The snow crunched under their feet. He swung her arm a bit and they continued along the trail. It was a lovely way to start the day; hiking the Oak Leaf trail surrounded by the last snow of the season. She knew she’d appreciate the extra Kyle time later that day at work, but right now she was a little peeved. Last night he had taken her out to the site of their first date, then out to the bar. She thought for sure he was going to propose, but then nothing. Even this little walk was her idea, she’d mentioned it weeks ago. So this couldn’t possibly be the moment. They rounded the bend, heading into the sunrise. He squeezed her hands a few yards later, suggested they stop to watch the sun come up over the hill. She snuggled into his arms, breathing in that scent that was so signature to him. He started to talk about how much fun they have, how much he enjoyed being with her. ‘How sweet!’ she thought. The sun broke over the treetops, warming her face. Kyle moved quickly, down onto one knee and asking a question. Kristin just cried happy tears.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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…
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!
Sometimes you are looking in all the wrong places. Sometimes you get knocked over with the realization that what you’ve been seeking has been right in front of you all along. That’s Annie & Mike. They met freshman year of college. He was a floundering teenager spreading his wings for the first time. She says she was much the same. His roommates made friends with hers, and so they were friends. Four years flew by and they all graduated and scattered about the country like leaves in the wind. Then there was that rare weekend in Chicago where everyone happened to be in the same place at the same time. They talked all night…about everything. Emails turned into texts, texts became phone calls. Annie booked a ticket to Florida and Mike finally admitted he had a crush. She already knew because she had one too.
One week, 24 couples, over two thousand votes, and several leader changes, we have a winner in the “Best of 2016” Contest!
Taking the title are Sandy & Cain, with their late-fall wedding at The Enchanted Barn. This DIY extravaganza has love oozing from every detail, all crafted by Sandy herself. And their sweet-as-pie pups are the very best attendants.
It was a fun race. Thanks to all who voted, campaigned and revisited these fabulous stories! Each of you deserved to win. This contest is all in fun, and I hope you know I was honored to capture each and every one of these stories.
Wedding season kicks off in earnest for us this year in June. So it seemed timely to take a quick look back at all the awesome couples we captured in 2016. You guessed it – it’s time for the annual “Best Of” voting!
Call your friends, write to your family, and get out the vote for your favorite wedding of 2016!
The top vote getter wins a Fuji Polaroid Instax Camera to capture their next adventure with fun and energy. Just a little ‘something blue’ for the years ahead (see what I did there?).
…and, Hint, Hint……we aren’t leaving the voters out of prizes either!
(Pay attention to Instagram, I’m just sayin’)
The Fine Print:
-Voting runs for just one week – Today thru 11:59pm on May 31st.
-Voters are recognized by cookies, and you can vote once an hour.
VOTING at the bottom of the post.
A heartfelt THANK YOU to all 24 of these couples who trusted us with their stories last year.
It was such a humbling and memorable experience to walk in step with each of you!
Couples are listed below in alphabetical order by the Bride’s name, and are linked to their full wedding blog post for your reading pleasure!
Ceremony at Christ King Church
Reception at The Barn at Pioneer Acres
Ceremony & Reception at Beringer Winery
Ceremony & Reception at Rustic Manor 1849
Ceremony at Gesu Parish
Reception at Milwaukee Art Museum
#5 Dana & Ryan
Ceremony & Reception at Milwaukee Art Museum
Ceremony & Reception at Villa Terrace
Ceremony & Reception at Villa Terrace
#8 Jenna & Drew
Ceremony at Bjorklunden
Reception at About Thyme Barn
Ceremony & Reception at The American Club
#10 Katie & Mickey
Ceremony & Reception at Discovery World
#11 Kristen & Dan
Reception at the Harley Davidson Museum
#12 Kyle & David
Ceremony & Reception at Milwaukee Country Club
#13 Lauren & Mark
Ceremony & Reception at Whistling Straits Irish Barn
#14 Meg & Nick
Ceremony at a Private Residence
Reception at East Bay
#15 Michelle & Kyle
Ceremony & Reception at Gordon Lodge
Ceremony & Reception at The Barn at Pioneer Acres
#17 Nikki & John
Ceremony & Reception at The Pritzlaff
#18 Notah & Kosta
Ceremony at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church
Reception at Concourse Banquets
#19 Rekha & Chris
Ceremony & Reception at Milwaukee Marriott Downtown
#20 Sandy & Cain
Ceremony & Reception at The Enchanted Barn
#21 Shawna & Trevor
Ceremony & Reception at Lake Park Bistro
#22 Stacey & Sean
Ceremony & Reception at Milwaukee Art Museum
#23 Sue & Justin
Ceremony at St. Mary’s Catholic Church
#24 Vanessa & Matt
Ceremony at The American Club
Reception at The Lodge at Blackwolf Run
You are going to notice the pictures in this post are heavily weighted in one direction – towards the ceremony. Not only was it clearly the most important part of the day for Kelsey & Dan, but it was positively unforgettable if you were in attendance. I’ve never seen a ceremony like this, and that’s saying something since I’ve shot over 300 weddings. First, let’s talk about how gorgeous St. John’s Northwestern Chapel is. The light, the textures, the height, the colors…it’s just a dream for a wedding! But the inspiration for this focus goes beyond the aesthetics. Kelsey is a worship pastor and so they opened the ceremony with praise music. I have to say, standing in the front of that church – with all the voices in unison, and witnessing Kelsey & Dan so moved by the experience – it was hard not to get caught up in it all. It really set the tone for the day, and for my focus in capturing it.
Ceremony Venue: St. John’s Northwestern Military Chapel
Reception Venue: Anodyne Coffee
Bride’s Bouquet and Boutonnieres: Belle Fiori
Bridesmaid’s Bouquets: Blooms by the Box
Bride’s Dress: Etoile, BHLDN
Suits: The Black Tux
Bridesmaid’s Dresses: Pink Blush
Hair: Linda Draxler
Catering: Beans and Barley
Music: Piano Fondue
Bride’s Shoes: Aldo
It was eighty degrees in mid-May, and you were standing at the bottom of a staircase. I was at the top, negotiating with our planner that- no, in fact, our wedding doesn’t start in 30 minutes. It starts now. I was anxious. I just wanted to get down those stairs and next to you.
Seven years before that day, we had met. I wasn’t looking, and neither were you. But then you put your lunch cooler down on the counter, with “MICHEL” written across the side in permanent marker. I looked up at you and it was as if just for the briefest of moments, time stood still. I could paint every minute detail of that ordinary scene, it is so fixed in my memory. In that smallest of moments, I realized I had just met my husband. You were the first guy that I had to chase. You even told me you weren’t getting married until you were 35, which I think you thought would scare me. It didn’t because I’m stubborn. And because I knew it was already decided. I just had to wait you out.
I was used to dating people who let me be the star and were happy to just support, be in the background. But you weren’t going to be pinned down like that, not for a second. It took me years to figure out that we had to be the stars together, to trade off supporting, be a true team. And we did. We knit ourselves together slowly with long-distance phone bills, stand-by airline tickets, and all too infrequent visits. I chased you, my dreams, and a future I had once conjured up. And you, you waited me out. I came back home and we found our rhythm in the same zip code.
So, back to that hot day in May, and the man I was smiling at through my happy-tear stained veil. It’s much observed that the two young people saying those vows, rarely understand the weight of them. And of course now with 10 years behind us (17 really), I know that no couple can. Because the vows aren’t words. They are actions. They are alive. They live and breathe in every moment to come. With each year that passes for us, I look at those two people in our pictures – smiling as they leave the ceremony. I wonder if they know that year one will be easy. That year four will bring heartbreak they can’t fathom. That year five will see them to the brink of life and back again. And just when they feel like they have their feet under them, year six will be devastating. Year seven won’t itch at all. They will cling to each other harder and faster than they ever have. As a result, they will be rewarded with one of their greatest joys before it ends. And year ten. Year ten will have them looking back, not sure they are where they had hoped to be. Planned to be. For sure, that couple, standing there in the spring sun ten years ago – they don’t know these years yet. They think they understand those vows and what will come. They think they know the path. They would think year ten should have them in a different place. But they are wrong.
It’s ten years later, and it’s a cold day in May. You stand at the bottom of a staircase, clutching the hand of our oldest daughter who is squinting in the sun. She’s shielding her eyes with her arm, scrunching her nose up to keep her pink-rimmed glasses in place. I’m at the top, chasing our youngest, who barrels down the stairs, pigtails bouncing, and can’t wait to get to the bottom, to be by your side. Me either, little one. Me either.
(photo by Heather Cook Elliott)
They say love finds you when you aren’t looking for it. For Tara & Victor that has proven true many times. A week of training seminars was where their paths crossed. When they separated for different parts of the state, they exchanged numbers. It was a few months later when Tara realized she’d been texting with “that guy” from the seminar for weeks. So they met up, started dating, and then moved in together. It was another day of low expectations and work-related fatigue that saw Tara coming home looking forward to some couch time. Instead she stumbled up on a trail of rose petals, a smiling Victor and a ring…
Ali & Ben had a surprising wedding day in all respects. Let’s start with the fact that no one in attendance was from Milwaukee – the bride and groom simply thought our fair city was a good middle point for everyone. Well that, and having a wedding in a brewery sounded like good fun. Without a doubt, fun was definitely a chief goal for these two. Laid back, funny and witty, they handled their day with candor and delight. Laughing was in anything but short supply, especially during Ben’s personal vows which quoted three ‘famous’ Bens. Really, the whole hall was in hysterics and somehow Ali stayed standing despite all the laughter. Those words set the tone for an evening of dancing, speeches full of amusing stories and more and more laughter.
Venue: Pabst Great Hall
Floral: Bloom Floral & Event Design
Doughnut Cake: Holey Moley Doughnuts
DJ: Greenline Talent
Catering: The Smoke Shack, La Masa
Makeup & Hair: Neroli Salon & Spa
Bride’s Gown: David’s Bridal
Suits: The Black Tux
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 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.