Guest Blogger: Milwaukee Bride & Designer Shelby!
This wedding was particularly special for the Front Room Photography team. Not only was it our very first UWM Kenilworth Wedding but it happened to be the wedding of Front Room Family members Shelby & Zak. Shelby is our designer and Zak worked in the Front Room office in college. So, we thought it would be appropriate for Shelby to give you some of her advice for planning a Milwaukee wedding in her own words.
We have been working in the wedding industry for about 6 years now, so after seeing hundreds of weddings it was really a daunting task to plan our own knowing that everyone would be expecting a lot from us. We started by hiring our fabulous, trusted employers as our vendors, Front Room Photography and Sound by Design.
We struggled with the decision to do a first look or not. We are so glad we did a first look. It gave us a lot more time to be together that day, be with our bridal party, each other, and our parents. It helped simplify the day and we would have missed out on so many moments together. It didn’t take away any of the emotion of walking down the aisle. I was sobbing like baby.
UWM Kenilworth Wedding
While planning, I was working at Miss Ruby Bridal Boutique, I scoped out an original pairing, two piece dress using a Bridesmaid dress that was cut to shin-length and the horse-hair skirt for the ceremony and dinner.
Next, we wanted to find an out-of-the-box venue because we’ve been to so many weddings at various locations. We knew of the UWM Kenilworth Building because we both graduated from UWM with Graphic Design degrees. We had our senior graphic design showcase in the room where we had our wedding. After many email chains, we were connected with the Kenilworth building manager and he told us it would be no problem to have our wedding there and we were thrilled. The space is pretty raw so we knew that it needed some awesome uplighting to make it come to life, thanks to Sound by Design.
My main goal for my wedding was for all of our guests get to know us better and celebrate the love we have shared over the past 5 years. This may seem selfish in some ways to people who are uncomfortable sharing often, but it actually makes the guests feel more included because they were likely a part of many of your memories and past experiences. In order to do that, I made trivia cards for guests to play during the cocktail hour. The back of the wedding program had an illustrated story of how we met and our first few years dating. Personal vows that I wrote, a handshake that we created, and lots of craft projects that we created together.
My mom is part of a garden club and one of her friends, Sue Donohoe works at a florist. She was able to order all of our flowers in bulk and then my helpers the day before put together all the flower centerpieces.
We also spent a lot of time drawing chalkboard signs, designing all of our stationery elements, making the ceremony backdrop, thrifting for vases and candleholders, making the L-O-V-E letters, drawing on my wedding sneakers, drawing temporary tattoos, so much!! My family and friends were also very helpful with helping do craft projects and things! Zak also made his wedding band with his previous metals teacher, Frankie Flood. I wrote our vows, and we came up with a secret handshake for the ceremony. Wanted to do something different and Jennifer Miller, who also married Zak’s brother, Ryan, gave us the idea to do a handshake. We have very goofy, playful and youthful personalities, so this idea fit us perfectly.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Be flexible and know that things will go wrong.
I fell down during the grand march. Zak went to spin me and I slipped on my dress and spun right to laying on the concrete floor. It was such a graceful fall that everyone thought it was planned. This is the case for many things that “go wrong” at weddings. Either, people think it was supposed to happen, they don’t even notice, or it becomes a great memory and something unique about your wedding to laugh about later. Whatever goes wrong, just laugh about it.
Remember why you’re having a wedding, it’s not to impress anyone, or make your family members get along, or spend all your money on a party, it’s because you love each other enough to get married! And that’s what’s most important.
Take Time for Each Other
We decided not to do Sunset beauty pictures and instead we took a few minutes alone to eat some appetizers I had the caterer set in another room for us and I’m so glad we had those few moments to talk and take a breather and reflect in how amazing the day had been so far.
(We love the secret handshake they added into their ceremony – so sweet and personal!)
Listen to your photographer. Often, when you are behind the camera, they will ask you to do things that feel unnatural or awkward, but trust that their goal is to make you look as natural and in love as possible! Once you see the pictures, you will likely be surprised how comfortable you look. Try to see things from their point of view. They love when you show emotion and be yourself! That’s what will make your pictures different from everyone else is when you cry, smile, laugh, and love the way only you can. Don’t worry about looking perfect, just smile. And don’t kiss with your eyes open.
Give your photographer loose guidelines of the types of pictures you like, but allow them some creative freedom to make decisions when they see opportunities. Make SURE you tell them your must-have pictures because once the day is over, there is no re-creating them. Don’t try to re-create pictures you saw on Pinterest.
Your photographer needs to know all the secrets. We did a secret handshake during our ceremony that only our parents and bridal party knew about. I knew that the photographer needed to know this so he didn’t miss it. And this includes letting him know about gifts for parents, bridesmaids and groomsmen, pictures with grandma, etc. Most importantly, the day of the wedding you will have a million other things you are thinking about and they will remind you to have these taken so you don’t have to worry about it!
Family formal photos were difficult because our ceremony and reception were in the same room and everyone wanted to get on with cocktail hour and appetizers. Either we didn’t do a good enough job of telling people to stick around after the ceremony for pictures, or they forgot. In hindsight, it would have helped to have either the reverend announce for the families to stay put or have the DJ with the microphone standing by us and calling over who we need for each picture. No one likes doing these pictures, but 10/20/30 years from now, you will be so glad you have them.
The advice your vendors give you is usually the best advice. They have seen it all and they are usually looking out for your best interest.
Trust your vendors to do their jobs. They will likely over-deliver and leave you thrilled.
Having a day-of planner or good friend to take care of things was a must-have for me. Qualities of this friend should be good communication skills without being too pushy, and having a job in a leadership or management position is helpful. Having someone to take care of the problems and clean up and re-arranging is so very important so you don’t have to worry about it.
Having a wedding planner would really help alleviate stress and workload, however, doing it myself was so rewarding in the end. It was amazing to see our visions and projects all come to life and it made it impossible not to enjoy myself the day of the wedding because I had worked so hard to make it happen.
Advice from the Couple
For advice to future brides and grooms I would say definitely focus on your relationship as the focus of the wedding. It seems a little selfish, but your friends and family were likely a part of all of those memories and it helps them personally connect with the wedding as well. Things will go wrong, don’t let it bother you. Have a day-of friend who is good at handling problems. My friend Megan and her husband did that for us and we did the same for her this past August. It was such a blessing to have her there!
The day of, it’s important to stay flexible and let the day flow naturally, not too forced. We decided to skip a couple things (Sunset pictures and the Anniversary dance) because of lack of time, and the mood of the crowd, and I’m so glad we made those choices. It allowed Zak and I a few minutes to sit in a quiet room and have appetizers and revel in the fact that our wedding was happening! Those few moments were so precious to me.
It was really important to us that we could 100% trust our vendors. I would say referrals is the best way to get a vendor you know you can trust. Take your vendor’s advice, they have seen it all, and they are looking out for your best interest.
Ceremony & Reception: UWM Kenilworth
Hair & Makeup: Naturally You MKE
Entertainment & Lighting: Sound by Design
Stationery: Etsy – Shelby Made It
Donuts: Cranky Al’s
Florist: Sue Donahue
Catering: Open Flame