Finding a Spot to Tie the Knot

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Photo by Coppersmith Photography

He knows (and loves) your quirks. You consider his family yours. You envision growing old together.

And now, after a memorable engagement, you’re on your way to getting married.

Nearly as soon as you share the exciting news, you’re bombarded with questions: When is the wedding? Where? Who will be standing up for you? What colors do you like? Is there going to be a theme? Do you have a planner, a florist, a band, a DJ, a photographer, a videographer, because I know a great one! It’s enough to make a couple want to elope.

The first task to cross off your “to do” list is securing a ceremony and reception site.

Popular venues can book over a year out, and lodges, resorts, and hotels have a tendency to fill up quickly during peak wedding season. While looking for a venue, visit different sites. What’s your gut reaction? Is the entire space available? If not, what’s off-limits? What does the food taste like? What’s the parking situation? Does the staff seem polite and helpful?

A dedication to customer service drives everything the staff does at the Saint Paul Hotel, where wedding parties and guests are treated like royalty. The hotel, a local landmark since 1910, consistently ranks among the top in the country.

The charming history of the hotel, combined with their reputation for unsurpassed service, “gives couples a level of trust with us,” says Terrie Bulanek, director of catering.

Over 100 weddings are hosted at the hotel on an annual basis, a testament of the hotel’s popularity. (Another testament to their popularity is the fact that weddings book out as far as 18 months in advance.)

Elegant extras such as ceiling drapes, candles, rich ivory linens and beautiful china, glass, silver, and crystal add a sophisticated feel to the space. It’s not difficult imagining presidents Herbert Hoover or Woodrow Wilson strolling through the lovely English garden outside. The Saint Paul Hotel’s 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.

Guests at an Embassy Suites Minneapolis — Airport wedding celebrate in a Caribbean setting, complete with lush tropical vegetation, palm trees, flowing waterfalls and a ten-story garden atrium flooded in natural sunlight.

“Guests forget they’re even indoors,” says Erika LaDousa, director of catering.

Embassy Suites Bloomington features romantic European style courtyard, complete with Spanish-tiled walkways, a beautiful Italian marble fountain, and old-fashioned lampposts. A garden atrium, waterfalls, and ponds (complete with a family of ducks) greet guests at Embassy Suites St. Paul. Reception space at the Bloomington location can accommodate up to 420 guests, and up to 200 can celebrate at the St. Paul locale.

The three venues offer all-inclusive wedding packages to help eliminate planning stress for brides and grooms.

Arched entryways, 60,000-square-feet of floor-to-ceiling windows, exposed wood beams, sprawling vaulted ceilings, and views of rolling hills on an adjoining golf course make for an unforgettable reception at the Golden Valley Golf and Country Club. The upscale venue–a private club with public meeting and event space–goes one step beyond many other banquet facilities by offering some of the most memorable catering around, says Ron Nelson, director of catering sales.

“Guests always comment on the food,” he says, adding that “the sky’s the limit” when it comes to creating customized menus.

The Marsh, located in Minnetonka, is another hidden gem within the metro area.

“Not many people are aware that we host weddings or that we’re open to the public,” says Betsy Ellwanger, conference and catering director.

Brides and grooms who do find their way to The Marsh are pleased with the unique location, charming decor, superb dining (the award-winning chef utilizes locally grown and organic ingredients), and superior service. There is indoor and outdoor ceremony and reception space, overnight guest rooms, a full-service spa, a designer boutique, and childcare available. The Marsh has hosted weddings as large as 250 and as small as 18 guests.

The beauty of scenic Red Wing, combined with the charm of the St. James Hotel, adds up to a memorable wedding in southern Minnesota.

Built in 1875, this beautiful hotel possesses a sense of timeless elegance. The Summit Room highlights panoramic views of the Mississippi River, and the historic Victorian Dining Room features tall, tin-coffered ceilings and crystal chandeliers. The culinary staff will honor special wine and menu requests.

It’s all about the experience at Treasure Island Resort and Casino in Red Wing. Whether celebrating in a tropical banquet room, outside on the grassy lawn, or afloat on the 150-passenger “Spirit of the St. Croix†two-story cruise liner, the atmosphere at Treasure Island is unique. Inside the 250-room luxury hotel’s entry, there’s a waterfall, rock pool, and a pair of large tropical fish aquariums to set a tropical tone. The restaurant area resembles a Caribbean village, and the hotel rooms are Caribbean-themed.

Photo by Coppersmith Photography

Minnesotans love the tropics almost as much as they love the water, and what better place to exchange vows than on a boat? Cruises aboard Afton-Hudson Cruise Lines, located in the quaint town of Afton on the beautiful St. Croix River, are available from April through October. After celebrating on the river, many couples stay overnight at the Historic Afton House Inn. The inn offers 25 suites, most with Jacuzzis and fireplaces.

“It makes it easy to have everything in one location, especially for out-of-town guests,” says Kathy Jarvis, owner.

Another “venue with a view†is the BayView Event Center, featuring charter cruises, an outdoor patio, and a two-level event center on Lake Minnetonka. The Minnetonka Ballroom is a slice of lakeside rustic featuring a 24-foot timber cathedral ceiling, 20-foot-tall natural stone fireplace, and panoramic views overlooking BayView’s lakeside gardens and Excelsior Bay. The ballroom can accommodate 300 guests for a plated meal and 450 guests for a stand-up reception.

The Lower Lake Room is another option at BayView, accommodating 120 guests seated or 175 for a stand-up reception. Features include floor-to-ceiling windows and French doors that open onto a lakeside patio and gardens.

A prime location on Big Detroit Lake is only part of the reason couples seek out small wedding celebrations at the Lodge on Lake Detroit, a smoke-free lakefront lifestyle hotel and spa. Other reasons include a banquet room accommodating up to 100 guests, The Spa Within (great for pre-wedding pampering), a fireplace lobby with a full-service bar, grand piano sunset serenades, a sandy beach and swim area, complimentary kayaks and paddleboats, wonderful guest rooms with upscale amenities, family suites with furnished kitchens and connecting rooms, and a romantic Renewal Spa Suite, complete with an aromatherapy whirlpool and fireplace, for the newlyweds.

“We offer affordable luxury,” says Chris Holland-Mehlhaff, co-owner. “Our team members are empowered and actively involved in doing everything they can to help our guests have a positive experience at our hotel and spa. Our company motto is: Service isn’t a big thing, it’s a million little things.”

For a fun wedding that allows guests to get in touch with their “inner Minnesotans,” many couples are choosing to get hitched on the North Shore. The sparkling blue waters of Lake Superior, breathtaking scenery, historic river towns, and old-fashioned hospitality create remarkable weddings in the Duluth area, Lutsen area, and Bayfield, Wisconsin.

Located 15 miles northeast of Duluth, along the Lake Superior shore, Nokomis Restaurant and Bar offers fine dining, exceptional lakeside views, and warm, modern, Scandinavian-Asian fused decor. The restaurant can accommodate weddings and rehearsal dinners of up to 150 guests.

Sean Lewis, co-owner and experienced executive chef of the Nokomis, works directly with couples to determine the details of the menu and facility. A seasonal menu includes mouth-watering items like butternut squash veal, chocolate souffle, chicken gnocchi, polenta, salmon galette, grilled tuna steak, filet of beef, lobster strudel, and Lake Superior whitefish cakes. A wine list includes over 120 fine wines from around the world.

“Brides and grooms like our attention to detail, attentive service, quality of food, and the stunningly beautiful setting,” says Rondi Erickson, co-owner.

Couples wanting to minimize expense and stress while enjoying a celebration with close friends and family might want to consider a wedding at Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior. A beautiful and historic Scandinavian-style lodge provides the perfect mix of casual comfort and rustic elegance for weddings that remain etched upon guests’ memories for years to come. The Lake Superior setting is a big draw for couples wanting to get married on the beach or for those choosing to get hitched out on the lawn near beautiful flower gardens.

On-site wedding planners help make the day as stress-free as possible, and guests like that they are part of a weekend celebration.

“It’s like a mini vacation for everyone invited,” says Tina Connor, director of group sales. “Even the younger kids always have something to do. We offer activities like pizza and movie night, craft-making, and kayaking with an activities director.”

The resort can accommodate up to 200 for a seated dinner and sleeps up to 730.

At Cove Point Lodge in Beaver Bay, the location on Lake Superior is only part of the resort’s popularity. The lodge is romantic, quiet, and secluded–ideal for a small 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. Honeymoons are also popular at Cove Point Lodge, with packages available throughout the year.

Dream weddings are regularly held at Bluefin Bay in Tofte, a seaside resort on Lake Superior, 80 miles north of Duluth. Described by many as one of the most romantic resorts on the North Shore, Bluefin Bay is in a class of its own.

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 offering a variety of menu possibilities, and a variety of lodging options ranging from hotel suites to townhomes overlooking the water.

Couples can unwind before the 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. In addition to being a popular wedding destination, Bluefin Bay holds a special place in many honeymooners’ hearts.

Within a four-hour drive of the metro area, Bayfield, Wisconsin is the “perfect setting for the perfect wedding,†says Cari Obst, executive director of the Bayfield Chamber of Commerce. “Only in Bayfield can wedding parties experience the spectacular vistas and romantic experiences of the big lake and the glimmering Apostle Islands.”

A quaint harbor town on Lake Superior, Bayfield is the gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, encompassing 21 islands and 12 miles of coast on the mainland. Guests can get married on one of the islands, on a chartered sailboat, in a field of flowers, in a beautiful barn, on the shoreline, or in the Bayfield Lakeside Pavilion. There are over 80 lodging properties for every taste and budget, five-star restaurants and caterers, experienced wedding planners, florists, musicians, and photographers available, and “a tourist community that really knows how to put out the red carpet,” Obst says.

CREATING AN ATMOSPHERE

Faced with questions of “What do I do? Where do I start?” or “How am I ever going to get everything done?” a baffled or panicked couple can find great solace in hiring a wedding coordinator to calm pre-wedding jitters.

Hiring a planner gives couples a chance to sit back, relax and enjoy their engagement and wedding rather than worry about logistics of the day.

A team of creative consultants at Give My Regards To, located in Minneapolis, can help ensure smooth sailing on the wedding day.

“We work with a full list of preferred local wedding vendors to achieve the look and feel the bride and groom desires within their specified budget,†explains Owner/Lead Event Planner Amy Zaroff.

The process of working with a wedding planner consists of going over basic ideas and concepts, outlining a budget, and letting them help as much – or as little – with referring and hiring vendors. On the day of the wedding, a coordinator can help keep the bridal party on track and resolve any potentially problematic scenarios.

Zaroff describes her company as a “one stop shop” that also offers custom invitations –with the option of beautiful hand-made paper and letterpress typography – and unique stationery.

Invitations set the tone of the wedding, and “the whole package needs to be considered,” Zaroff says. How the envelope is addressed, what stamp is used, the texture of the paper, the wording, font, and ink color all matter. A consistent color palette helps brand a celebration and conveys a well thought-out message.

According to Alexis Harsh of Watermark Fine Stationery, deep, saturated cardstock colors are in style for wedding invitations, although white and ecru remain steadfast options for those who don’t want to stray too far from the traditional.

“Paisley patterns, damask, and stripes are all the rave because they are patterns brides can carry to other details of their day,” Harsh says. Another growing request at Watermark, a full-service invitation studio, is green invitations, made with soy-based ink on 100 percent recycled, acid-free paper.

And what does Harsh think about creating invitations through an online service?

The problem with online wedding invitations, Harsh says, is that you’re not guaranteed a high quality product, you don’t have access to someone willing to do the legwork, and you don’t have someone helping with wording and etiquette (tips: it’s tacky to use a mailing label to address your envelopes, print “no children” on the invitation, or tell guests where you’re registered). Other invitation blunders include adding confetti or glitter, underestimating the time it takes to address, stuff and send the invitations (they should be sent six to eight weeks in advance), and ordering too few invitations. A word of advice: Order 25 extras just in case; reordering is expensive.

 

Once the invitations are ordered, it’s time to think about details of the big celebration. Lighting can mean the difference between intimate and institutional, centerpieces can add drama and color to an otherwise average venue, and extras such as twinkle lights can add a magical touch.

Brides and grooms can add pizzazz to their parties through rental items such as canopies, tables, chairs, P.A. equipment, LCD projectors (for slideshows), decor pieces (linens, chair covers, centerpieces, arches and candelabras), and ceiling and design treatments available at Midway Party Rental. This local, family-owned business is known for exceptional customer service (including a 24-hour emergency phone line) and a low-price guarantee.

“People are stepping it up a notch this year with textured linens, grander ceiling draping, and elaborate candelabras with floral centerpieces,” says Rhonda Nestrud of Midway Party Rental. Hot color combinations include brown and green, Tiffany blue and black, and fuscia paired with bright orange and yellow.

Wedding colors and trends change from year to year, but what doesn’t change is the number of couples who procrastinate and then scramble to check off items on their “to-do” list.

“Summer rental items book up fast,” Nestrud says. “There’s no way you’ll be able to reserve a tent for June in June, so plan ahead!”

Other common mistakes include forgetting to order the cake table, salt and pepper shakers, card boxes, and table number stanchions. The more you communicate with your vendors, the more relaxed you’ll be when your wedding day rolls around.

“Your wedding vendors are here to work for you,” she points out. Use their experience to your advantage.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC

Music is an extremely important aspect of your big day. Talented musicians, like prime locations, go fast.

Musician George Faber is one of those talents. Either as a member of event band The Icons, or as an individual performer, he plays from the heart, knows how to read a crowd to keep the party going, and loves what he does. The Icon’s repertoire includes big band, jazz, R&B, funk, disco, rock, Motown, and blues.

“We pace it right and build the momentum, with the goal of leaving everyone wanting more,†he says. “We’re a party band with an edge.”

Playing music should be fun, and it is with The Icons and Rockit.

“Experience has taught us that if we’re having a great time playing, it’s contagious and the guests will have a great time, too,†Faber comments.

BEAUTY AND FASHION

Photo by Coppersmith Photography

Whether it’s achieving a healthy wedding day glow, or looking dashing in a tux, brides and grooms spend a lot of time perfecting their wedding day look. Subtle touches, such as rhinestone hair accessories, are replacing traditional tiaras and headbands. Grooms are choosing to add a splash of color to their wardrobe. Makeup trends reflect a return to red carpet glamour.

Monique Lhuillier knows a thing or two about the red carpet. Celebrities Britney Spears, Natalie Imbruglia, Charlotte Ross, Debbie Matenopoulos, Kate Walsh, Felicity Huffman, Eva Longoria, LeAnn Rimes, and America Ferrera have donned her designs for weddings, premier parties, and awards shows.

The Monique bride “is aware of fashion and loves fine things,” says Dawn Bromander of Monique Lhuillier’s flagship salon in Edina, one of only two signature salons in the country (the other is in Los Angeles). “Our bride is someone who would rather buy one beautiful pair of shoes every year than a moderate shoe in every color. She assigns worth to the perfect fit, silk linings, fine finishings, and timeless designs.”

The designs are feminine, modern and stylish, with a traditional romantic sentimentality. And the fabric–silk organza, silk satin, silk charmeuse, and taffeta–is “the soul of the gown,” Bromander says, often accounting for the high price tag (gowns range from $2,300 to well over $5,000).

Your wedding gown symbolizes a new beginning, and finding “the one” should be a pleasant experience.

“Many brides miss the wonder of it all when finding the gown takes on mission status,” she says. “Come see us expecting to enjoy yourself.”

Another option for classy wedding day attire is dugo (Dress Up Go Out), located in Edina’s Galleria.

Featuring fine clothing for charity balls, summer parties, rehearsal dinners, and weddings, dugo brings back the satisfaction of dressing smart and dressing well.

“Mothers of the bride and groom especially like dugo because we understand their style and can custom order many different items in terms of design, style, and color to meet their exact needs and wants,” says Nancy Shank, owner.

Organza, chiffon, four-ply silk crepe and Thai silk are exceptional wedding day fabrics, Shank says, with many requests in shades of green or blue.

While men don’t have quite as many options as women when it comes to wedding day attire, they still have decisions to make when it comes to tuxes.

The current trends for tuxes are long vests and ties rather than traditional cummerbunds and bow ties, non-pleated shirts and three-button jackets, and the cutaway tux with a cravat and pearl stickpin. The men in the wedding party can find the season’s hottest selections at Knights Formal Wear, with nine locations metro-wide, in addition to stores in St. Cloud, Duluth, and Rochester.

Your dress and tux will make you feel like a bride and groom, but a complete wedding day look goes beyond attire. The key players in a wedding party start getting ready for the wedding months in advance, watching their diet, taking care of their skin, and making sure their teeth are straight and white.

At American Laser Center, brides-to-be can look their best with professional laser hair removal services, AmeriSmooth cellulite reduction therapy, and skin rejuvenation therapy, combining energy treatments and microdermabrasion. The treatments can be done in as little as 30 minutes, with instant results and minor side effects.

Having a pretty smile is an important part of a bride and groom’s overall look. This is one day you don’t want to be self-conscious about smiling. You want to beam with confidence and pride. You want everyone to know how happy you are.

“When someone smiles and they have a beautiful smile, that’s the first thing you notice,” says Dr. Steve Gorman of The Gorman Center for Fine Dentistry in North Oaks.

One way to improve your smile is with porcelain veneers, which can change the position, length, color and shape of your teeth.

Another way to change your smile is through whitening procedures, says Dr. Ned Windmiller of the Centre for Distinctive Dentistry in Stillwater. “This can be achieved with our convenient, one appointment, in-office, BriteSmile treatment or home bleaching with customized bleaching trays.”

A dramatic way of changing your teeth (and your smile) is through orthodontic treatment at Minnesota Orthodontics. Approximately 25 percent of their patients are adults, proving you’re never too old for braces.

Whether it’s whitening your teeth a few shades or undergoing a complete smile makeover, a picture-perfect movie star smile is possible today with the help of a variety of dental enhancements.

 

WEDDING DAY JEWELRY

Your ring is a symbol of love built to last a lifetime. Do you want a contemporary setting or an antique reproduction? Smooth or sculpted metal? What will your ring say about you?

Many grooms today are opting for platinum or white gold–many times set with diamonds–over the simple gold band of yesterday. Many brides are creating and selecting designs as original and unique as they are.

Edina-based jewelry store Scheherazade–located in the Galleria–has been carrying unique designs since 1970. The attentive, helpful staff offers superior customer service; the selection features some of today’s best American and international jewelry designers.

A ring that was designed by someone with the talent and knowledge to do it right is a ring that will never go out of style, says owner Scott Rudd.

“Let’s face it, you wear your ring every day,” Rudd says. “You don’t want to be wearing the same ring as everyone else.”

Rebecca Paquette Johnson, owner of BNOX Gold & Iron, on the shore of Lake Pepin, custom designs approximately 75 rings every year.

Bringing a one-of-a-kind ring to life is as thrilling for Johnson as it is for the couple. “I enjoy collaborating with clients in creating rings as unique as they are.”

When the wedding day has come and gone, the gown is packed away, and the honeymoon is over, your wedding ring symbolizes your wedding day, your love, and your lifelong commitment to one another “until death do you part.” Your ring is a major investment you’ll wear for the rest of your life; make sure it’s a piece of jewelry you love.

DISTINCTIVE TASTES

Artistic displays of culinary entrees are white hot in the drama department of the kitchen. Think sculptured art and the intermixing of color and texture. Food needs to be pleasing to the eye as well as the palate, and there is no better occasion to display this artistry than a wedding.

Soile Anderson, owner of Deco Catering, agrees 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.”

By-design menu development is a specialty at Three Sons Signature Cuisine. Couples are encouraged to bring their ideas to the table to represent family or cultural traditions, lifestyle, and personal preferences.

“Many people aren’t aware just how much they can customize their event to ensure that their personalities really come through, without being over-the-top,” says Ben McCallum, executive chef/co-owner.

The kitchen is a “scratch kitchen,” meaning only the freshest, seasonal ingredients are used, he says.

McCallum is reluctant to take all the credit for the outstanding catering reputation Three Sons has earned through the years. He’s quick to point out that the events team is “the heart and soul of the catering company.”

“My chefs are miracle workers,” McCallum says. “But it is our event consultants and coordinators and office staff who regularly meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. Our kitchen and service team are then the experienced professionals that deserve the kudos for pulling the event together and bringing out the best in everyone.”

The fine cuisine of Elegancia Catering is a staple at celebrations ranging from casual to ultra-formal. There is an emphasis on fresh, healthy, locally grown and produced foods, as well as utilizing cooking methods from various styles and cultures, says Ron Combs of Elegancia. “We especially love to work within Latin and Caribbean style cuisines.”

At the end of the day, if a client has had a positive food experience, with memorable service and a stunning presentation in addition to meals that taste great, that’s what it’s all about.

THE GRAND FINALE

Whether it’s an expensive two-week honeymoon or a weekend getaway close to home, couples should try to plan some type of newlywed trip. Many couples who skip a honeymoon regret the decision.

Whether considering an all-inclusive honeymoon in Mexico, an adventurous honeymoon in Europe, or a romantic honeymoon in Hawaii, a whole lot of planning needs to be done before getting on that plane.

At Carrousel Travel American Express, a full-service travel agency based in Minneapolis, the planning is done for you. Destination Wedding and Honeymoon Specialist Carol Flanigan works with travel vendors to provide couples with the best deals and up-to-date information.

And for the couple that thinks they just can’t afford a honeymoon after paying for a lavish wedding?

A popular option is a honeymoon online bridal registry, www.thehoneymoon.com, Flanigan says.

“The registry offers couples the chance to register for special parts of their honeymoon and provide local and out-of-town guests a fun option to the old-fashioned ‘toaster’ type registry,” she comments.

During your honeymoon have fun, relax, and revel in the fact that this trip is the first of many during your long journey through life as husband and wife.

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