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Door County has a grip on me.  The little peninsula in the Northeast corner of Wisconsin is enchanting, charming and inviting.  Life is a bit slower, the sun seems a little sweeter, the people are small-town awesome, and there’s a strong respect for history on every street.  You can spend a week there and still not have explored all the nooks and crannies.  It’s a wonderful choice for a wedding – whether you’ve been vacationing there all your life and it feels like a second home, or you want something “destination”.

I’ve shot several weddings each season there for years, and have developed a strong list of the awesome locations you can get married in the Door.  (And, a healthy list of the best vendors in the area too – just ask!)   The best helping hand for a wedding in the area is without question the Door County Event Planners – give them a call and you’ll have your ideas turned into reality in no time.

*I add to this list all the time, and welcome your suggestions!*

Door County Peninsula Wedding Venues

Garden Gables – This little farm is straight out of Martha Stewart.  Painted in pale greens with beautiful decorative siding, a heirloom garden in the center, and plenty of green space to spread out and enjoy a laid-back wedding.

wedding at this venue by m three studio: Terren & Shane

Horseshoe Bay Gulf Club and Beach Club and Farms – Horseshoe Bay is the obvious choice if you are looking for top-notch service in a resort setting.  A myriad of lodging options for your guests, and three options for weddings – their incomparable golf club, the perfectly positioned beach club and the beautifully maintained farm.

wedding at this venue by m three studio (Beach Club): Gaib & Sam

The Wickman House – Classic with a modern polish, and incredible food and cocktails.

Woodwalk Gallery – An enchanting hobby farm with multiple ceremony options, an open slat barn and fields that disappear into the setting sun.

weddings by m three at this venue: Lanie & Rob, Emily & Nick

About Thyme Farm – One of the biggest barn venues in the peninsula – think weathered wood, a perfect cocktail lawn, and plenty of surrounding outbuildings to add to the ambience.  Oh, and chickens!

wedding at this venue by m three studio: Jenna & Drew

Chanticleer Guest House – You have to see this one to believe it.  Red barn buildings, outfitted with modern comforts.

Eagle Harbor Inn – A charming inn right in tiny Ephraim.

Gordon Lodge – This resort is so perfectly positioned.  Surrounded by a beautiful forrest and nestled right against the water on the “quiet side” of the peninsula.  Multiple ceremony options, an expert staff, and fantastic lodging options.

wedding at this venue by m three studio: Michelle & Kyle

Maxwelton Braes Lodge – A historic lodge, extensive grounds, beautiful golf course, and right on the water.

Silver Poplar Studios – An eclectic barn style venue that has all the whimsy of an artists’ studio – because it is one!  Beautiful meandering gardens, unique spaces and plenty of options.

Simon Creek Winery – This is a beautiful rustic property nestled into a wooded hill.  The original barn serves as backdrop for the modern tasting room, and there is plenty of outdoor terrace and green space for a tent.

wedding at this venue by m three studio: Gaib & Sam

Stone’s Throw Winery– Unique and modern architecture is paired with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

The Peninsula School of Art – art galleries, gazebos, lush gardens, a gorgeous octagonal barn…

Bjorklunden – This is a tucked away property owned by Lawrence University.  It is home to a beautiful hand-hewn Scandinavian chapel (Boynton Chapel) an enchanting forest straight out of Shakespeare and waterfront views as well.  Vail Hall provides an indoor option for your event, but there’s plenty of space for a tent for something outdoors.

wedding ceremony at this location by m three studio: Jenna & Drew

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Washington Island Wedding Venues

Washington Island is part of Door County, but it deserves it’s own category because it has it’s own unique vibe.  Accessible only by ferry and virtually without a cell phone signal – this is where you go to truly get away from it all.  The little island looks like it was plucked from Cape Cod and plunked down into the Midwest.  The island’s residents are as eclectic as they come – and you’ll run into the best characters here.  The venues on the 18 square mile island are rustic and charming, with many of the best options likely in renting a private home.  We’ve been lucky enough to shoot two incredible weddings on this island, and are always itching to go back!

m three studio weddings on the island: Meghan & Matt,  Shannon & Danny

Historic Island Dairy – Possibly the most unique space on the island for a wedding.  Surrounded by a burgeoning lavender farm, the former dairy building has been converted to a shop on the first floor and an airy and bright event space with vaulted ceilings on the second floor.

Trueblood Performing Arts Center – a modern building with outdoor patios and lawn space.  They regularly host concerts and art shows – a wedding is an easy transition.

Hotel Washington – Majestic Oak trees provide the perfect canopy for an outdoor ceremony on the lawn in front of this historic house.  The property overlooks Detroit Harbor and boasts beautiful accommodations and onsite catering.

Scandinavian Stavkirke Church  – a rustic and traditional Scandinavian church nestled into the woods just off the main road.  For intimate weddings only, as it holds only 38.

Gibson’s West Harbor Resort – perfect sunset views and a spectacular natural setting.

Froghollow Farm – I personally think this would be a charming place to host a wedding with the “at home” feel.  I’m not sure if the owners would offer this, but it’s worth asking!

Washington Island Farm Museum – They have no official website, but the Facebook page is up to date.  I’ve seen a wedding happening there, and it would be quite the authentic setting.

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Wedding dates get picked for a myriad of reasons – my own actually got picked by our venue when they double booked our original, carefully chosen date. So how do you pick?  Based on your sibling’s wedding plans?  Maybe the dates your venue has open?  Or maybe it’s when you are able to get enough vacation?  There’s a certain amount of serendipity and chance that is lovely about that process.

But if you could pick any wedding date, let’s pick the perfect one.

In my book, the perfect day to get married in the Midwest is the days surrounding summer solstice. It’s all because of the light.

People, the light!  Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year, which means the sun is going to be up for glorious extra time.  You know that languid, warm feeling you get in summer – when your brain knows it’s evening, but it’s still light out?  You feel like you are cheating time.   That feeling that there is still so much of the day left ahead,  so much possibility with the oncoming dusk.  It’s all because of the extra light.

Your cocktails will be fully lit – giving a sparkle to your guests’ conversations and the fizzy deliciousness in their hands.  You’ll be victoriously walking into your reception just as golden hour is starting.  Your toasts will be bathed in light that flatters everyone.  Your first dance? Imagine beautiful golden rays of the setting sun all around you.  (You do realize I’m describing a fully lit dinner? Perfect!) Dark will come, and with it, your dance party.  The onset of dark is a natural cue to the brain that it’s time to transition into party time.  Light plays a huge part in mood and energy – so go ahead and put that on your side to add the awesome to your wedding day.

And you know, as your photographer, I couldn’t be more excited about a choice for the best light!

What other benefits does this time of year have?  So many!

-In the Midwest, Summer Solstice falls right in the middle of summer.  So, you’ll spend half of summer prepping for your wedding day, and the other half enjoying being newlyweds!  Perfect, right?

-It’s also right before the 4th of July, so you’ll have a major holiday right after your wedding to be the glowing newlyweds and dish on all the fun your day was with family and friends.

-Think to the future – your anniversary will also fall mid-summer, which is a great time for trips and celebrations.

-Here in the Midwest, the heat is often a factor in choosing a date.  The end of June is typically a sweet spot – where it’s warm and very summery but not yet humid and sticky.  So breezy dresses and strappy sandals are perfect, and your makeup will be too.

Of course, this is not to say that other wedding dates aren’t perfect.  They are – for different reasons.  But photographically speaking – I’m always going to take the side of light, and the very best light of the year in the Midwest is over Summer Solstice.  Your fall wedding date can be arranged beautifully to take advantage of light, and so can your spring or winter wedding – it’s really about maximizing what is special about that time of year and using it to your advantage.

*All images in this post are from weddings around this perfect time of year.  Here’s some links if you want to explore:

Kyle & David at the Milwaukee Country Club
(they took full advantage of the light on their day with a clearspan tent – that’s doubling down on all the goodness!)

Nicolette & Jason at The Barn at Pioneer Acres

 

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Brian is a planner.  He sees forward 10 steps and acts accordingly.  This is an admirable quality in any mate.  For Jessica, it meant a perfectly surprising proposal.  She was planning on a nice evening out with a friend from out of town.  A friend of Brian’s.  He’d texted her the day before, saying how much he was looking forward to seeing them both.  And so Jess spent the early evening dressing and primping.  Brian, meanwhile, was texting with that same friend, smiling at how his plan was playing out.  The friend wasn’t in town.  It was just a simple cover.  He pulled the Champagne he’d hidden in the back of the fridge out, and plunged it into the ice bucket.  Jess started to come down the stairs and he quickly stood in front of his surprise.  “Ready?” she inquired.  “Yes, and no.” he answered, a sly smile spreading across his face until it crinkled his eyes and turned mischievous.  She paused, curious.  “What do you mean?”  He reached into his pocket.  “Well, first you have to answer a question…”

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Shawna and Trevor go together like jack and coke.  I’ll reference a nice cocktail, because that is the sort of sauciness they exude.  Both awesome and unique on their own, but something full of magic and chemistry when mixed together.  They possess a certain style as a couple that is relaxed, exuberant and a touch old-school too.  You’ll see it all through their wedding day.  In Shawna’s stylish wedding dress (with stacked heel booties for shoes!), in the paper Trevor used for his vows, in their adorable brother serving as officiant, in the sweet way Shawna’s sisters surround her on the dance floor, in the all knowing glances between Trevor and his twin brother, and also in a visit from grandma via a monarch.

                                                                                           

The Credits:

Venue: Lake Park Bistro

Floral: Impressions by Esther

Bride’s Gown: Blush by Hayley Paige

Bridesmaids: Dessy

Men’s Suits: Joseph A Banks

Stationer: Minted

Bride’s Shoes: Calvin Klein

Rings: A Trio Jewelry

Lounge Furniture: Canopies Events

Bride & Groom Chairs: Relics Vintage Rentals

Band: Dan Harvey Band

Makeup: Paulina Esthetics Boutique

Hair: Hello Brunette

 

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Becoming a parent transforms you.  It’s slow and subtle, and those nine months that you wait and wait, they work their magic on you slowly.  By the time you are settled in at home, trying to figure out the rhythms of a new tiny human entrusted to your care – you are in the throes of it.  There is still more change to come, more molding, more stretching, more becoming.  But for Nikki & John, I smiled so broadly at how much they’ve already become parents to sweet Regan.  She’s a joy, that’s clear.  I think there were several moments during this session where we all caught ourselves just watching her and forgot to take pictures.

                

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Okay, well there are like 10 things I would tweak.  But there’s ONE thing that would have made a huge difference.  This one simple choice would have solved so much of our stress, and saved Hubby a lot of sweat too.

Wondering what it is?

 

I would have done a first look. 

Admittedly, it was *almost* ten years ago, and first looks weren’t really a “thing”.  But if we had done one – our day would have been so much smoother!

I had a big entrance planned (thanks to a childhood impression made by a cousin’s wedding).  A grand staircase, a trumpet, a long and dramatic veil…it was going to be epic.  And it was.  I remember that walk, gripping my dad’s arm, the smell of jasmine wafting up towards me, the big white flower arrangements, the smiling faces, the music swelling, my tears getting stuck in my veil.  And then there he was, waiting for me.  Anxious, nervous…hot.  (It was 80 degrees in May)  He smiled a look I will never forget.  But he was three feet away from me, and then our officiant started talking, and I was trying to take it all in, pay attention to the words, sneak a peek at my Mom.  There wasn’t a moment to connect with him.  The one I was there to marry.  Here we were – about to promise forever, and I hadn’t even said hello yet.

Imagine if we had done a first look.  We would have met hours before.  Connected and set the tone for the day where it belonged – on us and our love.  Walking down that staircase would have felt like a glide, because I would have been resuming what we had already started earlier in the day.  A continuing feeling.  The nervousness wouldn’t have been there. I wouldn’t have been fighting to hide my feelings because so many eyes were on me. Hubby wouldn’t have been sweating quite so hard because he would have felt that continuance too.  I’m confident I would have thought to hand off my bouquet and grab his hands even.  Which would have been awesome. (Oh, there’s so much you don’t think of!)

Don’t get me wrong.  I adore our wedding and all the memories that go with it.  But seeing over 300 other weddings play out through the last 10 years has shown me – there’s always room for improvement.

From a more practical side:

-We would have had our photos already accomplished too.  Which means I would have pictures with our grandmothers and my godfather – who all left quickly after the ceremony because of the heat.  Those people are gone now, and we can’t get those pictures back.  We all would have been less sweaty too, which can’t hurt.

-We could have felt relaxed instead of rushed afterwards (because….our day of coordinator started the ceremony 30 minutes late), knowing we didn’t need to run off for pictures with our wedding party.

-We would have been able to attend our own cocktail hour and party with our guests and dear family and friends.  We’ve heard so many stories of this time, but we didn’t get to experience it.

So there you have it – my #1 thing I would change.  If you are wondering if it takes away from that feeling of seeing your bride for the first time – the grooms included in this post are all seeing their brides for the second time that day – hours after a first look!

 

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It’s exceedingly romantic to get married at the end of a season.  To start a new life, a new version of  yourself, just as the world is letting go and transforming.  So, they partied away the last warm rays, the last colorful swirls of leaves that autumn had to offer with their wedding day.  The biting cold wind just served to prove it was the absolute tipping point from one season into the next, and Sandy & Cain had positioned their first day of marriage just perfectly.

                                                                

The Credits:

Venue: The Enchanted Barn

Florals: DIY by the Bride

Stationer: Wedding Paper Divas

Bride’s Gown: Martina Liana

Bridesmaids: Bari Jay & Alfred Angelo

Groom’s Suit: Tommy Hilfiger

Macaroons: Nikkolette’s Macaroons

Band: Milwaukee Hot Club

DJ: Ignite Entertainment

 

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He was the cute guy wearing a flannel and holding a football in his profile picture.  She was the girl tired of the misses on eHarmony.  So, she threw caution to the wind and tossed him a line out of her usual norm: “Happy Hump Day!  I hope that’s not too aggressive”.  It turns out it wasn’t, and before she knew it she was breaking more of her own rules and stepping into his car for their first date.  Hours slid by rapidly that night as they talked. They realized they had been missing each other’s passes for years – living parallel and never intersecting.  They had been at the same parties, flown to Chicago on the same weekends, even lived in the same building.  It was a tale of narrow misses with your other half. Until now.

        

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I thought you might enjoy a little behind the scenes peek into the how and why of our new website.  This new site is just the first piece in a brand refresh you will see unfurling across all our platforms in the coming months.  What you see from me from now on will be aimed at a classic, personal, sophisticated look with just a touch of gold and sass.

This is year 10 for m three studio. (I know, can you believe it?!?), and it was time to polish things up a bit.  We’ve come a long way in 10 years and over 300 weddings.  I have it all saved in archive – from that first (now cringeworthy) wedding in 2007, the old logo, the old business cards (multiple versions), the rebrand in 2009, and now a refresh on that in 2017.

(A little peek at the past incarnations of m three studio)

My brand and my work have always been side by side. Sometimes one jumps ahead of the other and we have to do some leveling off.  Such is the case now.  The old website was lovely, but it didn’t fit as well anymore.  The sleeves were a little shrunken, the neckline had lost it’s shape.  It was comfortable, but I’ve never been a big fan of comfortable artistically.

I wanted a site that touched on a lot of my “Why”.  For me, being a photographer is such an honor.  I’m asked to record special moments in someone’s life story.  But I’m also asked to be part of that experience to a certain extent.  It’s an honor I don’t take lightly.  We put a lot of work into crafting that experience, and the photographs we create.  I know my work becomes part of my client’s family history – and so the site is a nod to that.  I’m shooting for the silver frame with every click of my camera.

The new website also touches on my storytelling focus.  I’m a former filmmaker and animator.  Storytelling has always been there for me as an artist. It’s another “why” for me.  It’s what drives me to photograph.  It’s what drove me to draw, to print, to paint.  There was always a story to tell. There still is.  This is why you see a set of full wedding days to peruse in the galleries – not just a collection of my best pictures.

I’ve added a fun page introducing you to my AH-mazing studio photographer Melissa.  She’s been photographing for m three studio for years – picking up dates I was already booked for.  You should check out her page, and her sweet pup Phoebe too.

There’s much more ahead!  Next up is a new and shiny blog – which has been a long-time coming, as we outgrew that look and threw it in the “too small” bin years ago.  After that, we will be full steam ahead on an Anniversary celebration of sorts.  Because 10 years is amazing!  I’ll for sure pull some more out of the archives to share and embarrass myself with too.

We are also adding a newsletter!  I’ll be featuring some stories on there that you won’t see elsewhere from me.  But it will also be a great way to keep up with all we do and create.  There might be a recipe or kiddo picture in there from time to time, and some other randomness.  You just never know.  Newsletter subscribers will be the first to know about special sessions, sales and other events.  You can sign up here, I hope you do!

 

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He fidgeted in the pew, trying to find a comfortable position.  His bible slipped off his lap onto the floor and he leaned over to retrieve it.  It was just beyond his fingertips and he stretched a little farther. Just as he got a grasp on it, a beautiful song started to fill the air.  He looked up to see who it was.  A girl he hadn’t seen before, with long brown hair and a clear command of her spirit, was leading worship.  He sat there, a bit in awe for a moment, taking in her song, the sound of her voice.  The last chord on the keyboard brought a half-embarrassed smile to her face and he noticed she looked up towards him briefly.  A feeling washed over him.  This was his wife.  Wait, what?  He looked down, shook his head a bit.  No, that is clearly what had just been whispered in his mind. He looked again at Kelsey.  He sat with the thought a moment, feeling it warm slowly inside his chest. He smiled, and blinked.  Kelsey was standing again, about to sing.  So he set his eyes on her and allowed himself to get caught back up into the service.  Months later, he had asked her on a date, and then another, and she found herself falling despite the reservations of her independent spirit.  She hadn’t really been looking, and that was clear since Dan had been right under he nose and yet somehow completely un-noticed by her.  She wasn’t sure she was ready and so she figured it might be best to put this in someone else’s hands.  So, she started asking for clear, undeniable signs from God.  She requested detailed, specific things – conversations she felt they needed to have, concerns she held deep, worries she was afraid to discuss.  Over and over again, there would be another date with Dan the next day, and much to her surprise and delight, he would bring up these same concerns and lay them bare for examination.  The signs were large, lit in neon and sometimes even blinking.  And so, on a chilly fall day, on a hike, Dan asked the final question, and Kelsey said yes.

        

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