Weddings & Special Occasions
"Celebrate the happiness that friends are always giving, make every day a holiday and celebrate just living." —Amanda Bradley
Ben Berndt Photography
Courtesy of At Your Service Weddings
(page 1 of 3)
The venue has to be perfect, not to mention the food, the music, the centerpieces, the décor. And what are you going to wear? You’re going to be the center of attention for the day, you want to look stunning. A milestone birthday bash or anniversary party, or—the King of all Celebrations—a wedding, does not magically happen with the wave of a wand (although those who consider themselves planning-challenged might wish it did). Every planning decision you make will help set the tone of your big party, from where you host the event to what invitations you choose. Planning doesn’t have to be a complicated chore. In this section, we’ll try to take some of the stress out of the process by inspiring you with ideas. Soon you’ll realize that it can be fun to showcase your distinct style and personality while preparing for the Party of the Century.
The Perfect Location
Think about the most incredible wedding, birthday, or New Year’s party you’ve been to. Now think about why those events stand out in your mind. Chances are, the venue had a lot to do with it.
Whether planning your wedding in a church, chapel, hotel, mansion, estate, or outdoor venue, Stillwater has the perfect place for your wedding ceremony or reception with 24 different wedding locations to choose from. Do you envision yourself exchanging vows in a gazebo? Stillwater has one. A historic courthouse, stately mansion, elegant inn, or beautiful courtyard? Check, check, check, and check. There are numerous options.
Think about what the wedding venue has to offer and how this setting will help you begin your marriage.
“Stillwater is a great place to hold a wedding, or any special event,” says Chuck Dougherty of the Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce (and owner of the Water Street Inn). “More people have wedding ceremonies and receptions in Stillwater than just about any other place in the Twin Cities.”
Steep bluffs and expansive views of the valley add to the beautiful scenery, as does the St. Croix River, one of the last unspoiled rivers in the country within close proximity of a major metropolitan area. Because of the popularity of the area, Dougherty recommends booking a site far in advance (particularly if you want a Saturday summer wedding), although Fridays and Sundays are wonderful days to celebrate, too, and “you may even get a better deal,” he says.
Brides and grooms wishing to capture the romance of a bygone era find the perfect fit at the Gale Mansion in Minneapolis. The beautiful facilities are a perfect background for a sophisticated but unique event. The mansion can accommodate up to 240 guests for a seated dinner or 275 guests for a mingling reception. The 1912 mansion features a sweeping staircase, wood-paneled library, and a talented chef who supports local farmers and artisan products.
Another unique venue option is FIVE Event Center, formerly the Fifth Precinct in Minneapolis, built in 1895 and brought to its contemporary splendor—with a mix of warm purples and textures—in 2005. There is a sort of Sex in the City vibe to the space—trendy yet contemporary. The facility can accommodate up to 200 guests for a plated dinner, or up to 350 for a more informal cocktail and hors d’oeuvres reception.
“We’re a relatively new venue, so we’re not booked two years out like some of the others,” says Jennifer Arnold, event manager. “This gives us an advantage, because we are able to book many clients who are planning events in just three to six months.”
FIVE is also one of the few venues in the Twin Cities to welcome any St. Paul or Minneapolis-licensed caterer, meaning there are no food minimums for couples.
Celebrate with up to 250 of your closest friends and relatives either indoors or outdoors at the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory. Wedding options include a ceremony inside the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory (in the breathtaking Sunken Garden or North Garden) or outside in the Japanese Garden, complete with a waterfall and reflecting pool, or The Excedra, located next to the Enchanted Garden. Como also offers a variety of options to host your reception at the dramatic 65,000-square-foot Visitor Center, with accommodations for groups of 30 to 500.
Brides whose hearts are set on holding their receptions at the architecturally-stunning McNamara Alumni Center will soon have another space to choose from in the fall of 2010. The sought-after University of Minnesota venue, known for its memorable architecture and organic décor, is expanding with a new addition, its first since opening in 2000.
“Soon our brides may select from two beautiful reception spaces,” says Amy Leyden, marketing manager. By next fall, tandem receptions can be held in Memorial Hall with its soaring 90-foot ceiling, built-in terrazzo dance floor and water feature, and in a new room (yet to be named), which will boast McNamara-signature copper-and-wood walls and plenty of natural light.
While Memorial Hall accommodates up to 350 wedding guests, the new 4,500-square-foot expansion will be ideal for smaller wedding receptions from 100 to 150 guests. This second, distinct event zone will feature room for a ceremony, reception and seated dining and dancing. Reservations are now being accepted for the fall 2010 space, as well as at the McNamara Alumni Center.
For a wedding that doubles as a weekend experience, couples are flocking out of town to tie the knot. Destination weddings in Minnesota appeal to outdoorsy people who prefer an option that’s not too fancy or formal. The scenery is beautiful on its own without spending more on decor, and the weekend becomes a mini vacation for family and friends.
At Bluefin Bay, a seaside resort on Lake Superior (80 miles north of Duluth), the staff really knows how to roll out the red carpet and welcome wedding parties. Resorts & Lodges.com recently named Bluefin the No. 1 Wedding Resort in the “Top 10 Minnesota Wedding Resorts List.” The article states, “Bluefin’s private Tofte Cove is the romantic backdrop to commemorate your already romantic occasion. Exchange vows and your first kiss as husband and wife on this secluded cobblestone beach. The fun doesn’t just happen at the wedding and reception either! Take a wedding party sea kayaking lesson on Lake Superior in double or single kayaks or hike to Oberg Mountain and breathe in the refreshing scent of spruce and cedar trees. Or, perhaps you prefer to snuggle up in your suite with a private fireplace, whirlpool tub and lake views.”
Not only are the views fantastic at Cove Point Lodge in Beaver Bay, the lodge is also romantic, quiet, and secluded—providing all the right ingredients for a small, intimate wedding.
Some couples are married in front of the Great Hall fireplace; others choose to get married outside on the lakeside lawn, on the point, or at Split Rock Lighthouse. Wedding season at the lodge is from December through May, and honeymoons are popular year-round.
Whether you are hosting 25 or 400 people for your wedding reception, Arrowwood Resort—on the shore of Lake Darling in Alexandria—is another get-away-from-it-all resort setting, a short distance from the hassle of big city traffic and distractions. The friendly, helpful staff can create a menu of your choice centered on a specific theme (Hawaiian Luau?), or you can choose from wedding packages or special wedding menus. Host your rehearsal dinner at the resort, take your bridal party on a pontoon cruise or hayride, indulge your bridesmaids at the Darling Reflections Spa, or play a round at the Atikwa Golf Course before the big event.
Guests love that they’re part of a weekend celebration when invited to a wedding at The Lodge at Brainerd Lakes, with seating for up to 330. The couple is treated to a complimentary guest room the night of their reception, just one of many perks. Other benefits of the venue include made-from-scratch catering menus, on-site AV (and AV support), the ambiance of a beautiful lodge-style ballroom featuring two large stone fireplaces and a fire pit outside on the patio area, and competent wedding coordinators who will meet with the couple throughout the process. The 102-room lodge opened in 2005 and features the indoor Paul Bunyan Waterpark, Gold Mine Arcade, and The Lodge Grille and Bar.
Couples and their wedding guests will soon discover that The Lodge on Lake Detroit is not your typical lodge—it’s a luxurious, yet affordable, lakefront lifestyle hotel. The lodge features 55 lakefront rooms with an emphasis on eco-friendly initiatives and upscale in-room amenities. A two-story lakefront lobby features a grand piano, stone fireplace, lobby bar and balcony (complete with ‘sunset serenades’), the Renewal Spa Suites offer aromatherapy whirlpool tubs and fireplaces, and guests can unwind with spa services at The Spa Within. The meeting room can accommodate up to 80 people for a sit-down reception.
“In the summer, the green space between the hotel and the private sandy beach is a favorite place for outdoor weddings,” says co-owner Chris Holland-Mehlaff. Guests receive a two-for-one experience: a gorgeous wedding in a gorgeous lodge plus access to boat slips, firepits, picnic tables, kayaks and paddleboats, and beautiful rain gardens.