Stage your wedding story at these unique event venues
Booking the perfect venue is at the top of many couples’ wedding to-do lists. These five locations offer a little bit of everything – from historic architecture to botanical beauty – creating the perfect setting for every style of fête.
Originally founded in 1927 as a men-only Eagles club, The Howard in Oshkosh has been carefully restored by sisters and proprietors, Carey Sharpe and Jenna Golem, who renamed the property after their grandfather, Howard Curler.
The Howard opened in the fall of 2018 as a multi-use event space, café and boutique bowling alley after more than a year of renovations, Sharpe says. The venue hosted its first wedding last July and is already booking dates for 2020.
For couples seeking a historic space with all the modern updates, The Howard is a hot spot. Ceremonies are held in the Great Hall, which can seat about 170 guests and features vaulted ceilings accented with original wood beams.
Receptions are held in the 7,000-square-foot ballroom with seating for more than 300 guests. The two-floor ballroom features ornate whitewashed ceilings detailed with elaborate brass filigree works, original light fixtures around the balcony and a newly installed bar. A custom sound system allows The Howard to offer DJ services as well.
“The thing that’s great about our venue is we are really all-inclusive,” Sharpe says. “We can do ceremonies, receptions and we do all our in-house catering. We have an incredible chef team here.”
The 25-page catering menu is a jumping-off point for bridal couples planning their big day, but the on-site chefs can create anything. “Literally the sky’s the limit,” Sharpe says. The Howard can also provide all the necessary linens, china, flatware and glassware.
In addition to private events like weddings, The Howard hosts dinners, concerts and theatrical productions that appeal to the whole community. “We wanted [The Howard] to be something that everybody could come to. It’s great for weddings, but that wasn’t our mission,” Sharpe says. “We did this for the community.”
From Texas to New York (and even as far away as Pakistan), couples are flocking to Whistler’s Knoll in Hortonville for their wedding-day venue. Whistler’s Knoll, which is entering its sixth wedding season, is an active vineyard and event venue that can host up to 200 guests during peak season.
“We have become a wedding destination,” says Holly Boettcher, who owns the property with her husband, Tom a.k.a. Whistler. “What we are finding is people have family members who live all over the place. They are all going to travel no matter where the wedding takes place, so they pick a unique destination with great accommodations.”
Boettcher says couples love the rural charm and natural beauty of the countryside setting, while only being 15 minutes away from urban amenities like hotels, restaurants and the Fox River Mall.
Wedding rentals include access to the entire property including a renovated 1800s dairy barn, patio, pavilion and vineyard. Both Boettcher and her
event coordinator are master gardeners, so the property features thousands of blooming flowers and meticulously manicured gardens that attract hummingbirds, butterflies and birds.
During peak season from May through October, ceremonies are usually held outdoors in the vineyard, with the pavilion as backup in case of rain. The vineyard’s heirloom chickens who roam the property often attend the outdoor ceremonies as well, to the delight of wedding guests. “Everybody loves our chickens,” Boettcher says. “They are the stars of the show.”
Couples can choose from a list of approved caterers to plan their reception menu. Whistler’s Knoll carries a Class B liquor license and supplies licensed bartenders for weddings hosted on the property. Tables, chairs and cleanup services are all part of the package as well.
Many couples choose to hire a shuttle service to transport guests from the event site to local hotels. Overnight parking at Whistler’s Knoll is free and encouraged.
Hotel Northland in Green Bay originally opened in 1924 as Wisconsin’s largest hotel. Nearly 100 years later, it is scheduled to reopen this month and continue its storied legacy as an event destination.
General Manager John D. Williams says bridal couples and their guests will now be able to experience the boutique hotel’s revitalized charm. A few dates are available in 2019 and wedding rentals are being accepted into 2020.
The 160-room hotel offers several event spaces, the largest being the Crystal Ballroom. “We have an extraordinary catering space with the Crystal Ballroom. It’s just off the lobby up a grand staircase,” Williams says. “It looks identical to the way it looked in 1924 with the same chandeliers and original plaster details.”
The 2,287-square-foot ballroom can hold up to 228 guests. Overlooking the ballroom is a mezzanine with additional reception seating.
While Hotel Northland’s focus is on wedding receptions more so than ceremonies, there are additional spaces that can host wedding-related festivities. “We have a really cool space in the lower level of the hotel. It will have a pool table, permanent bar, shuffleboard table and sanctioned bowling alleys,” Williams says. “It would make an exceptional rehearsal dinner space.”
All food is prepared and served by the hotel chef and staff. Director of Sales Brandon Flitter says the hotel is unique in that it has an in-house pastry chef who creates custom wedding cakes for bridal couples and the catering menu is completely customizable.
Green Bay residents have been eagerly awaiting the reopening of this legendary hotel that holds memories for so many.
“Everyone has an emotional relationship with the hotel and they will be very proud when it comes back to life in February,” Williams says.
For nature-loving couples, the 700 acres of diverse habitat at Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve in Appleton is a wedding day win. In January 2018, the preserve opened its lodge which now serves as a wedding venue.
Event Manager Shelley Lauer says the majority of couples choose to host both their ceremony and receptions on-site. The preserve offers two outdoor ceremony sites, both with seating provided for 75 guests, but couples are welcome to rent additional chairs to accommodate more guests.
The lodge offers two reception spaces. The Great Blue Heron Hall has a capacity of 250 people and the Black Bear Den Auditorium has a capacity of 160. The Great Blue Heron Hall features pitched ceilings and a stunning homage to its namesake – a large chandelier in the shape of a Great Blue Heron nest. Both spaces face the preserve with floor-to-ceiling windows to maximize the scenery.
“Mother Nature decorates for us at no cost,” Lauer says.
The lodge’s lobby area outside the Great Blue Heron Hall is open for wedding guests to mingle. The lobby features a cozy fireplace and natural wood beams reclaimed from a 100-year-old local barn. Guests are also welcome to enjoy the deck. For Black Bear Den rentals, guests may utilize the ground-level walkout patio.
The Marq by Festival Foods, the preserve’s exclusive catering partner, offers buffet-style or plated dinner options and the preserve handles the bar.
Lauer says many couples appreciate the venue for being off the beaten path. “We are in town, but it feels like you are out of town,” she says. “Local hotels will offer shuttles, which is important to brides and grooms.”
The Paine Art Center & Gardens in Oshkosh is a historic 1927 estate featuring European-style architecture and four acres of pristinely manicured botanical gardens. For couples seeking an intersection of art, history and nature, the Paine is a top choice. Couples can book their ceremony, reception or both at the Paine.
“We have many ways to customize wedding day experiences depending on things like the size of the group and if they are envisioning an indoor or outdoor wedding,” says Director of Events Laura Rommelfanger.
For an al fresco fête, the ceremony garden seats 200 people. For more intimate ceremonies, the new formal garden adjacent to the conservatory offers seating for 50. Ceremonies inside the mansion offer seating for up to 80 guests in the Great Hall.
The rain or shine ceremony package offers the best of both worlds – couples plan to exchange vows in the ceremony garden while simultaneously reserving space in the conservatory to use in the event of inclement weather.
Rommelfanger says the most popular reception space on the property is the conservatory and carriage house. The newly constructed conservatory features skylights that flood the space with natural light and is well-suited for receptions of up to 160 guests.
Some couples will host cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the carriage house before dinner in the conservatory. The carriage house doors open to an outdoor patio so guests can mingle inside and out. Zuppas in Neenah is The Paine’s exclusive catering partner.
Regardless of which experience you choose, guests are encouraged to roam the grounds. “We don’t just allow glassware in the gardens, we recommend it,” Rommelfanger says. “Take your drink and go get lost in the beauty of the gardens because they are phenomenal. You walk inside these gates and you’re transported somewhere else. It’s so magical.”