My Favorite Ilia Makeup Products

Isn’t it so rewarding (and such a relief!) when you find makeup you LOVE?! With so many options out there, it can be super hard to find the right products that work well for you. Whether it’s the color range of concealer or foundation, the ability to wear mascara all day without getting raccoon eyes, or the perfect nourishing lip balm, finding *good quality* makeup is tough.

Over the last few years I’ve gravitated heavily towards the makeup brand Ilia. Ilia is clean and sustainable makeup brand that prides itself on formulations that bring out your natural beauty. They use the term “skin-centric” to describe how their makeup products support the underlying health of your skin. As I’ve grown older, I find that I’m wearing less makeup. At a bare minimum I wear a tinted sunscreen and a little swipe of mascara. If I’m feeling fancy I’ll wear a little concealer and brow gel as well. Ilia’s philosophy of makeup revolves heavily around the idea that less is truly more, in their ingredient lists and in their holistic concept of makeup.

Limitless Lash Mascara

  • This mascara is the bomb diggity. I used to be a huge fan of Honest Beauty mascara (I mean, I still am a huge fan, I just found something better). But this mascara blows it out of the water. It’s really hard to find a “clean” mascara that wears well throughout the day. I don’t get any fallout under my eyes (no raccoon eyes- yay!) and the formula isn’t clumpy at all. I have worn this mascara as an everyday mascara for the last couple years and I truly don’t think I will find a better one. I’ve even worn this mascara while hiking and snowshoeing- it held up to the elements!

True Skin Serum Concealer

  • It has taken me a really long time to find a concealer that works well with my skin tone and won’t make my skin look dry and crepey. It’s not a heavy or full coverage concealer, but it adds just enough coverage to brighten my under eyes and cover a minor blemish.
  • I wear the shade “Suma”

Essential Brow Gel

  • One of the biggest complaints I have with brow gels in general, is that they can be wayyy too heavy to the point where you can see the formula clinging to the brow hairs. I love that this formula doesn’t clump on my brows. It makes them look clean and put together. When I actually do my brows, this helps my eyes look more awake. The spoolie has a side for applying the product and side for brushing it through your brows. Love it!
  • I wear the shade “Blonde”


  • This multi-stick is really just that, a great creamy color pop for cheeks and lips. I use this primarily as a cream blush. I love the natural color it gives to my cheeks without looking too fake or applied. It gives my lips the same effect, natural and not too “done”. The formula has a slight shimmer that catches the light just right. Sometimes cream blushes can be really heavy. Most people won’t want to wear one during the summer months. I can wear this cream blush year-round.
  • I wear the shade “At Last”

I love makeup that goes on easily and looks natural. Especially on the days I feel worn out or exhausted, a little concealer and mascara can go a long way. I don’t have time to invest in a lengthy makeup routine. Just a few products can make a huge difference.

Ilia is available on a wide variety of platforms. You can buy it direct to consumer on their website. You can also purchase it on sites like Credo Beauty and Sephora- amazing if you are a Beauty Insider!

Let me know if you try any of these wonderful Ilia products!

Until next time!

XOXO, Sarah

THE Wedding Post (finally!)

Before you know it, wedding season will be upon us! Did you get engaged over the holidays? Are you planning an upcoming wedding? Then this is the post for you! I will break down everything from the planning process and the five things you should do right away to recommendations for vendors in south central Wisconsin and an example timeline. Don’t have a wedding planner? No worries! You don’t have to do this alone. Fair warning- this post is a doozy!! I cover A LOT in this post, so it’s on the longer side. However, if you are planning a wedding, I think you will find some good nuggets in here. I’ve been sitting on this post for TWO YEARS (thanks a lot, COVID), so it’s high time I hit the “publish” button to share it with all of you!


It will come as no surprise that I absolutely adore going to weddings. I cry when the bride walks down the aisle, during the vows, when the father of the bride makes his speech, throughout the first dance, etc. Weddings just get to me! What can I say; I love love! There’s something so incredible about two people making a lifelong commitment to each other, families coming together, and friends coming from near and far to support the couple. However lovely everything seems, the day, and months, leading up to the wedding day can be particularly stressful for the bride and groom. From deciding the amount of guests to invite, who to invite, location of the ceremony and venue of the reception, hiring a photographer and/or videographer, deciding on florals, creating a menu, and so much more, planning a wedding is extremely stressful! I’ve put together a review of some of our wonderful wedding vendors, an example of our timeline for the day, and helpful hints for planning a wedding. What’s the MOST important thing to do or remember you may ask? Enjoy the process and always remember to keep the commitment to your spouse and the true meaning of the day at the heart of it all. 

*This review is specific to vendors and experiences in South-Central Wisconsin. 

*See our Wedding Day published in Wisconsin Bride Magazine HERE

So you just got engaged! Congratulations! Now what? 

Take at least a few hours before breaking the news to the world of social media to contact close family and friends. Trust me, they will want to hear the news from you and not your Facebook page! Heck, take the entire day to just revel in the moment with your friends, family, and new fiance! After the celebrating accordingly, make sure you follow these next steps: 

  1. Does the ring fit well? If not, and especially if the ring is too big, wait to wear it while you’re out and about. The last thing you want is to lose your new beautiful sparkler. Take the ring back to where your fiance purchased it and get it sized ASAP! I know you want to show that bad boy off but keeping it ON your finger is a high priority. Which brings me to my next point: 
  2. Cover your ring under your insurance plan. We insured my ring under our renters insurance policy. It’s now under our home insurance policy. Call your insurance company; they will offer you a way to cover the ring either under renters or home insurance policies. If under a horrible circumstance in which the ring is lost, you want to make sure you have a safety net to cover the financial losses and replace it if possible. While you’re doing this step, research which wedding band (if any) you plan to wear as well. Adding this to your insurance plan is also important! The wedding band can always be added to the plan at another time if you are unsure if you want one or don’t know which one you plan to purchase. 

Zach proposed on a cold Wisconsin day in the middle of January 2017. We went ring shopping in November so I knew a proposal was right around the corner. Ladies, if you are at the point in your relationship where you are openly discussing marriage with your partner, suggest a day or two to look at engagement rings. Zach and I had been talking about getting married for quite some time and decided we would start looking at rings together to ease the pressure of choosing the right ring. 

Side note: I highly recommend doing this! Not only does it give you an opportunity to see what you like on your hand and what you don’t, but it provides a super fun date for you and your future fiance. I tried on rings that I loved on Pinterest but didn’t love on my hand. We also had the guidance of a jewelry expert to ensure we were getting the highest quality product for the budget that we had established.  

After the celebration dies down, the planning begins. Zach and I were engaged for almost 1 ½ years. This was perfect for us as we wanted to solidify our budget and would be planning from out of state. I would recommend no less than a year-long engagement for a few reasons: 

  1. Budget. Weddings are expensive. No matter how you cut the cake (lol), planning a wedding requires financial diligence. You don’t want to walk away from your wedding as a newly married couple and a broke married couple. Use your time to find a budgeting plan that works well for you. Talk to your family and your fiance’s family about whether or not they are able to contribute. The sooner you have this conversation, however awkward, the better. Establishing a budget early in the process will hold you accountable and allow you time to build your savings. 
  2. Venues and Vendors. Zach and I looked at a few venues in the Madison, WI area about a month after getting engaged. At that time there were already multiple couples out doing the exact same thing. Most venues will have couples booked out at least by the year mark. The sooner you are able to contact potential vendors about your wedding, the higher chance you will have at being able to book their services. Like venues, wedding vendors get booked up extremely fast, especially if your wedding will be in the summer. Do yourselves a favor and give your vendors the opportunity to provide you with the services you desire by planning a wedding with a decent timeline. 
  3. Sanity. An engagement that lasts just over a year allows time for you to get organized! If you are hiring a wedding planner, lucky you! You will have a partner to help you navigate the wedding business world. But there are many brides who may not be able to afford a planner  that feel alone during this process. Giving yourself time to organize a large event can help keep your anxiety at bay. Especially if you are planning a destination wedding or a wedding from afar, giving yourself at least a year to plan will assist you in many ways! 

**There are some incredible tools available to couples planning a wedding. Take advantage of them! My favorite wedding planning tool is the Knot’s wedding planning binder. It was truly a lifesaver when it came to organizing important details, keeping track of vendor numbers and contracts, and keeping up to par on our timeline.**

Your First Five Steps of Wedding Planning 

So where do you begin? Here are my recommendations for the first steps to tackle when planning your wedding: 

1. Set Your Date. Everyone has an ideal time of year in mind for their own wedding. Whether you envision a summery wedding full of fresh blooms and warm temps, or a romantic winter wedding surrounded by candles and greenery, the sooner you decide on a potential date, the easier it will be to move forward with the rest of your wedding plans. Setting a date will directly influence your budget and availability of potential vendors. Many vendors will offer significant discounts during the low season, from the end of fall to the beginning of spring. If time of year is irrelevant for you, I suggest booking your date during this time. Your budget will thank you! Setting your date in the early stages of your engagement gives you a timeline and an endpoint. You have a goal in mind for when tasks need to be accomplished and when your financial components need to line up. Also keep in mind that by booking your wedding on a holiday, you may have significant difficulty booking other vendors. You may also find that some of your guests may be unable to attend due to previously established commitments. True, everyone has the holiday off of work, but they may not be able to commit to attending a wedding on that day. 

2. Book your Venue. We began looking at potential venues for our wedding a couple months after getting engaged. We were more than a year out from our wedding but we were surprised to find other couples on the same trajectory as us. We were told by multiple venues that couples had been asking about availability on the same date we were hoping to celebrate our wedding. Within a year of your date, you may find it extremely difficult to find your perfect venue. Nail down your venue as soon as possible! 

3. Book your Photographer/Videographer. Like venues, talented photographers are in high demand. Especially during the high season (spring-summer), you may find it difficult to book your favorite photographer or videographer. After researching for many hours, we contacted our wedding photographer, Laurelyn Savannah Photographer, and were able to book her relatively quickly. If the photographer doesn’t suggest it, ask to schedule an initial meeting to ensure your personalities work well together. Laurelyn was wonderful about this and really took the initiative to make sure our wedding photography journey together would be a success. And it was! Likewise, our videographer, Dan West, was extremely helpful throughout the booking process. I knew I wanted him to capture our wedding years ago following the wedding of my good college friend. I didn’t even research other videographers! Before you book any photographer or videographer, look at their Instagram page. Many times, this is where you will see their true artistic display. Social media is incredibly helpful when booking these types of services! I’ll link both of their Instagram handles here: @laurelynsavannah; @danwestfilms

4. Start Your Hunt for the Perfect Dress. I found my beautiful dress at White Dress Boutique in Milwaukee, WI. It was the first place we visited and the 5th or 6th dress I tried on. When you go dress shopping, be upfront about your budget. Remember to add in potential alteration costs and price of veil (if that’s up your alley) to your final budget. It took nearly 6 months for my dress to come in. SIX MONTHS! That is a lengthy amount of time in the wedding planning process. In addition, the dress needed significant alterations, adding more time onto the already fast paced timeline. The earlier you get your dress, the easier it will be to ensure on time arrival and completion of any alterations it may need. My biggest piece of advice: do NOT try on a wedding dress that is outside of your budget. Don’t get devastated by a dress beyond your budget and don’t try to accommodate your budget to “afford” a more expensive dress. 

5. Select Your Wedding Party. We had a pretty solid idea of our wedding party within the first couple weeks of getting engaged. While you don’t necessarily need a cute way to ask them to be a part of your special day, a wedding party proposal is always something fun to put together. Use Pinterest or Etsy to assist you in creating your perfect way to pop the question to your closest friends and family. The earlier you are able to ask your crew to be a part of your day the better. Weddings can be a financial commitment for the wedding party as well. From suits and shoes to dresses and accessories, being in a wedding can come with a hefty price tag. Not to mention contributing to bachelor and bachelorette parties, showers, and other events, there are multiple opportunities for the wedding party to forfeit lots of dough. Giving them a heads up well in advance will help them plan for their ability to contribute to future events as well. Keep in mind the financial expectations you place on your friends and family, especially if they are coming in from out of town to be part of your day! We tried to be mindful of our options for attire. Between renting and buying, I think we had decent options for our wedding party. 



Developing A Comprehensive Guest List and Seating Chart 

Developing a guest list and then a seating chart was one of the most stressful aspects of wedding planning. Of course, you don’t want to leave anyone out, but you also want to share the day with your closest friends and relatives. Much of your guest list will depend on the capacity of your venue and your overall budget. On average, each person will have 2-4 drinks at the bar, munch on 4-6 different appetizers (bites/pieces), and eat a plate of food at dinner, each of which costs money. To stay within your budget, calculate out each guest in association with cost of food and drink to ensure you don’t go overboard. Your venue should be able to provide you with the estimated cost of food and drink.

When starting your guest list, begin with your family: immediate, extended, and their spouses/significant others. Whether you include children in your guest list is up to you. We had family members with young children and some friends with newborns. We didn’t want them to feel excluded from the celebration for that reason. We encouraged everyone else to leave their kids at home. After family, add your wedding party and their significant others. After the wedding party, add in close friends followed by an extended friend list (don’t forget their significant others either!). 

Side note: Due to venue size and budget, we were unable to provide single guests with a plus one. For clarification purposes, address invitations to “XX and Guest” if they have a significant other and “XX” if not. 

From there, check your guest list against your total number of guests (based on budget!). Begin the elimination process by eliminating your more distant friends and relatives. Do this little by little until you are within range of your max number of guests. Wedding planners will advise around 15-20% of all guests invited will decline. With that being said, don’t over-invite guests hoping that 20% will decline to reach your max number of guests. That is a waiting/guessing game that no one wants to play. 

**We made a rule for all guests with significant others: guests who have been dating their significant other for 6 months or more may receive a plus one to the wedding

After deciding on our guest list, sending out our Save the Dates (recommend 6-9 months in advance), and our formal invitations (recommend 5-6 months in advance), RSVP’s began to flood in. From there, we were able to start constructing our seating chart. It is crucial during this time to be in communication with your venue. They will be able to send you a master plan with seating chart options. Once you decide on a seating chart plan, begin to assign your guests a spot. We drew our seating chart out on a poster board and used sticky notes, color coded to my family, my friends, Zach’s family, and Zach’s friends to easily see the overall layout. We were able to pick up sticky notes and move them around as necessary to accommodate our seating chart. I have been to weddings with seating charts and without seating charts, and each have their pros and cons, specifically related to your level of responsibility/how much work you want to do. While it may take you some extra effort, please at least give your guests a table assignment. Without that, it becomes a free for all and difficult to find a place to sit in a cohesive group, especially if you have more friends in your group than the table allows. The experience is much more enjoyable, for guests and bride/groom alike, if guests have no questions about where they are to sit. 

Organizing Your Day Into A Timeline

Unless you have a wedding planner that will develop a timeline for you, you will need to come up with a timeline that not only makes sense, but is achievable by all parties (and vendors) involved. Without a doubt, this is one of the most daunting tasks of the entire day! But don’t worry! This task can be manageable! 

When writing out your wedding day timeline, start with times that are concrete (ie the ceremony time and the reception time). From there, work your way backwards to plan out your morning. Your vendors will be phenomenal resources during this part. Ask them how long it will take for you and your bridal party to have your hair and makeup complete, how early your venue opens to be decorated (could be done the night before!), and how long to allocate for photos before, in between or after the ceremony. Don’t forget to schedule extra time in for any mishaps and don’t forget to schedule time to eat! Although your nerves may be through the roof on your wedding day, it will be just as important to stay nourished and hydrated as it is for you to be places by certain times. 


After you have your morning planned out, work forwards from your ceremony time through your reception. Your reception location (and it may be in the same area as your ceremony) should have people available to serve as resources to help plan your reception timeline. You will need to adjust your timeline for how long you have services from your photographer and/or videographer. If you don’t have their services all day, talk with your future spouse about what moments are most important for you to have captured. For us, the first look, the ceremony, and our first dance were moments that we knew we would want to look back on and remember in great detail. 

Below is a sample timeline I created to help you with this process! Times are specific to our wedding day and may need to be adjusted for yours. 


    • 6:00 AM Wake up
    • 6:30-6:45 Bridal party arrives at “getting ready” location
      • **Provide address here**
    • 6:45 Hair + makeup team arrives 
    • 7:00 Hair + makeup begins
      • Bride hair start:
      • Bride makeup start: 
    • 8:30 Florals dropped off at bride’s getting ready location 
      • Ushers to take flowers to groom/groomsmen
    • 9:00 Groom/groomsmen to “getting ready location”
    • 9:00 Videographers arrive at getting ready location #1
    • 9:00 Florals dropped off at reception venue
    • 10:00 Videographer #2 to getting ready location #2
    • 10:00 Florals to church
    • 10:00 Bride/groom filmed reading letters to each other 
    • 10:45 Bridesmaids, mother of bride, mother of groom are dressed
    • 11:00 Bride puts gown on
      • First look with Father of the Bride
      • First look with bridesmaids 
    • 10:30 Groom/groomsmen are dressed; limo arrives 
    • 10:45 Groom/groomsmen/ushers leave for photos
    • 11:00 Photographer arrives at bride’s parents’ house
    • 11:30 FIRST LOOK with photographer + videographer
    • 11:30-12:15 Group/bride + groom photos 
    • 12:15 Lunch provided for wedding party
    • 12:15 Photographer + videographer to church
    • 12:45 Wedding party to church
    • 1:15 Photos with grandparents in church 
    • 1:30 String quartet + vocalist arrive at church
    • 1:30 Family/friends arrive to hand out programs
    • 2:45 Trolley arrives at church
    • 2:45 Reverse receiving line inside church (bride + groom “dismiss” pews)
    • 3:00 Exit from church
      • Ribbon wands distributed by personal attendants
    • 3:15-4:30 Trolley + photos + video in downtown Madison
    • 3:30 DJ arrives at reception venue
    • 4:15-4:30 Photographer + videographer arrive at reception venue
    • 4:50 Wedding party arrives at reception venue
    • 5:00-5:25 Family photos at reception venue
      • DJ to announce 
    • 5:15 Guests seat for dinner
    • 5:30 Wedding party entrance/introductions
    • 5:45: Father of the Bride welcome speech and toast
    • 5:50 Blessing 
    • 6:00 Dinner is served
      • Bride and groom trivia game during dinner 
    • 6:45 Maid of honor, best man, groom speeches
    • 6:55 Cake cutting, DJ to announce cupcakes
    • 7:30 First dance, mother/groom dance, father/bride dance
    • 8:10 Sunset photos (Decided with photographer based on sunset time for that day!)
    • 10:00 Late night snacks served
    • 11:45 Last call 

Speak with all vendors in advance so they are aware of your timeline and where they need to be! I shared the in depth timeline with the entire wedding party and our parents. I found that color coding my vendors and creating bold fonts for important times of the day helped me to visualize everything in clearer detail! 


Vendor Reviews

One of the most exciting parts of planning a wedding is researching your vendors for the day. I loved this aspect of networking with different professionals in the area to create a memorable wedding day. My biggest piece of advice when working with wedding vendors: be courteous and let them do their work! I’m totally guilty of wanting everything to be planned and executed just so. You hired your vendors for a reason; let them do what they do best and shine through their work. They may ask you for suggestions and ideas; absolutely contribute! Help them make your day as personalized as possible. Beyond that, don’t be a bossy bride (or groom)!


  • We had our ceremony at my childhood church, St. Maria Goretti in Madison, WI. It was such a cool experience to get married in a place I grew up attending services. Our celebrant, Fr. Mike, had been at SMG ever since we started going there as a family when I was kindergarten-age. It made our ceremony such a personalized experience.


  • We had our reception at Blackhawk Country Club in Madison, WI. This golf club is just outside of downtown Madison and overlooks one of the two lakes in the area. Besides a stunning view, they offer a fabulous patio area for happy hour, an elegant bar, space to seat 200+ guests, and a talented chef to cater the night. Having a chef onsite really made our food experience quite easy. Blackhawk offered us an incredibly wide variety of appetizers, main dishes, sides, salads, and dessert options. Even our beautiful cake was made onsite! No need to hire a caterer with this venue! After deciding to have our wedding reception at Blackhawk, we were assigned a wedding planner through the venue. She was wonderful, ensuring organizational flow through the night, communication with vendors that needed to be at the reception venue, set-up and tear-down of tables/ chairs/decorations, and above all, communication with us throughout the process. We are exceptionally pleased with all interaction with Blackhawk through the planning process and on the night of our wedding. I highly recommend them if you are looking for a stunning venue without the cost of being downtown. When you already have so many other decisions to make, choose a venue that already provides a food option. It will save some of your sanity!


  • If you are going to spend money on a wedding, splurge on a photographer. A talented wedding photographer can make your day so much more memorable, ensuring you have beautiful photos to look back on after your special day. Wedding photography is not an area to cut corners, trust me! After searching throughout the southern Wisconsin area, we stumbled upon Laurelyn Savannah Photography, and boy I’m glad we did! Laurelyn is not only wonderfully personable and sweet, she is incredibly talented. Her photos are elegant, fresh, and timeless. . She doesn’t just capture a moment, she captures a feeling, and that is something that takes incredible practice and patience. We loved working with Laurelyn. She is communicative, punctual, and delivers what she promises. She sticks to the timeline she provides to you and answers any questions that may pop up through the process. She even offered an open line of communication for any questions I generally had about planning a wedding. She’s not pushy; she doesn’t try to get you to upgrade your package or make you feel uncomfortable about spending your money on her services. Even though we now live across the country from her, I genuinely hope we can use her in the future for pictures of us and our family. 


  • Similarly to photography, videography is an area you don’t want to fall short. I know many people who are on the fence about hiring a wedding videographer and I have some advice for you: just do it. You won’t regret it! There’s something so magical about seeing yourself and your husband living through the most wonderful day of your lives. With that being said, don’t skimp! Hiring a quality, talented, and artistic videographer is essential! Dan West Films surpasses all expectations. I remember showing my mom his website shortly after booking him for our wedding. She called me and said “I’m crying at all these beautiful wedding videos and I don’t even know who these people are!”. This was precisely the reaction I had hoped she would have! Mirroring clips of your day with music and brilliant editing helps you to relive your day over and over again. Dan may not look like he’s been around too long, and it’s true.  After seeing the video he made for my two good friends many years ago, I KNEW he would be our wedding videographer. Dan works with another videographer and a drone to capture special moments throughout your day. He is genuine, thoughtful, and his final products are masterful. Though he is based out of Minnesota, we paid a small travel fee for him to be at our day in Wisconsin and it was 100% worth it. See the “preview” to our wedding video *HERE*!


  • When in doubt, make them fresh! Yes, fresh flowers cost more than fake, but they are so much classier. Don’t want to spend a ridiculous amount on your fresh blooms? Find a florist that listens to your concerns and works with you to create your dream bouquets and centerpieces. Donna, from Garden Laurels by Sager, was a dream to work with on our wedding florals. She invited us over to her beautiful home in the country to discuss our ideas for all the floral pieces. Since we had a pretty strict budget when it came to fresh blooms, we were able to find compromise by adding more greenery to our decor and fewer flowers while still maintaining our fresh, elegant, and timeless feel. I showed her pictures for all of my ideas and she was able to perfectly translate that into real life. If you’re thinking “oh my gosh, Sarah, there’s NO way we can afford fresh flowers”, just give it some thought. We are immensely grateful we decided to incorporate fresh flowers into our day. They were stunning and we couldn’t have been happier with Donna’s vision come to life! 

String Quartet/Vocalist

  • We were lucky to find such talented instrumentalists and a vocalist for our wedding ceremony. We opted to have a string quartet at our wedding and it added greatly to the overall romantic feel of the day. Lucia String Quartet was the perfect addition to our day. Our vocalist, Meg Aspinwall, was exceptional. Her voice is beautifully pure. I highly recommend both, as they are extremely talented.


  • When deciding between a DJ and a band,  envision your dance floor. We wanted people up dancing all night, to a variety of songs from a wide variety of genres! Since we really wanted all ages up and grooving, we decided to opt for a DJ over a band. Not that a band is a bad idea. We’ve been to some really fun weddings with bands. It just wasn’t the vibe we wanted for our dance floor. Jukebox Bandstand was well organized and easy to work with throughout the planning process. Our plans for the day and timeline changed a few times and they were accommodating throughout all our changes. We included uplighting in our package, which created a beautiful ambiance in our reception venue. They truly go above and beyond to make sure your event is personalized and fun!

Hair and Makeup

  • While there are many qualified salons in the Madison area that provide exceptional wedding hair and makeup, I could only find one that would travel to the location we were getting ready. Be Inspired Salon and Spa has a fully functioning brick and mortar location on the westside of Madison and a highly talented wedding team that will do hair and makeup at their storefront or wherever you are getting ready for your day! To cut back on transportation time and costs, I knew it would be especially important to book services that could travel to us. After looking through their portfolios, I requested Jena and was so happy I did! She listened intently to what I wanted and how I wanted to look. She was able to create a hairstyle and apply makeup in just the way I had hoped. Be Inspired has multiple bridal packages and a la carte items to choose from to accommodate all beauty desires and budgets. I highly encourage you to book a trial appointment! It would be devastating to realize you are unhappy with hair and/or makeup on your big day. To create a cohesive look, we provided hair and makeup for all the bridesmaids. While some opted out of some services, we were still able to make sure all my girls felt beautiful. On the day of the wedding, they mobilized all their styling and makeup equipment to my parents’ kitchen. We were able to leisurely hang out and enjoy breakfast/mimosas while getting ready together. 


  • There are many options for wedding transportation these days. From party busses to limousines, the options are endless. To add a bit of charm to our transportation we opted to do a trolley. We used Jones Travel, which provides services in Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison. Trolleys are aesthetically fun! They offer an old time ambiance to the day. Seating is a bit tricky. The rows are organized into small benches that can seat two people. There isn’t a space to get up and dance around, if that’s your thing. We were able to bring a cooler of canned beverages aboard to pass around. The only downfall of this service was that our bus driver knew little about the area. One of the ushers had to sit near the head of the bus to give directions, which was a bit annoying. Despite that, we had a great time! Whether you are doing a trolley, bus, or limousine, bring your own aux cord! The last thing you want is a silent party bus. 



  • Dress: I cannot say enough good things about my wedding dress shopping experience. White Dress Boutique in Milwaukee, WI is a complete dream. The entire experience is incredibly personalized. I felt like the consultant really listened to all of my requirements. She wasn’t pushy and didn’t allow me to try any dresses outside of my budget. The salon is gorgeous. Located near the Historic Third Ward in a beautiful brick building, this bridal shop has a classy rustic chic appearance. The inside of the salon is open and airy, decorated with sparkling crystal chandeliers. White Dress was the first and only bridal salon I visited. I brought my mom and my maid of honor, who provided the perfect critiques and encouragement. A smaller audience allowed me to really enjoy the day. 
  • Shoes: I wore these shoes from Badgley Mischka. I cannot stress enough the importance of wearing your shoes frequently before the big day. I didn’t wear these enough and I was left with horrible blisters on my heels. I had planned to change into a pair of sparkly Kate Spade tennies at the reception and was forced to forgo shoes altogether. The shoes were beautiful in person and loved the way they looked on my feet. 
  • Veil: When it comes to veils, there’s one designer who is simply the best. Sara Gabriel veils are nothing short of stunning. These veils are made with love and it truly shows. I opted for an elegant, ethereal veil. While still simple, it provided the perfect finishing touch to my dress. 

Bridesmaid Dresses

  • Since more of my bridesmaids resided outside of our wedding state than in it, I wanted to make sure there was an easy and convenient option for them to purchase a bridesmaid dress. Additionally, it needed to be affordable! Weddington Way provided this option for my bridesmaids. Unfortunately Weddington Way is no longer in business. There are many online bridesmaids dress services that are equally nice, Azazie and Kennedy Blue offer similar experiences, ensuring your bridesmaids can order with ease. There’s no need to try and organize your bridesmaids to try on dresses. Choose one of these vendors and you’ll be thankful you did!


Men’s Attire 

  • If you want easy and painless suit options for the groom and groomsmen (who doesn’t?), look no further than Men’s Wearhouse! We outfitted the groom, groomsmen, ushers, and father of the bride/groom in high quality matching suits and shoes. The fitting process was extremely simple. With locations throughout the country, all the men were able to go in, get fitted, and order their suit within 20-30 minutes. The suits came in a few days before the wedding. They fit all the men very well and everyone was extremely happy with the process. Especially if you have wedding party members located in different states, this rental option was convenient for everyone. 

Paper Products 

  • We ordered our Save the Dates and formal Wedding Invitations from Minted. There are endless options and design styles, suiting every wedding theme and color combination. We were able to upload our engagement photos to different designs to create beautifully unique options. We were also able to import our guest list with addresses to have them pre-printed on the envelopes. This step saved us so much time! Our ceremony programs, thank you table cards, and place cards were printed off of Etsy. There are so many wedding shops in Etsy that sell paper designs. You pay for the design, personalize it, then print it on your own time. While this step definitely saved us some money, it was stressful to ensure all the alignments were equally balanced and that everything printed correctly! We had some minor difficulties with our programs and had to take the design to a printing store for extra assistance. 


  • One of the smartest ways to save money on your big day is utilizing rental companies. These companies specialize in renting decor for special events. Rent anything from dinnerware and silverware, candelabras, centerpieces, table linens, and chairs. We chose to rent through Event Essentials. They were wonderful! Not only were they efficient and thorough, they were professional. They were highly recommended by our venue, which made our decision to use them even easier. 


Alright, brides! There you have it!  I hope you have found some part of this insightful in your wedding planning journey. It’s a huge undertaking to plan and coordinate a wedding day. Never lose sight of the real reason for the day. One of the biggest pieces of advice I received was to not sweat the small stuff. If something goes wrong, you will probably be the only person who truly knows it. Go with it, roll with the punches, and ENJOY your day! It’s truly a once in a lifetime journey. 


XOXO, Sarah 


Venue: Blackhawk Country Club

Photography: Laurelyn Savannah Photography

Videography: Dan West Films

Wedding Dress: White Dress Bridal Boutique

Veil: Sara Gabriel

Floral: Garden Laurels by Sager

Hair and Makeup: Be Inspired Salon and  Spa

Men’s Wear: Men’s Wearhouse

Rental Company: Event Essentials

Paper: Minted

Miscellaneous: Etsy

DJ: Jukebox Bandstand

Transportation (Trolley): Jones Travel

Ceremony music: Lucia String Quartet

Ceremony vocalist: Meg Aspinwall

Engagement and Wedding Jewelry: Craig Husar Fine Diamonds & Jewelry Design

Healthy and Happy Hair Routine (Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Safe!)

Developing a consistent hair routine that was not only good for my hair but good for my entire body took some time. Through lots of trial and error I was finally able to find products that work well with my hair. Clean and nontoxic hair care is tricky! There are a lot of formulas that weigh your hair down and, because many lack sulfates, don’t make your hair “feel” clean after shampooing. I was very fortunate to find a hair stylist in Seattle who pointed me in the right direction when it came to products safe for pregnancy and postpartum (thank you Sarah Kahn Hair!). With that being said, what works for my hair may not work for yours. And, whether you choose to use products that are marketed as “clean” or “nontoxic” or not, finding a consistent hair care routine can make your locks luscious. I love these products so much that I will continue to use them past the postpartum stages in my life.

I normally wash my hair 2-3x per week depending on my level of activity (aka how many times I ride the Peloton). Once a week I will use a nourishing mask to make sure my hair is given the moisture it needs, especially the winter. I only heat style my hair a couple times per month, which helps to prevent damage and dehydration.

I definitely experienced the dreaded postpartum hair loss. It was so alarming! I didn’t notice a particular area more affected than another; I lost hair all over my head. The regrowth has been gradual and I have lots of “whispies”, especially near my part, so I look like I constantly have frizzy hair. I didn’t change my routine during my hair loss, instead I tried to make sure I was nourishing my body with protein and healthy fats. Since postpartum hair loss is due to hormones, and hormones are suuuper whacky in the postpartum period, I chose to focus on giving my body the support it needed to equilibrate. I knew the hair would regrow eventually!

Normal Wash Routine

Shampoo: Rahua Voluminous Shampoo

*I love that this cleaner shampoo actually gets sudsy! It cleans super well and removes buildup without stripping your hair.

Conditioner: Rahua Hydration Conditioner

* This conditioner smells divine! It’s tropical and beachy without the expected (and dreaded) coconut smell- light and bright!

I especially love Rahua shampoos and conditioners because refills are sustainable! You can order pouches of shampoo and/or conditioner that don’t produce more plastic waste.

Hair Mask Routine

Shampoo: Davines Solu Shampoo

* I use this shampoo specifically before using any hair mask because it meticulously removes any buildup.

Mask 1: Davines Nourishing Vegetarian Miracle Mask

*While I have never used any Olaplex products, the word on the street is that this stuff is wayyy better.

Mask 2: Christophe Robin Shade Variation Mask- Baby Blonde

*I use this mask once a month to keep my blonde from looking too brassy

Leave- in conditioner: Rahua Leave in Treatment-Light

Leave-In Treatment Light

*A great way to add a little extra nourishment after doing a mask treatment


Hair Serum: Reverie Milk Anti-Frizz Leave-In Nourishing Treatment

*This makes my hair SO soft. I love the refined herbal scent. It’s full of nourishing oils that keep my hair feeling healthy and strong

Heat protectant: Davines Melu Hair Shield

MELU Hair Shield Heat protecting shield for long or damaged hair 250 ml / 8,45 fl.oz.  Davines

Hairspray: I’m currently using a Davines hairspray that is no longer in production (boo- its a really good one). I think this Davines Medium Hold hairspray would substitute well!

I never used to put much thought into what I was using on my hair. And I never understood how using the right products could make a huge difference in overall hair health! I love knowing that the products I’m using keep my hair healthy and happy.

What hair products are you loving?

Until next time!

XOXO, Sarah

Leo is (almost) ONE! His Birth Story

As many parents can attest, TIME FLIES BY! I am in utter shock at how quickly the last year went by for us. Sure, there were times when it felt like time stood still (particularly in the middle of the night), but for the most part everything felt like it was on fast forward. I think I finally understand the phrase “time is a thief”. As of Saturday February 5, we will be parents to a curious, preceptive, adventurous, sweet, giggly, zooming, babbling one year old!

Honestly, I didn’t know if I would write a birth story until today (Tuesday February 1). Leo’s birth story is still a little emotionally traumatic for me. But one of the ways I cope and heal is by sharing my experiences with other people.

As many of you know, Leo’s dramatic entrance into the world was a bit chaotic. I went into preterm labor at 31 weeks. I went to work on Tuesday February 2, 2021 like any other day, but I felt a bit off. I was exceptionally fatigued and I was having frequent Braxton Hicks contractions (for those who aren’t familiar with the term, BH contractions are basically “practice” contractions, but they can increase in frequency as labor/delivery gets closer). I got a gut feeling that something wasn’t quite right. If you are a mom (or a nurse!) you know what that gut feeling feels like… like something is a bit off, but you can’t put your finger on it. I was in the process of looking up my patient for the first procedure of the day. I texted Zach, mentioning that I didn’t feel right and we decided I should call the triage nurse.

Within an hour I was leaving work (sorry, guys-it was a really busy day) to check into triage. I called Zach on my way home to see if he wanted to join me. Thank GOD he came along. In triage they performed an ultrasound, did some blood testing, and hooked me up to fetal monitors. Everything seemed completely normal. The nurse was waiting for one more blood test, fetal fibronectin, to result before discharging us. He even said the results of this test are relatively vague. If it’s negative, there’s a very small chance of going into labor over the next few weeks. But if it’s positive, I *could potentially* go into labor somewhat soon. See what I mean? Very vague. Of course, just as we were about to be discharged, it came back positive. He called the attending OBGYN and she came down to assess me. She did a cervical check, looked at me, and said, “you are not leaving this hospital until you have a baby”. Preterm labor had started.

I was admitted to the L&D unit and was given a series of medications to stop labor and steroids to help Leo’s lungs developed. The main goal was to get 2 doses of the steroids in before he was delivered so his lungs could *hopefully* function normally. I was given a high dose of magnesium through my IV that then ran consistently for the next two days. It made me feel like I was drunk and loopy; my eyes couldn’t focus on anything. I was connected to constant fetal monitoring. We were visited by the NICU staff to prepare us for our baby being in the NICU. Getting up to the bathroom was a chore and I couldn’t do it alone, thanks to the IV that made me feel like I was high and the monitoring equipment. Slowly the signs of preterm labor decreased and the rate of magnesium was titrated down. Eventually it was turned off in the afternoon on Thursday February 4. We were moved to an antepartum room to be monitored. Home away from home until Baby Scherschel arrived.

That night we ordered Chipotle for dinner. We felt confident and hopeful we would make it another few days to 32 weeks gestation. We went to bed around 9 PM; I was finally starting to feel normal again. Around 9:30/10PM I started getting what I thought were terrible gas pains from the Chipotle. I kept trying to reposition myself to get comfortable. I asked the nurse to get me some simethicone to help with the discomfort. By the time she came back with the medication, I was in labor. I knew it, she knew it, and Zach had figured it out pretty quickly. Zach ran around the room to collect our things while she held my hand and called the L&D staff. Within minutes I was being wheeled back down the hallway to the L&D unit. Once again, I was given magnesium, but not for my sake this time. It was to help prevent injury to Leo’s brain since he would officially be considered “premature”. As the contractions worsened, anesthesia arrived to place an epidural. While other nurses were setting up the room, the NICU team arrived with an incubator. Time stopped and rushed past me at the same time. Before I knew it, it was time to push. Leo came rushing into the world at 1:38 AM on February 5. As terrible as it sounds, I dreaded the moment he would be born the entire time I was pushing. “Please let him be breathing; please let him be breathing”. I sobbed when he came out screaming. He was breathing on his own. He had gotten the full dose of steroids just in time. He was whisked away by the NICU staff for immediate assessment. To everyone’s disbelief he did not need any respiratory support. Zach was able to bring him over to me so we could say hello before his transfer down to the NICU.

While I was pushing, the doctor noted that there was a sufficient amount of blood. After delivering the placenta, it was clear I had a 25% placental abruption.

In my first trimester I was diagnosed with a subchorionic hematoma. Essentially it’s a small area of bleeding in between the uterus and the placenta. Most of the time its origin is unknown; it can happen when the placenta is developing. Although it was monitored during the course of my pregnancy, there wasn’t too much concern. Unfortunately, these small hematomas can develop into large hematomas. And because of the location of my placenta, it was difficult to see that. My small pocket of bleeding developed into a placental abruption, a large area of the placenta pulling away from the uterus causing a significant amount of bleeding. This is why I went into preterm labor. It took me a few months to “forgive myself” and realize that my body did not fail, it thrived and did what it was supposed to do. It gave me warnings to listen to my gut instinct so that I was able to seek care early enough for both of us to get the necessary interventions to protect us and prevent potential issues. If anything, this story is proof of the power of listening to our bodies and following that gut instinct.

Right before I gave birth to Leo, I was interviewed by Health Magazine (you can read the story here) about my decision to get the COVID vaccine while I was pregnant. At the time, there was only preliminary data from the trials to support safety and efficacy. But after looking beyond the initial research and into the overall mechanism of an mRNA vaccine, reviewing basic cell biology, having conversations with multiple people in healthcare professions (doctors, nurses, PAs, NPs), and given the impending and significant threat of COVID for pregnant women, I decided to get vaccinated. I knew the outcomes of having COVID while pregnant were significantly higher than the potential and extremely minor theoretical consequences of getting vaccinated. I had read and re-read the data. I had spent hours reading information on ASRM (American Society for Reproductive Medicine), ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists), and AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics). And, now we know for a FACT (because we have over a year of ample and valid data) that the COVID vaccine is SAFE for women who are pregnant.

I was attacked by some readers of Health Magazine for spreading “false and dangerous” information after Leo was born. They told me I could’ve killed my baby because I got vaccinated. They said I was spreading lies about getting vaccinated and look!-your premature baby is proof that you made the wrong choice. They said they would pray for my soul for hurting my baby. They had no idea that I had been previously diagnosed with a subchorionic hematoma. They had no idea I went into preterm labor for something discovered in my first trimester. Leo’s early birth was NOT because I chose to get vaccinated to protect us both against a lethal disease.

I’m sure a lot of people were suspicious of the timing. I received my second dose of Pfizer only a few weeks before going into preterm labor. It certainly looked like it could’ve been associated with getting vaccinated. But that’s not what the data tells us. That’s not what science tells us. Women are statistically no less likely to go into preterm labor if they choose to get the vaccine while pregnant. They are also statistically no less likely to have any other type of pregnancy complication due to getting the COVID vaccine. Actually, the women who do not get vaccinated while pregnant (or before) and do get COVID are much more likely to have significantly negative pregnancy outcomes, including preterm labor. And now we even have data that shows antibodies (immunity!) transfer to your baby in utero if you get vaccinated while pregnant (the same is true for breastfeeding). Look, this isn’t a post about vaccine safety and efficacy during pregnancy. You should talk to your doctor about your decision to get vaccinated. The data is out there and readily available. I just felt the need to share my two cents regarding my own experience with getting vaccinated and then having (completely unrelated) preterm labor. I’ll attach some resources at the bottom of this post. **

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! While Leo’s story was anything but “normal” in terms of labor and delivery, the past year has been absolutely amazing. Parenthood is hard. There is no doubt about that. But all of the difficult times and hard experiences seem to melt away in the presence of the joy and profound happiness. I’m convinced that the sound of your child laughing can mend any negative thought or feeling. I think it’s important to share birth stories that aren’t necessarily unicorns and rainbows. We are truly lucky that the only deficits Leo needed to overcome in the NICU were size and inability to eat on his own. As you can see, he is now a perfectly happy and healthy little boy.

And now, it’s time to celebrate our little lion, Leo! He has been a fighter with the sweetest soul from the beginning. He just couldn’t wait a minute longer to meet his parents and to start exploring our beautiful world – we are so excited to show it to him. Zach and I are so lucky to be his parents.

Happy First Birthday, Leo!


** Not intended as medical advice. Please speak with your healthcare team about whether vaccination is the right medical decision for you.**

Pregnancy and COVID vaccine resources:

American Society for Reproductive Medicine (click here)

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (click here)

American Academy of Pediatrics (click here)


Preliminary Findings of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine Safety in Pregnant Persons (click here)

Prenatal maternal COVID-19 vaccination and pregnancy outcomes (click here)

Pregnancy and birth outcomes after SARS-COV-2 vaccination in pregnancy (click here)

High antibody levels in cord blood from pregnant women vaccinated against COVID-19 (click here)

Featured image by Meg Newton Photography