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I had a mother of a bride, who on the morning of her daughter’s wedding made an odd request.  She asked me not to photograph her.  At all.  I’m sure the shocked look on my face was unchecked.  I immediately responded with a smile, “But you are part of the story today.  Of course, you will be in the pictures.”  To which she went on to explain that she always hated pictures of herself, that she never liked the way she looked, that seeing herself in pictures made her feel like the ugliest woman in the world.  Yes, she used those words.

And I’m telling you – the woman that stood before me was none of those things.  Far from it.  She was lovely, and in so many more ways than just conventional beauty.  It broke my heart a little to hear her say this.  She wasn’t fronting, she had thought about it and planned to tell me this, that was clear.  As we had this conversation, on the other side of the room were several of her children – women themselves.  They were gorgeous, beautiful souls.  They were full of confidence, intelligence, boldness, kindness, and grace.  These were the women she raised.   I turned to look at them after this conversation and wondered how someone who felt that way about herself could mold women like these.

There were no words I could offer this Mom in that moment to assure her that she was indeed, beautiful.  I was at a loss for what to say.  As the day wore on and I sought to include her in pictures and capture her reactions and moments that swirled around her – she would tsk at me and shake her head no in admonishment whenever she saw my camera pointed her way.  Times when she should have been so wrapped up in the moment and living it, but instead she was policing the capturing of her likeness.

What I came to want to say to her was this:

I’ve spent the day with your daughters, your sons, your husband, and your friends and relatives.  I’ve heard them speak of you.  I’ve heard their words, watched their faces.  I’ve seen the look on your daughter’s face as you walked into the room dressed for this special day.  I’ve heard your new son-in-law tell stories about you.  I witnessed multiple toasts that reflected on your kind heart, your efforts, your love for your family.  I’ve seen you through the eyes of those who love you.  And I want you to know something.

You are the most beautiful woman.

They see none of your so-called flaws.  They look at you and see only your love for them.  They see the Mom who dried their tears, who created imaginary worlds to play in, who propped up their dreams, who helped create the day you are living now.  I wish I could show you how they see you.  I might, if you let me.  They see nothing but your beauty. Because your beauty isn’t in the physical things you are dwelling on – it’s in your actions.  To them, there are no double chins, no thick arm, no sagging skin, no wrinkles, no gray hairs.  Only you.  And you are beautiful beyond measure.

So be in the photographs.  You are a huge part of their lives and a huge part of this story.  To look back and not see you present in the collective memory of this day would be such a crime.  In fact, be in all the pictures, every day.

    

**Moms included in this photo collection are for illustrative purposes only, and this story isn’t about any of these ladies pictures here.  In fact, though it is inspired by one Mom I met, it is shared because after over 300 weddings I’ve found this isn’t an uncommon occurrence.  It doesn’t matter who it is about – just a gentle reminder to give yourself some grace, try to appreciate how others see you, and love yourself enough to be included.**

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Barn weddings are among my favorite.  I just love the contrast of elegance and casualness that inevitably develops.  And, let’s be serious – any couple willing to get a little dirty on their wedding day is a couple willing to have fun!

When I started this list back in 2013 (yes, I was way ahead of the trend!), finding a barn venue for a farm style wedding is an exhaustive search with very few resources.  I’ve added to this list continuously, and now reposted it here.

These are my favorite barn or barn-like venues throughout Wisconsin.  And, it goes without saying that I would be THRILLED to shoot at any one of these wedding venues!

Madison Area Barn Venues

Sugarland Barn – (pictured above) A gorgeous property that has every rustic dream in its acreage.  A plantation style house (available for rent and use), a sweeping lawn, ancient trees, a country road and a beautiful giant red barn, all among remote farm fields and woods.

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Wedding by m three studio at this venue: Mariah & Warren

Lussier Family Heritage Center -It’s the outdoors of this location that really rocks – great exterior and beautiful prairie everywhere.

Hilltop – I’ve extoled the beauty of this location before.  Check it out here.

Serendipity Bed & Breakfast – A giant, beautiful white farmhouse turned B&B, with a big red barn right next to it.  White picket fences, rolling fields, manicured grounds.

The Barn at Harvest Moon Pond – a barn configured to host.  Built in bar, beautiful chandeliers, stained glass inset in the original walls, exposed beams….

Olin Park – Right in the heart of Madison, but some great rustic structures to work with, and right on the water

Badger Farms – An authentic white wood barn partially encircled with a patio deck for cocktails.  The property is also a working farm and surrounded by crop fields.

O’Brien Barn – the original red wood barn on a working dairy farm, this one has two levels – a lower one for eating, and a loft for dancing.

MJ’s Farm– they originally opened for concerts, but are now hosting weddings as well in their charming white washed barn.  The owners have a great relaxed vibe – worth checking out!

Over the Vines – (pictured above)  A lovely red barn with stone foundation and silo overlook a young vineyard.  The owners have renovated the original farmhouse into bathrooms and “getting ready” quarters. Their own wines are available to serve to your guests.

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Wedding by m three studio at this venue: Meg & Rob

Century Barn – miles of white post fences, sunflower and hops fields and a big white barn high on a hill

Schuster’s Farm – a rare round barn available for events and weddings, nestled on a friendly family farm.  Located near Fort Atkinson and Lake Mills.

Farmin’ Bettys – A classic Wisconsin red barn with an unfinished interior, nestled on a property that is truly built to suit all your event needs.

Windy Pine Barn – A red rustic barn true to all your pinterest visions – light leaking between the boards, rolling hills, timber beam ceilings.

Bridle Barn & Gardens – (pictures above) Charming farmhouse, big red 1870’s barn, and 14 acres of manicured gardens and landscape.

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Wedding by m three studio at this venue: Sarah & Nate

Quivey’s Grove – (pictured above) A charming little red barn that shares property with a rustic restaurant and plenty of space for a tented reception.  Near plenty of countryside – but requires driving.

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Wedding by m three studio at this venue: Ashley & Mike

Huntington Farm – A beautiful yellow (!) barn on a manicured, family-occupied property just outside of Madison.  Holds up to 150.

 Whispering Willows Farm – Extensive acerage capable of hosting any variety of tents or open-air configurations.  There is also a pole-barn for indoor accommodations.  Surrounded by farms and rural prairie land for miles.

Milwaukee Barn Venues / Southeast Wisconsin Barn Venues

Barn at Trinity Peak (aka Weide Barn) – Five acres of wildflowers and fields with a large fieldstone barn that can accommodate  up to 200.

Holy Hill Art Farm – A huge weathered wood and fieldstone barn nestled into the hills of Richfield, 20 minutes outside of Milwaukee.

Trimborn Farm – Three barns (stone, red and natural wood), an old lime kiln, several out buildings and plenty of land.

Old World Wisconsin – a round barn (!) nestled in among bunches of period buildings and surroundings.

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The Irish Barn at Whistling Straits – (pictured above) it’s only an hour outside Milwaukee, so I had to list it.  Gorgeous, rustic and a little slice of Ireland right on the shore of Lake Michigan.

Weddings by m three studio at this venue: Lauren & Mark, Lynnea & Jason, Jen & Jeremy, Jill & Jason, July & Michael, Alicia & TJ, Maura & Sean

The Family Farm Event Loft – just outside Milwaukee in Grafton, this space was tailor-made for weddings.

Schuster’s Farm – a rare round barn available for events and weddings, nestled on a friendly family farm.  Located near Fort Atkinson and Lake Mills.

Windy Pine Barn – A red rustic barn true to all your pinterest visions – light leaking between the boards, rolling hills, timber beam ceilings. One hour from State Fair Park.

 The Rustic Barn at Prairie Gardens – A beautiful red barn with a covered outdoor space for cocktails as well.  Located near Burlington, this is a very accessible option.

The Landing 1841 –  A gorgeous property located on the White river with panoramic river views, hosting a very large original red wood barn.

Ram Horn Farm – natural wood barn, beautiful outbuildings and charming gardens.

Twisted Willow Farm – Beautiful big barn, gorgeous little farm house, chickens and they grow all of their own produce for their onsite bar and restaurant.  Just outside Milwaukee in Port Washington!

LacLawrann Conservancy Barn and Learning Center – Beautiful rebuilt barn with wonderful lighting, new learning center with floor to ceiling windows all situated on a beautiful 145 acre conservancy just 30 minutes north of Milwaukee in West Bend. Wedding capacity is listed at 230.

The Farm at Dover – (Pictured above) So charming!  Beautifully landscaped in a wild/rustic manner with overgrown vines and pocket gardens on 7 acres, this property hosts a large weathered wood barn, several smaller buildings and a charming victorian house as well as a garden built into the stone ruins of a former structure.  Just 35 minutes south of Milwaukee, and only a short trip from I-94, the location is remote and convenient all at once.

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Wedding by m three studio at this venue: Andrea & Scott

Wind Beneath Our Wings – There’s no website for this one, but a well-attended Facebook page shows a lovely rustic barn, fantastic grounds and a lot of charm!

Rustic Manor 1848 – Twelve acres filled with meadows and fields, lined with trails, and a large red barn that can host up to 275 guests (on two floors).  Located in Delafield, just 30 minutes outside of Milwaukee.

Wedding at this venue by m three studio: Brittany & Matt

Bennett Barn – A gorgeous weathered wood barn that holds just over 300.  As a bonus, there is a big farmhouse for getting ready, and an adorable country church across the street as well.

Door County Barn Venues and Northeast Wisconsin Barn Venues

Woodwalk Gallery – (pictured above) a positively charming hobby farm with silos, a beautiful barn and other structures and plenty of land to work with including wild fields.

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

Garden Gables Farm – (pictured above) The most charming little hobby farm, with a pale green barn and beautifully manicured grounds and gardens.  Straight out of Martha Stewart this one!

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

Silver Poplar Studios – an eclectic and artistic farm homestead.  Gardens, fields, and plenty of scenery.

Barnsite Retreat and Event Center – A big red barn (9,000 square feet!), exposed beams, scenery for miles.  There is also a full house built right into the barn that is available to the wedding party – for overnight guests, rehearsal dinners, out of towners, or just a getaway for the wedding party.

Willow Pond bed and Breakfast – a big red barn and plenty of lovely grounds with – as the name would suggest – willow trees in abundance.

La Grange Edgestone Barn – a new construction barn space with a lofted dinner area and new facilities built to accommodate.

 Birch Creek Music Performance Center – I heard a delightful rumor that this music venue housed on a lovely farm with weathered wood barns and great scenic grounds is now hosting weddings.  Check it out!

Whistler’s Knoll Barn & Vineyard – Chickens, grape vines and a rustic red barn – such a great combination!  Weddings can be held in the barn, vineyard, woods or tented on the property.

Mulberry Lane Farm –  Known primarily as a children’s petting farm, it is also available for weddings.  125 acres, a giant red barn, and all just 25 minutes outside of Green Bay.

About Thyme Farm – An original weathered wood barn atop a fieldstone foundation that can accommodate 200 for sit-down dinner.  A large yard surrounded by other weathered wood outbuildings. Larger weddings can put up a tent among the cornfields, rolling hills and beautiful scenery.

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

Southwest Wisconsin Barn Venues

The Milkweed Club – just a unique and cool venue.  Perfect for a smaller, more intimate wedding.

Pedretti Party Barn – A white barn on a vineyard in Western Wisconsin (30 min outside of LaCrosse) – as picturesque as it comes.

Norskedalen Nature and Heritage Center  – the property boasts a few homesteads with original structures (Log cabins, barns, stone buildings), an intimate cabin in the woods for a getaway and an arboretum.

Justin Trails – The jewel of this venue is the 100 year old timber-frame barn built and still owned by the Justin Family on their 200 acre farm.  3 acres of gardens, a disc golf course and on-site lodging add to the appeal of this venue.  They are able to accommodate guest lists under 200.

Northwest Wisconsin Barn Venues

Farm to Fork Wedding Retreat (Dancing Yarrow Retreat) – Multiple ceremony locations, a 1/4 mile of river frontage, barns, room for a tent.  A lot of care and craft has gone into this venue with a spiraling herb/flower garden, a frisbee golf course, canoeing, horseshoes, hiking trails and 4 acres of Organic gardens.  Since it is also a retreat center, 2 apartments are available for use by the couple and their families as well.

The Enchanted Barn – courtyards, two barn structures, balconies, weathered wood, incredible property, horses…

wedding by m three studio at this venue: Sandy & Cain

The Still Farm – a lovely authentic and rustic white barn near Eau Claire.

Fergusen’s Orchards – located near Eau Claire with tens of thousands of apple trees and a beautiful rustic barn

Brickhouse Getaway – a lovely barn and all the rustic elegance you could hope for.  The main house is also available for rental

Justin Trails – newly renovated 1919 post & beam barn with a red exterior.  Covered deck, silo, gardens, fields, and the cutest little yellow farmhouse.

Gatherings on the Ridge – A historic restored barn in white with open spaces between the boards for lovely filtered light.  There is a bridal room for preparation, catering kitchen and brand-new bathrooms.  A pick-your-own strawberry field is on the grounds as well.

Jean Acres – A tornado in 2013 afforded the owners the opportunity to rebuild, and the result is a beautiful big red barn that seats up to 200.   The property is full of homestead charm and the barn interior is light and bright!

Birch Hill Barn – a beautifully restored red dairy barn with two floors, that offers the comfort of modern touches while retaining the character of its historic roots.  Built into the side of a hill, it offers spectacular views of the countryside.

The Still Farm – A charming white-washed country barn, just minutes from Minneapolis/St. Paul.  The barn itself can accommodate up to 150 guests.

Blue Horse Farm – A 100 year old rustic barn that can accommodate up to 200 guests.  Surrounded by prairie land.

Dixon’s Apple Orchard –  Extensive grounds, a pole barn structure, fields and scenery for days.  A beautiful location with dedicated managers.

Central Wisconsin Barn Venues

Cedar Hill Farm – A gorgeous cedar barn (heated and air conditioned) on a working farm.  Horses, cows, fences, you name it.

Mulberry Lane Farm – a weathered red barn and stone outbuildings.  They are accustomed to hosting large groups as a petting farm and school group tour area.

Givens Farm – A little taste of rustic Tuscany in the heart of Wisconsin.  Charming european style gardens, rustic stone buildings, wonderful grounds, an old iron bridge…and don’t get me started on the artisan cooking classes…

Northern Wisconsin Barn Venues

Blue Vista Farm – stone and wood barn that overlooks Lake Superior.  Fantastic Apple Cider too!

Brule River Barn – Owners Jill & Kirk converted their farm property for their daughter’s wedding in 2012, and the results were so great, they’ve opened it up to others!

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I have to admit, when my Facebook and Instagram Story feeds start filling with ladies walking the runway in all the latest bridal collections, I swoon.   I mean, shopping for your wedding dress is one of the very best parts of wedding planning, right?!?  Its the dress you dream of first, picture yourself in, don mockups of as a little girl…flip through countless magazine pages devouring the possibilities.

The Spring 2018 collections do not disappoint.  There is a lot of texture and drama to be found in just about every designer’s offerings.  Admittedly, I look at the dresses and imagine working with them from a photography standpoint: How will they move?  What are the posing possibilities? Will they overwhelm the bride?  Those that pass this test then get submitted to my Midwestern practicality.  I look for real wearability – can you sit, can you walk, will you be able to dance, does it require constant diligent attention?  To that point, there are A LOT of the new dresses which were basically transparent and really not wearable in that respect.  Though they were beautiful, I couldn’t see a bride showing up in one and saying hi to Grandma. You know, that’s the bar I set.

So, fingers crossed a few of these beauties are found in my camera lens in 2018…hint, hint!

Kicking it off with two of my all-time favorite designers.  Carolina never ever disappoints.  She’s timeless and gorgeous.  Victor & Rolf – no one does a ballgown skirt like they do, and I always feel like you’ll love that dress to the end of time.

The blush trend continues in Spring 2018 and it’s made it’s way into the pale pinks that were all over the runway.  This flowy number by Leanne Marshall was an instant “yes”!  And the one in the upper left – what a beautiful and feminine take on sleeves.   Temperley managed to bring lots of texture and architecture to their collection, without losing the femininity.

Mori Lee isn’t always a favorite of mine, as I tend to shy from a lot of embellishments.  But the silhouettes in this collection can’t be beat, and the gorgeous soft skirts – so lovely, and there’s that blush tone again.   Julie Vino was a new discovery for me this season, and I loved the gladiator take on lace and jewels paired with the split skirt.

These next picks are the stuff dreams are made of.  I mean, look at them. The translucent lace skirts!  The way that upper right one shows off two, maybe even three silhouettes at once and still manages to look classic.  The necklines!  Oh, how I love a non-strapless dress that manages to make you even forget about the all-too-often-chosen option.  All the hand claps to Gemy Maalouf.

I have to hand it to Theia in the relaxed and wearable arena – they always nail that.  Easy, breezy, and just about anyone could wear them.  Oscar de la Renta on the other hand – he makes all my dreams come true with texture that doesn’t overwhelm.  And the mere suggestion of a veil that is that much fun?  Sign me up!

I loved how Randi Rahm & Peter Langer utilized sleeves without making them feel heavy.  Mira Zwillinger gave us geometric necklines that don’t feel put upon.  And Reem, well who can argue with the artistry that is her signature beading and embellishment?

Galia Lahav.  I’m still dreaming of this one dress from their collection.  It’s pink, and full, and flowery and the silhouette is divine.  Jenny Packham always owns the bejeweled dress, and this season was no exception.

I have to admit the laser cut lace number from Watters is pure gorgeousness.  I loved how Francesca Miranda managed slinky without loosing any of the romance.

I chose A LOT of full skirts this season – it’s because they are so much fun to wear and photograph.  It’s such a classic silhouette.  And, when else can you wear a dress like that and just revel in the drama of it?  I’d be remise not to include the awesome Monique Lhullier in this round-up, and she brought all kinds of romance and loveliness to this silhouette.

All images are from Martha Stewart Weddings, where many, but not all were credited to First Sight, the designer, or no credit given.  

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So, there’s one thing I’ve never understood about weddings.  Okay, well there are a few things, but one that truly puzzles me.

Why in the world do men rent a suit?  (And, even more, why do they rent shoes?)  There are so many things wrong with this concept.  Not the least of which is the fit is never right.  Don’t fool yourself – no suit that is made to fit an “average” size or sizes, could ever really be the right fit for your unique features and proportions.  There are as many rules about how a pant should break, where a cuff should fall, what the right width of lapel can do for your frame – as there are for dress silhouettes, fabrics, bustles….

So, let’s think about this a moment.  The Bride will shop for days, with much effort and opinion going into the selection of her dress.  Once chosen, it will be ordered in her size, then altered and perfected until it looks as though it was made just for her.  Much time and expense will go into her look. In contrast, the Groom will walk into a rental shop, get a few measurements, pick something out of a catalog and then never see it again until it arrives in a garment bag, stamped with a bar code, the day before the wedding.

Hmmm….doesn’t exactly seem fair, does it?

Shouldn’t the Groom – who is a whole half of this wedding equation – be given the same attention?  Shouldn’t he get to feel like he looks his best? Doesn’t he benefit from the confidence boost of a well-tailored look that feels personal, special, new and signature?  And, for the love of God, doesn’t he deserve to wear a comfortable shoe for the day, that actually fits?

I think he does. 

Still need convincing?  Okay, let’s be practical for a moment.  Why, oh why – would you go to your closet and pull out a garment that has been worn by multiple unknown people, likely been puked in or on in a previous wearing (not to mention the sweat, or other activities), washed countless times in questionable chemicals and is only marginally flattering on you?  You wouldn’t.  And you certainly wouldn’t choose it for your wedding day.  To be further practical – the cost of a tailored suit that you own outright – brand new, off the rack and altered – is about the same as a suit rental!

From a sentimental standpoint – wouldn’t it be wonderfully nostalgic to see your wedding suit in your closet in the years to come?  To wear it again to another wedding?  To pass down a piece of it to your child?  To be able to feel the weight of the fabric, to slip it on again and remember with a flash what it felt like to secure that jacket button, tuck your ring into the inside pocket?

If equality speaks to your soul – then let’s consider that a Bride will spend hundreds if not thousands on her wedding day look – with custom or carefully chosen accessories, shoes, undergarments, and of course the dress.  Her bridesmaids will each have bought a dress ($$$) which is then altered for them ($$$), shoes, accessories, hair, makeup…. you get that this is adding up, right?  So, why don’t we expect the same of men?  Why do they get away with a rental and don’t even have to buy a pair of matching shoes?

There’s just nothing like a man in a well-tailored suit.  It’s a classic look that never fades. So I say – the groom should get to enjoy the experience of a custom tailored or even custom made suit for his wedding day.  He should get measured, fit, and fit again.  He should get to pick out the fabrics, choose a custom lining, have his initials embroidered into the pocket.  He should be excited to take that suit off the hanger on the wedding day.  Thrilled to pull on the jacket and excited to show his Bride his well-polished look.

A few of our favorite suit makers:

Nicholas Joseph (Chicago)

Harleys for Men (Milwaukee)

Daniel George Custom Suits (Chicago)

Michael Andrews (New York)

Knot Standard

**Disclaimer:  Yes, I know there are plenty of lovely rentable suits out there, and always someone who feels that was the best decision for them, and that it was a great fit.  And I also know it’s just the generally accepted convention.  I just think with your wedding day you can do more.  Heck, we even made this misstep on our own wedding day – Hubby had a suit done for our rehearsal dinner then for some inexplicable reason we rented for the wedding day.  He felt like a million bucks at our rehearsal, and was rather uncomfortable on the wedding day.  So, I’ve always said this is something we would do differently for sure.  **

 

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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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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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Wisconsin has a lot of truly unique wedding venues, if you are willing to scratch a bit deeper than the surface.  I adore finding new locations to explore, and I’m always adding to this list.  In fact, I started this list back in 2013, but this version here is new and updated!

It goes without saying that I am THRILLED to shoot at any of these fantastic locales.  If location matters to you, please know it does to me too.  I’m so inspired by place and the ambience.

For Barn venues, please see my other blog post about just those locations. 

Givens Farm – A little taste of rustic Tuscany in the heart of Wisconsin.  Charming european style gardens, rustic stone buildings, wonderful grounds, an old iron bridge…and don’t get me started on the artisan cooking classes…

Stouts Island Lodge – built in the Adirondack style by a wealthy Chicago businessman, this lodge is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Nestled on a lovely and quaint island in the northwoods, it features carved beams imported from Germany, multiple cabins for your guests, and a boathouse in addition to the main lodge.  The South Lawn would a be an idyllic ceremony setting, and the island is abundant with great picture locations.

The Inn on Madeline Island – a little touch of New England sea town right on the shore of Lake Superior.  Plenty of accommodations for your guests (and a private spot for you too), lakefront space for a ceremony or reception tent, and indoor options as well.  There’s no escaping the nautical feel here, and the easy-breezy atmosphere.

Villa Terrace – an Italian mansion right on the shore of Lake Michigan, in the heart of Milwaukee.  A gorgeous garden cascades down the hillside from the mansion and terrace.  Have your ceremony up on the terrace with an unbeatable view, your cocktails in the courtyard and then escort your guests down into the gardens for the party.

villa_terrace_wedding_21

weddings by m three at Villa Terrace:

Diana & Justen, Emma & Spence, LiNa and John, Editorial Shoot, Adriana & Ashish, Emily & Dave

Milwaukee County Historical Society – a giant bank vault, marbled columns, hexagonal tile, a gorgeous mahogany bar, balcony, chandeliers, coffered ceiling, the list goes on and on.  Full of vintage charm, right in the heart of downtown – the detail is deep with this location.

weddings by m three studio at this venue: Casie & Derek, Megan & Louis

Villa Bellezza – a little slice of Tuscany in Lake Pepin (near Eau Claire), this venue is transformative.  You can’t help but feel like you are in Italy when surrounded by the mediterranean architecture, beautiful gardens, and um – hello! a winery!

Heritage Hill – The sweetest little white chapel you’ve ever encountered (with beautiful light!) and a charming turn-of-the-century group of buildings nestled into a field.  I adore shooting here, it’s a feed the soul sort of location.

River Wildlife – A charming hunting lodge tucked deep in the woods with all the five-star service you expect from a Kohler venue.  In Summer, you mine as well be in a Thomas Kinkade painting it’s so lovely.  In fall, the color is explosive.

Kohler_RiverWildlife_Wedding__1025

wedding by m three studio at this venue: Nicole & John

Circus World Museum – antique circus train cars and wagons, the big top, the original buildings of the Ringling Circus Winter quarters.  It doesn’t get more unique than this place, right in the heart of the state.

Paine Art Center and Gardens – A beautiful 1920’s Tudor Revival cream colored mansion/castle right in Oshkosh.  Gardens, lawns and beautiful scenery abound.  In winter with a fresh coat of snow – positively fairy tale.

Paoli Mill Terrace & Park – a beautiful historical park just outside Madison.  Lannon Stone, a meandering creek, lots of wooded glens and green space.

John Michael Kohler Art Center – my favorite part of this venue is the sculpture garden where you can get married under the facade of the former Carnegie Library – a free-standing archway sheared off the former building. A beautifully modern and almost all glass main building could host your reception.  And your guests will never stop talking about the bathrooms…..

Wind Point Lighthouse –  A stone’s throw from Milwaukee, this lighthouse is on a beautiful piece of land that juts out into Lake Michigan.  Neighbored by a golf-course, it sits in a quiet community, tended to by an old-fashioned lighthouse keeper.  Plenty of property for a lakefront ceremony and a tented reception, all in the shadow of a beautiful lighthouse.

DeKoven Center – Gothic architecture, miles of brick, 11 acres of wooded property and Lake Michigan, all rolled into a venue just thirty minutes south of Milwaukee.  They have a sweet little church and a lovely great hall in addition to the outdoor spaces.

The Pritzlaff – cream city brick, wood beamed ceilings, old metal fire doors….this is the epitome of old warehouse turned chic.  You can transform the many spaces of the Pritzlaff into just about whatever you like and still be right downtown.  One of the few venues that can host a small or a super large crowd with equal ease.

weddings by m three studio at this venue: Nikki & JohnFrancesca & Teddy

Milwaukee Art Museum – This one is no secret, but I couldn’t leave it out.  It’s hard to beat the supremely modern and all white space, so beautifully designed that the building actually moves.  One of the most beautiful places to get married and to photograph in Milwaukee.

milwaukee art museum wedding

recent weddings at this venue by m three studio:

Caitlin & Steve, Dana & Ryan, Laura & John, Brandy & Joe, Courtney & Ben

Camp Wandawega – It’s campy.  In the most stylish, hip, nostalgic way.  Rustic, fun, a lake, pine trees and tons of charm.  A most unique venue perfectly suited to the quirky couple with a bunch of friends they’d rather camp with than anything else.

Historic Miller Caves – The original 150 year old caves that Miller beer was stored in.  Seriously.  It doesn’t get more Milwaukee than this!  Best for smaller gatherings (less than 100 guests, rehearsal dinners, cocktail hours) this is a very special venue no one will forget.

Taliesin – okay, well you can’t actually get married at Taliesin, but you can do so next door at the visitor’s center, which was also designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Need I say more?

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**This editorial shoot was published by Style Me Pretty (twice!) here. **

Dusk has always been my favorite time of day.   First and foremost – the light is the bomb.  And it is so fleeting.  You get maybe an hour, and then it is gone in an instant.  But there is a magical quality to this time of day – caught between the bright sun of day and the cloak of nightfall.  It’s the time of day enjoyed best with a glass of wine in one hand, and a squeeze from the love of your life in the other.

italian_villa_wedding_14

In the last couple of years Villa Terrace opened their incredible Italian mansion on Lake Michigan up to not just daytime wedding ceremonies, but also receptions.  I was overjoyed at this news, and I wanted to do an editorial shoot that showcased some of the lesser-known gems of this amazing property.  And something that showed how utterly romantic it all was at the end of the day.

Enter my partner-in-creation, Anna from A. Styled. Event.  She’s incredible.   It’s mostly her ideas you see showcased in these photos.  We conceived of a story, a couple, some unique touches.  She reigned in our out of control Pinterest board into something edited, cohesive and so on-point.  And the girl is ORGANIZED.  Like Real Simple magazine organized.  I have never been to a shoot that has run so smoothly, come together so quickly and easily and felt so relaxed.  I can only imagine the effect she has on a wedding day!

Once we had a concept stamped out – we brought on the rest of our incredible team.  Each of these people contributed so much…I’ll highlight them as we go, because I know you want to see some pictures!

italian_villa_wedding_ italian_villa_wedding_4

Invitations were provided by the wonderfully talented Amy Graham Stigler at Monograham (who also is the head designer for Smock).  When you want something special, signature and that will be treasured, she’s the one to see.

Italian_wedding_ Italian_wedding_5 Italian_wedding_6Italian_wedding_3 Italian_wedding_4

BHLDN provided the dress, earrings and hair pins for our Bride’s look.  The groom was expertly outfitted by the stylists at Harley’s for Men.  The beauty that abounds at BHLDN is well known, but you might not know that Harley’s has a great rental line as well as completely custom suits.  Italian_wedding_12villa_terrace_wedding-9 Italian_wedding_13Italian_wedding_2

We simply must stop and discuss the florals.  Renee at Frontier Flowers of Fontana totally outdid herself.  I’ve seen her transform the most lackluster venue into a showpiece.  And I’ve seen her leave people speechless at Art in Bloom.  But she really impressed me with the delicate textures she brought together for our shoot.  One of her best talents is that she always seems to pull some-sort of last minute trick out of her hat to add just the right finishing touch to a day. italian_villa_wedding_3

italian_villa_wedding_5 villa_terrace_wedding-Italian_wedding_7villa_terrace_wedding-3villa_terrace_wedding-8italian_villa_wedding_6Italian_wedding_10 villa_terrace_wedding-2italian_villa_wedding_8villa_terrace_wedding-4italian_villa_wedding_22

The twin arbors in the lower garden of the Villa Terrace or so underutilized.  Intimate and lush, we knew they would make the perfect “church” for our little ceremony.   The rustic bent-wood chairs were loaned to us by Lake Area Rentals.  italian_villa_wedding_9 italian_villa_wedding-Italian_wedding_14Italian_wedding_15italian_villa_wedding_10 italian_villa_wedding_11 italian_villa_wedding-4italian_villa_wedding_12 italian_villa_wedding_13italian_villa_wedding-5 italian_villa_wedding-6 

Ah, that dress!  And did you notice the awesome hair on our bride?  That intricate masterpiece (and the perfectly mussed ‘do on our Groom) are compliments of the effervescent Nhung Nguyen.  And the impeccable makeup is by my favorite makeup artist, Jennifer Kessler of Natural Radiance.  That woman is unflappable, and her work is always perfection.

Italian_wedding_16 Italian_wedding_17villa_terrace_wedding-10Italian_wedding_-xitalian_villa_wedding_15

See what I mean about the Villa at night?  Pure magic!Italian_wedding_20italian_villa_wedding_17 italian_villa_wedding_16

Our rustic farm table and the authentic cafe lights were provided by (and hung expertly) Lake Area Rentals.  The beautiful natural wood was such a warm and inviting contrast to the peeling plaster and stately columns of the terrace.

italian_villa_wedding_19italian_villa_wedding_18 italian_villa_wedding-7 Italian_wedding_18 italian_villa_wedding-8Italian_wedding_19

No wedding dinner is complete without an incredible meal.  We called upon one of the best – Zilli Hospitality Group.  They created six unique dishes for our ‘dinner’, and a trio of desserts (which you saw earlier).  The thing about Zilli is that their food always looks magazine-worthy, and it tastes twice as good as it looks!Italian_wedding_8 Italian_wedding_9villa_terrace_wedding-6

These chair banners are also from BHLDN.  I always thought they could be transformed post-wedding into gorgeous pillow covers.  Italian_wedding_21

italian_villa_wedding_2

italian_villa_wedding-9Italian_wedding_22italian_villa_wedding_21

Credits:

Stylist: A Styled Event |Florist: Frontier Flowers Of Fontana | Stationery: Monograham Paper | Catering: Zilli Hospitality Group | Hair: Nhung Nguyen | Dress, Earrings, Hair Pins, Chair Banners: BHLDN | Invitations : “Spence” By Smock | Linens: Table Toppers | Makeup: Natural Radiance | Photographer: m three Studio Photography | Rentals (Chairs, Tables, Cafe Lights): Lakes Area Rental |  Suit: Harley’s For Men | Venue: Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum

Big, BIG THANKS to all who were involved, stayed late, hauled supplies, climbed ladders and gave of their time.  A little sneak peek at the action behind the scenes:

Italian_wedding_23 italian_villa_wedding_24 italian_villa_wedding_25Italian_wedding_24 Italian_wedding_25

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When we were getting married, finding a unique venue was crazy hard.  We didn’t want a hotel ballroom or a banquet hall.  We wanted something with history, something with a story to tell, something with a soul.  Our venue isn’t on this list (for good reason, I’m keeping it for myself), but plenty of other awesome ones are!

I’ll add to this list as I learn of new venues and options.  Please feel free to suggest one!

And, I hope it goes without saying that I am THRILLED to shoot at any of these fantastic locales.  If location matters to you, please know it does to me too.  I’m so inspired by place and the ambience.

For Barn venues, please see my other blog post about just those locations. 

Stouts Island Lodge – built in the Adirondack style by a wealthy Chicago businessman, this lodge is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Nestled on a lovely and quaint island in the northwoods, it features carved beams imported from Germany, multiple cabins for your guests, and a boathouse in addition to the main lodge.  The South Lawn would a be an idyllic ceremony setting, and the island is abundant with great picture locations.

The Inn on Madeline Island – a little touch of New England sea town right on the shore of Lake Superior.  Plenty of accommodations for your guests (and a private spot for you too), lakefront space for a ceremony or reception tent, and indoor options as well.  There’s no escaping the nautical feel here, and the easy-breezy atmosphere.

Villa Terrace – an Italian mansion right on the shore of Lake Michigan, in the heart of Milwaukee.  A gorgeous garden cascades down the hillside from the mansion and terrace.  Have your ceremony up on the terrace with an unbeatable view, your cocktails in the courtyard and then escort your guests down into the gardens for the party.

villa_terrace_wedding_21

weddings by m three at Villa Terrace:

Diana & Justen, Emma & Spence, LiNa and John, Editorial Shoot, Adriana & Ashish, Emily & Dave

Milwaukee County Historical Society – a giant bank vault, marbled columns, hexagonal tile, a gorgeous mahogany bar, balcony, chandeliers, coffered ceiling, the list goes on and on.  Full of vintage charm, right in the heart of downtown – the detail is deep with this location.

weddings by m three studio at this venue:

Casie & Derek, Megan & Louis

Villa Bellezza – a little slice of Tuscany in Lake Pepin (near Eau Claire), this venue is transformative.  You can’t help but feel like you are in Italy when surrounded by the mediterranean architecture, beautiful gardens, and um – hello! a winery!

Heritage Hill – The sweetest little white chapel you’ve ever encountered (with beautiful light!) and a charming turn-of-the-century group of buildings nestled into a field.  I adore shooting here, it’s a feed the soul sort of location.

River Wildlife – A charming hunting lodge tucked deep in the woods with all the five-star service you expect from a Kohler venue.  In Summer, you mine as well be in a Thomas Kinkade painting it’s so lovely.  In fall, the color is explosive.

Kohler_RiverWildlife_Wedding__1025

wedding by m three studio at this venue: Nicole & John

Circus World Museum – antique circus train cars and wagons, the big top, the original buildings of the Ringling Circus Winter quarters.  It doesn’t get more unique than this place, right in the heart of the state.

Paine Art Center and Gardens – A beautiful 1920’s Tudor Revival cream colored mansion/castle right in Oshkosh.  Gardens, lawns and beautiful scenery abound.  In winter with a fresh coat of snow – positively fairy tale.

Paoli Mill Terrace & Park – a beautiful historical park just outside Madison.  Lannon Stone, a meandering creek, lots of wooded glens and green space.

John Michael Kohler Art Center – my favorite part of this venue is the sculpture garden where you can get married under the facade of the former Carnegie Library – a free-standing archway sheared off the former building. A beautifully modern and almost all glass main building could host your reception.  And your guests will never stop talking about the bathrooms…..

Wind Point Lighthouse –  A stone’s throw from Milwaukee, this lighthouse is on a beautiful piece of land that juts out into Lake Michigan.  Neighbored by a golf-course, it sits in a quiet community, tended to by an old-fashioned lighthouse keeper.  Plenty of property for a lakefront ceremony and a tented reception, all in the shadow of a beautiful lighthouse.

DeKoven Center – Gothic architecture, miles of brick, 11 acres of wooded property and Lake Michigan, all rolled into a venue just thirty minutes south of Milwaukee.  They have a sweet little church and a lovely great hall in addition to the outdoor spaces.

The Pritzlaff – cream city brick, wood beamed ceilings, old metal fire doors….this is the epitome of old warehouse turned chic.  You can transform the many spaces of the Pritzlaff into just about whatever you like and still be right downtown.  One of the few venues that can host a small or a super large crowd with equal ease.

weddings by m three studio at this venue: Nikki & JohnFrancesca & Teddy

Milwaukee Art Museum – This one is no secret, but I couldn’t leave it out.  It’s hard to beat the supremely modern and all white space, so beautifully designed that the building actually moves.  One of the most beautiful places to get married and to photograph in Milwaukee.

milwaukee art museum wedding

recent weddings at this venue by m three studio:

Caitlin & Steve, Dana & Ryan, Laura & John, Brandy & Joe, Courtney & Ben

Camp Wandawega – It’s campy.  In the most stylish, hip, nostalgic way.  Rustic, fun, a lake, pine trees and tons of charm.  A most unique venue perfectly suited to the quirky couple with a bunch of friends they’d rather camp with than anything else.

Historic Miller Caves – The original 150 year old caves that Miller beer was stored in.  Seriously.  It doesn’t get more Milwaukee than this!  Best for smaller gatherings (less than 100 guests, rehearsal dinners, cocktail hours) this is a very special venue no one will forget.

Taliesin – okay, well you can’t actually get married at Taliesin, but you can do so next door at the visitor’s center, which was also designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Need I say more?

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