It happens across the country, and we aren’t immune. Countless brides-to-be promise their friends they’re not the bridezilla type. But that’s before they discover just how stressful planning a wedding really is, whether it’s due to family pressures, budget woes or absolute wedding overload.
While we can’t tell Aunt Irene to pipe down about the seating chart or fix the next Powerball numbers, we do have some insider info on how to simplify the planning process, thanks to several Milwaukee-area wedding professionals. Here are their top tips for keeping your inner bridezilla in check.
Save time searching and go the custom route.
For many couples, finding just the right details can feel like the search for the Holy Grail, and no matter how hard they look and how many ways they describe their vision to a salesperson, it remains just that: a vision. That’s why bespoke designers are among Southeastern Wisconsin’s most sought-after wedding vendors.
“Having a gown or dress made just for you is a thrilling and very personal experience,” says Monica Freng of Monirose. “A lot of brides shy away from couture or bespoke gowns because of the surmised cost, but one of the most beneficial elements of custom attire is that it is made to fit you uniquely, so it is a perfect fit the first time (sometimes saving you hundreds of dollars in alterations fees).”
So, how does the process work? “The Monirose experience begins over coffee or a cocktail (gin and tonic, anyone?) to discuss your style and ideas,” says Freng, who styles dresses “from the ground up,” at fittings typically done in her home studio. “I am obsessed with the details and making sure you are both comfortable and radiant.”
Guys, don’t get jealous. Someone like Therese Nelson, style advisor for J. Hilburn men’s clothing, is here for you. She’s a by-appointment-only clothier who helps men, including grooms, choose every feature for their custom apparel. “The guys need to know that there is something special for them, too,” Nelson says.
“We make a man look good without having to go out and shop and without breaking the bank,” she says. Because he’ll own his suit, shirt and tie, Nelson explains, he’ll be able to wear them, whether to work or other special events. Plus, bespoke clothes have an extraordinary comfort level, she says: “I have one client who said he loves his shirt so much, he could sleep in it!”
Attire isn’t the only place where customizing is possible. Visit one of our area’s wedding stationers and he or she can help you fit your individual style, rather than fill out a form on a website. “There are so many places out there to get your wedding invites, but rarely do any of them say anything about the couple,” points out Rodney Hahn, designer for Champagne Studios, which combines photography, cinematography and graphic design.
“The design process can often be enlightening in that most couples have never thought about themselves that way before: ‘How can a design say who we are?’” Hahn says. “We often spend hours picking the song for our first dance, but a cohesive design throughout the wedding can say a lot about us as well.”
Check out vendors who offer multiple services.
If you do, you’ll kill two (or more) birds with one stone. We’re not suggesting you ask your DJ to bake the cake just because he aced 8th grade home ec, but some local businesses have built a team that enables them to take care of various wedding details. Perhaps one of the easiest to find is a reception venue that offers built-in catering packages.
Many non-restaurant venues have exclusive catering contracts. For example, if you’re considering the Grain Exchange or Boerner Botanical Gardens, you’ll be working with the Bartolotta Catering Company & Events; choose the Milwaukee Public Museum or Mitchell Park Conservatory, and you’ll be served by the Zilli Hospitality Group. With packages like these, you’ll have food and beverage options at your fingertips, plus a place to enjoy them—and in the case of ZHG, you can even get the soundtrack, thanks to DJ’s on the Mix. In addition, you may want to look for a caterer or venue that offers an on-staff event planner (such as Bartolotta and ZHG). Even if the company doesn’t offer a particular service, the planners are often well-connected.
Wedding media companies are another place to look for one-stop shopping. Champagne Studios’ cinematographer Craig Sikora explains that the benefit of a company like his lies in communication. When couples hire three separate companies for their wedding media, he says, they can only hope that the vendors understand and carry out their ideas.
“At Champagne Studios, we all work side by side through the entire process,” says Sikora. “We meet together, brainstorm, communicate and lay out a clear vision for each couple, together as a team. We have the ability to essentially brand a wedding, because three of the most important features of the day—photo, film and design—may have a different path, but will all have the same direction and destination.”
Working with vendors like these is certainly convenient (you’ll cut down on emails, phone calls and meetings), but people often believe this makes them more costly. That’s not necessarily true. “The beauty of our company’s dynamic is that even if you hire one of our services, you are still going to get the whole team brainstorming and creating ideas for the project,” Sikora explains. That’s three heads for the price of one.
Seek out vendors who will come to you.
Sure, lots of wedding vendors provide a dedicated meeting space for their clients, but many are willing to meet anywhere you’d like. In fact, having the initial meeting on your turf can be a good way to tell how professional and organized the person is, says planner Sara Dahmen of Golden Chic Events & Consulting. “The vendors that do come for an initial consult should come fully equipped with iPads, files, photos, samples of work, testimonials and the like,” she says. “The best way to find out if vendors who make ‘house calls’ are organized is to get personal recommendations and referrals on this.”
“I get 90 percent of my work through referrals from people that I have worked with in the past,” says Amanda Shallow of Naturally You, who offers makeup and airbrush tanning services on location and at Luxe the Salon. “It’s nice to receive a phone call from someone that is already looking forward to working with me because somebody they trust has said great things.”
Not only are many pros willing to meet in your home (or any designated spot), they can provide on-site services, too. This is especially true for those in the health and beauty realm, such as Shallow. “When you are given the option for your professional beauty team to come to you, it removes a lot of the stress in many ways,” she says. “Our goal is to come in and make you feel special on your big day.” Plus, Shallow says, the professional touch will help keep you looking fresh all day—in person and in your photos.
Whatever you do, don’t wait to relax until your wedding day. Turn to someone like Mindy Pittman of Restoration Therapeutic Massage. “Brides love the stress reduction that a massage can provide for mental and physical health prior to the wedding,” says Pittman, who does studio and on-site massages, salt scrubs and other mind and body treatments tailored to each client’s needs. “The service can be arranged within their schedule so they do not need to rush off to another appointment,” she continues. That way, you can bask in the relaxation long after your massage or salt scrub is complete; no driving necessary.
Hire someone to take care of the details.
If, when you hear “wedding planner,” your mind flashes directly to Martin Short in Father of the Bride, it shouldn’t. These pros are here to serve you (not the other way around), which is why they offer a variety of packages. Typically, the more involvement they have, the more you’ll pay, but many Milwaukee-area planners make it a point to work within any budget. They’re able to plan the entire day, plus the related events, but offer other levels of involvement, too, which still allow you to get your hands dirty, if you wish; the planner or coordinator just makes all the details feel seamless.
“Day-of is always more than just ‘day-of,’ but it’s the barest amount of service most planners provide,” says Dahmen of Golden Chic Events & Consulting. She assures that even if you hire help just for the day, good planners do put in some pre-wedding work, such as meet with the couple and maybe a couple of vendors, and begin communicating with the day-of team. “Any planning package will usually include one or two planners or one planner with helpers, and include the planner’s enormous amount of background paperwork time,” she says—and having someone who’s experienced in doing all that paperwork is definitely a sanity saver in our book.