The Venue: Part 5

It’s (almost) official: we’re holding our ceremony
and reception at the Madison Children’s Museum.

What changed? On Friday, we attended an “adult swim” event at the museum. Basically, it’s a no-kid evening for adults to explore the exhibits and do goofy activities. We went to an adult swim about a couple of years ago, which was when the seed was originally planted that the museum might be a great place to throw a big party.

Seeing the museum again in an adults-only context really helped reassure us this is the right choice for us. We went back to the rooftop and walked through some ceremony scenarios, and for Sandy, it finally clicked. She and her dad can privately walk along the sunflower garden before emerging in front of the full crowd. We can put the men on the side of the waterfall with the rougher rocks, and the girls can stand more easily on the smoother steps. There’s space in front of the waterfall for a couple of rows of chairs for the guests who really need them, and we think a short ceremony should be no problem for everyone else to stand through.

We can also put a bar and appetizer station up there so people can transition seamlessly from the ceremony to a cocktail hour, unless it’s chilly, in which case we’ll all just move inside right away.

The museum has so many weird elements that actually have a lot of meaning for us and our families, such as sunflowers, metal-art sculptures and live chickens. And we really like the idea of holding our wedding in a place that is all about education and sustainability. You can take a closer look at the museum by clicking here.

Anyway — we have a venue!


The Venue: Part 4

Today we went back to the Madison Children’s Museum for a formal tour with the rental director and had a chance to ask our biggest questions about the place.

We're a bit confused about how exactly the ceremonies work. "Do we stand on that rock?"How does the ceremony space on the rooftop garden work? We don’t actually stand on this rock, do we?

Answer: Yes, you really do stand on that rock.

Sandy isn’t sure the rooftop setting will work for a ceremony. It’s a darling space for cocktails and wandering around during the reception, but, well, she’s not feeling the rock of vows or its alternative: the giant metal chicken arch at the other end of the garden.

One of many jungle gyms for guests to walk/crawl through.

With the indoor option, we could have an aisle and an alter-ish thing situated between two faux mud huts, which Sandy kind of digs, and under a bone bridge, which Matt really doesn’t.

So, where does this leave us in terms of picking a venue that’s fun but also realistically functional for both the ceremony and reception?

Answer: We have no idea.

The Venue: Part 3

We went on a field trip today to Sandy’s hometown of Beloit. We visited the Ironworks Hotel, a newly renovated hotel along the downtown riverfront.

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Things we liked:
Fantastic decor with wood, brick, leather and “industrial” elements
Recently renovated, so hotel feels very modern
Easy access to riverfront and a new patio that will be built next summer
Only a 54-room hotel, so we could pretty much take over the space
An upscale feel that would be out-of-budget for similar settings in Madison
Comfortable, attractive rooms for guests
Within walking distance of downtown Beloit restaurants and bars

Things we didn’t:
Ceremony space only accommodates 50 people
Out-of-town guests would need to rent cars
Location isn’t meaningful for both of us

Matt was insistent that he would be onboard if Sandy wanted to get married in Beloit, and we’re both glad we took the time to visit and think about it. The Ironworks is a gem of a venue, and it’s a positive sign of the revitalization happening in the downtown area. But Sandy decided fairly quickly after our visit today that while Beloit is her hometown, Madison is our home. And that’s where our wedding will be.


The Venue, Part 2

So, when Matt takes the lead on venue visits, we end up having actual appointments with rental coordinators to take guided walk-throughs and learn all the details. When Sandy takes the lead, we go with the “let’s just show up and wander around” approach. And sure, this sometimes means that we get chased away by cranky security guards, but overall, both ways work!

Anyway. Yesterday we focused on outdoorsy locales, and Sandy fell in love with the idea of a wedding on the Wisconsin prairie, complete with Mason jars and tiny pumpkins. Today we visited three downtown Madison options — and now are both falling for a site that is nothing but fun and games.

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
The unbeatable view

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Things we liked:
Incredible view of the Capitol Square
Sandy used to live in an apartment right across the street, so the location is especially meaningful
Guests staying in downtown hotels can walk to the museum
Guests can wander the art museum until 8 p.m.
Plenty of space for the ceremony

Things we didn’t:
Very concerned about the cost of food and beverages through museum’s exclusive caterer
Ceremony site is noisy; can hear sirens, buses and crowd noise from State Street
Building overall feels somewhat cold and impersonal
Can’t have exclusive use of museum during rental period; public will be present until 8 p.m.
Ceremony site is not especially well kept; the flowers and grass don’t look good in the fall
Rooftop area, where guests will spend most of their time, is somewhat dirty

The Orpheum Theater 
A place of mystery 

Things we liked:
The lovely brochure the security guards handed us at the door
An iconic site in downtown Madison that is especially meaningful for Sandy
Elegant, dramatic setting

Things we didn’t:
Anticipating very expensive food and drink
Limited outdoor space overall and no balconies or rooftop access to really take in the view
Ongoing legal issues for management
The fact that we didn’t get to actually see this venue (because Sandy failed to make an appointment)

The Madison Children’s Museum
Save the play date

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Things we liked:
On-the-square location is meaningful for us and convenient for guests staying downtown
Ceremony can be held in a garden setting with lots of fall flowers and a small waterfall
The only venue so far to list an Austin-style taco restaurant as a preferred caterer
A casual, lighthearted environment overall
Amazing possibilities for photos of family and friends during the reception
Can rent the entire museum, giving guests a “private playground”
Close proximity to the state Capitol building for wedding photos
Easy access to Capitol Square and State Street for guests in search of after-hours entertainment
Can either rent the museum’s parking or just have guests use the parking ramp across the street
Supports a theme focused on puzzles, games and “social experiments”
Near the B&B in our old neighborhood where we would love to spend the wedding night

Things we didn’t:
Not a thing

Okay, maybe there’s one thing we didn’t:
Unclear how the rooftop ceremony site works

At this point, we’re really torn between Aldo Leopold and the Children’s Museum, though thankfully we both have a similar instinct about which way to go. We’re planning to visit the Children’s Museum again to take a more formal tour with the rental coordinator, which hopefully will address our concerns about whether the ceremony site is big enough and how the whole wedding process works. (The front-desk guy very kindly let us wander the museum for free, but he couldn’t personally show us around.)

There are two other venues on our list that may still be worth exploring, though we seriously doubt either will top our two favorites. And remember when we said that we were talking about barn sites, too? Well, we’ve learned the hard way that trendy brides plan way, way ahead. The FIVE barn locations in Dane County that we considered are all booked pretty solidly through fall 2015. The few remaining days are at the very end of October, which we feel is risky. Also, barn rental fees are actually more expensive than some of the in-town locations we’ve looked at, and it’s likely those costs will multiple after accounting for caterer mileage and guest transportation. So, for now, barns are more or less off the table. Thanks a lot, Pinterest.




The Venue, Part 1

The hunt for the “where” of our wedding has begun. We have a list of options ranging from rustic to elegant to downright offbeat. Matt set up the first round of tours for us today, which included Olbrich Botanical Gardens, the Lussier Family Heritage Center and the Aldo Leopold Nature Center.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens
The iconic ceremony

Things we liked:
Picture-perfect ceremony space
Lots of scenic areas for guests to wander
Indoor ceremony backup
Located very close to Sandy’s apartment
Easy destination for hotel shuttles

Things we didn’t:
Dated reception space (it’s pretty bad)
Multiple weddings happening during the day
Have to personally coordinate chair rental with other wedding groups
Can’t decorate the reception space

Lussier Family Heritage Center
The pragmatic party place

Things we liked:
Super flexible in terms of catering and alcohol
Only event happening on site during rental
Plenty of time for pre-event setup and cleanup the next day
Prairie setting is very pretty in the fall
Easy parking

Things we didn’t:
RV campsite right next door
Disappointing ceremony spaces
Probably a bit far for hotel shuttles
Didn’t strike Sandy as a super exciting place

Aldo Leopold Nature Center (Monona)
Outdoorsy meets wacky

Things we liked:
“This is perfect.” — Matt
Ceremony site in prairie clearing, next to pond and maple forest
Funky museum/educational setting
Gentle trails for guests to wander around the grounds
Can customize the multimedia exhibits with our own pictures and preferences
Only event happening on site during rental period
Feels very private overall
Should be easily accessible from Madison hotels

Things we didn’t:
Main reception area might be a little tight (but we can easily spread out on the deck and in the lobby, as well as throughout the museum and surrounding property)
Dead animals on the walls

The clear winner of the day was the Aldo Leopold Center, which uniquely blends the features we liked best about the other two venues without some of their more negative aspects. It appears that we like nature, with a twist.

Next up: Orpheum Theater, The Madison Children’s Museum (trust us, this could be awesome), and a barn or two.