20 Aug 2015

Passing the Bar

Diaries of a Wedding Stylist No Comments

Wedding season is in high gear and week after week we experience each couples’ day in different ways.
While many of our weddings are at banquet halls and venues, we also have had our fair share of backyard get togethers. While some couples hand off all bar duties to their vendor of choice, whether it be catering or a bartending service, others choose to handle the wining themselves and pass off solely the dining.

There is no right or wrong way to determing who mans the bar at your bash, but there are some tips to keep in mind to passing the bar if you’re taking on the task all to yourself.

1. Keep It Limited: Doing beer, wine and soda only? Stick to a house red, a house white and a light and dark beer/soda option.
TIP: If having a liquor option is a must, I advise mixing up a large batch (or two) of a signature cocktail that can be sipped throughout a designated time of the night, namely cocktail hour.

We loved our Erica and Mike’s signature drinks they served solely during cocktail hour! Photo courtesy of Heather Cook Elliott Photography. Check out the full gallery here!

2. Over Estimate on Ice and Water: Especially if your wedding is in the middle of the hot and humid summer. Ice will melt quicker and guests will drink faster. Plus, you can always keep it frozen instead of sending someone out to pick up additional bags and bottles.

TIP: High heat goes hand in hand with high levels of heat-set up a watering station for guests to keep everyone hydrated and to lines to the beer shorter. Simple infusions of lemon and limes or strawberries and mint make great alternatives to alcohol.

TIPx2: Providing the bar with ice and water is one thing, but providing your caterer with ice and water is another. Although it may seem like a good money saving idea it only adds stress to your day if you’re constantly having to run out for more.


3. Stick with Disposables: We’ve come across the always adorable ideas of gifting your guests with wine glass/mason jars/you name it to use for their drinks throughout the night, but in reality, keep disposables on hand for guests who set down their designated vessels or for those who want to switch glasses.

TIP: Keep beers in their bottles and skip the glass altogether!

4. Have Adequate Trash Cans/Bags: While guest are guzzling down their beverages of choice, before refilling, they’ll need to dispose of their old bottles, cans, cups, you name it. Be prepared to have the trash taken out multiple times throughout the night and have additional trash bags and cans on hand.


10 Jul 2015

Maybe she’s born with it….maybe they’re extensions

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For a girl who can and will claim to have tried almost all mascaras under the sun, it would be an understatement for me to say I’m not eyelash obsessed. The bolder the more beautiful. I love wearings falsies whenever I get the chance-hello birthdays, Halloween, big nights out-any excuse I get, I’ll take it.

For me, my liner, lashes and brows are what you can count on me having done almost at all times. My features are lighter, unless I alter them. I have naturally long lashes, but they lighten at the tips. When I don’t have mascara on, it is a dramatic change. I’ve jumped at the bit at everything to amp them up…everything short of-you guessed it, extensions.

In the last few months, I’ve noticed that everyone has jumped on the lash extension band wagon. I talked myself out of it, time after time; I mean I’ve heard horror stories of bad reactions, lashes shedding and the fear of being unhappy with my appearance post shed. Plus, I don’t need to add another expensive habit to my repertoire!

But I caved.

After being gifted lash extensions, there wasn’t any reason not to get them-right? Right.

I went to the Lash Boutique in Grafton with a few butterflies in my belly. I was finally going to be one of those glamorous girls with lush, long lashes! And I didn’t have to spend 5 minutes putting on mascara!

I loved the space right away and it was a miracle that I didn’t purchase any of their other beauty products that were taunting me.

I checked in and was told I would have the opportunity to choose from 4 different styles-I went all out with the Glamorous look! I mean go big or go home right?

I washed my face with cleanser the beautician recommended to clear any oils that may be on my eyes. Then I hopped up on the bed and let the procedure begin.

TIP: Expect to be on the table for two hours per initial full set. I almost fell asleep, even with the bright lights in my eyes. If you’re an antsy person, this isn’t for you!

I noted right away the chemical smell of the adhesive. 45 minutes in it started to bother me a little. 30 more minutes and I was looking forward to it being over with.

TIP: If you’re sensitive to smell, you may want to avoid a full set; doing a half set will give you va-va-voom, but save you from nauseating fumes.

15 minutes later and I was finally done-not so bad. I sat up and checked out my new set.

My initial response was WHOA. EEK. Maaaaybe I should’ve gotten the “mascara’d” look.


30 minutes of shock wore off and then after waking up the next day, I decidedly knew I could rock them. They looked like how I always want my lashes to look, but without having to put on any makeup. Adding eyebrows to my face-I looked like my normal self.

After a recent trip to the beach where my makeup routine was minimal to none, I truly fell in love with the extensions.

I’ve received numerous compliments and while I’m definitely not going to try to hide that they are fake, the best compliment I’ve received was from a vendor I often see-”THEY LOOK SO REAL-I never would have guessed! I thought maybe you had been using Latisse.”

That reconfirmed my love for them. While it is obvious that they are extra long and dark, they aren’t gaudy. My biggest fear.

I’m looking forward to my fill next week and we’ll see if the initial shock hits again.

What is even better than the compliments? The fact that my makeup routine is down to 5 minutes!


For my brides to be-if this is something you’ve been wanting to do-try it. BUT with that said, try it a month in advance and fill as you need. You need time to test not only how the adhesive reacts to your own skin, but how you react to your new lashes.

TIP: If you’re planning on getting extensions, check out this list of requirements before doing so.

•Eyelash extensions like to be clean and dry.

•Mascara is not recommended. If you do wear mascara for a special occasion, use water washable mascara.

•Powder liner is preferred; pencil liner may contain oils which can loosen the bond and cause lashes to shed prematurely.

•Avoid cream shadow.

•Avoid oil based products around your eyes.

•Avoid oil based eye-makeup removers. We recommend “Cleanse” by LiquiFan Lashes. Dab to dry.

•If you sleep on your face or sides, a satin pillowcase can help extend the life of your lashes.


05 May 2015

Absolut Texas Happy Hour Showdown

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Cinco de Mayo-a holiday I find myself celebrating on an almost weekly basis at the Belair Cantina located conveniently two blocks from my house.

Tonight I’ll still be celebrating, but I’ll be hosting it at my digs instead and adding a little twist to tradition. While I’ll still be mixing up the expected tequila based margaritas (fresh watermelon to be exact), I’ll also be serving something(s) with a kick!

Last week we had a happy hour showdown with Absolut Texas vodka and three of their cocktail heavy hitters.

First off, before I continue, I know you’re already asking Absolut Texas? The state needs one more thing dedicated to its namesake? It ABSOLUT-ely does.


The serrano and cucumber infused spirit is both refreshing and packs a little punch. It can be mixed with something sweet or something on the more savory side. We tried the following: Tejano, Rodeo Ride & Pineapple Martini.

TIP: While we didn’t concoct a Bloody Mary, we could find the two being a perfect pair and accompaniment to your Saturday morning.

TEJANO-Easy and breezy
2 parts Absolut Texas
3 parts Grapefruit Soda
Build over ice in a highball glass, and garnish with a lime wedge and a chili-salt rim.

This cocktail is easy to throw together when you’re in a pinch! I definitely suggest adding the garnishes or it may be on the plain side.

PINEAPPLE MARTINI-Perfectly punchy
2 parts Absolut Texas
2 parts Pineapple juice
2 leaves fresh Cilantro
Optional (but suggested): add 1-2 dashes Tabasco-we used chipotle!
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass, and shake with ice. Fine-strain into a chilled martini glass, and garnish with a cilantro leaf.

This was my favorite between the trio. I’m drawn to spicy pineapple cocktails in any and all forms and this one is a winner. Both refreshing, but not overly sweet, with a smoky aftertaste. You can’t go wrong!

RODEO RIDE-Hold on to your hat!
2 parts Absolut Texas
1 part Lime juice
1 part Honey syrup (1: 1 Honey: water)
1 slice fresh Jalapeno
Pinch of Salt
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass, and shake with ice. Fine-strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a slice of cucumber and jalapeno.

This is as close as you can get to a true margarita without pouring in a shot of tequila. Amanda favored this one and we could both see it being perfect served over ice. The addition of the jalapeno takes it to the next level. Keep in mind this cocktail is strong when served up!

After taste testing, we were happy that we put all of our sips in shooters glasses. We suggest serving the trio in petite proportions instead full sized. To truly get that Tex-Mex/Cinco de Mayo feel, don’t skimp on the chips and salsa!



29 Apr 2015

Bridin’ on a Budget

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We’ve all heard of the term ballin’ on a budget, but have you heard about bridin’ on a budget?

Check out these tricks to keeping costs down-or at least in check, when it comes to planning out your wedding.

I bet you didn’t even think of some!

Skip signature drinks. There are a lot of additional costs when having these served at your reception. If your signature drink includes alcohol that is already in your package, you will end up paying double for that type of alcohol. It seems like it should already be included, but that’s not normally the case. If you plan on doing a signature drink, we suggest using liquor that isn’t already included in your package, not technically having a signature drink, but suggesting to guests what to order from already supplied ingredients or taking advantage of using a complimentary champagne toast and adding a fun garnish, like raspberries.

Check the chairs. Sometimes banquet chairs can be downright ugly; examine the chairs while you’re taking your venue tour to see what is included. If you have to end up ordering chairs or covers, this could cost you.

Tax and gratuity-per guest. Something couples fail to factor in is guest tax and gratuity on dinner and bar services. Sure, $30 per person seems like a steal, but chances are you haven’t received the true total per guest. This will come as a surprise when your total balance is due.

Leave out custom linens.
Look into what your caterer or venue offers as a linen package. Many vendors have this included into the contract and this will save you a chunk of change, especially if the linens are floor length. Want to add a specialty touch? Doing custom colored napkins will jazz up each place setting, without costing you as much.

Guest lists
-this is the number one indicator of what your overall budget will be. This is the hardest place to cut, but will give you the largest return on your dollar. Even cutting 10 guests will impact your budget largely. Not only are you cutting out meals, but you are cutting out bar costs and possibly chair, table and linen rentals.
Forgo the favors. This is an easy one; if you’re not sold on giving something to your guests, don’t. Keep in mind that unless they’re edibles, they’ll often times be left behind or thrown in the trash at the end of the night.

Pricey Paper Goods. Paper goods are something I can definitely find myself splurging on, but if you’re trying to keep spending to the minimum, go with a simple, lightweight invite. Postage costs add up if you send something with layers a bulk-something I’m sure wouldn’t cross your mind until you’re checking out at the post office line.

To put everything in perspective, take a peek at this handy chart breakdown of what you should expect to spend.



23 Apr 2015

‘Maid Manners

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We see a plethora of bridesmaids each year. Most are sweet, supportive and oh so helpful to the bride, but others are, well…not. Sometimes I like (and hope) to think this may be because they just haven’t been in a wedding and aren’t sure what to do so take it from me ladies- here are a few helpful tips on how you can be the best bridesmaid that ever walked down that ceremonial aisle.

First and foremost, just do what the bride asks. Sure a Belle inspired dress complete with puffy sleeves may not be your style but it’s not your wedding- so as harsh as this may sound my advice would be to suck it up buttercup. Just wear the dress, after all it may come in handy for Halloween sometime.


Stay calm and carry on. Do not, under any circumstance, freak out. The day is as stressful as they come already and the bride doesn’t need her ladies upping the ante on crazy that day. If something goes wrong, ask the wedding planner to fix it, calmly, especially if you are in front of the bride. If you have a question, you know who your go to is-the planner. The bride is already focusing on keep herself calm and composed-a flurry of questions will only add to the frustration.

Come prepared.
We bring an emergency kit, more like an emergency tool box, but do your due diligence as a maid. Take your dress out of it’s package prior to the week, let alone day of. Make sure your dress fits; I can sew on buttons, but I am certainly no seamstress. Bring snacks if you are worried about being hungry or getting tipsy. Most of our brides are prepared and have us bring snacks on the day, but if you follow a special diet I would bring a little something to make sure you have an emergency plan.


Be a dancing machine. Your number one duty on the day is to make the bride happy. Most of our brides want guests dancing above and beyond any other wish for the day. I always tell brides if they are dancing the guests will be dancing. So be her wingwoman and help get the party started! Even if it is something cheesy!

Lend a hand. Especially at the beginning and ending of the evening. Make sure she has all personal belongings she came with. If we haven’t already taken her bouquet back to her hotel room, snatch it before leaving the venue. As a planner we will check in to make sure she is staying hydrated (or has one of her favorite cocktails) and has had the chance to grab a bite in between making rounds with guests, but playing double duty and doing the same can only help!


All in all, our best advice?-Keep a smile on your face and the bride will do the same!

-AF & JM

Floral arrangements by Marius Bell
All photos courtesy of Heather Cook Elliott

20 Apr 2015

Superstition or Tradition?

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We always touch base on certain details when going through our wrap ups with brides. Are you doing a bouquet toss? Cake cutting? Toasts? When it comes to your wedding, there are tons of traditions to follow. Every little “tradition” has a rhyme or reason to it. You’ll be even more surprised to find out that many of the reasons boil down to superstition.
Check out some of my favorite and most surprising reasons behind traditions we see in weddings-maybe it’ll make sense as to why so many people are skipping or changing tradition!


Diamond Rings: This may be my favorite tradition debunked-while I’ve seen some brides dangling other jewels on their ring fingers, diamonds still reign supreme. But it started out as an advertising scheme! Diamonds are indeed a luxury, but their popularity came to the well known De Beers needed to revamp their image and sell their product to the rich, the poor and everyone in between. “A Diamond Is Forever” was born and a tradition was formed.

Bridesmaids Dresses: These days, you’d drop dead if you showed up at an event matching another guest (perhaps I’m taking that too far, but I know I’d prefer to have my own style) While some people are horrified, to Romans you were to be cursed with bad luck if ten of your guests weren’t wearing matching attire to your wedding, hence, bridesmaids playing the matching game. We’ve come a long ways from the scary maids’ fashions from the 80s, and mixing and matching is now a popular trend. I vote to keep the trend over the tradition-I love when brides have their maids in assorted attire. If it still falls in the same color palette, then I feel like the Romans can bend their rules!

Garter Toss: It is solely pure opinion, but I’m happy to see this one less and less! Having any piece of the newlyweds clothing was originally deemed as good luck. In more conservative times, the bride was suggested to wear the garter tagged loosely to the bottom of her dress, so males guests could more easily retrieve it. I think we can all agree we’ve come across that really awkward, less than conservative garter retrieval before….

Clinking of the Glasses: A tradition that I’ve seen most couples get shy from is having to kiss after your guests clink their glasses at you; while some find it to be a “sweet” gesture, the clinking of glasses dates back to medieval times when many hosts spiked their guests’ glasses with poison! To signify that they were being a jovial host, they toasted with a clink, splashing drops of their wine and then taking the first sip to ensure their guests that they were in good hands!


17 Apr 2015

Keep Calm & Call Your Mom

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There must definitely be something in the water because lately I haven’t been able to log into Facebook without seeing a new engagement on my home feed, but no complaints here- congrats to all of the lucky couples out there that I have the privilege of knowing!

SO you got engaged-NOW WHAT?

After calming down from the initial shock, excitement, tears, et cetera, there are a few things you should really do to kick start the planning process. Take a few tips from the pros and do these things first (after calling your mom that is!)

1. Create a list of the items which rank most important to you

It is important to me to have good food and good music alongside my good company. What is most important to you on your big day? Do you have a dream venue? Do you want your tables flowing with flowers? Will open bar be your biggest expenditure? Write it down, it will come in handy when you are cutting costs on your budget, which trust me-will happen.

2. Book your photographer

Photographers book up quickly, especially during prime season. Checking your photographer off your list is one of the first steps to being prepared for your big day. Be prepared to be turned down, while some vendors can technically duplicate themselves, photographers unfortunately cannot; have a list of your top three photographers to inquire with.

3. Follow your vendors on Social Media

Namely your photographer, florist and planner. You are going to become close with them throughout the entirety of the planning process. Get to know their style, find out what you like about them, use their posts as resources for planning out your day. Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram are your friends, even when you’re trying to get through your work day and you think social media is just an evil distraction that sits on your shoulder calling your name.

4. Utilize Pinterest

Chances are you already use Pinterest and chances are your (dream) wedding board is filled to the brim. Create a new board and tailor down your choices to create something more along the lines of calm, cool and cohesive instead of a multi-colored confetti explosion on the floor. It might take you awhile, but its time (or a weekend) well spent.

TIP: Name your board something other than “Wedding,” especially if you’ll be sharing it with vendors. Having to fish out a board in a sea of “weddings” gets time consuming.

5. Set a (realistic) Budget

Weddings ARE expensive. The average cost of a wedding in Milwaukee is over $25,000.

While there are ways to cut down on your budget, be wary of booking something just because it is “cheap” and you “don’t really care.” You’re setting yourself up for disaster.

While it isn’t necessary to bring in specialty linens, do favors, extravagant invites or blow up that bouncy house, be prepared to spend a pretty penny on a few items-namely food and beverage which around 50% of your budget will go towards.


Thinking of having your wedding at a private residence will cut your costs? You may want to think again. Keep in mind that instead of going to a venue, you’re basically creating one yourself. Not only do you have to bring in a structure, but chairs, tables, flooring, lighting, bathrooms, garbages…the list goes on and on, all has to be brought in.

One last piece of advice that I cannot help but stress is to stay ahead of the game instead of falling behind. Remaining organized and checking items off your to-do list in a timely fashion will not only help you keep track of your budget along the way and not incur unplanned charges at the end of the day, but it will help ensure that you get your “dream items” and above all else, help keep you from becoming a frazzled bride.


11 Apr 2015

Taking a little cheese with that Wine…Maniacs on the River

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The city of Milwaukee, as well as surrounding suburbs, has countless options for a great rehearsal dinner spots.

Whether it be casual or upscale, there is a guaranteed spot for any couple.

We’ve compiled a list of favorites among past clientele and ourselves-for groups big or small. Regrettably, as our list is pages long, we haven’t been to all of them-yet.

We’re starting on a mission to try out some favorite Milwaukee restaurants so we can give you the tried and true details.

Last weekend I decided to check out Wine Maniacs after setting up a tour for a client. Their manager, Rik, was more than accommodating and informed me of a specialty pre-fixe menu that couples have the option of doing for their dinner. (Now I’m wishing I had an invite to attend!)


I recruited some friends, both ladies and gents alike, to join in on the venture.

We were sat at the main level, the upper level overlooking the river is definitely a space that I would recommend to brides and grooms planning their rehearsal, and noted that it was a pretty quiet evening as there were only two other couples dining with us. I was very self-conscious at first as I’ve got a voice that carries very loudly, so I had to keep that in check.

TIP: Not planning a rehearsal dinner anytime soon? This spot is great for date night!

We got a bottle of wine for the table, which was so hard to choose from as their list is extensive, and shared a cheese plate as well. Something I would definitely recommend doing for starters.


TIP: Our group went through the crackers like crazy, kindly ask your server for additional if need-be and I’m sure you’ll receive them with a smile!

The house risotto of the night was recommended by our friendly waitress. I opted to go for the goat cheese and beet pizzette that was also a featured special and was beyond happy with my decision.

TIP: I suggest ordering each pizzette on the menu and splitting throughout your group. Everyone who ordered one was satisfied at the end of the evening.

Wine Maniac’s menu is great for shareables, something I love in a restaurant as I like to try EVERYTHING.-although I had my eye on the lobster mac that upon a return visit, I don’t know if I’d like to or be able to split it.

If you’re interested in a more formal atmosphere with a killer view and countless bottle to choose from-Wine Maniacs would definitely be for you!

Interested in planning an event? Contact: Rik at rik@winemaniacs.com

Reservations Welcome: 414-278-WINE (9463)

The Deets:
Address: 106 Seeboth St. Milwaukee, WI 53204
Street Parking, Parking Structures, Valet service on Fri. & Sat.
50 Wines available by Glass
Full Bar Service including a hand picked selection of beer
Patio seating and lounging with upper level outdoor seating. (Great view of the River and Firework Displays)
Private Events available in “The Cool Kid” Loft
Dress Code: Semi-Formal/Dressy Casual


02 Apr 2015

Classic White or Bold and Bright?

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Some of our brides walk into the florist meeting knowing exactly what they want and others have no clue. Flower meetings are one of my favorites to be a part of and whether a bride has had her bouquet picked out since kindergarten or if she has no clue what a rununculus is, I love working with the bride and the florist to come up with a cohesive and of course beautiful vision.

If you’re a bride who couldn’t tell the difference between a carnation and a peony, I have put together a few tips on picking out your bouquet.

The first decision I would make when designing your bouquet is if you want all white flowers or if you would like a colorful bouquet. There are some that fall in the middle with a mix of both but for our purposes I would still classify those as colored.


An all white bouquet doesn’t have to be totally pure white, and if you want it to be it will be hard to find since most flowers have a true creamy ivory hue.

This style of posey could also be all light neutrals with some soft taupe colors and a pretty blush mixed in here or there.

TIP: There isn’t a ton of contrast with this selection though.


The pros of a white bouquet include its classic appeal, it feels a little more timeless than the colored options. Possibly because wedding color fads come and go but neutrals are always in style. They are always soft and romantic and fit with any venue or decor which is another added bonus.


TIP: Light colored flowers, especially the white and cream flowers do tend to yellow pretty easily. We can usually snip edges of flowers but it is a minor draw back of picking this option. If you select a natural bouquet I would ask the florist what flowers hold up best and if you are worried the slight browning will ruin your wedding day bliss I would go with a more colorful option.

With a colorful bouquet you typically use your wedding colors and sometimes some accent colors as well. There is almost always greens in flowers (they are a plant after all!) so even if green isn’t one of your colors it typically works its way in. This type of bouquet could be all one color, a kaleidoscope of mixed colors or a mix of neutrals with some pops of accent colors.
Colored bouquets are fun, bold and a little more unique. Sometimes neutral bouquets can start looking very similar but colorful bouquets tend to stand on their own and look more unique. They can be romantic, playful, elegant or wild take your pick.


On the other hand colorful bouquets aren’t always as effortless, you may worry that it won’t turn out how you are envisioning or that it will clash with other colors in your wedding palette. It is a little easier to miss the mark with these since they are more of a statement.


With colored bouquets I would suggest avoiding dyed flowers, if your wedding colors don’t come in natural form, incorporate color in other ways like the ribbon wrap on the bouquet. Otherwise, you may regret the dye when it gets all over your white dress, your hands, your husband’s black suit and the flower girls dress to boot.


TIP: Whether you go colorful or neutral make sure the florists understands the shape, size and style you are going for. Picking cohesive pictures is a great way to ensure that you are all on the same page. If you have an exact vision in mind make sure you convey that with them and have fun picking flowers!
Lucky for you once your bouquet is picked out the bridesmaids flowers will be much easier. In general, you have two choices there too. More on that in an upcoming blog.



31 Mar 2015

A Spring in your Step…and Dress

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It is hard for me to not get excited with each season’s change, especially when the new season holds sunshine, warmth and new wardrobe updates…or at least that’s what I’m wishing for!
I stumbled across the Spring season’s Pantone color line up and I’m pretty sure it was made specifically for me.

I thought I’d share the wealth or at least my recommendations for some springy new accessories/upgrades to your wardrobe.
Flexibility in each piece is something that I can’t stress enough. Having an item that can be transitioned from day to night, work day to weekend, only makes it that much more worth the purchase. Especially if it is a pricier piece.
TIP: Saving and splurging can be a difficult decision. Splurge on an item if you can get daily wear out of it. Save it for later, when it goes on sale, if it isn’t something that will be often utilized. This is something I’m constantly reminding myself.
Especially on wedding days where I can be found in a uniform of black or at the very least neutral, I like to add just a pop of color.
Here are a few of my favorite things that are a surefire way to create a sunny disposition in your closet, even when we are still caught in between seasonal mood swings outside.
Aquamarine: Dreaming of a tropical vacation? At least you can wear the ocean on your sleeves! Or in this case, around your neck and fingertips.


ESSIE Polish in Rock the Boat

Lucite Green: The color I wish was on every tree outside; Green is a color that I find to be universally flattering.

LEVEL 99 Trousers



Tangerine: Just juicy; like a drink I’d like to be sipping pool side.


Toasted Almond: This color isn’t made for popping, but it does tie together nicely with almost any color you may have in your closet! The bowtie details are cute to boot!