst.

Too Hot

Hot weather can put a real damper on a summer wedding. If your wedding day is anytime during late spring or summer, look for a wedding venue with traditional details and modern air conditioning. For events like photos or an outdoor ceremony, provide fans and cool drinks to cool your attendants and guests down. Schedule those events accordingly so they are not during the hottest times of the day (trust us, your guests and attendants appreciate the schedule!).

Dress ripped or stained

A guest steps on a wedding dress. A guest spills their drink all over a beautiful wedding gown. It happens, and it can be fixed. Pack a sewing kit (with Velcro for ripped straps!) and tape for fixing dresses that get stepped on or rip. For stains, pack a stain shot and cloth for cleaning off any spills.

Not feeling well

Keep a first aid kit and medications on hand so you (and your wedding party) feel your best on your wedding day. Think ibuprofen for headaches and antacids for a sour stomach. Snacks for when you realize you haven’t ate in the last four hours. Bandages, tweezers and ice packs in a first aid kit for illnesses or injuries (they do happen!).

Bad Hair Day

Even with a ton of bobby pins and hair spray, the most elegant wedding hair do’s can fall or get messed up. Make sure you get the best photos ALL day by adding extra bobby pins, hair spray, hair dryer, and clips to your emergency kit.

Smeared Make-Up

Don’t start the wedding day looking like a princess and end the day looking like a horror show. Pack extra make-up and ask a trusted friend to do touch-up throughout the day (especially before and after photos).

Cold

If the temperatures are resembling a roller coaster, adjust your wedding day schedule accordingly. Move outdoor festivities indoor (look for a venue with space for a ceremony and reception). Provide shrugs and jackets to bridesmaids for a fun photo opportunity.

If you haven’t noticed, a wedding emergency kit is a must for any couple. Pack a bag with the following items that can get you through any wedding curve balls:

  • Make-up
  • Shrugs & jackets
  • Umbrella
  • Bobby pins
  • Hair spray
  • Hair dryer
  • First Aid Kit (bandages, ice packs, etc.)
  • Tweezers
  • Prescription medication
  • Aspirin
  • Snacks
  • Antacids
  • Laundry pen
  • Sewing kit
  • Tape
  • Velcro
  • Water bottles
  • Hand-held fans
  • Small cloth (for cleaning dress)
  • Payments for vendors (sorted into appropriate envelopes, if needed)
  • Anything else

Complete Wedding Vendor List

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unique spring wedding idea: patterned black and white table coverings with purple pastel chair bowsThat old adage about taking a village to raise a child also applies to a wedding; any bride or groom can tell you that it took a city (or at least it felt like it!) to turn their wedding day vision into reality. Before you start searching for and contacting your city of wedding vendors, confirm the most vital details like your ceremony site and venue (after all, you have to give the caterer and photographer your location!).

Start by having a conversation with your fiancée (and any family contributing to the big day). Set a budget, estimated guest list (at least, a number), and an idea of the time of year. None of these details need to be final; an estimate is a good start. For the date, for example, have a season or month that you prefer. As you contact wedding venues and ceremony sites (which can be one and the same), give them the season or month and ask for open dates in that period. Tour wedding venues with open dates that fit your criteria, style, and budget. Ask if the venue has an open vendor policy or if the venue has a list of preferred vendors to choose from. Book the venue that checks off all the important boxes, and get ready for the next step: finding vendors that can make the perfect wedding dessert, take fantastic photos and video, serve a scrumptious wedding meal, provide wonderful wedding reception decor…

How to find the right wedding vendors

There are quite a few wedding vendors out there, and just as many different ways to find them. Be cautious about who you hire. Even though your friend or family member might recommend a vendor or the website looks great doesn’t mean they can provide the high-quality service you want. If you feel overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to ask your venue staff for recommendations (or ask them to coordinate all the vendors as your wedding planner).

As you search for wedding vendors, be concerned about common red flags such as bad business reviews, no business address, or any hint that the company has a lack of experience (and back-ups, just in case!). Instead, look for favorable reviews, photos, videos, and satisfactory business ratings and customers (it doesn’t help if they are excellent at what they do if they can’t manage their appointments and finances).

Once you compile a list of prospective vendors for your big day, schedule face-to-face meetings. 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.

Ask your vendors how you should communicate with them in the future. This is important so you don’t feel ignored and get the responsiveness you need as you plan your big day. Make sure they have a line of communication you’re comfortable with; you don’t want to choose a vendor who’s only comfortable with electronic communication and ignores your phone calls (or vice versa).

Wedding vendors to contact

___Wedding Attire (Dress & Tux)

___Invitation Printer (& online invites if applicable)

___Photographer

___Videographer

___Caterer

___Baker

___Entertainer (DJ or Band)

___Florist

___Table Décor

Bad Weather? Tips for a Fantastic Rainy Day Wedding

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wedding venue with candles, uplighting, and glittery snow back dropWe may not have a rainy season here, but the one thing you can count on in Wisconsin is that our weather is incredibly unpredictable. One day the weather can be sunny and warm, the next day it’s raining and, well, not-so-warm. For couples planning a wedding, unpredictable weather can be one of the most frustrating part of planning a weather. Every other wedding detail can be planned and carefully laid out; as for the weather, good luck.

Even if your wedding is indoors (hopefully at a beautiful wedding venue), your guests are still going to have to tramp through the rain and deal with very unpleasant (hot or cold) temperatures. Don’t let either situation rain on your big day—instead use these tips for an incredible wedding day (even when the weather is not incredible!).

Expect the best, make plans for the worst.

Weather forecasts can be a blessing and a curse. On one hand, they give you a glimpse into the future so you can prepare…BUT they can also be wrong. If the weather forecast looks drear, plan accordingly for a rainy day. Make bad weather “chic” and fashionable. Choose waterproof make-up and buy rainboots (and a rain jacket?) and umbrellas (for the bridal party too!) for some really cute photo opportunities. Stock up on towels, which can be handy for drying off surfaces before you or your attendants sit on it.

Keep your guests comfortable.

Comfortable guests are happy, stay-on-the-dance-floor guests. Keep their rainy day comfort in mind as you plan. Look for wedding venues with close parking (or covered parking) so they don’t have to tramp through the mud. If there is any possibility the day could be cool, look for a wedding venue with a foyer where guests can warm up (perhaps by a fireplace?). For a hot rainy day, ask the venue if they have air conditioning or use these tips to keep guests cool and comfortable.

Pack an emergency kit.

In addition to umbrellas and towels, pack a wedding day survival kit for all those rainy day wedding emergencies. Pack hair products, a hair dryer, and make-up so you can touch up your hair and makeup—and don’t end up looking like a wet dog. Besides rain boots, carry a couple of pairs of dry and comfortable shoes so you don’t have to walk around in wet shoes.

Have a plan B.

When rain threatens your big day, be flexible with your plans and keep it all in perspective. If you’re planning an outdoor ceremony, make a plan B for a rainy day. Choose a wedding venue with space for a ceremony and a reception. When the weather forecast resembles a flood, activate your plan B for a beautiful indoor ceremony and communicate accordingly with venue staff, vendors, and guests. If your outdoor plans were only for outdoor photo opportunities, embrace the chance for some really and unique wedding rainy day photos. Keep everything in perspective. Remember your wedding day is what you make of it—even in the rain.

Spring Wedding Centerpiece Ideas that Inspire

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elegant wedding centerpieces with simple rose arrangementWhen we think of spring, we envision fields full of fresh flowers. A bright sunny day. Blooms. Greenery. (Especially in Wisconsin, where spring can take forever to come after a loooong winter.) So why shouldn’t your spring wedding reception be full of the blooms we fantasize about? Find inspiration for your spring wedding reception (that you can use to design spring wedding centerpieces that are completely and uniquely you) from some of our favorite floral spring centerpieces we’ve seen.

Greenery

Not every spring centerpiece has to be filled with flowers. Table centerpieces filled with greenery can make a HUGE impression, both color and statement-wise, on your guests. These centerpieces are modern and striking, eliciting visions of spring and breaking from the classic spring centerpieces full of blooms.

Floral garland
mandap with floral garland

On railing, around a mandap, or on tables, floral garland is a beautiful way to integrate flowers into a spring wedding reception. Choose a deep color for a striking impression or a neutral tone flower that plays into the wedding venue décor.

Vertical blooms

floral centerpiece with tall gold vase and lilies

A tall vase full of your favorite blooms adds height and an air of sophistication to your spring wedding reception. Talk to your wedding venue for other ways to highlight elegant architectural details, such as with additional uplighting and décor, that’ll leave your guests in awe.

Rosesrose bouquet in clear vase

Roses are one of the first flowers that come to mind, and a statement-maker at that. Use a floating bouquet that guests’ll admire—and adds a finishing touch to a romantic or vintage wedding.

Flair

wedding table with tall vase with neutral flowers, lavendar printed table covering and lavendar chair covers

To make a strong statement through wedding décor, coordinate the flowers and greenery with other wedding décor details. Choose chair and table coverings in the spring colors that we all look forward to after a white winter.

Colorful elegance

wedding reception table with white table covering, tall black vase and bright purple blooms

If subtle wedding décor is more your style, design floral centerpieces so they are a pop of color surrounded by a neutral décor. Ask a florist for blooms with the preferred hue, or discuss your preferences with a venue wedding planner that can make your chosen color into a beautiful spring centerpiece reality.

25 Ways to De-Stress Wedding Planning in Milwaukee

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wedding reception with MR & MRS letters after wedding planning has startedWedding planning is a different experience for every couple, and so are the terms they use. Fun. Long. Stressful. A whole other job. There’s no doubt: wedding planning can be an overwhelming experience that can make you (at some point) look at eloping as a wonderful alternative. If you’re starting to consider the latter, consider hiring an event planner at your wedding venue (they’ll help!). We’ve given you a few wedding planning de-stressing tips before; now we’re giving you a list of fun ideas specific to the Milwaukee area that you can use to break up the wedding planning checklist (and keep it fun!).

  1. Head out for a brewery tour (classic Wisconsin fun!)
  2. Host a DIY party (where you and your friends get together to make centerpieces or tackle another DIY project)
  3. Tour a museum (Milwaukee Public Museum, Art Museum, Harley-Davidson Museum, or one of the other fantastic museums we have)
  4. See a play
  5. Head out on a pedal car tour
  6. Go for a boat ride (on Lake Michigan or one of our other beautiful lakes)
  7. Paint a sign (with friends or as a couple!)
  8. Sign up for a 5K together (it’ll give you something else to focus on)
  9. Go for a hike (at a Wisconsin State Park or at a local county park)
  10. Head to an indoor pool or water park (it’ll break up the cold!)
  11. Make a date out of a wedding planning meeting (go to your meeting then head out to a fun restaurant or go on an outing)
  12. Go bowling (it’s a classic)
  13. Take in a concert (or go to Summerfest)
  14. Head to the spa together
  15. Catch a movie
  16. Pedal the stress away on one of our nice bike trails
  17. Cheer on the Milwaukee Brewers (or Bucks or Admirals or…)
  18. Go skiing or tubing
  19. Visit the Milwaukee Zoo
  20. Go skating at the Pettit National Ice Center (or roller skating)
  21. Visit the Mitchell Park Domes
  22. Go shopping at the Milwaukee Public Market or a local Farmer’s Market
  23. Visit a County Fair or the Wisconsin State Fair
  24. Work out at the local gym
  25. Hit the golf course

Tips for Planning a Fantastic Summer Wedding Reception

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floral bouquet on table with sparkling back drop: outdoor touch for summer weddingOctober may be the “new June” for weddings, but summer is still a top choice for engaged couples. In a climate where it’s cold nine months out of the year, summer is the only time in Wisconsin when you can practically guarantee that you won’t need a coat or shawl over your wedding dress or tux. Sometimes, that warm weather can also venture into hot and humid territory—which is why you should use these tips to make your summer wedding as fantastic as the weather (even on the hottest days!).

Make guest comfort a priority

elegant lighted globe centerpiecesThe same warm summer weather that makes summer an ideal time for a wedding is also the same weather that can make a wedding unbearable. Wisconsin summers can get hot and muggy, turning a joyous occasion into a pool of sweat. Plan accordingly; choose an indoor venue with air conditioning that can make your guests want to dance and mingle instead of gathering around a fan. For an outdoor wedding, rent fans that can improve circulation and keep your guests cool.

Dress accordingly

No matter what time of year you shop for dresses and tuxes, keep in mind that your summer wedding could be hot (very hot!). Choose breathable fabrics so your time outside (and your attendants’ time) isn’t unbearable.

Be creative with your wedding favors

Practical and fun wedding favors are almost a must at a summer wedding. At a hot summer wedding, provide misters, cool drinks, or hand fans so your guests can stay cool in the heat. Even if your guests just have to walk to their cars in the parking lot, they’ll appreciate the gesture.

Have a plan B in case of inclement weather

outside rennaissance place a beautiful wedding venueAn outdoor wedding ceremony can be a beautiful event; it can also be a very wet and soggy challenge if a summer storm moves in (or it rains for days before your wedding). Instead of scrambling at the last minute, search for a wedding venue that has ceremony and reception space just in case you need to move your ceremony because of the wet weather.

Schedule the day’s activities with the weather

Don’t suffer—and make your attendants and guests suffer—through the highest heat of the day. Instead, craft a wedding schedule that takes into account the hot summer temperatures. Schedule photos and other outdoor activities for cooler parts of the day so you can cool down inside during the hottest temperatures.

Cool your guests down with seasonal drinks

One of the most fun part of a summer wedding is the drinks. Cool your guests down with lemonade, tropical mixed drinks, and water served with fresh fruit. In addition to being stylish and delicious, summer drinks keep your guests hydrated so they can enjoy your summer wedding reception.

Bring the outdoors in

birch containers with elegant wedding centerpiece

If you want the (cool) comfort of an indoor reception but the feel of a beautiful summer day, bring the outdoors in. Use tree bark, potted plants, topiaries, fresh flowers, and seasonal treats to make your guests feel like an outdoor summer  wedding.

 

 

Make your last course a refreshing treat

Every detail plays a part in creating a wonderful summer wedding reception, including a late-night course that keeps your guests dancing. Choose a late-night course that complements your wedding atmosphere, complete with the summer drinks that keep your guests hydrated and having fun.

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

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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

How can I keep my wedding within budget?

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couple cutting cake on wedding date

A wedding budget is a precious thing. Whether you have a few thousand dollars or thousands of dollars, one of the biggest wedding planning challenges is spending those dollars without going over budget. We’ve assisted many couples with staying on financial track as they plan their special day; here are tips to help plan your dream wedding without busting the budget.

Set a budget.

It’s every couple’s worst nightmare: running out of money for big ticket items because they didn’t plan. To avoid this worst-case scenario, talk to your wedding fiancé before you start planning (ask and discuss these other questions before you plan as well). Ask other friends and family who have expressed interest in contributing to your wedding expenses if they still wish to do so (and the amount of that gift).

Don’t just agree to a lump sum; break your budget down into categories so you can ensure that you allocate dollars where they are needed the most (use this wedding budget worksheet from Real Simple). Usually, the largest expenses are the parts of the wedding day that make the largest impact: wedding venue, catering, and bar expenses.

Track your expenses.

Don’t set a budget and walk away from it. Ask for estimates from key vendors (i.e. caterers, venue, photographers, videographers). Make sure the estimates fall within the budget numbers you set. Once you start getting estimates in, determine whether your guest list count jives with your allocations in your wedding budget.

Look for red flags as you plan.

Overtime fees, hidden supply fees, staffing charges. Interview every vendor you contact to determine the quality of their product or service and if the costs they quote you are the final estimate (no unpleasant surprises later!).

Be smart about all those little charges.

There are a lot of line items on a wedding budget worksheet. Small overages can add up in a big way by the time you’re done planning every detail; prioritize each expense to avoid busting your budget. As tempting as it might be to spend another hundred here and another hundred there, decide what smaller charges you really, really want (and not just really want!).

Remember, too, that the lowest price does not always equal the best option. A cheap (or free) wedding venue might seem like the low-cost leader; however if your venue is vanilla, the additional costs of decorations and supplies can push the total cost over an inclusive wedding venue.

Double check your numbers at your final planning meeting.

An unexpectedly high bill can be a real downer on what’s supposed to be the most important day of your life. That being said, avoid pre-paying vendors in full until the product or service is delivered. The middle road is to choose a venue that offers a final planning meeting with a full list of charges that can be adjusted to fit your final budget. If the invoice is lower than expected, you can add in extras they wanted but were concerned about the cost. If the invoice is higher than the budget, there is still time to scale back the final wedding details to an amount that falls within your wedding budget.