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Wedding Venues & Honeymoon Getaways

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He proposed, you said yes, now what?

If eloping is out of the question, you have a lot to do to get ready for your wedding! First things first—you’ll need to create a budget, determine a date, make a guest list, choose your attendants, and select a venue.

Perhaps one of the most important decisions you’ll make will be where you choose to celebrate your wedding. It will help set the tone and play a significant role in many of the other decisions you’ll make. Not only does it need to “speak to you” as a couple, it also needs to accommodate everyone on the guest list without breaking the bank. Keep in mind that—in addition to the charge for the site itself, there are significant catering costs (don’t forget to ask about gratuity and taxes), and sometimes additional fees for bartending services, security, and cake-cutting. Even if the price is right, wait to sign a contract until you’ve scouted out at least one or two other suitable venues. Ask if the entire space is available (and if it’s not, what’s considered off-limits?) Find out what the food tastes like by scheduling a taste-test. Ask about available parking, what their alcohol policy happens to be, what time you can start setting up and what time you have to be out of the rented space, what the restrooms are like (will you have to share them with any other guests?) and if there’s a room for the bridal party to get ready. Pay attention to your gut reaction when working with site coordinators, too. Do they seem helpful, friendly, and willing to accommodate any special needs you may have?

The most popular venues, such as The Saint Paul Hotel, book out a year or more in advance (some wedding dates are booked 18 months in advance at this gorgeous hotel). A local landmark since 1910, the Saint Paul Hotel has a long-standing reputation as the place to hold a social occasion. Guests receive the full white-glove treatment, from the bellman to the concierge.

The hotel’s old-world style speaks for itself, with a classic English garden outside and beautiful architecture inside, as does the location in St. Paul’s charming Rice Park area. Elegant extras such as ceiling drapes, candles, rich ivory linens and beautiful china, glass, silver, and crystal add a sophisticated feel to the space. Brides and grooms wishing to capture the romance of a bygone era love the ambiance of this classic (and classy) hotel.

The renowned Promenade Ballroom is ideal for weddings of up to 300 guests, and the newly remodeled and expanded Hill Room can easily host events up to 150.

The architecturally-magnificent McNamara Alumni Center on the University of Minnesota campus is so beautiful that it really doesn’t require much in the decoration department. With an 85-foot-tall ceiling, six miles of wood-lined interior, built-in stage and terrazzo dance floor, indoor water feature (paying homage to Minnesota’s Land of 10,000 lakes) and huge windows along the geode-like structure, the only thing rivaling the amazing interior is the high level of service.

“The staff gave us the feeling that they cared about our daughter’s wedding as much as we did,” says Carol Turnquist, a former mother-of-the-bride.

Other pluses include a 500-car parking ramp connected to the Alumni Center by a tunnel, state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment (perfect for slideshows), landscaped grounds ideal for photography backgrounds, and the capacity to accommodate up to 350 guests. The Alumni Center hosts up to 60 weddings every year. A list of available dates in 2009 and 2010 are listed on their website.

Guests enjoy a lively Spanish-influenced atmosphere at Solera, located on Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. Contemporary mosaics and floating light sculptures, excellent food (tapas dining is a hit with guests), and a courteous, attentive staff make this restaurant a natural choice for weddings and celebrations.

“We’re a unique facility, with a colorful atmosphere, and that’s what people are looking for now,” says Dale Hanson, catering sales manager.

The patio at Solera can seat up to 125, and the indoor facility can accommodate up to 225.

Another popular venue in the heart of Minneapolis is the Radisson Plaza Minneapolis, Radisson’s flagship hotel. Located in the city’s retail and business district, this charming hotel features smaller, elegant meeting rooms as well as the opulent Scandinavian Ballroom. The upscale Radisson is new, clean, and spacious, with amenities such as an attached parking garage, skyway access to restaurants, boutiques, and department stores, and an amazing restaurant—FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar—serving American bistro-style fare.

When a bride and groom want a destination wedding but don’t want to book a flight to get there, a Lake Superior resort is the perfect venue for an unforgettable wedding.

Described by many as one of the most romantic resorts on the North Shore, Bluefin Bay is in a class of its own. Couples can unwind before their ceremony with a massage in the new wellness center, soak in the only year-round outdoor pool and hot tub on Lake Superior, or relax in a double Jacuzzi as a fire glows in the fireplace and waves crash against the rocky shoreline at Bluefin Bay. The resort is “wedding friendly” in every way, from the newly-remodeled and contemporary Bluefin Grille Restaurant, with split-level dining (perfect for weddings of up to 100 people), a talented chef, and a variety of lodging options ranging from hotel suites to townhomes overlooking the water. According to event coordinator Kim Nelson, many brides and grooms have such a great wedding experience that they return to the resort to celebrate their honeymoon, wedding anniversaries, and eventually introduce their children to the beauty of the area.

Cove Point Lodge in Beaver Bay is a romantic, quiet, and secluded North Shore destination 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 (the views are unbelievable). Wedding season at the lodge is from December through May. Honeymoons are also popular at Cove Point, with year-round packages available.
 

CAPTURING MOMENTS

There’s definitely a trend today toward photojournalism and black and white photography at weddings. Black and white photos convey more emotions and accentuate the essence of the subjects or objects being photographed, while color photographs capture the overall theme and feel of your wedding, like the decorations, the bridal party colors, and your flowers. When it comes to theme weddings, make sure the photographer or videographer understands the vision of your day, says Wedding Guy Matthew Trettel.

Brides and grooms choose Distinctive Images By Jason because of photographer Jason Jorgensen’s experience, playful attitude, and creative talent. He considers it an honor to be part of so many wedding celebrations. He shoots about 30 weddings per year, taking well over 1,500 images.

“I pay attention to details, ensuring everything is in place when doing formals, and focus on fun moments and expressions when doing candids,” Jorgensen comments. “I’ve owned my business for 25 years. With that much experience, I’m comfortable in any situation.”

His advice when looking for potential photographers is to meet them in person. “All too often couples rely on email alone,” he says. “Wedding photography is a personalized service that involves a relationship of trust. That trust begins with how you’re treated. Personality does matter.”

A recent trend at weddings is renting a photo booth where guests line up to have candid shots taken. It’s not only entertaining to guests, it’s a great way to get a collection of fun photos as the night goes on. Brides and grooms often say that the photo booth was the hit of their reception, with the party favors (the photos) serving as a reminder of just how fun the night was.

The Original Traveling Photo Booth Company, a business run by two local guys who met as roommates at the University of Minnesota, offers a Wedding Package including the photo booth, a photo strip guest book, a full-time photo booth attendant, a 60-day web gallery, and 100 personalized thank-you cards.

Party Booths, a worldwide photo booth company with a local connection in Minneapolis, offers reasonable prices, no travel fees (a bonus for out-of-town weddings), on-site assembly, classy-looking photo booths, excellent service, a fun booth operator, and the option of a contemporary-size booth that can accommodate large groups of family and friends—something not available at all photo booth companies.

“You can never have too many pictures of your special day,” says Jeff Halsch, regional director of Party Booths. “When the lights go out, the photo booth will have captured many of the best, most spontaneous shots taken the whole day.”
 

A MEMORABLE MEAL

The reception dinner gives couples the chance to express their palate and the caterer’s expertise and innovation. Classic entrees will always have a place at the dinner table, but many caterers are moving away from the classics and offering dishes that reflect the couple’s heritage or interests. Sometimes the wedding has a theme and the food helps to carry the theme through.

“We’ve performed services from build-your-own pizza to five course plated meals that would be welcome at any five star restaurant,” says Benjamin McCallum, executive chef/co-owner of Three Sons Signature Cuisine, a by-design catering company offering full menu design, event planning, and event execution services throughout the Twin Cities.

Food trends, according to McCallum, include a slight shift away from multi-tiered cakes to mini and specialty desserts or dessert bars. Nontraditional meals and interactive food stations are also popular, adding an element of entertainment for the guests.

Soile Anderson, owner of Deco Catering, believes that serving food should be a unique, artistic experience, especially at a wedding celebration. Couples get that and more at Deco Catering, where the emphasis is on custom-designed menus and high-quality cuisine.

“Our success is built on uncompromising quality, superior service, attention to detail, and a distinctive flair that is individually carried out in everything we do,” says Anderson. “We customize each event to our clients’ specifications and requirements.”
 

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