I’m happy to report that I’ve overcome last week’s epic technological fail, and today I’m thrilled to finally share the second Wedding Wednesday post with all of the details on our reception!
In case you missed the first post, you can read up on all the details of our wedding ceremony, the flowers, my dress, the bridesmaid’s dresses, the grooms tux and all of the groomsmen tuxes here! But now, it’s party time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin…
Our reception was held just two blocks away from the ceremony at the historic Pfister Hotel’s Imperial Ballroom. The Victorian hotel has a storied past which includes Teddy Roosevelt being shot here! Kinda gives you that lovin’ feeling, no? The Pfister has the most beautiful Victorian art collection and interior architecture and was the ideal site for the classic, old-world wedding we wanted. We lucked out that the beautiful Imperial ballroom with gilded ceilings and dramatic antique chandeliers perfectly accommodated our 200 guests while maintaining an intimate, cozy atmosphere.
As you may have guessed from my previous indication that the off-the-shoulder embroidered lace portion of my Oscar de la Renta gown was a caraco or “topper,” I did indeed remove it upon arrival to our reception venue for dinner and dancing. I didn’t want two completely different wedding dresses, but I loved the idea of having a more formal, conservative look at our traditional wedding ceremony that easily converted into a party-friendly strapless look for the reception.
At the outset of my wedding dress search, I had my heart set on an off-the-shoulder gown, but realized after trying several on that it’s quite difficult to raise your arms when hugging people and (especially in our case) aggressively dancing. Being able to remove my off-the-shoulder embroidered lace top allowed me to have the best of both worlds: the look I wanted for the ceremony (and pictures!) and additional comfort at the reception.
At the reception, I also ditched the opera length gloves and after removing my veil, a small bunch of ivory roses were placed in my hair, just to the side of my chignon.
My bridesmaids also altered their look by dropping the sash that they previously wore over their shoulder during the ceremony, and wearing the pale periwinkle blue dress with simple spaghetti straps instead.
Despite the old-world, classic formality of our black-tie wedding, the evening was anything but stuffy. In addition to a room full of characters and dancing maniacs, we were determined to infuse the evening with lots of personality. I think the biggest hit was our personalized cocktail napkins which we had printed with little quips about the bride and groom in gold foil.
Although all eight of Rich and my grandparents are deceased, we had pictures of them displayed on a side table with flowers and candles.
Nearby, guests were encouraged to take selfies with polaroid cameras that printed out a self-adhesive image to be placed on a page in our guest book.
While our guests were still enjoying cocktails in the Kings Row rooms at the Pfister and the bridal party was relaxing together post-pictures in the bridal suite awaiting the conclusion of cocktails and the Grand March, Rich and I stole into the empty ballroom to spend a few moments alone before the insanity continued. It was so fun to look out on the sea of lights, flowers and decor in our beautiful ballroom together, eagerly anticipating all the fun that ensued.
At the conclusion of cocktails, antique keys took the place of traditional escort cards that informed guests where to find their seat.
Once each guest found their table, they found their name written on candy boxes—our wedding favors that doubled as placecards. Above each place setting, I came up with the idea to have gold boxes wrapped with ivory ribbon with each guest’s name written in script on a strip of parchment and sealed with a wax seal featuring our monogram. The color of the wax was not just decorative—I designed it to signal the wait staff as to which of the three entrees guests chose. Blue wax was beef, pink wax was salmon and ivory wax was vegetarian. Inside the gold boxes we had our names and wedding date embossed above two chocolates that were made by family friends who just happen to be gourmet candy makers. Talk about good friends, huh?
Dinner napkins on the tables were folded to create a pocket into which our custom menu cards were placed. The black and gold-printed menus detailed each of the five courses and had our monogram, names and wedding date at the top.
On guest tables, loose greens, votive candles and gold table numbers surrounded lush centerpieces of ivory roses, hydrangeas, and blush accents, in line with the ballroom’s victorian decor.
Like every bride, I was concerned about weather holding up on our special day. As we got closer to the date, (of course!) the weather report indicated that the ten days before our wedding day were blue sky and sunny and the ten days after our day were blue sky and sunny, but our wedding day was predicted to have rain and thunderstorms. AGH! The wedding and reception were both inside, but we of course were planning on taking pictures outside, so I had my fingers double and triple crossed despite the 80% chance of rain. Miraculously, the Milwaukee skies were cloudless through our wedding ceremony, and clouds just started forming gradually while we took pictures. Once we were all safely inside and literally as the grand march of the bridal party into the ballroom began, we heard huge crashes of thunder and had a bonafide light show through the huge windows behind the head table for the rest of the evening. In fact, the storm was so intense, the lakefront music festival was evacuated along with the PGA championship which was taking place nearby as well. We could not have had luckier timing!
The long head table had large, tall arrangements on each end with a garland that ran the length in between at the front edge of the table. Smaller arrangements and tea lights were placed throughout.
The ballroom had large bay windows around the perimeter so we also placed tall floating candle vases with floral arrangements matching the centerpieces around each.
Following dinner and speeches, Rich and I cut the wedding cake, which was probably the most delicious cake I’ve ever had! And for real, this girl likes her cake, so that’s saying something. Our cake was filled with alternating layers of raspberry preserves and lemon curd, all topped with cream cheese white chocolate buttercream. Sheesh, my mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Once dancing was in full swing (no pun intended), I ended up ditching my wedding gown and slipping into a short spaghetti strap flapper-style ivory dress with beading and fringe throughout (you can find the exact Aidan Mattox dress in a slightly different color here, and similar dress here). Funny enough, I was determined throughout the wedding-planning process to not have a separate dancing dress. I always thought, I only get to wear my wedding dress once, so I want to wear it as long as possible! However, at the insistence of a good friend who got married the summer before, I decided to get this little flapper dress as a back-up. She had advised me that although you try your wedding dress on lots of times, you never know until you have it on for many hours just how hot, heavy and/or uncomfortable it might become. Sure enough, after dancing for the first hour, I was desperate to slip into something lighter and more conducive to our wild dance floor. Having my dancing dress waiting in the wings was a life saver!
In addition to switching dresses, I also switched footwear. I’m not generally a big wedge girl, but the extra support of the wedge in addition to the thick comfortable straps of these Jimmy Choo sparkly metallic wedge sandals made them perfect for dancing!
As huge music lovers, one of the first calls we made after getting engaged was to secure our 14-piece orchestra. Later, when designing the layout of the ballroom, our wedding coordinators kept insisting that the dance floor I requested was way too big. Nevertheless, knowing the band and our particular crowd, I held firm. I’m so glad I did, because with the combination of an absolutely amazing band and our friends and family who know how to light up a dance floor, virtually every square inch was packed for the entire night.
While I always suggest getting advice from the experts (online resources, venue coordinators, wedding planners, etc.), nobody knows both your vision and your unique group of friends and family better than you do, so don’t be afraid to go with your gut and stick to your guns. One of my fondest memories of the evening was being in the center of the dance floor after everyone had been dancing for more than three hours and seeing how packed it still was with all of our friends and family as musicians jumped on and off the stage and performed trumpet, trombone and sax solos from the center of the dance floor. It was unforgettable.
The night was a magical one for us, and for those of you starting the planning process, I hope this post offers some helpful ideas! I’ll be sharing more wedding details and tips (including honeymoon info and suggestions!) in upcoming Wedding Wednesday posts, but if there’s something specific you think would be helpful, please let me know in the comments below!
Photography by Front Room Photography