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Landmark Luxury: Semple Mansion

With six wedding vendors—and one popular venue—all under one roof, Semple Mansion has become a one-stop shop for Minnesota brides.

It’s easy to imagine a time when the historic Semple Mansion flourished in all its splendor. Perched on the corner of Franklin and LaSalle in Minneapolis, the grand Italian Renaissance-inspired edifice conjures images of lumber barons in tailcoats and fair ladies bedecked in opulent gowns whirling around the third-story ballroom.

With that kind of history, it’s not surprising that Semple Mansion stands today as one of the most popular wedding venues in the Twin Cities. Over the last couple years, it’s also become something of a mecca for brides as they prepare for the big day, thanks to a wave of wedding vendors who’ve made the local landmark home. From floral arrangements to a dress shop to the main event itself, Semple Mansion has become a veritable one-stop shop for the over-stressed bride.

A piece of history
After decades of disrepair, the mansion’s frescoed ceiling, hardwood floors with marble inlays, and balustraded entry porch with Ionic columns have been painstakingly restored by entrepreneur Kristi Oman, who purchased the house in 2004. After two years of work, she hosted Semple’s first wedding in May 2006.

Since then, demand for the space both as a wedding venue and resource for wedding planning has gone through the frescoed roof. Executive director Katherine Hendrickson, who does all the bookings, event planning and tours, says the mansion is booked solid through 2012 exclusively for weddings, hosting three a weekend from April until December. (In off months, they book the space for corporate events.) That totals 108 weddings a year—not bad for a relatively new venue.

“We started as an event center with studios for rent,” Hendrickson says, “But after realizing the benefits, the goal became to have all the studios be wedding-related.” True to form, Semple’s tenants run the gamut of wedding planning needs, all in one place.

Elspeth Weis was one of many brides who got the full Semple experience. After searching all over town for the perfect wedding venue, she settled on the mansion. “It has to be one of the most beautiful spaces in the Twin Cities,” she says. She already had a wedding planner, Stephanie Johnson of Table 6 Productions, who recommended many of the mansion’s in-house vendors. “I did a lot of comparison shopping, and I happened to like the vendors at Semple best.”

The following vendors fill Semple Mansion’s studio spaces, giving brides easy access to a multitude of wedding specialists in one luxurious corner of Minneapolis.

Many of Semple’s first tenants were friends and associates of the owner, like Floral Logic’s Eric Sandstrom, who opened his shop in early 2007. The full-service floral expert has since been voted “Best Florist” in 2010 and 2009 by Minnesota Bride readers.

Sandstrom recalls discovering his space, which at one time served as the laundry room in the mansion’s basement: “It was just an eyesore. But I thought, hey, it has a private entrance, windows and water. Now, four years later, I feel like I started the whole trend [of Semple’s exclusively wedding-related studios].”

The benefits of hiring an in-house florist are unmatched. “Semple brides like the fact that we don’t charge delivery and setup for them, and we’re intimately knowledgeable about the space,” says Sandstrom, who’s been in the business for 13 years. “The flowers are going to be fresher and the quality is going to better since we’re not moving things around much.”
Posh owner (and former stationer) Marie Suchy did a full makeover when she moved into Semple Mansion. “There were brokers in here prior to Posh so we had to ‘girl’ it up!” she says. This meant chandeliers, flocked wallpaper, lush fur rugs, and enormous antique mirrors, giving the space a high-end, contemporary vibe.

Posh, which opened in November 2009, carries bridal gowns, as well as dresses for bridesmaids, mothers-of-the-bride and flower girls, and accessories. Designers include Cynthia Rowley, Alfred Sung and Simone Carvalli; alterations can happen in-house. But what really makes Posh special is the space. “It elevates the level of the experience,” Suchy says.

Located in the same boutique as Posh, Luxe Bridal Couture opened in December of 2010, carrying wedding gowns for sizes 12 and up, and samples from sizes 14 to 28; it also offers in-house alterations. Designers include Essence of Australia, Lis Simon and Eden Bridals.

Owner Shayna Clute, who did wedding planning for more than four years before opening the shop, is planning to add bridesmaid gowns for women sizes 14 to 28 this fall. On the benefits of being in Semple Mansion, she says, “You can sit back, have some champagne with your girlfriends, and have fun. There’s nowhere else in the Twin Cities where you can get this level of service.”

“I was attracted to the Semple Mansion because of the high caliber of the vendors that were already set up there,” says hair and makeup artist Brett Dorrian, who opened her doors in October of 2010. “Plus I do a lot of specialty vintage styling and a historic site felt perfect for the studio’s vibe.”

Among the services provided by the 10-year beauty veteran are in-studio trial runs for hair and makeup, on-site day-of services for hair and makeup, airbrush foundation and airbrush spray tanning, and engagement photo shoot styling.

Dorrian’s first-floor studio has been transformed into its current luxurious incarnation. “Our space was a fairly mundane, pale-yellow office meeting space when I viewed it. Our walls became a whitewashed backdrop, and the furniture is a meticulously chosen array of ornate pieces from the turn of the [last] century.”

1012 PHOTO
Photographers and co-owners Mike Jorgensen and Randi Johnson of 1012 photo have 18 years of experience between them and more than 400 combined weddings shot in more than 30 countries under their belt. When they were first approached about moving into Semple, they said it was a “no-brainer,” as they had shot weddings there for several years before moving into their first-floor studio in April.

“When Semple transitioned into becoming a wedding vendor destination, it became a perfect choice,” Jorgensen says. “Every vendor in the building is a leader in their field.”

The full-time photography team offers customizable wedding packages, which can include an engagement session, two photographers, online viewing and ordering, a photo album, and hi-res images on DVD with print release.

Like 1012 Photo, wedding planner Gretchen Culver had done many events at Semple Mansion before moving into the space in April. “The mansion itself fits my personal style and also that of my clientele,” she says. “When I learned that they were trying to get all wedding vendors as tenants in the building, I knew I needed to be one of them.”

Culver has 10 years of experience managing events at venues across the Twin Cities, planning weddings for about six of those years. She offers everything from day-of coordination to full-service planning and floral design. Clients rave about Culver’s boundless creativity, expert advice, grace under pressure and her ability to make “having fun” a top priority for couples on their wedding day.

A planning destination
Serving as both the location for the big event and as a one-stop shop for wedding services and products, the Semple Mansion does double-duty—a key benefit for the over-stressed bride. With convenience matched by its historical charm and architectural grandeur, Semple Mansion is clearly a winning combination for retailers and brides alike.

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