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.”
 

 

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 allows the couple to create their wedding story as they’ve always envisioned it. It gives them a chance to sit back, relax and enjoy their engagement and wedding day rather than worry about every tiny detail.

A team of creative consultants at Give My Regards To, located in Minneapolis, can help plan a memorable experience.

“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 smooth out 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. “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 help brand your celebration and give guests an idea as to how formal your event will be. A consistent color palette gives cohesiveness and conveys a well thought-out message.

According to Alexis Harsh of Watermark Fine Stationery, there are a lot of bright, deep, saturated cardstock colors in today’s wedding invitations, with white and ecru popular 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.

“There are so many options out there,” Harsh says. “We narrow down the enormous selection out there and make every appointment fun and relaxed. We find the perfect invitation within the couple’s budget.”

Invitation no-nos include using a mailing label to address your envelopes, printing “no children” on the invitation, or telling guests where you’re registered, she says. Another invitation faux pas is adding miniscule pieces of confetti or glitter, underestimating the time it takes to address, stuff and send the invitations so the guests receive them six to eight weeks in advance, and ordering too few invitations. She suggests ordering 25 extras just in case; reordering is expensive.

At Archiver’s, the Photo Memory Store, couples can select the color, paper type, size and style for handmade invitations that perfectly suit the look, feel, and tone of your special day, and add coordinating programs, place cards, thank you cards, and so much more for a celebration you’ll never forget. Brides can make it even more fun by rounding up a group of friends and reserving Archiver’s workroom to assemble the invites.

While the invitation may set the tone for the celebration, it’s up to brides and grooms to add pizzazz and personal touches to their parties. This can be achieved through colorful linens, specialty lighting, elegant draping, lounge furniture, china, chandeliers, aisle runners, tents, tables, chairs, and accessories, available at Après Party and Tent Rental.

“Put your attention and dollars toward the ‘wow’ items that will make an impact—lighting, draping, chair treatments, and linen,” suggests Sheree Bochenek, design consultant. “Don’t get caught up in the tiny little details, like personalized M&Ms.”

It’s the big items that make a lasting impression, not the little ones, she points out.

When a couple is in the early stages of wedding planning, she recommends starting a portfolio of photo ideas (it’s easier to show a design consultant what you like rather than try to describe it) and can’t stress enough the importance of visiting their showroom to see what they offer. She also suggests making an appointmentat Après, to receive the personalized guidance of a salesperson.
 

MUSIC

Music is an extremely important aspect of your big day. Talented musicians, like prime locations, go fast. Phil Thompson is one of these artists.

Playing and performing on the piano is one of Thompson’s greatest passions. He began playing before he could even read, eventually taking lessons from a private instructor who later pushed him to study at the MacPhail Center for the Arts. In high school, he was asked to play at private parties, weddings, and the US Senate campaign. Today he writes and performs music whenever possible. His style—described as “romantic piano”—is the perfect fit for a wedding celebration.
 

BEAUTY AND FASHION

Whether it’s the bride, groom, mother-of-the-bride or groom, or member of the wedding party, a wedding puts everyone close to the couple in the spotlight. It’s a special day to look and feel your absolute best.

If brides are looking for a unique wedding gown, one place to check out 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 order many different things in terms of design, style, and color to meet their exact needs and wants,” says Nancy Shank, owner.

While men don’t have quite as many options as women do when it comes to wedding day attire, they do have decisions to make when it comes to their tuxes and the tuxes for the men in the wedding party.

The current trends for tuxes are long vests and ties rather than traditional cummerbunds and bow ties. Non-pleated shirts and three-button jackets are also in. Another popular look is the cutaway tux with a cravat—a wide scarf knotted with the broad ends laying flat over each other—topped off with a pearl stickpin.
 

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.

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 absolutely thrilling for Johnson and 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. Your ring signifies that wherever you go, you won’t be alone. It’s a major investment you’ll wear for the rest of your life; make sure it’s a piece of jewelry you love.
 

THE GRAND FINALE

When the wedding day is over and the gifts have all been opened, most couples choose to begin their new life together with a special honeymoon.

For 40 years MLT Vacations has partnered with airlines, hotels and tour companies to offer complete travel packages to fun and exciting worldwide destinations. They offer great travel adventures through NWA WorldVacations, boasting an easy and convenient, “one-stop” travel shopping experience, attractive pricing, and exceptional customer service. NWA WorldVacations offers honeymoon packages to Hawaii, Mexico, and the Carribean.

At Carrousel Travel American Express, planning a destination wedding or honeymoon is not just another vacation, says Carol Flanigan, senior travel consultant, it is treated like the once-in-a-lifetime event that it is.

Hiring a travel agent like Flannigan can help a couple simplify their search, give them access to expert advice and recommendations, and help them get the best pricing and deals. A travel agent can also be a couples’ best advocate should a problem inadvertently arise.

“I travel regularly to these resorts to be sure that they are meeting and exceeding my clients’ expectations,” she says.

For established couples, Flannigan recommends creating a free honeymoon registry—thehoneymoon.com—where wedding guests contribute to honeymoon experiences rather than a traditional bridal registry.

Because really, she reasons, “Who wouldn’t rather receive a couple’s massage or candlelight dinner instead of a toaster?”

The main thing to remember on your honeymoon is that the wedding planning is done, you’re married, and now it’s time to unwind, have fun, and enjoy your company together.

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