Door County Weddings

Door County offers brides a romantic destination wedding without leaving the state.
Minneapolis couple Melissa and Matt Huybrecht married in Door County.

The phrase "destination wedding" often conjures images of a bride and groom tying the knot on a pristine beach as the sun dips behind an endless expanse of water, or a sun-dappled vineyard with a couple saying “I do” under a canopy of grapevines. Yet another couple may dream of exchanging vows on a bluff overlooking rocky shores as a century-old lighthouse stands sentinel. In each case, the destination is the Door.

With 250 miles of picturesque shoreline nestled between the waters of Green Bay to the west and Lake Michigan to the east, Wisconsin’s 75-mile Door County peninsula offers quaint villages, rustic charm and enough breathtaking scenery to impress even the most discerning wedding guests.

Tourists have long fallen under the spell of the Door, with its 10 lighthouses, five state parks and year-round splendor. The outdoor adventurer will find much in the way of kayaking and hiking in the warmer seasons, and snowier pursuits when the temperature dips. Those who prefer adventures of the indoor variety may delight in one of the many arts venues and music performances available, along with wine tastings, fine dining and eclectic shopping.

Deena and Rob married at Gordon Lodge in Baileys Harbor. Photo by Art of Exposure Photography.Why choose a Door County wedding
Many couples who choose Door County as a wedding destination have a childhood history with the peninsula, spending summers at a family home near the water or taking a long weekend for cross-country skiing in the winter. Bride Deena Siegelbaum grew up in Illinois and has fond memories of her family’s vacation home in Fish Creek, a charming artistic community in the middle of the county. When the time came to pick her wedding locale, Siegelbaum, now a New York resident, knew just where her dreams could come true.

“My fiancé and I wanted to be somewhere in the countryside where all of our friends and family could spend a relaxing weekend together,” Siegelbaum says. “Even though Door County was a bit of a hike for those of us in New York, we knew it would be worth it.”
Siegelbaum contacted Lisa Carlson of Cottage Garden Wedding & Event Planners and Cottage Garden Flower Shoppe in Door County to coordinate the details from afar, including using Gordon Lodge in Baileys Harbor for their outdoor ceremony.

Amy Garrick of Chicago also grew up vacationing in Door County. She and her husband Dan exchanged vows at the cozy Landmark Resort in Egg Harbor. “We had the ceremony outside on the terrace—it was overlooking the golf course and the lake below. I couldn’t have asked for more amazing scenery,” Garrick says.

Door County has a particular emotional resonance for Garrick. “I spent so much of my childhood there, and now it has a special place in my adulthood, too. To bring friends and family to Door County to share something so special is very meaningful to me. It was just a magical night,” she says.

Carlson says it’s not uncommon for a bride-to-be to feel a nostalgic pull to the peninsula’s scenic landscape. “Couples tell me they want their guests to experience the county through their eyes—the quaint villages, the old-world charm and the unparalleled beauty,” she says.

Door County sites to see
Bride Melissa Huybrecht knew her wedding would be all about the quaint village of Ephraim. “My husband, Matt, is from Green Bay, but we live in Minneapolis. We knew we wanted to share Door County with our family and friends,” Huybrecht says. The bride and groom and their guests stayed at Eagle Harbor Inn in Ephraim, but the couple kept the ceremony site a surprise.

“We told our guests to be outside the Matt and Melissa Huybrecht surprised their wedding guests with a ride on a Door County Trolley ride to their lakeside ceremony. Photo by Dawn Mei Photography.inn at a certain time, and the Door County Trolley whisked them away to Anderson Dock, where we celebrated our vows. They were so surprised; the guests loved the trolley ride. After the ceremony, the trolley driver took us on a solo ride and we drank champagne and enjoyed our first few moments of marriage,” Huybrecht says.

Other couples choose to “hoof it” and get hitched in a carriage behind a majestic draft horse. According to Natalie Neddersen, owner and innkeeper at Eagle Harbor Inn, many couples opt for a romantic trek through town after saying “I do.” If the newlyweds request a carriage ride, John Mayberry of Mayberry Carriages is happy to oblige.

Neddersen often points couples to one of two white clapboard churches perched on the bluffs of Ephraim for a simple ceremony, and says that many gravitate to one of the dramatic lookouts in nearby Peninsula State Park.

Another outdoor option is one of the county’s grape escapes. Lance Nelson, general manager of Simon Creek Winery, says that couples have been marrying in their vineyard set amongst the rolling hills between Carlsville and Jacksonport because of the lush setting. And, of course, there are the wines, from rich reds to fruity whites to the ubiquitous Door County Cherry.

“When the vines are in full bloom,” Nelson says, “there are few places as pretty as our piece of property.”

Door County cherry trees
Whether meandering through the countryside by trolley or by carriage, one scenic feature is inescapable: the cherry trees. Door County is widely known for its cherry orchards, and many brides-to-be take advantage of the theme, choosing late May when the trees offer their brilliant blossoms, or late summer during the harvest, when trees groan under the weight of their sweet offerings.

Jamae Wierzba of Marshall chose a cherry blossom theme for her wedding at Sturgeon Bay’s Stone Harbor Resort, right down to her gown. “My dress was shades of ivory with vines designed into it,” Wierzba says, “so depending on how you looked at it, individual vines shimmered into sight. I wanted all the little details to reflect how much Door County means to me.”

Deena and Rob chose a lemon cake topped with blueberries for their Gordon Lodge wedding reception. Photo by Art of Exposure Photography.Another sweet touch can come in the form of dessert. Garrick asked her baker, Sarah Basch of FlourGirl Patissier in Fish Creek, to infuse one layer of her chocolate cake with cherry filling, which was, in the bride’s words, “awesome.”

Wedding planner Carrie Baldwin of Door County Event Planners recommends individual attention for each guest. “I just did a wedding where each guest was served their own cherry pie from Sweetie Pies in Fish Creek,” Baldwin says. “That’s something guests will remember.”

Jayne Shefchik of Pink Bakery in Egg Harbor also cites a rise in single-serving sweets. “Cupcakes are really big right now, and they’re not just your basic cupcake,” Shefchik says. In fact, many brides are embracing the destination wedding idea and requesting margarita cupcakes: “I grate lime zest into the cake, mix tequila into the frosting, sprinkle each cake with sea salt and stick an umbrella in it,” Shefchik says. It’s a definite departure from cherries, but it provides instant island flavor.

Wedding reception catering
While it’s easy to get swept away by dessert, let’s not forget the fine reception fare that’s in store in the Door.

The Mission Grille in Sister Bay is a popular reception venue, partly because of its unique history as a former Catholic church. One hundred years ago, St. Rosalia’s was constructed in Sister Bay as the county’s very first Catholic church. When the diocese built a new church in the 1980s, the Mission Grille was born. Much of the original architecture has been preserved, including the towering steeple and many antique stained-glass windows.

“We offer couples delicious, local cuisine in a beautiful atmosphere,” says Tonda Gagliardo, general manager at the Mission Grille. She cites a commitment by her staff to use ingredients from the farmers markets that dot the villages to provide fresh, seasonal fare.

Deena Siegelbaum chose her family’s favorite restaurant, T. Ashwell’s in Ellison Bay, because “I wanted an incredibly special place for our reception.” The restaurant has a long history as a lodging house, and much of the original architectural character has been preserved, including the fieldstone fireplace, wrap-around porch and gazebo.

While the setting drips with old-world charm, it was really all about the food for Siegelbaum. “Tom Ashwell, the chef, beautifully prepares locally sourced cuisine with no detail left to chance.” Not only did he come up with an amazing menu, Siegelbaum says, but he also had a hand in concocting their signature wedding cocktail: The Bee’s Knees, a mix of gin, honey and lemon juice.

For a more cosmopolitan, intimate reception, brides can turn to The Whistling Swan inn and restaurant in Fish Creek, which hosts small weddings and rehearsal dinners in its classy dining space. Located in a restored Victorian house, the restaurant features a refined menu with items such as Massachusetts black bass with brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, swiss chard, butternut squash, carrots and tomato jam.

Door County tourist activitiesMatt Huybrecht at his Door County wedding. Photo by Ken Cravillion Photography.
Door County’s reputation as a tourist hotspot can be a boon to the bride-to-be who needs to entertain a passel of guests. According to wedding planner Baldwin, many couples choose Horseshoe Bay Golf Club in Egg Harbor for their wedding not only because it serves as a gorgeous ceremony and reception site, but also because it’s a built-in playground for golfers.

Not interested in golf? The Spa at Sacred Ground in Ephraim offers an array of luxurious treatments to boost the relaxation factor for the ultimate getaway. Guests (and the bride too!) can indulge in the spa’s signature serenity massage, rejuvenation facial or even a hand and foot scrub using Gotu Kola and lotus oil.

If guests fancy an outdoorsy adventure, Gravity Trails in Rowleys Bay offers guided kayak trips into the Mink River Estuary, zip line tours through the Wagon Trails forest and bike tours on seemingly endless picturesque trails.

And for something completely different, as well as perhaps a bit surreal, guests can sign up for a Segway tour. Segway the Door Tours boasts numerous excursions on the two-wheeled gliders, from jaunts through Peninsula State Park to a five-hour exploration of Washington Island.

Whether zipping around the island at the northern tip of the Door on a Segway or choosing the more traditional route of car ferry out of Northport pier, Washington Island is a must-see. Located six miles
off the tip of the peninsula, the island features numerous beaches, parks, museums, limestone bluffs and Scandinavian architecture.

Door County bed and breakfasts
When the guests have soaked up the Door County experience, it’s time for the newlyweds to soak in a lavish whirlpool built for two. Fortunately, the peninsula offers an array of luxurious bed and breakfasts.

Sturgeon Bay’s historic White Lace Inn welcomes guests with 18 quaint rooms and suites located in four turn-of-the-century homes—think wood-burning fires, in-room whirlpools and two-person showers. The B&B also offers intimate ceremonies; couples can say their vows under the inn’s elegant garden gazebo or inside in front of the parlor’s fireplace. Ceremonies are complimentary with a room rental.

The Huybrechts chose the Blacksmith Inn in Baileys Harbor, a cozy retreat Melissa Huybrecht calls “a little gem.” Each guest room faces the water and features a hammock on an intimate balcony and a whirlpool tub. “We just napped and listened to the waves. It’s all about romance,” she says.

Another romantic escape is the Chanticleer Guest House in Sturgeon Bay, which offers secluded cabins or suites in a renovated barn and guesthouse set on 30 private acres. Jacqueline Dupre Kinney of Shorewood chose the Chanticleer’s Stables Suite for her honeymoon destination.

“The innkeepers, Bryon and Darrin, have such a beautiful property and run things like a well-oiled machine, from the delicious basket of breakfast treats to the plate of cookies in the common room. It’s such a quiet and peaceful environment,” she says, “why even bother leaving?”

Matt and Melissa Huybrecht hosted a rehearsal dinner at the Old Post Office Restaurant in Ephraim. Photo by Dawn Mei Photography.Original activities

However cozy their newlywed nest may be, couples could be lured away, at least temporarily, by the legend of an unusual dining tradition in the Door. It’s hard for visitors to resist the culinary theater that is the classic Door County fish boil, which is also a popular rehearsal dinner event.

Huybrecht and her fiancé hosted their rehearsal dinner at the Old Post Office in Ephraim for the tradition, in which chunks of potatoes (and sometimes onions, depending on the tastes of the “boil master”) and whitefish are brought to a boil in a large cauldron set atop an open fire. When the fish is perfectly cooked, the master boiler tosses kerosene on the fire, igniting the fish oils and sending bursts of flames skyward, to the oohs and aahs of the crowd.
“Our guests were so delighted,” Huybrecht says. “No one had ever seen anything like it.”

After dinner, she and her intended posed for photos on the dock outside of the restaurant, with a brilliant sunset over the lake as their backdrop. It’s a photo she keeps on her desk today.

“People look at that photo and say, ‘Wow, it’s so exotic and beautiful, what tropical location is that?’ I always have to laugh and say, ‘That’s Door County, Wisconsin.’ ”

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