Best of 2009

Best of 2009

Best of 2009

 By Monica Wright

The votes are in from online readers and Minnesota Bride has once again compiled a list of elite vendors who consistently create fabulous weddings, rain or shine. The Best of 2009 honors local businesses that have been catering to brides for years and individuals who bend over backwards to make their clients happy. Their expertise allows couples to relax, knowing that the biggest party they’ll ever throw is in the hands of professionals.

Best Reception Site (Under 100 guests)
The finalists are: The Carlson Towers Rotunda, James J. Hill Library, Semple Mansion
The winner is: Semple Mansion
Minneapolis | 612.290.4448 |

“I loved the overall flow of the Semple Mansion; it was the perfect setup for the number of guests we had. Because it’s so historic and beautiful it really doesn’t need any extra decorations—the space is already designed for weddings!”
—Laura Collymore, married Aug. 22, 2008, at Semple Mansion


Best Outdoor Reception Site
The finalists are: The Carlson Towers Rotunda, Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, Nicollet Island Pavilion
The winner is: The Carlson Towers Rotunda
Minnetonka | 952.249.9713 |

“Carlson Towers was the first place we looked and we loved it right away. We wanted an outdoor wedding with an indoor reception and at Carlson you can do that all in one place. A lot of places that can accommodate a bigger wedding are all pretty standard, but Carlson is a big venue that’s still classy.”
—Destiny Phillips, to be married Sept. 11, 2009, at the Carlson Towers Rotunda


Best Rehearsal Dinner Venue
The finalists are: Al & Alma’s Charter Boat Cruises, Buca di Beppo, Loring Pasta Bar
The winner is: Al & Alma's Charter Boat Cruises
Mound | 952.472.3098 |

“Al and Alma’s was seamless: we got on the boat, dinner was served, and we had a perfect evening. Everyone talks about the boat ride as much as the actual wedding, because they had such a good time!”
—Gloria Toledo, married Aug. 16, 2008, at Rush Creek Golf Club


Best Boutique Registry
The finalists are: Ampersand, Cooks of Crocus Hill, Five Swans
The winner is: Ampersand
Edina | 952.920.2118 |

“Ampersand is my favorite store in all of the Twin Cities, and they were really great about tracking things on my registry and giving great service to the people who bought us gifts there. The merchandise is such high quality with impeccable design—I think every bride should start there when registering.”
—Rebecca Sundquist, married May 23, 2008, at Central Lutheran Church; reception at the Lafayette Club


Best Florist
The finalists are: Floral Logic, Flora Bella Studio, Wisteria Design Studio
The winner is: Floral Logic
Minneapolis | 612.767.6336 |

“I really wanted simple and classic. I asked owner Eric Sandstrom, ‘If Grace Kelly were having a wedding, what would she do?’ He made all the flowers look amazing. It was modern and not one bit too much. I’d recommend him in a heartbeat.”
—Claire Schuchard, married Aug. 11, 2007, at the Van Dusen Mansion


Best Caterer (Over 100 guests)
The finalists are: Bon Appétit, Chowgirls Killer Catering, D'Amico Catering
The winner is: D'Amico Catering
Minneapolis | 612.238.4444 |

“On my wedding day my aunt said, ‘You know you’ve got a great caterer when you don’t notice the staff, all the work is going on around you and you aren’t even aware.’ That was a really nice compliment and definitely true. D’Amico’s level of service is very professional and classy.”
—Kim Hamlin, married Aug. 9, 2008, at McNamara Alumni Center


Best Valet
The finalists are: Class A Valet, Renee's Royal Valet, Traditions
The winner is: Class A Valet
Minneapolis | 612.677.0071 |

“I spoke to president Westy Graves, and he made me feel good about the experience. I also spoke to the other company my location recommended; their price was much higher, however. In the end, it was a combination of price and the positive attitude of Westy.”
—Grace Eelkema, married Sept. 20, 2008, at North Presbyterian Church; reception at Loring Green East

Best Custom Dressmaker
The finalists are: Carmelle Elizabeth, Joynoelle, The Dressmaker
The winner is: Joynoelle
Minneapolis | 612.209.7822 |

“Joy is so personable, and she has such amazing vision; she is very patient and extremely creative. She made my dress a working piece of art, so working with her was like collaborating with an artist.”
—Emily Koski, married June 16, 2006, at Our Lady of Lourdes church; reception at the former Sophia restaurant

Best Attendant Dresses
The finalists are: David’s Bridal, Flutter Boutique, The Wedding Shoppe
The winner is: Flutter Boutique
Minneapolis | 612.216.1926 |

“Flutter carries a lot of really different dresses and designers you don’t see other places—it’s everything from traditional to contemporary. And owner Michelle Hanson couldn’t have been nicer; she went out of her way to make all my bridesmaids feel comfortable.”
—Victoria Morton, married Sept. 7, 2007, at the Basilica of Saint Mary; reception at the Lafayette Club

Best Accessories
The finalists are: Brides of France, Che Bella, Grace Bridal Boutique
The winner is: Grace Bridal Boutique
Excelsior | 952.474.3555 |

“What I liked about Grace boutique was the ambiance. It’s really relaxing and simple—there’s no craziness to make you feel stressful. When you’re there co-owners Jocelyn and Amanda make you feel special because they focus their full attention on you and give you the time to try different items out. It was like I had the store to myself.
—Autumn Johnson, married May 15, 2009, at Faith Lilac Way Lutheran Church; reception at Golden Valley Country Club

Best Minnesota Honeymoon
The finalists are: Bluefin Bay, Lutsen Resort, Superior Shores
The winner is: Bluefin Bay
Tofte | 800.258.3346 |

“We really like the feel of Bluefin Bay. It’s right on the water and has a relaxed vibe, and they have a lot of amenities like canoes and bikes to help you plan your activities. It feels really comfortable and homey.”
—Sarah Moran, married June 17, 2006, at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Best Travel Agency
The finalists are: Hobbit Travel, Macy’s Travel, Travel Leaders
The winner is: Travel Leaders (formerly Carlson Wagonlit Travel)
statewide locations | 800.335.8747 |

“We weren’t sure where we wanted to go, and [Travel Leaders] found us a bunch of options and made sure we got what we were looking for. And we had a wonderful time in Jamaica!”
—Brooke Solberg, married July 26, 2008, at Covenant Church; reception at Rush Creek Golf Club

Best Rental & Décor
The finalists are: Après Party & Tent Rental, Linen Effects, Midway Party Rental
The winner is: Linen Effects
Minneapolis | 612.355.2500 |

“Robin Rosenberg of Linen Effects is incredibly funny; her personality is just amazing. We used Linen Effects for tablecloths, chairs, glassware, standing room tables and centerpieces and they were incredibly accommodating for all of it.”
—Cati Burbank, married June 7, 2008, at the Lafayette Club

Best Mother-of-the-Bride Apparel
The finalists are: Dugo, Macy's, Nordstrom
The winner is: Dugo
Edina | 952.746.4440 |

“We had a great experience at Dugo. The salespeople were very helpful. My mom tried on a few dresses, and they helped with which size to order and how to alter it to fit her better. They were also helpful in telling her what looked best on her and what would be best for the time of year of my wedding.”
—Kristen Forseth, married July 19, 2008, at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd; reception at Nicollet Island Pavilion

Best Videographer
The finalists are: Capture Studios, Princess Bride Cinematic Videography, United Video
The winner is: Princess Bride Cinematic Videography
Minneapolis | 612.210.8904 |

“Princess Bride did a great job. They offered high definition, they burned us a Blu-ray disk, and overall they were very professional. The cinematography was top-notch compared to others we saw who were much more amateurish.”
—Bret Neiderman, married Adriana on June 7, 2008, at the Conservatory at Carlson Center

Best Alterations
The finalists are: The Dressmaker, Louise Kegley, Mary Kay Bridal
The winner is: Louise Kegley
St. Paul | 651.739.2387 |

“I wanted someone who would totally understand what I was saying and who would listen to what I wanted. Louise was really sweet, she was really easy to make an appointment with and there was no hassle. I would definitely recommend her to any bride.”
—Jennifer Clark, married Nov. 15, 2008, at the St. Paul College Club

Best Caterer (Under 100 guests)
The finalists are: D’Amico Catering, Chowgirls Killer Catering, We Cater to You
The winner is: Chowgirls Killer Catering
Minneapolis | 612.203.0786 |

“The Chowgirls were really laidback and easy to work with, and the food was delicious. They have an extensive menu, and their ingredients are local. Once we had the tasting we didn’t want anyone else!”
—Ericca Richter-Maas, married Sept. 8, 2007, at a family home in Owatonna

Best Cake
The finalists are: Buttercream, Gateaux, Inc., Queen of Cakes
The winner is: Buttercream
St. Paul, Wayzata and Stillwater | 651.642.9400 (St. Paul) |

“I experienced Buttercream at a wedding I attended and fell in love with their chocolate raspberry cake. For my own wedding, the staff did a great job of giving us ideas and working with the vision we had for our cake.”
—Amy Ronneberg, married June 6, 2008, at the Depot Minneapolis

Best Photography
The finalists are: Sewell Photography, Studio 306, Vick Photography
The winner is: Vick Photography
St. Louis Park | 952.929.4295 |

“I love our photos because they are unique to us and our personalities. They tell a story about our wedding day that doesn’t need words. Andrew [Vick] has an amazing eye for beautiful photos. It took my husband and I four hours to look through our photos and decide which ones we wanted to print. We ended up with so many beautiful pictures we couldn’t decide!”
—Jessica Just, married June 7, 2008, at Wayzata Community Church; reception at Earle Brown Heritage Center

Best Planner
The finalists are: Ambiente Weddings & Event Planning, Mi Mi Design, Mother of the Bride Wedding Design & Coordinating Services
The winner is: Mi Mi Design
Minneapolis | 612.789.2507 |

“They did a great job of providing perspective without undermining my vision. As I interacted with all of the point-people involved in creating such a full day, I came to appreciate that more and more. With their involvement, it was going to be a day just for me and my fiancé. They protected my vision.”
—Beatrice Blanc, married June 28, 2008, at a garden in Kenwood; reception at Orchestra Hall

Best Formalwear
The finalists are: Heimie's Haberdashery, Savvi, Men’s Wearhouse
The winner is: Heimie's Haberdashery
St. Paul | 651.224.2354 |

“My husband Rob wanted to purchase a suit for the wedding instead of renting one, and Heimie’s is one of the best and most charming places in town. Rob is a sharp dresser who appreciates vintage and classic style, quality workmanship and detailed tailoring. These are all things that Heimie’s works hard to do.”
—JoEllen Martinson, married Sept. 27, 2008, at Round Barn Farm Bed & Breakfast

Best Talent Agency
The finalists are: Bellagala, Macken Music, Musicians Unlimited
The winner is: Macken Music
Minneapolis | 952.832.5555 |

“I knew I wanted a live band, but when I started the process of finding one I was overwhelmed. Macken Music made it very easy because they help you figure out which band is right for you. I was originally running around trying to see all these different bands at gigs or other people’s weddings, and I wasn’t comfortable doing that. Macken streamlined the process by giving us CDs and DVDs to narrow down our choices.”
—Heather English, married Aug. 2, 2008, at the Hilton

Best Ceremony Music
The finalists are: Birchwood String Quartet, Four Voices String Quartet, The Baroque Trio
The winner is: Four Voices String Quartet
Minneapolis | 612.724.3591 |

“The Four Voices String Quartet are complete experts in music. They are capable of doing anything you request. The music they performed was heavenly. It was like a magical garden that filled up the whole space at our wedding.”
—Willow Anderson, married May 10, 2008, at the Minnesota History Center

Best Invitations
The finalists are: Epitome Papers, Give My Regards To..., Watermark Stationery
The winner is: Epitome Papers
Edina | 952.920.2978 |

“Epitome has a great selection, and they perfectly matched the colors I wanted on my invitations and made sure everything down to the last detail was exact. The staff was really personable; I even ended up finding my photographer through them!”
—Shayna West, married July 6, 2008, at the Bayview Event Center

Best Bridal Gowns
The finalists are: l'atelier couture, Monique Lhuillier, The Wedding Shoppe
The winner is: The Wedding Shoppe
St. Paul | 651.294.4991 |

“At The Wedding Shoppe the staff was really experienced and they didn’t try to up-sell. I found a dress for $99 on their sale rack and as soon as I put it on they agreed it was the dress—there was no pressure to spend more money. They were also great at matching the perfect veil and even found me jewelry, too.”
—Melissa Winter Herbert, married Apr. 26, 2008, at Wesley United Methodist Church; reception at the Commodore Hotel

Best Hotel for Guests
The finalists are: Graves 601 Hotel, Saint Paul Hotel, Radisson Plaza Hotel Minneapolis
The winner is: Graves 601 Hotel
Minneapolis | 612.677.1100 |

“Greg and I fell in love with the Graves because of the extraordinary staff and service they provide. They reserved a block of rooms for us at a discounted rate and were more than accommodating at increasing the room block as more people decided to come. They were an easy choice for our wedding and our guests.”
—Erin Vardy, married May 9, 2009, at Central Lutheran Church; reception at Graves 601 Hotel

Best Officiant
The finalists are: Judge Thomas G. Armstrong, Pastor Kurt Kalland, Rev. Tomkin Coleman
The winner is: Judge Thomas G. Armstrong
Oakdale | 651.430.6335 |

“We could not have been happier with Judge Thomas Armstrong as our officiant. He made us feel like our wedding ceremony was as important to him as it was to us. His sense of humor helped us all to relax and fully enjoy the process of planning and executing our wedding day. I would highly recommend him to any bride who is looking for experience, guidance and a true friend to bear witness to their union!”
—Mandi McDonough, married July 18, 2008, at Carlson Towers Rotunda

Best Reception site (Over 100 guests)
The finalists are: The Carlson Towers Rotunda, Nicollet Island Pavilion, Semple Mansion
The winner is: Nicollet Island Pavilion
Minneapolis | 612.253.0255 |

“Nicollet Island Pavilion is different and it has character—it’s not a traditional hotel setting. I would wholeheartedly recommend the space and the staff to other brides.”
—Tal Liberman, whose daughter Danielle Kaufmann was married Sept. 7, 2008, at Nicollet Island Pavilion

Best Band
The finalists are: Bellagala Big Band, The Sevilles, Synergy
The winner is: Synergy
Edina | 952.926.9927 |

“For our first song we wanted something not in their repertoire, but the band learned it and played it for us anyway. Synergy was easy to work with and really accommodating, and the dance floor was always full.”
—Molly Hayward, married Sept. 27, 2008, at the Lafayette Club

Best Ceremony Site
The finalists are: Basilica of Saint Mary, The Carlson Towers Rotunda, Semple Mansion
The winner is: Basilica of Saint Mary
Minneapolis | 612.333.1381 |

“I’m kind of old-fashioned, so I love the history of this being the first basilica in the country, and we loved how grand and dramatic it made our wedding feel. We also loved the acoustics of the building and it helps that the basilica musicians and soloists are so good. We had one of our selections sung a cappella from the balcony; it was incredibly moving.”
—Jacqueline Grandstrand, married Oct. 28, 2006 at the Basilica of Saint Mary; reception at the Mendakota Country Club

Best Jeweler
The finalists are: Continental Diamond, Shane Co., Tiffany & Co.
The winner is: Shane Co.
Minnetonka, 952.546.2900  | Woodbury 651.702.9900 |

“Shane Co. offered us good service that felt sincere. They wanted to meet our needs above everything, and that was consistent throughout each of our visits. And every time we went back they remembered who we were.”
—Paul Krikke, married Megan on Nov. 29, 2008, at the Depot Minneapolis

Best Spa
The finalists are: Ivy Spa Club, Juut Salonspa, Spalon Montage
The winner is: Spalon Montage
Edina, Chanhassen and Woodbury | 952.915.2900 |

“Spalon Montage is really conscious of making it an overall relaxing experience from the second you check in. It’s really tranquil and no one is rushing you through your services. There is a lot of tension with wedding planning at the end, and the room where you wait for your massage is the most relaxing place to wind down!”
—Kristina Edwards, married Oct. 11, 2008, at 317 on Rice Park

Best DJ
The finalists are: Adagio Entertainment, Bill Herman Entertainment, Instant Request Disc Jockey Entertainment
The winner is: Instant Request Disc Jockey Entertainment
Bloomington | 952.934.6110 |

“I heard about Instant Request over and over through referrals, and I was thrilled with their work. The DJ read our guests really well, and they were begging him to stay at 1 a.m., which was already an hour past what we’d booked him for. We couldn’t have asked for better music!”
—Michelle Brown Patel, married Nov. 1, 2008, at Graves 601 Hotel

Best Transportation
The finalists are: Eclipse Transportation, Renee’s Royal Valet, Twin City Trolleys
The winner is: Renee's Royal Valet
Plymouth | 763.551.1919 |

“The price was right and they followed our contract exactly; and the driver was great about making an extra stop on our way to the reception, when we wanted to stop at Champp’s (where we had our first date) for a drink with the wedding party before going on to the reception.”
—Beth Koehler, married June 14, 2008, at Mizpah United Church of Christ; reception at the Best Western Kelly Inn

Best Favors
The finalists are: Che Bella, Gateaux Inc., The Traveling Photo Booth
The winner is: Gateaux Inc.
Plymouth | 763.577.9815 |

“Owner Robin Martin is creative and will do anything you want to do—she will find a way! She created a candy table with our pink and brown color scheme, and even the bags our guests used had the same design as our invites. In the end, Robin felt like a girlfriend or family member, not like someone I hired.”
—Lauren Tilot, married June 9, 2007, at Semple Mansion

Best Hair/Makeup
The finalists are: Emily J. Hair + Makeup, Juut Salonspa, Smart and Chic Bride
The winner is: Emily J. Hair + Makeup
Minneapolis | 612.590.8174 |

“Emily was so reliable when it came to the wedding day. She arrived early and she had everything you could imagine in her Caboodles. She came right to our hotel and did everyone’s hair and makeup in the comfort of our room. I also knew that I could trust Emily to do what she had done with my hair in my trial run—that took a lot of stress off my plate.”
—Annie Ballantine, married Oct. 17, 2008, at Como Conservatory; reception at the Saint Paul Hotel

Best Attendant Gifts
The finalists are: Che Bella, Patina, Tiffany & Co.
The winner is: Che Bella
St. Paul | 651.209.8822 |

“Che Bella offers very personal service. I worked directly with the owner, who designed the jewelry I bought my bridesmaids, and she was really helpful. I had an idea of what I wanted, but she made it look right and matched the jewelry to the dresses.”
—Jordan Mills, married Oct. 17, 2008, at Calhoun Beach Club

Best Wedding-Night Hotel
The finalists are: Graves 601 Hotel, Saint Paul Hotel, W Minneapolis–The Foshay
The winner is: Saint Paul Hotel
St. Paul | 651.292.9292 |

“We’d heard great things about the Saint Paul Hotel, and it lived up to our expectations. Our corner room had two walls of windows that overlooked the park, which was beautiful. It added to the overall historic feel of the hotel.”
—Kara Fuchs, married May 31, 2008, at James J. Hill Library

Best Calligrapher
The finalists are: Crystal Kluge, Kathy Moon at Epitome Papers, Rosann Konieczny
The winner is: Rosann Konieczny
Golden Valley | 763.221.4584 |

“Rosann really loves what she does and it shows in her work. She talks to you to make sure she is doing exactly what you want, and it’s clear her goal is to make the bride happy above all.”
—Lisa Smith, to be married June 4, 2010, at Cedarhurst Mansion

Best Dance Instructor
The finalists are: Arthur Murray, Jeff Halverson, Sondra Chan at My Wedding Dance
The winner is: Sondra Chan at My Wedding Dance
612.868.3344 |

“Sondra was patient with us and worked with what we did best. Rather than dictating her ways on us, she worked with our flow and enhanced it. She made the lessons incredibly fun. We looked forward to each one as a ‘date night’ and vowed to continue as time and schedule allowed.”
—Nancy Gallagher, married Oct. 11, 2008, at Assumption Church; reception at the Crowne Plaza in St. Paul

Top of the Tiara (Best all-around wedding vendor)
The finalists are: Epitome Papers, Gateaux Inc., The Traveling Photo Booth
The winner is: The Traveling Photo Booth
St. Louis Park | 612.605.9203 |

About five years ago, Jacob Stewart attended a wedding where the bride and groom offered guests something he’d never seen before: an on-site photo booth. As he watched the guests clamber inside to take silly snaps Stewart had a typically male reaction: “I knew I could build one, and I thought it would be great to have in my apartment.”
Stewart’s roommate, Matt Gassman, an architecture major, easily assembled the booth while Stewart, who has a background in photography, took care of the photo element. The popularity of their handmade project among their friends quickly convinced the duo that they had a potential business on their hands. 

Multiple booths and several satellite offices later (you can find franchises in Wisconsin and Iowa), the Traveling Photo Booth has become wildly in-demand because, according to Stewart, it lets guests give back to the newlyweds. “It’s a chance for the guests to make something for the bride and groom, and it’s totally unique and personalized,” he says of the booths, which print a strip of photos for the newlyweds to keep and a strip for the guests to take home.

Laura Heuer, who was married last November at the Depot in Minneapolis, said her guests were endlessly entertained by the chance to capture the night’s memories in print. “There was a line for the booth the whole night, and a lot of our guests went back for second and third rounds,” she says. “Everyone said they just loved it.”