You’ve found your mate and now it’s time to find your inspiration and set a date. But before you do that, you need a venue.
Weddings are personalized down to the very last detail. Today’s brides and grooms look to select a venue that will set the mood for their wedding day whether it is luxurious and classy or rustic and relaxed.
While churches and hotels are the obvious choice, the Fox Cities has several lesser-known venues.
Calls for Character
Sometimes you can narrow down what you want by knowing what you don’t want.
This was the case for Trevor Nackers, who works for Appleton photographer Dave Jackson, and has attended many weddings on the job. Having seen mostly every venue option in the Fox Cities, he had collected a list of places that weren’t his style.
So when it came time to plan his own nuptials with his wife, Amy, they had one main criterion: to find a venue that seemed luxurious and classy in a warehouse-like district.
On August 13, 2010, Trevor and Amy were wed in the basement of the Paper Discovery Center, located in the river flats of Appleton.
The lower level of the museum serves as a room for receptions and conferences and boasts brick double archways where paper machines used to stand. The back patio, resting up against the river, affords room for a ceremony or high-top tables for cocktail hour.
Originally planning to hold their ceremony outside, rainy weather spoiled their plans and the museum was able to accommodate the event inside.
“Our space leaves it up to people’s imagination,” says Dave Lee, the former executive director.
Trevor echoes that account, adding, “You have to go in with the idea of having a unique space that you can make cool with your own work.”
The Nackers, whose wedding was one of the first at the Paper Discovery Center, entertained about 80 guests, but the venue can hold 125.
The National Railroad Museum in Green Bay speeds onto the wedding scene with its 26,000-square-foot Frederick J. Lenfestey Center.
Hosting only eight receptions in 2010, the museum is not your standard wedding venue. The package can include train rides around the museum grounds for wedding guests, a tour of the exhibits and dinner next to the Dwight D. Eisenhower and Union Pacific Big Boy trains.
“What sets us apart from other venues is our great history and the trains being open for guests to sit in and feel like what it was like to travel back in the day,” says Deanna Novak, director of sales and marketing. “When you first walk into the hall, the front area is where the tables and chairs are set up. The trains are your backdrop.”
Even in a room with larger-than-life locomotives, the venue can entertain up to 350 guests.
Vows on the Range
If it’s farmstead scenery that you’re looking for to host your big day, Mulberry Lane Farm in Sherwood is a rustic, relaxed option.
The 129-year-old farm is known for its guided tours and family fun. The setting promises a traditional country feeling with pens of animals to entertain guests, a campfire area, hay bales and a mighty large red barn called the Hay Mow, which is what caught the attention of Seth and Kate Lenz.
Married on October 30, 2010, the Lenzes were the first couple to have their wedding reception at Mulberry Lane Farm, but it wasn’t a cakewalk. With only five weeks until their wedding day, they were “left at the alter” by a different private barn venue.
Both from large families, they sought a venue that could accommodate a sizable turnout, and with only a little over a month to lock in a site, Seth did what any 24-year-old, husband-to-be would do: he turned to Facebook.
He contacted Mulberry Farm owners Bonnie and Patrick Keyes. After seeing the location, Seth and Kate were sold.
The main barn can fit 400-500 guests comfortably and, depending on the time of year, there is room to roam around the barn––120 acres to be exact.
“A family farm is a thing of the past,” says Bonnie. “Something about a farm brings out the joy and worth of people.”
The Keyes admit a farm setting might be unceremonious for some, but it’s ideal for a large crowd looking to celebrate in the great wide open.
“We’re on the Niagara Escarpment, so the land dips down to show a rolling hill,” Bonnie adds. “If the barn isn’t appealing to a couple, white tents can be brought in.”
The Lenzes catered in pizza and had family members grilling kebabs outside the Hay Mow. The lower section of the Hay Mow, called the Granary, served as the bar and gift area. With chilly weather forecasted, Seth rented portable heaters. Guests cut a rug on a dance floor under big bulb lights that Kate strung from the high rafters (pictured on page 33). Hay bale bleacher-style seating lines the west wall of the barn.
“The barn itself is enough decoration!” says Kate. “It’s genuine, private and seasonal.”
Romance and Renaissance
What if you had the opportunity to be pronounced husband and wife in a place where your love story will join others who have gone down in history?
With a renovation completed in August 2010, The Trout Museum of Art (formerly the Appleton Art Center), downtown Appleton, offers a pristine quality that is second to none.
A grand staircase opens up into the showroom on the first floor, acting as a ceremonial centerpiece. Gentle lighting graces a collection of artwork by Salvador Dalí, Norman Rockwell, Marc Chagall, and others pinned against white interior walls.
Depending on the exhibition at the time, the first floor showroom can accommodate 100-120 guests for a ceremony, including seating on the upper level that looks out into the showroom. An hors d’oeuvres-style reception, equipped with four to five food stations and high cocktail tables, can entertain 200–225 guests.
“The beauty of the venue is that the new vestibule is perfect for musicians and guests can stumble outside [into Houdini Plaza],” says Executive Director Tim Riley.
The Trout’s rental rate includes exclusive use of art galleries, onsite event coordinator and receptionist/coat check services, a security guard, and tables, chairs and linens. A handful of caterers familiar with The Trout premises are available within the downtown Appleton district.
Across College Avenue, the stage is already set for weddings. Be it a ceremony or reception, The OuterEdge Stage is the Fox Cities’ newest events venue.
Formerly Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, the building still exhibits 1920s flair with 25-foot-high stained glass windows and a cathedral ceiling.
“It’s a ‘less is more’ building,” says Lyssa King, owner with her husband, Ben. “There’s so much going on with the columns, stage and stained glass that you have to be careful to not do too much.”
Having tied the knot at OuterEdge on December 18, 2010, Mark and Beth Ann DesJardin envisioned a venue that could cater to an unconventional wedding and accommodate both ceremony and reception.
“To throw out the traditional wedding model and design our day from scratch was huge in our decision to book the venue,” says Beth Ann, who is a wedding photographer based in Appleton.
The venue can hold about 350 guests for a ceremony and 150 for a reception. With 180 invited to share the DesJardins’ big day, OuterEdge provides personnel to handle the transition and the building has attractions to draw guests out of the hall and into the lower level coffee shop while the changeover takes place.
“Our out-of-town guests were very impressed with the venue, saying it’s comparable to a great historic venue you’d find in larger cities,” she adds.
Juxtaposing vintage, Old World-style with the newest technology, the site is equipped with a DMX-controlled system for visual lighting displays and four HD cameras function as the in-house videographer.
“The OuterEdge team is dedicated to making your day a real life fairy tale, one your guests will think you spent a fortune on,” Beth Ann adds.
The rehearsal dinner (also considered the groom’s dinner––traditionally hosted by the groom’s parents) is a great opportunity for wedding guests and families to get acquainted before the big day.
Here are a few suggestions for a special spot to mingle on the eve of the wedding!
The Whiting Boathouse, a nautically themed lakeside property, was built in 1932 by Frank B. Whiting in a time of industrial wealth. Located along Doty Park in Neenah, it has a spacious side-yard with ample parking to boot and it’s the only city facility that allows the consumption of alcohol making it popular for rehearsals and receptions. It provides tables and chairs for guests, air conditioning, a gas fireplace, wet bar, kitchen space with a refrigerator and two outdoor grills. Food must be catered.
A Victorian-themed evening can take place at the Hearthstone Historic House Museum in Appleton. It’s been nearly 10 years since the museum has hosted a wedding, but with a new policy in place, a room (mainly the first floor with the parlor, library and dining room) or the outside of the house is now available for rent. “We are great for a small intimate wedding, bridal tea, an engagement party or groom’s dinner,” explains Tricia Adams, executive director. With no cooking facilities on site, everything must be catered in, including tableware and dinnerware.
—By Alison Fiebig