wedding prep madison photographer happy bride wedding photo

Where our wedding was, and how we chose the venue(s)

Brandon and I are both originally from Beaver Dam, WI, where most of our family still lives. After toying around with the idea of a destination wedding or something closer to our home in Minneapolis, we realized what was most important to us was to be surrounded by family for our wedding. We were enjoying a post-engagement celebratory drink with my parents when my dad offered to host our wedding in my parents’ backyard. I instantly burst into tears! We were so touched by their offer and knew a backyard wedding would allow us to have the intimate celebration we envisioned.

Our favorite part(s) of the wedding

It was so fun to share the places where Brandon and I grew up together, became friends, and eventually fell in love with friends from near and far alongside our families. The most perfect moment to us was walking into the tent as husband and wife for the first time and seeing all of our loved ones faces smiling back at us.

Planning an at-home wedding definitely added a lot of work during the wedding planning process, but looking around on our wedding day and realizing how much love our friends and families poured into making it happen was incredible. My parents spent months planning lighting schemes, planting schedules, tent placement, and brunch menus to transform their home into a wedding venue. My sister Cobby handcrafted hundreds of paper flowers to create a “WELCOME” sculpture guiding our guests to the reception.

So many personal touches – My Grandpa Ken helped our dads string the hundreds of lights and paper lanterns in the tent, hand-lettered every sign in the yard, and scoured eBay for our vintage ski guestbook. The centerpieces filled beautiful hobnail vases my Grandma Becky had searched out for us as soon as we announced our engagement – we missed her and Brandon’s Grandma Paula but felt their presence in so many ways. Brandon’s family hosted a rehearsal night bonfire BBQ to kick off the weekend, and the wedding night escape to my aunt’s candlelit lake cottage was icing on top.

I could go on forever! (we borrowed golf carts to help guests up the hilly yard! our next-door-neighbors lit the candles before dinner!) Every detail was perfect and we couldn’t have made any of it happen without these incredible people.

first look black and white bride and groom bright sunshine photography father seeing bride first time wedding photography madison

What was definitely worth it

Keeping the guest list to a size that matched “personal and intimate” was really tough, but we were really happy that we felt like we had a fun memory to share with every guest. We ended up with around 130 guests, and it was fabulous to feel like we had a little time with everyone.

Oh, and the dress. Worth. It.

What was definitely not worth it

It was all worth it! Honestly we have no regrets. Maybe worrying so much about the weather – that wasn’t worth it!

Our Planning Guidelines

“Keep it simple, keep it personal” –  I have the tendency to over-research and over-plan. I tried hard to stay focused on our vision and limit myself to a few really great options before making a decision. Also, I told myself that if it wasn’t important when my mom got married, it can’t be that important. Pinterest, magazines, and the internet have turned wedding planning into this crazy thing that you could spend every waking moment on. We aimed to be more minimalist.

bride and groom  color love pictures wedding first look pictures father walking bride down aislefather and bride hugging wedding photo

Greatest challenge planning the wedding

We basically built our venue from scratch and did not hire a day-of coordinator, so I was very nervous about day-of logistics throughout the wedding planning process. There are so many things you don’t think about at first: who will receive deliveries while my family is gone taking pictures, who will manage ice/garbage/etc. how do we light the tent, who will refill the generator for the tent (?!!).

With so many variables, I relied on choosing vendors who are known for being flexible and creating a VERY detailed plan that was scheduled in 15 minute increments. I shared my color-coded wedding planning spreadsheet with everyone who helped out with the wedding, fully knowing the day wouldn’t go 100% “to plan” but that at least the many pairs of helping hands would be on the same page. That spreadsheet turned into a family joke, and we never did end up with a great Plan B for the weather!

Resources that helped us along the way

I used the checklist from to keep me on track overall – but I would definitely recommend that brides pick and choose which “to do’s” really matter to them (no dance lessons for us!). Word of mouth in a town like Beaver Dam goes a long way – I chose my amazing DJ (Sound Effects DJ) through family friends, and I got a lot of help choosing a salon and stylist. Our wonderful florist Gene, from Beaver Floral, is a family friend and gave us invaluable assistance along the way.

ceremony love wedding picture ceremony photography wedding madison wi just married photography entire wedding party photo

The wedding photos we’re most excited to see

The group shot! Maureen was so accommodating of our crazy idea to try and get a photo of all of our guests together. Everyone was really cooperative and we are so excited to have a memento of the entire party. Maureen also snagged us at the perfect moment to take a few photos together in the “glow’ of the sun setting. We saw some sneak peeks and can’t wait to see the magic!

tears of joy wedding photography congratulations hugs madison wi wedding

 Advice for other people planning their wedding

Decide what is really important to you and forget the rest. I really wanted both Brandon and I to enjoy the experience of planning our wedding, and to look back on the wedding day as special, outrageously fun, and full of love. Putting my foot down for gray tablecloths instead of white ones didn’t meet that criteria of “important” – making that distinction early on helped keep me sane and the budget reasonable!

Other cool stuff people should know

  • We asked the pastor who had married my parents to officiate our wedding ceremony, and we were so honored he agreed to perform the service. The ceremony was touching, just the right amount of funny, and he started the entire evening off with so much meaning.
  • Instead of serving traditional cake or dessert, we used personal-sized cakes at each table to display the table numbers. A note told the guests to dig in whenever they would like – and they totally did! Watching our friends mingle as they bartered for more cake was a hilarious memory from dinner.
  • The selfie stick that my sister brought out for the dance deserves an honorable mention…we spent hours on our honeymoon flight laughing over the shenanigans captured in the candid snaps!

wedding detail shots sw wibride and groom dinner table photo wi newlyweds sunset photography backyard madison wi

We chose Maureen Cassidy Photography because

Maureen is so friendly and laid back, and she immediately hit it off with me and my sister the first time we met her. We knew she would fit right in with our fun-loving families. She takes the most beautiful outdoor photos, which was also a priority. We were prepared for anything as far as hosting an outdoor wedding, and we knew we could count on Maureen to capture beautiful moments, rain or shine.

photo collage madison wi wedding reception

Where we allocated the most funds 

Food & drink, photos!

Where we allocated the least funds

No upfront venue costs! We saved by buying our own alcohol. We kept “extras” pretty simple (DJ provided ceremony music, we decided against any rentals for decorations).

bride and bridesmaids hugging photo father and bride first dance photography madison wi newlyweds first dance black and white happy picture groom and mother first dance madison wedding photographer


Ceremony & Reception Venue: my parents’ home in Beaver Dam, WI

Hair: MCV Salon in Sun Prairie, WI- Absolutely loved my braided crown and wavy wedding hair – Brides, ask for Kristin!

Make up: my sister and her date Anthony

Wedding Dress: Monique Lhuillier from Ultimate Bride in Chicago, IL – Wonderful personal service!

Bridesmaids Dresses: Amsale from Bella Bridesmaid in Excelsior, MN

Groom & Groomsmen Attire: Groom’s suit – Nordstrom Custom Fit; Groomsmen’s suits – Men’s Warehouse

Catering & Bar-tending: Upstairs Downstairs Catering in Madison, WI- Amazing service- they kept everyone fed and happy!

Rentals: Modern Rentals in Ripon, WI 

Officiant: Pastor Garrett Kamerling (retired) – It was such an honor to have a trusted family advisor and officiant bless our day.

Flowers: Gene’s Beaver Floral in Beaver Dam, WI- Gene was wonderful, he created the most gorgeous floral centerpieces and arrangements and even straightened my dress as I walked down the aisle!

Invitations: Minted – loved the pre-printed guest addresses!

Dessert: 8 inch cakes from Rechek’s Food Pride in Beaver Dam, WI – were the perfect centerpiece decorated with flowers from Beaver Floral and handmade table numbers

Photography: Maureen Cassidy Photography – Maureen was wonderful with our guests and created the most beautiful visual story of our day!

Videographer: Tommy Schmidt ( – Tommy captured our day exactly as we had asked him to – we are so grateful to be able to relive our wedding!

DJ: Sound Effects DJ in Beaver Dam, WI – Chad played at least 3 encores when our guests couldn’t get enough of the dance floor! He was the best!

Maureen Cassidy is a Madison wedding photographer, Madison family photographer & Madison boudoir photographer who loves capturing connections, love and beauty in Wisconsin and around the world. If you would like to send her a message contact her {here}.