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You’d almost never know that Chasing Paper founder Elizabeth Rees’ dreamy Milwaukee wedding took less than four months to plan. Determined to avoid the fall wedding rush, Rees and her now-husband, Brian Leadley, landed on a festive spring date following their sweet and surprising Valentine’s Day proposal: Cinco de Mayo.

“We had actually considered eloping, but we knew that both of our moms would probably kill us,” laughs Rees. With only a few weeks to prepare, a turn around as short as this could only be executed by someone with a knack for fast planning. “I think because I make so many creative decisions every day at work, I’m good at making them pretty quickly!” she adds.

Located just blocks away from the couple’s home on Milwaukee’s south side, the duo hosted their laid-back reception at Hotel Madrid—a fitting venue for their Cinco de Mayo celebration. Steering clear of theme-y cliches, Rees and Leadley took a not-so-obvious route with an adventurous spin on Spanish-inspired dishes and a dusty rose color palette. Vintage matador jackets added a charming touch in the dining room where guests gathered for a four-course tasting menu.

“We knew we wanted something really small and intimate,” adds Rees. “We built it around the people—the friends and family that we love that most and that we really wanted to be there to witness our day. We wanted it to feel more like a dinner party than a wedding.”

Fun, approachable, and playful, the Wisconsin-born creative’s big day was everything her beloved brand exudes. We recently caught up with Rees to get the DL on how she pulled off her cozy, colorful celebration. Catch her secrets for an effortless wedding day ahead!

Trust your gut when it comes to the date… and decor

Ready, not rushed, was Rees and Leadley’s motto going into their wedding day. No matter your lead time, trust your instincts when it comes to settling on a season, date, and, in this case, holiday.

“In Wisconsin, everyone gets married in the fall. We felt like a spring wedding would be really nice, but we didn’t want to wait a full year to get married. While we had only been dating for about a year, we had known each other so much longer. It felt very natural and Cinco de Mayo just seemed so fun,” says Rees.

Whether you’re nailing down a date or deciding on a DJ, working with an abbreviated time frame can be cause for second guessing. Rees’ advice? Embrace the beauty of a short engagement.

With Pinterest and Instagram and so many beautiful wedding magazines, it’s super easy to make a decision and then second guess yourself. With a short engagement, you don’t have a tone of time to go, ‘Oh, shoot, I made that decision a year ago when flower crowns were in.’ Trust your gut and go with it,” she tells Domino.

Let the dress be the driving force

Not sure where to start for inspiration? Rees’ floral crochet grown by Self-Portrait set the retro, casual mood for the ceremony and reception.

“I’ve always loved 60s and 70s inspired clothing, so when I saw the Self Portrait dress, I loved the mock collar and the lace detailing. That set the mood for the color palette,” suggests Rees. “While navy was the unifier, my bridesmaids dresses and all the floral arrangements were pretty colorful. We wanted it to feel casual and approachable, nothing to be too fussy or formal.”

Dinner should be an experience—not a dreaded buffet line

Instead of opting for popular grab n’ go stations, the couple stuck with a more traditional sit-down dinner, complete with a four-course tasting menu. This was one way the duo made their intimate, casual get-together feel a touch more like a formal dinner party.

“We wanted the dinner to be drawn out and paced so people could really sit and enjoy themselves. When I go to a restaurant or an event, being able to have a plated dinner is just so nice. We really wanted people to feel taken care of and not have to worry about getting in line for food,” says Rees.

Put someone else in charge on the day-of

While it’s clear that the duo didn’t need a wedding planner to help them execute their breezy gathering, Rees’ one regret is not hiring on-hand help for the actual big day.

“I think if I could go back and change something, I’d have a day-of coordinator,” admits Rees. “I have no idea why, but everyone was reaching out to me the day-of about what time they should be where. Having a day-of coordinator would have helped take some of that off my plate.”

Have your photographer capture what you love

Rees’ own creations served as a homey backdrop as she prepared for the ceremony alongside her mom and sisters. The Chasing Paper wallpaper in her foyer and bathroom, for example, provided a personal photo op.

“That was a really special part of it for me—getting ready in the home that we’ll have a family in and grow together. It was a fun way to capture what I do and what I love,” shares Rees.

Rees and her husband also invited guests back to the Chasing Paper Studio to snap pics against a custom wallpaper backdrop, finished with a floral installation and array of vintage rugs.

Save a moment for yourself

Carving out time for you and your S.O. can be tough once the reception chaos ensues. Use your “in between” down time as a chance to reconnect.

“After the ceremony, our videographer had us stay behind and walk alone together to the venue. At first I was like, ‘I just want to get there,’ but it ended up being the best part of the day. It’s the same way that I walk to my studio everyday and where we walk out dog, so it was really special. Plus, it was a great way to jump back into the party,” she says.

Likewise, having a smaller crew (Rees and Leadley hosted 85 guests) lets you save a moment for everyone.

“Sometimes you go to these huge weddings and you don’t even get to see the person getting married,” says Rees. “I knew that I wanted to create an environment where I could spend time and speak with every single person who came. By the end of the evening I felt like I had the chance to hug, connect, and talk with every single person who came to the wedding.”

Photographer: Frankie Marin

Flowers: Sweven Florals

Invitations: Minted

Venue: Hotel Madrid

Hair: Krystal Burns of Salon Rex

Make Up: Maggie Kerr of Wide Eyed Beauty

Dress: Self-Portrait

Bridesmaid dresses: & Other Stories

Shoes: Loeffler Randall

Suits: The Black Tux

Custom wallpaper wall: Chasing Paper

Vintage Rugs: The Loom House

See more casual-cool wedding ideas: 

Mandy Moore Just Made a Beautiful Case for a Boho Backyard Wedding

A Nontraditional Backyard Wedding That’s Fun, but Still Fancy

How to Host Your Wedding at Home, Stress-Free