Weddings & Special Occasions

    Celebrate the happiness that friends are always giving, make every day a holiday and celebrate just living. —Amanda Bradley

    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 & 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.


     Personalizing Your Event

    Couples not only want a venue that will take their breath away, they want to go the extra mile to make their wedding totally unique. They are doing this through personalizing or branding their wedding celebration with logos, interesting color palettes, and interesting themes. The best way to set the tone of the celebration is through your wedding invitation.

    At Give My Regards To in Edina, brides and grooms can look through albums or work with talented in-house designer Vanessa Kimball to create an invitation that reflects their individuality as a couple.

    When it comes to invitation trends, the use of bold colors is really popular. In the past it was only ivory and white, now anything goes—navy blue, hot pink, bright orange. “Invitations take their cues from fashion, so we’re seeing a lot of purples and deep beautiful jewel tones,” explains Amy Zaroff, owner and lead event planner at Give My Regards To.

    The invitation sets the tone for the celebration, and then it’s up to brides and grooms to add pizzazz and personal touches to their parties through items such as canopies, tables, chairs, P.A. equipment, LCD projectors (for slideshows), décor pieces, and ceiling and design treatments, available for rent at Ultimate Events, a culmination of Classic Events & Parties, Skyway Event Services, and Aarcee Party & Tent Rental. Couples can relax and rest easy knowing the experienced staff at Ultimate Events will get the job done right.

    Another way brides can rest easy is by hiring EVE Events, LLC. Everything from day-of wedding services to full-service wedding design to coordination and destination services are offered at EVE Events, LLC. “We coordinate all of the details, all of the vendors and all of the timing; we anticipate the “what if’s” and plan accordingly,” says Eve Deikel Wendel, creative director and event designer. Eve has seen everything from a groom forgetting his bow tie to a bride staining her gown prior to the ceremony. It is a wedding planner’s job, she says, to anticipate what could happen and put out any fires so the day flows seamlessly. And while the staff at EVE Events loves a good wedding, their specialty is celebrations and birthdays.

    “We love to plan these events. There are so many milestones in life that deserve to be celebrated!” Eve says. “We are able to use our creativity in a very unique way to really bring out the individuality and personalities of each client.”

    The staff of At Your Service Weddings, a Minneapolis wedding planning and consulting agency, has close to 20 years of wedding consulting experience and can help with planning, design, and orchestration of the big day. Located at International Market Square, they also offer a selection of wedding accessories, both on-site and available by order. Couples are encouraged to stop in and browse their selection without an appointment.

    The full-service event company, Festivities offers event design, planning, rentals, fresh floral design, ceiling draping, and décor, lighting, and props.

    The cost of a planner is well worth it, says Jennifer Braun, Festivities co-owner. “Most individuals are not as rigorous as they should be in establishing and following an event budget. A professional will aide you in that process, advise you on ways to save money, and help to negotiate pricing on your behalf. Would you take an African Safari without a guide, even though you have to pay for the guide? Of course not. Is the wedding industry quite the same as a jungle? No, but there are still plenty of tempting ways to squander your budget.”

    The staff at Festivities not only helps couples stay within budget, but has also had experience handling no-show vendors, power outages, long lines, poor traffic flow, charges for last-minute changes, or late start times that affect the rest of the evening’s timetable.

    “The greatest tragedy for a special occasion or wedding is when the guests of honor are stressed about the event itself and don’t get to enjoy the day,” Braun says, adding that satisfied customers see the value of hiring a wedding professional and “couldn’t be more appreciative.”

    Flowers and Decor

    In today’s world of “anything goes” weddings, flowers are bold and eye-catching, with centerpieces of different heights adding depth and structure to a room and bridal bouquets embellished with nontraditional elements such as crystals, ostrich feathers, and even produce. Hand-tied bouquets are popular, as are romantic roses and the all-white combination of classic and timeless lily of the valley and orchids.

    At Sassafras Floral and Garden Design, a floral design studio in northeast Minneapolis, style and good taste is delivered to couples on any budget. Co-owners Sarah, Sarah, and Sara absolutely love what they do and agree that it’s touching to see a bride cry—in a good way—when she sees her bouquet for the first time.

    Trends they’ve noticed include modern lines, monochromatic bouquets, fun vintage elements, and an interest in ‘green’ weddings (a local, certified organic farmer supplies Sassafras with flowers all season long). Perhaps one of the biggest trends is an effort to move away from cookie-cutter weddings and focus on creating a memorable, unique event.

    Sound of Music

    We’ve all been to weddings where the ceremony vocalist brought us to tears and the reception band or DJ kept the party going all night long. On the flip side, we’ve all been to weddings where the vocalist sang off-key and the band or DJ couldn’t keep anyone out on the dance floor. Choose your entertainment carefully. It really can make or break the party.

    If swing is your thing, Vic Volare and his Fabulous Volare Lounge Orchestra have a distinctive look and sound perfect for upbeat weddings.

    George Faber & The Icons cover Big Band, jazz, R&B, funk, disco, rock, Motown, and blues. According to their website, “We can accommodate your space, budget and your musical taste. We start with guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and saxophone. Add a male and female vocalist, and—voila! A band. But you want more. No problem. We add trumpet and trombone. Or percussion for a Latin flavor. More singers for even more variety. Or pair it back for a small, intimate event. We’re good with that too.”

    The Mish Mash band is all about energy, interaction, and spirited fun. They describe themselves as a dedicated group of expert performers who “love playing rock-and-roll with the eager enthusiasm of giddy teenagers.”

    For those who love the sound of live piano, the talented piano compositions of Phil Thompson bring a new sound to old favorites. Thompson, who has performed at the Dakota Jazz Club, Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Mall of America, and on Twin Cities Live (among many other gigs) is available to entertain for parties, wedding ceremonies, receptions, and corporate events.

    Capturing Moments

    When the dress is packed away and your thank-you cards are written, you’ll be left with memories of your wedding day—and the photographs. Your photos will tell the heart of your wedding story, not just so you can relive the moments, but so future generations can sense the magic of the day as well. Shop around carefully to find the photographer whose personal style best matches yours, then work with them to design the perfect photography package.

    Brides and grooms choose Studio Laguna Photography, based out of Minneapolis, to capture their wedding day because of their artistic talent, vision, and expertise. Not only do the photographers understand how to work with the human form in various lighting situations, they also know how to keep the day spontaneous and fun for the couple.

    You can never have too many photos of your wedding day, and one way to complement the professional photography is through renting a photo booth—a great way to get a collection of fun, candid shots while entertaining your guests.

    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.


    Style and Beauty

    Brides and grooms want to look their best on the one day they are the stars of the show. The perfect place to start planning a wedding is the 50th and France area. The neighborhood features over 175 retailers and services that will provide the complementary service and experience that brides want and expect. There are bridal dress shops, jewelers, beauty and spa salons, florists, photography studios, travel agencies, gift boutiques, bridal group party sites, financial advisors, health and wellness services, home decor stores, bakeries, caterers, restaurants, and plenty of free and ample parking.

    One of the newest signature salons in the 50th and France neighborhood of Edina, Priscilla of Boston, was designed with the same ideals of luxury and tradition used to design their gorgeous gowns, individually handcrafted from the finest fabrics, laces, and embellishments (ranging from $1,200 to $5,000 and up). Every measure is taken to ensure comfort and provide a relaxed, luxurious atmosphere, from spacious, private fitting rooms to dedicated, experienced personal consultants that help brides locate the perfect dress, to specialized, on-site seamstresses.

    In the words of one satisfied bride, “I was treated like a princess.”

    The latest gown trends emerging for 2010 include statement necklines, floral appliqués, smart jackets and tailored bows, although “Edina-area brides who have purchased dresses from our salon tend to choose simple silhouettes and romantic styles and let their jewelry dress up their look,” says Rayna Reichert, Priscilla of Boston Edina salon manager.

    The perfect accessory to the perfect gown is the perfect ring. Your ring is a symbol of everlasting love between two people, and the one piece of jewelry you’ll wear every single day. Find a ring as individual as you are.

    You can design your dream ring at BNOX Gold & Iron, a gallery located in Pepin, Wis. Hand-select the perfect center stone, whether it be a diamond or colored stone, then—with BNOX Gold & Iron’s owner and goldsmith, Rebecca Paquette Johnson—custom-design your “dream ring.” Like the planning and anticipation of other elements of the wedding, you’ll savor the excitement and involvement in process of creating your very own wedding rings; a significant moment in the scrapbook and in your life together.

    The Honeymoon

    When the rings have been exchanged and your wedding guests have (reluctantly) left the dance floor, your honeymoon is the perfect way to enjoy quality time with your beloved before real life intrudes again.

    The staff at Canoe Bay in Chetek, Wis. know how to cater to honeymooners. Guests enjoy peace and quiet in the heavily wooded 280-acre country estate, an upscale cabin atmosphere, amazing views, top-notch service, an award-winning wine selection and memorable meals in the elegant lakeside dining room. Canoe Bay was designed by a couple—especially for couples—and no children or pets are allowed. A visit to Canoe Bay is peaceful, relaxing, and romantic.

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

    Hiring a travel agent like Flanigan can help a couple simplify their search, give them access to expert advice and recommendations, and help them get the best pricing and deals. The options can be overwhelming at first glance. A travel agent knows the ins and outs of destination wedding and honeymoon locations.

    “Every resort looks beautiful on the Internet,” Flanigan points out. “A good travel agent will listen to the needs and wants of the couple and help narrow down the options based on personal preference and what they know about the destinations the couple is interested in.” She believes there is a good destination for every honeymoon budget.

    Suggestions are based on budget, season of travel, and importance of resort amenities such as: Is the resort all-inclusive? Does it have a nice beach? A swimming pool? A spa? A nearby golf course? Is it adults-only or family friendly?

    Whether staying close to home or traveling to an exotic destination, it’s important that newlyweds take some time to unwind, have fun, and enjoy one another’s company. You will take many vacations together as a happily married couple, but you will have only one honeymoon. Make the most of it!


    (Gowns, Formalwear)

    50th & France
    Priscilla of Boston



    Mintahoe Catering & Events

    (planning, rentals, etc.)

    At Your Service Weddings
    Give My Regards To
    EVE Events
    Ultimate Events



    Sassafras Floral + Garden Design


    Bluefin Bay
    1-800-BLUEFIN (258-3346)
    Cove Point Lodge
    Canoe Bay
    The Lodge on Lake Detroit
    Carrousel Travel
    Stillwater & Oak Park Heights Convention & Visitors Bureau



    BNOX Gold & Iron


    George Faber & The Icons
    Vic Volare & His Fabulous
    Volare Lounge Orchestra
    Mish Mash
    Vocal Essence



    Studio Laguna Photography
    The Traveling Photo Booth



    Arrowwood Resort
    FIVE Event Center
    Bluefin Bay
    1-800-BLUEFIN (258-3346)
    Gale Mansion
    The Lodge at Brainerd Lakes
    The Lodge on Lake Detroit
    Como Park
    McNamara Alumni Center
    + new event space
    (opening in fall 2010)
    Cove Point Lodge
    Stillwater & Oak Park Heights Convention & Visitors Bureau