Category Archives: Venue

The Post In Which I Bitch A Lot

So, there WERE actually some minor details that went wrong on our wedding day, which I alluded to briefly here.  While we had a beautiful, wonderful day and I wouldn’t change a thing about the events that transpired, there were two aesthetic issues that left me feeling…not so happy.  In the interest of full disclosure, I’m going to talk about them here so I can put them to bed once and for all.

We’ll start with the minor issue:  the chargers for our dinner tables.  Remember when we had our tasting and decided what our tablescape would look like?  We decided to go with gold runners and gold chargers to bring out the gold aspects of our color scheme, as the flowers were going to be red.  It was going to look something like this:

ChargersPhoto by me

When we arrived at the venue, I was pretty much in a whirlwind…so it wasn’t until dinner that I sat down and noticed this:

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Um, yeah.  There’s no chargers there.  No chargers…that we had paid extra money to rent.

I previously mentioned that on the day before our wedding, my sister and I had gone to the venue to do some set-up of our family wedding photo display.  When we left, I felt really…harried, because the venue coordinator wasn’t there when we were, the room was a mess, and no one seemed to know what was going on.  As it turns out, no one did.  My mom spoke to our coordinator after we realized the chargers weren’t there, and she was so apologetic and actually, downright horrified that her staff had forgotten the chargers.  She spoke to the head set-up guy right away (who was also there to assist her at our actual reception), and he said that he had seen the chargers on the event order but had forgotten to put them out.  Our coordinator had taken a VACATION DAY* the day before our wedding, so the event order had never been double-checked.

Honestly, I wasn’t too upset about it.  They gave us our money back for the rented chargers PLUS gave us  several gift certificates for their local restaurants to make up for it, and Maria, our coordinator, was so apologetic.   While I LOVED the aesthetics of the chargers and was disappointed they weren’t there, no one really noticed so in the end, it wasn’t that big of a deal.

The flowers, however, are a different story.

Let me first preface this by saying that YES, our flowers were beautiful and YES, the room looked great, and NO, no one noticed or knew about any of the problems with them. 

You’ll remember that I had previously raved about how much I loved our florist…and that fact remains true.  She was a charming woman who I felt got our vision through and through. We reviewed what I wanted several times and she took copious notes, plus copies of the inspiration pictures I had printed out to give to her.  I should have listened to those tiny alarm bells going off in my head when she took her notes on scrap paper, though…as later, it was a clear indication that maybe she wasn’t paying as close attention as I thought she was.   Hold on to your hats, kids, because I’m not sure you’ll believe the stark differences in what I thought I was getting and what we ended up with.

First up, my bouquet…

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…was supposed to be RED.

As in, all of the flowers in my bouquet were supposed to be red.  RED.  Like my bridesmaids bouquets, just bigger with more roses and the like. 

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Secondly, the flower girl…

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…was supposed to be carrying a pomander.  Like this one—only in ivory/gold tones—which is the inspiration picture I gave to my florist.  She even confirmed the size with me several times!

pomander
(Source)

You’ll notice she’s carry a mini-bouquet.  To which she, as a 6 year old, was like, “What the hell**, Aunt Amy?  I thought I was having a ball like my sucker ball I practiced with last night?”

ring-bearer-flower-girl1Photo by family friend

Lastly, and the biggest error…the one that made me make a beeline straight for my mom as soon as we arrived at the reception and tell her “I hate the flowers!”

Our centerpieces.

The low ones were beautiful, and EXACTLY what I pictured.  So, there’s that, at least.

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The tall ones, though?  Well, let’s just say there’s a STARK difference between this:

centerpiece4(Source)

And this:

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THREE MEASLEY STICKS.  I WAS SO PISSED ABOUT THIS.

Hello, fall wedding?  HUGE branches?  Hello, hello, hello?!  What about the first picture evokes ANYTHING in the second picture?

I got over it quickly and went about enjoying the evening.  I didn’t want to let this ruin it, and most if not all of our guests never noticed my displeasure. But honestly, for a few weeks afterwards, it was one of the only things about the wedding I could think about.   So stupid, right?  I mean, we had such a wonderful day, and here I was concentrating on the dumb flowers…something that I, admittedly, had said I didn’t really care about it.  But the truth is…

You care.  You do.  When you’ve put months into planning an event and then expect it to have a certain aesthetic, and that aesthetic falls short, you care. 

I’m over it now and I am able to look back at the pictures and think, it doesn’t matter, because our wedding was beautiful and gorgeous regardless and I know how amazing it looked and was.    But I wanted to blog about this to let you unmarried gals know—no matter how prepared you are, no matter how well your plans have gone—something will go wrong and it is OK to be upset about it for a hot minute.  Try not to let it ruin your night (I was really good about moving right along), but it IS ok to dwell a little bit after the fact.

And since we’re being truthful here:  I’ve never had the guts to confront my florist about this.  I know I should, because we paid a lot of money, but I don’t know how to tell a woman who I really do LIKE so much that her work was sub-par.***

So, that’s that.  It feels good to get it off my chest and be done with it.  I love how beautiful our wedding turned out, but I think it’s important to be a realist about what really went down. Now it’s your turn:  anything go wrong like this at your nuptials?

*Listen, everyone’s entitled to a vacation now and then.  But the day before an event like a wedding?  I don’t know…if it was me, I probably wouldn’t plan a day off the day before an event that I’d been working on with the bride and groom for TWO YEARS.
**She didn’t say hell.  She’s 6, people.  But you catch my drift.
***And we’re not the only ones.  Brad’s barber—er, barbette?—actually used the same florist for her wedding and had not so great results, also.

All photos by Sarah Immel Photography unless otherwise noted.

P.S.  Did you notice my new button at the top of the page?  Now you can click on “Wedding Recaps” to find links to every recap I wrote! 

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A “Taste” of Our Wedding

This past Friday, we had our tasting at the reception venue.  My parents, Dr. Groomy and I headed over around lunch time to sample some menu items and make selections for our reception!  We had such an enjoyable time and I am SOOOO excited for our reception…attending the tasting made it feel all the more real to me.  I was also excited to show my parents the reception space for the first time.  They’ve only seen pictures so far, so it was great to have them experience the space first hand.

We started off by discussing linen options and looking at some samples.

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I asked them to have samples in both gold and red (our two main colors), so I could see how linens could dress up and dress down the tables.  After mulling over the choices for awhile, we decided to sit and eat first and discuss the linens and logistics afterwards.

We started off with the wines.  The house wine for our venue is Grand Cru, and we tried their Chardonnay and their Cabernet Sauvignon.  Both were fabulous.  Dr. Groomy and I love wine and we have started to develop a more discerning pallet—and I would definitely say that these were two great choices!  Unfortunately, Dr. Groomy couldn’t try any wine because he had to go to work afterwards, but I can vouch for how yummy they were.

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Next, we tried the salad options.

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Fresh Herb Salad:  mesclun spring mix and crisp romaine with sweet herbs, grape tomatoes, and rice wine vinaigrette

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Spinach Salad:  spinach greens with a goat cheese crouton and oven dried tomatoes served with a balsamic vinaigrette and citrus garnish

005  Bibb Salad: Boston Bibb lettuce, roasted roma tomatoes, toasted pine nuts and shaved parmesan cheese with Italian herbs vinaigrette

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Caprese Salad:  sliced roma tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella with sweet basil, aged balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil

All of the salads were really delicious, but we especially loved the Bibb Salad and the Caprese Salad.  The Spinach Salad was actually Dr. Groomy’s favorite, but we decided not to go with it because goat cheese is such an acquired taste—my dad actually said, “I think goat cheese tastes like a barn!”  In the end, we decided to go with the Bibb Salad over the Caprese, as the groom doesn’t like tomatoes.  The Bibb Salad was absolutely fantastic:  the lettuce was light and slightly buttery, the roasted tomatoes were TO DIE FOR and the whole salad was crisp and delicious. 

Next, we moved on to the entree selection.  The first two entrees we tried were the pasta dishes:

Shrimp Cavattapi:  gulf shrimp tossed in a light pesto cream sauce, zucchini squash, and cherry tomatoes

and

Wild Mushroom Ravioli:  ricotta ravioli with wild mushrooms, truffle cream sauce and a parmesan crisp

You’ll have to imagine what they look like, as we were so busy devouring them I forgot to take their picture!  Needless to say, when we were done eating, our plates looked like this:
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Both of these menu items were so delicious.  The Shrimp Cavattapi, with its pesto cream sauce, was one of the lightest dishes I have ever tasted.  The pesto was simply perfect.  And the Wild Mushroom Ravioli?  Heaven on a plate.  The mushrooms were beautiful and the truffle cream sauce divine.  You would not miss meat in this dish as the mushrooms were perfect:  earthy, meaty, and cooked just right.

After the pasta dishes, we moved on to the meat dishes (meat on a Friday during Lent…bad Catholics!  Don’t worry, we all made it a point to abstain earlier in the week because we knew would be eating meat at the tasting):

009   Tuscan Chicken:  one-half chicken, crisply roasted in traditional Tuscan style with rosemary and garlic, served with caramelized Brussels sprouts and roasted potatoes

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Hanger Steak:  marinated and grilled hanger steak, mushroom potato cake, glazed carrots, and red wine-shallot butter sauce

Both of these dishes were delicious as well, but we especially loved the Tuscan Chicken.  I am not a big steak eater, so that was not a big priority for me.  It was delicious, and the mushroom potato cake was divine, but in the end it was no match for the Tuscan Chicken.  The meat on the chicken was so tender and fell right off the bone when we cut it.  The flavors were divine and even the Brussels sprouts were delicious.  It was definitely not your average dry “wedding” chicken.

After we were done eating, we discussed the logistics of our event:  things like how many bars we’ll be having (answer: 3!),  tables needed, and the timing of the evening.  Then we went back to discussing linens and after asking our venue’s coordinator what would give us the most drama, cohesiveness, and bang for our buck, she suggested a great idea.

First, this is the traditional place setting (photo taken before we started eating).
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But, with Maria’s suggestions, we’re going to up the ante a little and have our tables set like this:

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Ivory floor length table cloth, with a light gold table runner (we compared to my swatches and the gold is almost an EXACT match with the bridesmaid dresses).  Each place setting will have a gold charger with an ivory napkin folded on top of it, and a menu card (designed by me, of course!) tucked inside.  Beautiful, no? (Note of clarification:  All of the place settings will still have the same silverware and set up as the previous picture, just with the added additions of the chargers and upgraded linens.)

We decided against doing chair covers, for several reasons: 
1) They are expensive, and no one really notices them.  We figure we’ll get more oomph with less money by opting to upgrade to floor length linens, use a table runner and add chargers to give the place settings some pizzazz instead. 
2) Truthfully, I’m not that big a fan of chair covers in the first place…if you have a lot of guests, and thus a lot of chairs, I feel like chair covers can really overwhelm a space.
3) Our venue’s banquet chairs are actually quite decent and fit with our color palette anyways!  Behold:

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So, what menu choices did we choose?  Originally, we didn’t think we would offer a menu choice.  We thought, “We’ll just pick one entree, and if there are special dietary requests or needs from our guests, we will work around that on a case-by-case basis.”  In the end, though, after discussing it with our parents, we decided…we just couldn’t decide!  So we’re offering a menu choice to the guests, so they can pick exactly what the want.  Our preliminary menu is:

First Course:  Bibb Salad
Entree:  Choice of either Shrimp Cavattapi or Tuscan Chicken

We still have to decide on hors d’oeurves for the cocktail hour and make final selections for our children’s menu, but we are so excited about the adult food.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it! 

The reception hasn’t felt real to me, until we had this tasting.  Now that I have seen linens and tasted food and drink, I realize that all this is finally happening.  My ideas and plans are all coming to life—and they are going to look good together!  We are so excited about everything and can hardly wait to celebrate with family and friends. 

Did you do a tasting at your venue?  How did you choose your menu items?

*All photos in this post by me.

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Our Venue

Our venue wasn’t so much of a struggle to find as it was a source of worry for me.  I knew we were picking a very popular date, in a very popular month, and that if we didn’t nail down a venue quickly, we would be hard-quipped to find a place that would fit our needs in the area we wanted.  So, being the type A bride I am, nailing down our church and venue was one of the first things we did…at 22 months out. 

I know, I know… we could have waited much longer to find a venue (and in fact, most “normal” brides probably would have done so!), but I literally tossed and turned about this for weeks.  You can read more about my venue search here, here, here…oh, and of course here (obviously this was a big issue for me since I wrote so many posts about it!) but today I want to show you the pictures!  I stopped at the venue on my lunch hour to grab a few snapshots and make sure that our new color scheme will work with the room (yes, we are changing it…more on that later!).  So without further ado, I present to you The Grain Exchange.

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This is the view as you walk in the doors of the Mackie Building, where the Grain Exchange is located.  The floors and walls are a beautiful white marble.  We could opt to have our cocktail hour down here if we wanted (we are the only ones using the building on our wedding day, as normally it’s actually an office building), but with a guest list of 250, that probably is not going to happen.

 

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This is the view as you look up towards the second floor from the entry way. Those big wooden doors are the entrance to the room!  I am in desperate need of floral inspiration for the banisters.  Ideas?

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Walk up either flight of stairs, to your left or right, to get up to the room.  (There is an elevator for older guests).

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This is the view as you enter the room.  It is GRAND, no?!  Obviously they were setting up for an event when I was here.  The onsite kitchen is through the double doors on either side of the picture. 

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This is the view of the loft area.  Underneath the loft area is a bar area, where we will most likely have our cocktail hour.  The bars are on wheels, so we can move them to any area we’d like! 

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Bar area.

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To the right of the bar area are the steps leading up to the loft.  Gorgeous, no?  Can’t wait to be announced as husband and wife and come down through these!

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View heading up the stairs.  Aren’t the ceilings and columns incredible?!

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This is the loft area.  We’ll probably do some cocktail tables, etc. up here for the cocktail hour and so that guests can come up and relax and watch the dancing from above later on in the night.

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Now here you can see the actual scope of the room.  This is the view from the balcony.  Isn’t it AMAZING?!

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This is the view looking down from the balcony.  Pretty awesome, no?

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A look at some of the architectural details:  the murals…the columns…

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And the naked ladies in gilded gold.  (Hee hee!)

So there you have it…our reception venue!  I snapped some pics of the chairs and the bathrooms as well, but we’ll save those for another post.  Up next, the unveiling of the new color palette!!!

What was your venue search like?

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Hallelujah!

You know those scenes in movies when something great happens, and the heavens open up and you can hear angels singing, “Hallelujah, hallelujah!” That’s totally how I feel today because…we decided on our reception venue!

Finally, finally, finally…after much stress and many sleepless nights, we know where our reception will be held.  We signed on the dotted line and paid our deposit for…

Dun dunnn dunnnnnnn….

THE GRAIN EXCHANGE!!!
(although, those of you who know me probably saw that coming, with all the times I’ve talked about it in the last few weeks).

Mr. Groomy and I are just thrilled.  No matter where we looked, we kept coming back to this place.  The food is going to be fantastic, and that was really important to Mr. Groomy.  The location is great and the room itself is totally magnificent and definitely has that “wow” factor…and that was really important to me.  We’ve even discovered that there is a Marriott hotel only one block away that I was not previously aware of–so our guests will be able to stay there and be able to get from church to our reception to their accommodations pretty easily.  Hooray!

Now, for some eye candy:

grain-exchange-1Source: TheKnot.com

This is the room set up for a reception.  We will have white linens and chair covers, but isn’t it grand?

grain-exchange-ceilingSource: althouse.blogspot.com

A shot of the ceiling and upper windows in one corner of the room…look at those hand-painted frescoes!

grain-exchange-2Source: BartolottaCatering.com

This picture is of the lofted area in the room.  If you would walk ahead to the railing and look down, you would be seeing over our entire reception site.  There are so many cool uses for this space, I am so psyched!

Needless to say, I am a very happy bride-to-be. Mr. Groomy and I are going on a tropical vacation next week, and I am so thrilled that this very large to-do has been checked off our list before we leave!  I can’t wait to move into the fun part of wedding planning…all the details.  I am a very detail-oriented person, so I know I will just love this stuff!

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Back to Square One.

Ah.  It’s been a helluva weekend, kids.  I am kind of tired of talking about it, but since this is my wedding planning blog, it needs to be about ALL of my wedding planning…the ups AND the downs.

Well, we decided on a reception venue and decided to re-crunch the numbers, just to make sure.  Thank goodness we did, because we discovered that Little Miss Wedding Planner had been looking at the wrong entree prices the entire time…and with taxes, service charge, etc. the venue we LOVE has now become the venue we can’t afford.

I cried and cried and cried about this all day on Saturday.  But then I realized that everything happens for a reason, and I am not willing to compromise our entire budget just for the location.  We want to have a great party, with a wonderful meal, surrounded by our family and friends.  And we’ll have that.  We just won’t have it at the unattainable, shockingly expensive, “how-could-I-have-looked-at-the-wrong-prices” venue.  And surprisingly, I am ok with that.

I think part of my disappointment was the fact that once we booked, we would be DONE looking.  I have worked so hard, creating spreadsheets, making appointments, dreaming about the endless catering possibilities, so it was distressing to feel like I have to start all over again.  But the good thing is, we now know what we can afford, and we won’t have to compromise on other things, like photography or flowers, just to afford an insanely overpriced venue.

The funny thing is that today, two days after this all went down, I have a much better perspective on things.  Once I let go of the “must have wedding reception at a hotel” dream, the possibilities have opened up.  The Milwaukee Public Museum, the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, and some of the available venues on the lake are all breathtaking venues that would be beautiful–and affordable.  Not to mention the Eisner Museum, which was featured in earlier post.  Either way, I will be marrying my best friend and we will be surrounded by people we love…so it doesn’t matter if our reception is a gala event at a huge hotel or if it’s a backyard BBQ…it’s the love between us and our families that matters.

Did you let go of any wedding dreams and find it worked out for the best?

P.S.  That dream venue shall remain nameless…but needless to say, it was one of the hotels.

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More Venue Visits…

Yesterday, Mr. Groomy and I went on three venue visits in one hour!  We hit up three hotels in the area we are looking for.  We had a great time visiting each place and I think we’ve narrowed down where we are going to end up…but first, a recap of all the venues we have visited thus far.

First up, The Grain Exchange Room. This is located downtown on Michigan Avenue, in a the Mackie Building, which is an office building during the week. The GE is really beautiful and elegant, and the catering company is fantastic. We would be the only event and people in the entire building on the day of our wedding! The space is huge and also has a loft area, kitchens, mens and womens bathrooms, and a bonus room, which could be used to store the bridal party’s and parents’ things during the reception. Bartolotta Catering is the company that runs this room, and they are well known in the area for their delicious food. A con of this venue would be the location, as its not very close to the church (but it’s still not too far). Another con of this venue would be that a lot of their packages are piece-meal, meaning sure, there is a room rental and food and beverage minimum, but that doesn’t include silverware and china, which is $5 per person additional, as well as bartender fees, etc. Therefore, the costs could add up. Another con might be that they don’t have distinct area for cocktails–it would all be in the same room…I sort of like the idea of a separate space, but that’s a concession I could make. That being said, the GE is a great space and the company is reputable. You can see pictures and information on the GE Room here: http://www.bartolottacatering.com/ge_home.htm

Next up, The Intercontinental. This hotel is located downtown, about two blocks from the church. Immediate bonus–it’s a hotel! Which means accomodations are easy to get home to! This space is pretty modern, but really elegant–think brushed suede walls. We would be the only event taking place in the ballroom area. They have complimentary coat check, a GORGEOUS pre-dinner space for cocktails and pictures (really open and airy, it looks out over the building’s atrium) and really great food as well. This place is great because pretty much everything is included in your package, so there wouldn’t be a lot of hidden or extra fees. A con of this building would be the parking situation. Although there is a structure onsite, it is a PAID parking structure, so guests would either have to pay parking or we could pick up the tab after the event. The hotel is pretty modern and its layout is too, so it might be confusing to a few old school guests, but overall, we really loved this place. You can see pictures of the Intercontinental here: http://www.ichotelsgroup.com/intercontinental/en/gb/locations/overview/mkewi?rpb=hotel&crUrl=/h/d/6c/1/en/hotelsearchresults

Next, The Hilton Milwaukee City Center. Also downtown, this venue is the farthest from the Church…however, they are KNOWN for their weddings. We would have our reception in their famous Crystal Ballroom, which is a really popular wedding venue in Milwaukee. The feel of the space is VERY traditional, and has a similar feel to the Grain Exchange. It’s a pretty old hotel, so it kind of looks that way (think red draperies, etc). However, the catering manager who gave us our tour said that the hotel is set to start renovations and improvements this May and finish in October of this year. The package works very similar to the Intercontinental (they are run by the same company), so the same things apply–most everything is included. Parking would again be the only con, as again, it is paid. The Hilton had the least food and beverage minimum of the HOTELS we looked at, but it’s also the oldest building, which it does kind of show. Regardless, it’s another nice venue. See pictures of the Crystal Ballroom and the Hilton Milwaukee City Center here: http://www.hiltonmilwaukee.com/wedding.html

Last up, The Pfister Hotel. You can’t get married in Milwaukee and not look at this hotel, even if it’s just for fun–this is THE premier hotel in the Milwaukee area.   This is the most expensive of the venues we looked at, but it’s also probably the most elegant–it really is a beautiful space, and the staff is really great at giving five star service round the clock (even their parking structure has elegant piano music piped into it!). The feel of this space is more modern than the Hilton, but still more traditional than the Intercontinental. It really is gorgeous and the food and design of the event would be fantastic. The huge con of this place is that it really is leaps and bounds more expensive than the others. Plus, since the Pfister is known for weddings, there’s a good chance we’d be sharing the space with another wedding (in a different ballroom, obviously, but on the same floor). See pictures of the Pfister here: http://www.pfisterhotel.com/wedding_events/wedding.asp

You can see pictures of weddings at ALL three hotels we toured here: http://www.marcusweddings.com/

I am so excited!  My parents have already given their opinions, so we’re just waiting to hear from Mr. Groomy’s parents…then  I can call the venue we want and make an appointment to book!  Hooray!  I am so relieved.

So, what venue are we choosing?  Well, you’ll just have to wait and see…

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Venue Search, Continued!

The all important “Quest for the Venue” is taking up most of my wedding planning today.  This part, for me, is not fun.  In order to make it more fun, I am really researching all the venues we want to look at and creating charts and graphs to compare them all.  For my Type-A personality, being this organized makes looking for venues a little more fun (but no less stressful!).  I love charts and graphs and files and everything and anything to do with organization, so that part is pretty fun for me.  I thought it would be nice to clue you guys in on our venue search.

Let’s start with what we have nailed down:  our church.  We are parish members here and will be getting married in this gorgeous setting:

the-cathedral1Source: TheKnot.com

I found this picture from one of the featured Milwaukee weddings on the Knot.  Like I said, we are members here, and I love being part of this parish.  Everyone is so welcoming and nice, the services are always beautiful, and it’s nice to be a stone’s throw away from the Archbishop each week (the Cathedral is the head church of the diocese).  So, in researching venues, we are looking for something that is in close proximity to the church and equally as beautiful (and formal), since we really want all parts of the day to “match” well (ie elegant ceremony, elegant cocktail hour, elegant reception).  That being said, here are a few of the venues we will be visiting:

The Intercontinental Hotel

intercontinental1Source: IntercontinentalMilwaukee.com

This is (so far) my number one choice for venue.  It has everything we are looking for–close proximity to the church (only a few blocks–walking distance!–away), it’s a hotel for all of our out-of-town guests, it’s really elegant and swank, and it has delicious food and beverages available.  The picture above is of the hotel lobby–get a load of that chandelier!  Love it.

The Grain Exchange

the-grain-exchange2Source: BartolottaCatering.com

Love this venue too!  It’s a little farther from the church (definitely not walking distance, but less than a five minute drive).  Gorgeous site, we’d have the whole building to ourselves, and the catering company is fantastic.  Cons:  not a hotel, not as close to church.

The Eisner Museum

eisner-museum1Source: EisnerMuseum.org

Another gorgeous venue.  This place is hip and modern–it’s an advertising museum, after all!  We’d get to rent out the whole facility, and it’s right in our neighborhood we currently live.  Cons:  We’d have to price out catering, beverages, and rentals seperately, and it’s the furthest from the church.

We are looking at other venues too, but these are three of my favorites!

Where are you getting married?  How did you pick your venue?

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