New Madison Wedding Venues

Four recently renovated Madison venues offer glamour and luxury for Wisconsin brides.

We may be living through a challenging economy, but investing in the biggest day of your life remains as timeless as marriage itself. Stylish brides will always expect the best, and venues across the country continue to rise to the once-in-a-lifetime occasion. Madison, Wisconsin, is no exception.

A college town as well-known for its university as it is for the alumni who just can’t bear to leave, Madison boasts a strong, proud community ensconced along the isthmus and beyond. The lakes and the Capitol, the good-natured charm and ingenuity of its people and the funky mix of elegant and casual dining and shopping makes Madison a unique, beloved city for visitors and natives alike, and these new—and newly renovated—wedding venues deliver in true Madison spirit.

High-class comfort: HotelRED
With great anticipation, HotelRED opened its doors in August 2011. The sleek luxury boutique hotel is located directly across from legendary Camp Randall Stadium, where the Wisconsin Badgers play football, and at the corner of popular shopping and dining thoroughfares Monroe and Regent streets. From the outside its glass-paneled walls are stunning at night, and from the inside the view is equally impressive.

Brides can reserve the entire lobby, bar and bistro area (with a capacity of 100), an open lounge-style layout decked out in red, black and white, with lofted ceilings and polished concrete floors, fireplace, cozy booths and couches, along with floor-to-ceiling views of quintessential Madison. Two small reception rooms (aptly named Regent and Monroe) are located just off the bar, and the center divider wall can disappear to make a single space with a maximum capacity of 80, seated in rounds.

A side air wall opens into the lounge lobby, and each room has a drop-down audiovisual screen. The Capitol room, a small window-lined space across the lobby, is perfect for private cocktails or a gift-opening brunch. All catering is done in-house by a full kitchen staff with a menu featuring local fare. No need to worry about parking: Underground parking and valet service are available on site.

Staying the night? The spacious guest suites feel more like upscale condos than hotel rooms. All have grayscale and stainless steel kitchenettes, European rainshowers, vessel red sinks, Keurig coffee makers and LG flatscreen TVs. For ultimate people-watching, request one of the 30 rooms featuring a balcony, complete with patio furniture.

With only 48 guest suites, one wedding couple could conceivably reserve the entire hotel. Then Madison is yours—a unique opportunity at your satin-gloved fingertips.

What’s old is new again: SHERATON
If it’s been a few years since you last attended a wedding at the Sheraton, then it’s time for a second look. Since its acquisition by Marcus Corporation in 2007, the 239-room hotel has unveiled extensive renovations to its lobby, guest rooms and event spaces, revealing a modern, like-new feel.

Gone is the smoke-mirrored glass from weddings past, and “no more salmon-colored wallpaper or flooring,” says catering sales
manager Jeff Montalto.

The 5,300-square-foot Destination ballroom now provides a neutral palette of navy and ivory, and circular glass chandeliers add built-in elegance. The Destination seats 380 guests in rounds and 350 with the new parquet dance floor. Two built-in bars, nearby restrooms and a coatroom finish off the space, while the in-house audiovisual company ensures a dedicated, on-site technician monitoring your chosen lighting, slideshow and sound. Executive chef Graham Smith provides everything from buffet-style tastings to custom-designed menus, and a wedding coordinator works with brides from start to finish.

The junior ballroom Inspiration (also newly renovated with the same navy and ivory palette) seats 180. Need more room? In all, the Sheraton boasts 16,967 square feet of event space across 15 different rooms.

Guest rooms have all been updated, and the brand-new Premier Suite, with two bathrooms, is perfect for a bridal party in prep mode. With its open staircase, the marble lobby will welcome your guests in style, and its sleek new computer center and Starbucks barista will entertain them when you can’t. The Sheraton offers easy access from the interstate and plenty of parking, with downtown Madison only a 10-minute drive.

Think “wedding” and the Madison Children’s Museum might not the first venue that comes to mind, but for bride Jennifer Neuls, it was perfect. “We’re very creative people,” she says, “and the space is so whimsical and fun. It fit us perfectly.”

In August 2010, the museum unveiled a new $16.5 million, 56,290-square-foot building with an open-air rooftop. The Rooftop Ramble boasts lush gardens, a clubhouse, an unbeatable right-across-the-street peek at the historic state Capitol building and views of Lake Mendota, making it a gorgeous setting for 25 seated or 175 standing guests. Back inside, the second floor “Possible-opolis” features a gleaming recycled gym floor, huge windows and an artistic, funky backdrop for 125 seated or 200 standing guests. Choose from 20 of the finest local caterers and restaurants, and enjoy full bar service. As for carving out a space to keep kids occupied while adults celebrate? Consider it done.

Additional meeting rooms provide even more options, making this venue as customizable as a Lego city; using all floors it can accommodate up to 500 guests. The museum is open to the public between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., so sunset weddings are ideal. Street parking downtown is free in the evenings, and the museum owns its own ramp too.

For Neuls, who married on the 30th anniversary of Pac-man and marked the occasion with a Pac-man cartridge ring pillow, it wasn’t just the fun setting she found appealing. “We were surrounded by nature and the Capitol made a very formal presence, so it gave that sense of gravitas you’re looking for when you get married.”

Red, white and green all over: UNION SOUTH
Madison is a university town, steeped in rich, brick-and-ivy heritage—but recent years have brought a boom in technology, research and development, and a bevy of slick, modern buildings along with it. Union South, green-built and located on campus, reflects this new generation of savvy, globally conscious students perfectly—as does its members-only event space.

Varsity Hall—a roughly 11,000-square-foot banquet room with a full capacity of 600 to 700—splits into three sections. Varsity Three is arguably the prettiest, with stunning floor-to-ceiling windows set against a stone wall. The entire space glows with a polished reconstituted barnwood floor from northern Wisconsin.

House sound and projector screens are wired throughout, and all catering is managed on-site. Union South offers in-house wedding planners and event staff, and several smaller meeting rooms may be used for bridal party prep, rehearsal dinners and the like.

Outside, two floors of wraparound decks provide opportunities for pictures, a cocktail hour or even an outdoor ceremony or reception of up to 200 people—especially the cozy third floor with lounge furniture and an oversized stone fireplace. The decks are furnished with the iconic green, yellow and orange chairs inspired by the original Memorial Union across campus (still a highly sought-after wedding venue in its own right).

The window-lined space between Varsity Hall and the outdoor deck is cozy with couches, and Union South boasts 60 hotel rooms on the fourth and fifth floors with Keurig coffee makers, iHomes and university red décor. Take note: Space is in high demand so lucky couples are chosen by lottery system at the beginning of each month.

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