How to choose the venue that's right for you.
Country Club Weddings
Every bride who’s held her wedding at a country club seems to hear the same feedback: It was “elegant,” “classy,” and “beautiful”—usually prefaced with “the most.”
“I heard more than one time that it was the classiest wedding they had been to,” says bride Becky Morin Watson of her Mendakota Country Club nuptials in Mendota Heights. Bride Jessica Dosen, who had her reception at the Lafayette Club in Minnetonka Beach, similarly reports, “Many people say it was the most beautiful wedding they had ever been to.”
A little initial skepticism can be forgiven (can you ever fully trust new parents who claim their child to be the most beautiful being ever to grace the Earth?); and when love is involved, the mundane can rapidly turn into the extraordinary. So do country clubs really have some magical wedding charm, or at least above-average accommodations?
“Some of my friends had perceptions of country clubs as uppity,” Watson says, “but that went away once they got there.” Indeed, doubts quickly dissolve after talking to wedding planners, hearing what services the clubs provide, and most of all, seeing the wedding photos. With the immaculate greenery of golf courses combined with chandelier-lit ballrooms, many clubs create an ambiance hard to describe without using, yes, “elegant,” “classy,” or “beautiful.”
Jessica and her husband Jeff Boesiger didn’t initially plan to have their wedding at a country club. “We had been living in Chicago and planned to have the wedding there,” she says. “We even had a place booked, but it didn’t feel like us.” The setting was distinctly urban, but “scenic and spacious” were important features to the couple. So Jessica and Jeff came to Minnesota, where Jessica grew up, to take a look at their options. A single visit to the Lafayette Club, and Jessica says the space “felt totally right.” Jessica’s parents were members when she was growing up, and she always had it in the back of her mind for her wedding. “I have very fond memories of going there Easter Sunday and Mother’s Day, golfing with my family. It makes me think of youth, happy times, and family. It has the quality of getting away.”
Catering director Brenda Rogers has worked in wedding planning at the Lafayette Club since 1987 and says she still gets a thrill “just walking up to the building.”
“The place is absolutely stunning,” she says. “We have a lakeshore like no other.”
Wedding parties at Lafayette not only have a romantic view looking out on Crystal Bay and a ballroom fit for James J. Hill (who helped build The Hotel Lafayette, the first incarnation of the club), the space also allows for spectacular flourishes: Couples can have a fireworks display overhead, and the wedding party can arrive at the reception by boat.
Jessica says her wedding turned out even more spectacular than she could have imagined. “I knew intuitively what I wanted, but had a hard time interpreting it. The club was able to understand what I wanted and actualize it.”
For Jessica and other country club brides, the staff’s helpfulness allowed her to relax, enjoy, and actually take part in her wedding. “I didn’t have to worry about anything,” Jessica says. “The vendors and the space knew how to work together.”
At Bearpath Country Club in Eden Prairie, where Sarah and Phil Wright had their wedding, Sarah says she let the staff be her brain for the day while she was “off in future-husband land.” Before her wedding, Sarah made décor choices, like the color of the tablecloth, and attended a taste-testing day at the club where she selected her menu. “We’re here for the whole event,” says Kim Davis, catering director at Bearpath. “We offer as much help as the brides want or need.”
This willingness to work closely with brides to ensure that everything goes right is one reason wedding planners such as Amy Zaroff of Give My Regards To and Joan Nilsen of Ambiente have had wonderful experiences with country clubs and highly recommend them to their clients. Zaroff says she does a third to half of her business at country clubs. “The Twin Cities are fortunate to have so many,” she says. “From Old World charm to contemporary décor, they offer something for every bride, and every bride gets the same quality of service.”
Nilsen said the service at country clubs is particularly and consistently outstanding because the staff is usually seasoned—“most have been there forever”—and you can expect the flowers and grounds to always be well-maintained. She also loves that country clubs (like many top-notch venues) let engaged couples sit down with their chefs and customize a menu. A club like Minikahda on Lake Calhoun, Nilsen says, will discuss what fruits and vegetables are in season and what will be fresh at the farmer’s market at the time of a couple’s wedding.
While the scenery and location of country clubs usually are the first thing to lure a couple, brides and wedding planners alike praise the personalization clubs give to each wedding. Becky Morin Watson and husband Blake had a “B&B” ice sculpture made as a tribute to their initials, and the Mendakota Country Club accommodated the Watsons’ request to ditch the cake and find a nontraditional dessert. At the reception, guests were served two different treats: a chocolate chip cookie with ice cream and fudge, and a fresh fruit trifle in a martini glass. “They took the ideas we had and ran with them,” Becky says. She described her nuptials as “fun-formal” and boiled its success down to “landscape, location, and awesome food”—truly the essentials for any great wedding.
Do I have to be a member?
Some brides in the planning stages could run into difficulty trying to book a date at country clubs. Many clubs only book events for members or those who are sponsored by a member, but some venues, including Bearpath and Lafayette Club, are open to the public. Joan Nilsen of Ambiente said some clubs have allowed her and other wedding planners to bring in clients. It’s best to call ahead and inquire about membership requirements before getting too far into the planning process.
A few of the Twin Cities’ best country clubs
Location: Minnetonka Beach
Features: Beautiful view of Crystal Bay; historic 1924 ballroom
Mendakota Country Club
Location: Mendota Heights
Features: Great patio for social hour; beautiful vases and candles; views of lakes, ponds and the 18th fairway
Features: Beautiful views of golf course, Lake Calhoun and downtown Minneapolis skyline
Bearpath Golf & Country Club
Location: Eden Prairie
Features: Sheer drapes cover the ceiling for a dazzling effect and can be provided for both ceremony and reception; new pergola for beautiful ceremony pictures; will accept non-members; surrounded by gardens