No need to go to New York or Los Angeles for a spectacular city wedding. Wisconsin is home to rooftop venues that celebrate that downtown vibe.
Choosing the Perfect Wedding Venue
Where you choose to say your vows and celebrate your marriage says a lot about you as a couple, so picking a venue is a crucial step and should be one of the first decisions you make together. The venue also affects how you’ll implement your décor and design. Depending on the size of your guest list and budget, the choices can be almost endless. Whether it’s a charming garden in bloom to a well-manicured country club lawn, here are a few options to help you decide on your ideal venue. Before getting your heart set on any venue, however, be sure to check for restrictions due to COVID-19.
Many couples love a rustic barn setting—you have shelter when you need it, but also allows guests to dance under twinkling lights or a moonlit sky. A barn reception can also serve as a special nod to family history. Such a venue can occasionally present a challenge with catering, restrooms and entertainment, depending on the age and restoration of the barn. And if the barn has neither heat nor air-conditioning, considering seasonal temperatures is a must.
A garden’s style can determine your whole day’s vibe, but one thing is assured: Fragrant blooms and a beautiful landscape will add special flair to your day and can transform it into a dreamy affair. Allow the garden setting to speak for itself—with nature as your backdrop, your table arrangements and other décor can be simple and subtle. For this reception venue, be certain to outline a rain plan, just in case the weather is not in your favor on your special day.
BREWERIES, DISTILLERIES, VINEYARDS
We Wisconsinites love our libations, so anyplace that makes these beverages is a natural choice. Guests will love the individuality that comes with an unusual space and have fun trying out the different drinks. Many producers are located in historic buildings with rustic brick, beams and ornate woodwork. Others are in shiny new establishments and add a sleek, modern feel to your event.
CHECK OUT: Over the Vines, Edgerton | Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery, Milwaukee | Villa Bellezza, Pepin | Great Lakes Distillery, Milwaukee | Good City Brewery, Milwaukee | Milwaukee Brewing Company, Milwaukee
Some event centers provide full-service packages, making the planning process easier and more affordable. Others have a preferred list of wedding vendors, so you can choose within certain parameters. Depending on the space, event centers can be easily transformed into your dream wedding. Generally, the staff is experienced and has worked with local wedding vendors, for better communication all around. One challenge is the possible turnaround time for decorating, especially when another event is scheduled the day or evening before.
CHECK OUT: The Loft at 132, Sun Prairie | Kress Pavilion, Egg Harbor | Brookfield Conference Center, Brookfield | Turner Hall Ballroom, Milwaukee | Riverview Gardens, Appleton | Monona Terrace, Madison | Nō Studios, Milwaukee
HOTELS, LODGES, RESORTS
If you picture a big wedding in a grand ballroom, a hotel could be perfect for you. Hotels can easily accommodate a large group but can usually arrange an appropriate space for a smaller guest list, and the staff knows how to handle a reception of any size. You can usually reserve a block of rooms for your out-of-town guests, for added convenience. One challenge? You might be sharing the venue with another wedding party or a group of conventioneers.
CHECK OUT: The Edgewater, Madison | The Pfister Hotel, Milwaukee | The Ridge, Lake Geneva | The Ingleside Hotel, Pewaukee | The Charmant Hotel, La Crosse | The Delafield Hotel, Delafield | The Madison Concourse Hotel, Madison | The Osthoff Resort, Elkhart Lake | Lake Lawn Resort, Delavan | Gordon Lodge, Baileys Harbor | Milford Hills, Johnson Creek
A museum is a stunning and sophisticated venue for your reception. Many museums’ event staff members are experienced in executing weddings and can offer great insight for creating your ideal event. Some museums have preferred vendors, however; which may limit your options for catering or décor. The bonus with museums is that you can usually arrange for certain galleries to be open for a limited time during your event, so guests can browse the exhibits during cocktail hour.
CHECK OUT: Harley Davidson Museum, Milwauke | Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee | Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Madison | Charles Allis and Villa Terrace Art Museums, Milwaukee | Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee
If a casual setting surrounded by the natural beauty of Wisconsin is your style, consider a public park. These receptions can feel relaxed and intimate, and if you’re planning a simple event for a small group, you may hold the ceremony and reception in just about any public place in the park. For a larger event, or if you require shelter or equipment, check with the park manager. Also scope out the space to make certain there are adequate restroom facilities, resources to meet your electrical needs and places to shelter in case of inclement weather. (During the COVID-19 pandemic, most visitor centers, playgrounds and enclosed shelters are closed.)
CHECK OUT: Wisconsin State Park System
The charm of a bygone era can set the scene for a lovely wedding that honors tradition and revels in details like high ceilings, stone fireplaces, hardwood floors and intricate carvings. Adding to the joy of the wedding is the adventure of learning something new about Wisconsin’s proud history.
CHECK OUT: The Old Courthouse Museum, West Bend | Rothschild Pavilion, Wausau | Milwaukee Athletic Club, Milwaukee | Historic Pritzlaff Building, Milwaukee | Story Hill Firehouse, Milwaukee | The Treasury, Delavan
Just because you didn’t grow up in a stately mansion doesn’t mean you can’t get married in one. A reception in a historic home, many on the National Register of Historic Places and sometimes open to the public for tours, can satisfy that dream of luxe living. Many historic homes have event planners and can take care of details such as catering, décor, preparation and cleanup for you. Sometimes availability is limited depending on tour schedules, and not all homes can accommodate large groups.
PRIVATE HOME OR BACK YARD
A private home can provide a unique space all your own, often filled with special meaning. Preparations and day-of workload may discourage many parents or friends from offering their homes, however, and size restrictions can also come into play. Among other challenges are arranging for adequate kitchen space, restrooms and parking. Inform the neighbors of the special occasion so they can anticipate traffic and possible noise (and not call law enforcement with a complaint).
If you dream of a classic space, a country club could be your best fit. Set on immaculate greens, country clubs offer sophisticated style and brilliant outdoor space, and frequently offer event planning services as well as in-house catering. Your event may not be totally private, however, if club members can access the pool or grounds.
CHECK OUT: SentryWorld, Stevens Point | Meadowbrook Country Club, Mt. Pleasant | North Shore Golf Club, Menasha | The Carriage House at Lac La Belle, Oconomowoc | Trappers Turn, Wisconsin Dells | The Barn at the Bog, Saukville | Glen Erin Golf Club, Janesville | Bishops Bay Country Club, Middleton | Lake Windsor Country Club, Windsor | The River Club of Mequon, Mequon
For a small, intimate wedding, a restaurant is an excellent option. With possibilities for a unique menu and cozy ambience, this type of reception venue is relatively stress-free; guests could even order directly from the menu. Prior to booking your event, consult with the restaurant owner or general manager about space limitations and noise level during the time frame you are considering. If noise is a concern, inquire about a separate area or private event room for your reception. Some restaurants will rent the entire space for your event, in which case they’ll close it to the public. Check with your personal favorites to learn about availability!
A tented reception is a fantastic option that can comfortably accommodate a large guest list. While providing guests with shade and cover (and sometimes air conditioning or heat), everyone can still enjoy the sunset and dance into the evening under the stars. A tent company will have many options to choose from, including lighting, table and chair rentals. Before finalizing arrangements, get to know your site so you can provide any electrical outlet information to your rental company.