Bright Lights, Small Cities
Is there anything better than taking in the beauty of a sparkling city while saying “I do?” Although Wisconsin isn’t as well-known for its city skylines as New York or LA, the Dairy State boasts rooftop venues for every city-loving bride and groom.
“A rooftop wedding feels like a fairy tale. It’s whimsical,” says Michelle Howe, event coordinator of the Loft at 132, opening in Sun Prairie in July.
From Milwaukee to Madison to La Crosse, here’s a look at some of the fabulous rooftop wedding options that abound in our backyard.
The View at Evolution
“Rooftop weddings are effortlessly breathtaking,” says Caitlin Gerth, sales manager of the View at Evolution in downtown Milwaukee. The View, located in the heart of the historic Westown district (think vintage breweries and Cream City brick buildings), features a 2,500-square-foot interior and outdoor patio space with spectacular city vistas.
Inside, you’ll find a full bar and an accordion wall of windows that allow for service to flow seamlessly from inside to out. It was this indoor-outdoor convenience and the unmatched views that drew Matthew Mackai and Jeffrey Raddatz of Milwaukee to the space.
“When touring a few spaces around Milwaukee, we were really looking for something unique—nothing cookie cutter,” says Raddatz. “Since our wedding was basically one big cocktail party, we thought that having it in a space with a view of the city would give it a better vibe than a banquet room.”
Mackai and Raddatz, who tied the knot at the View in September, say they loved watching their guests’ reactions as they got off the elevator. “The space and impressive views created a fun and urban scene for everyone to enjoy,” says Mackai. “And since we weren’t offering a sit-down dinner, the space was perfect for the type of wedding we both wanted.”
1023 N. Old World Third St., Milwaukee
Capacity: 220 guests cocktail-style; 160 guests formally seated
The rooftop of Milwaukee’s Hotel Metro is considered one of downtown’s best-kept secrets. “Our rooftop is so unique, and not a lot of the city has seen it,” says sales manager Katie Murphy. “It is our hidden gem; whenever someone goes upstairs, to see their reaction is always amazing.”
The petite rooftop offers indoor/outdoor space, with a lush outdoor garden. Surrounded by taller buildings, it’s an oasis among the historic and modern buildings that rise high above the boutique hotel.
“Being one of the few rooftops in the city, ours is not as modern as some of our competitors,” says Murphy. “We pride ourselves on our art deco feel.”
411 E. Mason St., Milwaukee
Capacity: 36 guests seated for dinner; 50 guests cocktail-style; indoor space available
At the Atrium, the hidden rooftop is often a surprise for guests. “The environment completely changes the feel of the wedding,” says Natalia Hackbarth, co-owner with husband Paul. “The space is inviting for small ceremonies on the rooftop, which lends itself very nicely to a more intimate setting.”
The Hackbarths put a lot of thought into the rooftop garden space, working with a professional landscaper to make it picture-perfect. Depending on your vantage point, you’ll overlook the indoor glass atrium area, the quaint street or the large garden space in back. “The garden space has many little nooks and areas to set up tables where guests are surrounded by greenery and gorgeous florals,” she says. A hidden gem indeed.
2107 E. Capitol Drive, Shorewood
Capacity: Up to 100 seated; 230 cocktail-style; indoor space available
The Outsider at the Kimpton Journeyman Hotel
Guests always feel like insiders at the Outsider, the rooftop space at the Kimpton Journeyman Hotel, nestled in Milwaukee’s chic Third Ward neighborhood.
Watching the bride and groom is the favorite part of rooftop weddings for Kim Casey, director of catering at the hotel. “The expression on the groom’s face and the softness in his eyes when witnessing the very private moment of a first look—with the sweeping views of the Milwaukee skyline as the backdrop, it truly is a stunning freeze-frame moment,” says Casey. Guests seeing the space and views for the first time are instantly charmed.
Available for full buyouts, the Outsider is a sought-after space, often with long lines outside the door to ascend to the bustling rooftop, which opened in summer 2016. The hotel architect created a unique venue with interior and exterior spaces, allowing for several seating and cocktail-style options. The expansive views are to the north, south and west with ever-changing perspectives as the light changes.
“It felt sophisticated and elegant to us, with very little extra décor needed,” says Lori Filter, who married husband Mark at the Outsider in September. “The skyline provided the oohs and aahs.”
While the landscaping changes seasonally, the rooftop fire pits add ambiance year-round. And, says Casey, “Who doesn’t look good by firelight?”
310 E. Chicago St., Milwaukee
Capacity: Up to 250 cocktail style with full buyout; options vary. Indoor space available
The Charmant Hotel
As Anne Bauer and Daniel Dedering were looking for a wedding venue, they sought the right setting for the overall experience. “Once I set foot on the Charmant Hotel property, I felt the details of my wedding unfolding,” says Bauer. “The riverfront park for a ceremony, the brick street and the grandeur of the building enticed me.” Once they saw the rooftop, “we fell in love immediately and decided to have our ceremony there.”
The venue is a renovated candy factory that bursts with historic charm. Built in 1898, the hotel is now the only independent boutique hotel in La Crosse, which sets it apart from other area venues, according to catering sales manager Nicole Loeffelholz. “I love the breathtaking views of the city,” she says. “So many of our couples grew up or met in La Crosse, and being able to be surrounded by their family and friends, overlooking the city they love on their big day, is so special.”
To go the extra mile, Loeffelholz reserves a complimentary indoor back-up space for weddings in case of inclement weather. “Because Wisconsin weather can be so unpredictable, we take pride in being up-front with our clients and letting them know what will happen if the weather makes it unsafe for us to hold their wedding on the rooftop,” she says.
101 State St., La Crosse
Capacity: 50 guests for a seated ceremony; 75 guests for a social-style reception; indoor space available
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
“My favorite part of rooftop weddings at MMoCA is having the moon and stars light up the dance floor during the reception,” says Bob Sylvester, director of public operations. “The sculpture garden combines the romanticism of the city at night with the idyllic appeal of being outdoors and celebrating in the fresh air.”
MMoCA is located in the heart of downtown Madison, and the outdoor sculpture garden on the third floor offers lush landscaping, sculpture by internationally renowned artists George Segal and Tony Cragg, as well as a new installation by Madison artist Meg Mitchell, and unparalleled views of State Street and the Capitol.
“I encourage couples to experience the space during the same time of day as their wedding, making allowances for the season,” says Sylvester. “This will help the couple envision what the space will be like for their wedding—it’s not like a hotel ballroom, which is always the same. An outdoor space has its own rhythms, and you’ll want to experience in person what the space is like at sunset, where the shade falls and other details to best plan for your guests’ enjoyment.”
227 State St., Madison
Capacity: 80 seated; standing up to 175; indoor space available
The Loft at 132
Wisconsin’s newest rooftop venue is in a more rural setting, but its stunning view and attention to detail are as impressive as any urban venue.
Opening this summer, the Loft at 132 showcases timeless architecture with a fun, relaxed vibe. The rooftop will feature expansive green space for privacy, a greenery backdrop for pictures and a water feature for good luck. “Planters are spread throughout the rooftop to hold gorgeous flowers and greenery to make it a beautiful, luxurious and welcoming outdoor space,” says Michelle Howe, event coordinator.
The rooftop offers a tented option, and the full bar boasts garage doors that can close in inclement weather. Says Howe, “A rooftop provides a timeless and classy environment to join together in a new endeavor, where the sky is truly the limit.”
132 Market St., Sun Prairie
Capacity: Up to 300 guests