Elise and Seth shared their love on a glamorous day in an unconventional venue
Host A Waterside Wedding in Duluth
Brides don’t often like to share center stage at their weddings—and who could blame them? It’s a day they’ve probably been dreaming about since they were little girls, after all. But brides who choose to stay home in Duluth, or those who opt for a destination wedding and bring their guests along for the ride, all end up sharing the spotlight with that great big splendid lake called Superior we all know and love.
And for good reason. Some of the city’s loveliest venues are right beside it, the artists who craft flowers and stationery for brides use it for inspiration, and many pre- and post-wedding activities are centered on it.
“There are so many awesome things to do in Duluth for wedding parties and guests traveling north,” says Amanda Cane, owner of JaneCane Photography in Duluth. “We have an amazing layout of city hiking, biking and walking trails, countless Lake Superior activities both in the water and on the shore, museums, theaters and endless choices of local entertainment and activities.”
The lake’s draw is inescapable, but when you really think about it, why would you want to avoid it?
The Lake as a Destination
Lake Superior’s splendor and Duluth’s charm mean lots of opportunities for local businesses to help create a dream wedding. Mariah McKechnie, owner of Northland Special Events in Duluth, and her team of event specialists worked with over 100 couples planning their weddings in 2014, and the number keeps getting bigger. “It’s the ideal destination for couples looking to organize a getaway for their nearest and dearest, but don’t want to have their guests travel great distances,” she says. “Guests can enjoy a full weekend of revelry and be back in time for work on Monday.”
Cane agrees. “About half of my Duluth weddings are now Twin Cities couples,” she says. “Our gorgeous landscape not only offers amazing wedding options, but also a fun escape for family and friends to relax and enjoy all this town has to offer.”
For many couples, that might mean setting up a brewery tour for guests arriving early from out of town, a bonfire by the beach to help the wedding party relax before the big day or a tour of Canal Park the day after to unwind and pick up a few souvenirs before heading home. If getting out in nature is more your style, there are many parks nearby, including Hawk’s Ridge, Brighton Beach and Bagley Nature Center.
“Several Duluth-area parks offer permits for weddings, which can be a great route for couples who love the outdoors,” adds Cane. “Depending on the size of the wedding, this allows for ceremonies and receptions to be celebrated in the middle of a wooded forest, along the banks of one of our many rivers or creeks, along the shores of Lake Superior or the sandy beach of Park Point.”
“Duluth steals the sweet spot for combining natural beauty with a fairly sizable city and all its amenities,” says graphic designer Jordan Sundberg of Duluth’s Tin Cup Design. Of course, the venues around Lake Superior, including the Sacred Heart Music Center, Greysolon Ballroom, Glensheen Mansion and Kitchi Gammi Club, are also a huge draw.
Regardless of where you end up hosting your guests or your wedding, the best part about having a wedding in Duluth is “by far, the backdrop that it all revolves around—Lake Superior,” says McKechnie. “It serves as both an amazing place to capture memories by photo, as well as a place for friends and families to spend time sitting by the campfire and enjoying the great outdoors. The lake has an indescribable charm that lends itself perfectly to weddings.”
The Lake as Inspiration
With something as vast as Lake Superior bringing people together, you can’t help but be affected by it—as a bride, as a groom, as wedding guests and especially as a wedding planner or vendor. For brides and grooms, that often means they want to get to the lake even before the wedding, and head there for engagement photos. “Many of my Twin Cities couples choose to travel north to the Duluth area for their engagement sessions—this allows them to have unique photos that showcase the natural beauty of our hillside town, while getting the chance to take a little vacation for a day or two,” says Cane.
Sundberg calls on the lake as inspiration when she sits down to design for couples. “This special-to-them thread gets woven throughout every detail I work on,” she says, which can include hand-drawn maps of the area, and custom illustrations.
“I spent some time at Lake Superior one day and picked bits of driftwood and rocks and organized them to spell the couples’ names, then added some illustrated leaves and greenery,” Sundberg says, noting a recent example of her lake-inspired work.
And there’s plenty happening on dry land as well. “The community of vendors takes great pride in their work in Duluth, and we love taking advantage of all our local talent,” says McKechnie.
“Craft beer is growing in Duluth—we are so proud of our local breweries, and it shows,” adds Cane. Duluth’s burgeoning craft beer scene now includes venues for wedding-related outings, small receptions, rehearsal dinners or bachelorette parties, such as Bent Paddle Brewing Co. or Lake Superior Brewing. Also new and fun is the visitor center at Vikre Distillery, which carries gin and aquavit.
“Many couples are choosing to incorporate local brews or wines in their day, but they’re also using locally canned jams and honey from local organic restaurants or their favorite family-owned café for favors—the possibilities are endless,” says Cane. She also lists mini pies from local bakeries, floral crowns and headband accents from florists like Angela’s Bella Flora or Saffron & Grey, and live bands as unique wedding elements that support small Duluth-area businesses.
The list of top-notch vendors doesn’t end there. How Sweet It Is Cakes is known for their northern Minnesota-inspired flavors and fillings like s’mores and lingonberry. Playful photography from Duluth-based Mad Chicken Studio is popular, as are the off-the-wall candid shots in the Wild Booth’s open-air photo booth from photographer Derek Montgomery—just to name a few.
Duluth finds a sweet spot in many hearts when couples are making decisions about the most important day of their lives. “There is something magical about Lake Superior that keeps couples coming to get married by its shores,” says McKechnie.
So, if you feel the tide calling you north to tie the knot, you’re not alone.
Great Outdoor Locations
Whether you’re looking for a unique location for engagement photos, a relaxing scene for activities or simply a quiet place to get some fresh air before you walk down the aisle, consider these parks and outdoor areas.
Lester River is a nearly 20-mile-long tributary from Superior that drains into eastern Duluth.
Chester Bowl is home to a ski and snowboarding park that contains ski jumps nearly 90 years old. 1801 E. Skyline Pkwy.
Park Point is a popular beach spot for walks and family get-togethers in a quaint neighborhood. 45th Street & Minnesota Avenue
Brighton Beach is one of Lake Superior’s most popular beaches for picnicking. Brighton Beach Road.
Hawk’s Ridge on East Skyline Parkway is home to a seasonal bird observatory and is especially popular during fall migration. Skyline Parkway, main overlook.
Seven Bridges Road is a parkway following Amity Creek from the top of the bluffs to Superior, where you can see several waterfalls.
Bagley Nature Center features 55 acres of skiing and nature trails. West St. Marie Street.
Hartley Nature Center has a large pine forest for hiking, in addition to biking and ski trails. 3001 Woodland Ave.
Where to Wed
There’s no shortage of breathtaking views at these spectacular Duluth venues.
With Moose Mountain as a backdrop, brides and grooms who choose Caribou Highlands expect beautiful views whether they get married inside or out. We especially like the wedding arch overlooking the lake. 218.728.8060, caribouhighlands.com
Choose from the Hillside or Bridgeview Mezzanines at this centrally located reception venue (with free parking, we might add) for views of downtown Duluth, the harbor or Blatnik Bridge. 218.727.1150, clydeironworks.com
Featuring vaulted ceilings and two original brick fireplaces, the Great Hall at the Duluth Depot sets the scene for elegant ceremonies and receptions, while the Underground serves as a sleek counterpoint, with colorful lighting and exposed brick. 218.727.8025, duluthdepot.org
Whether you choose Glensheen Mansion for its stunning exterior, manicured gardens or best-in-class service, this venue sets the tone for a classic and opulent wedding day. 218.726.8932, glensheen.org
If you imagine a wedding by the water but want to remain indoors, the Great Lakes Aquarium offers a unique alternative: a 24-foot water wall to set the scene for everything from your first kiss to the evening’s last dance. 218.740.2013, glaquarium.org
The hidden jewel at Greysolon is the Moorish Room, an intimate space featuring elaborate chandeliers and hand-painted murals. Paired with the venue’s lavish signature ballroom, it’s no wonder brides refer to the venue as a “fairy-tale setting.” 218.722.7466, greysolonballroom.com
Located just 20 miles from downtown Duluth, Larsmont Cottages offers unique ceremony and reception space along with fun amenities like bocce ball, horseshoes and lakeside fire pits for guests before or after you’ve tied the knot. 218.728.8060, larsmontcottages.com
Nestled between Duluth and the North Shore, the New Scenic Café appears humble, but its garden-inspired ambiance and north-woods menus are anything but. Now offering upscale cuisine for intimate gatherings—think groom’s dinner or post-wedding date. 218.525.6274, sceniccafe.com
Known for their impeccable attention to detail, the professional staff at Northland Country Club works tirelessly to ensure brides and grooms can relax on their wedding day. And with two outside verandas overlooking waves lapping at the shores of Lake Superior, it’s tailor-made for happy-couple serenity. 218.525.1941, northlandcountryclub.com
With stained glass windows, cathedral ceilings and a striking Felgemaker organ, this neo-Gothic church turned music and community center, renowned for its acoustics, is the perfect venue for music lovers. 218.723.1895, sacredheartmusic.net
Can’t decide between hors d’oeuvres passed by butlers in a banquet room overlooking Lake Superior or a down-home barbecue followed by a bonfire on a pebble beach for your wedding? You’re in luck—Superior Shores Resort offers both. 218.834.5671, superiorshores.com
Photo credits: Take advantage of the local talent. From fresh flowers to charming cakes, Duluth vendors can deliver the wedding of your dreams. Here, Northland Special Events, Angela’s Bella Flora, How Sweet it is Cakes and Tin Cup Design show off an enchanting wedding theme inspired by the stunning local landscape.