Choosing a unique St. Charles, IL wedding venue
By Mary Rose Widmer
"Have you booked a venue yet?" I ask, holding my breath in anticipation. As a wedding photographer, it's one of the first questions I like to ask when I meet with potential brides.
The adorable, giddy bride sitting across from me flashes a smile and says, "Yes, I am sure you've heard of it-it's in St. Charles."
Many factors contribute to beautiful wedding images, but an interesting, unique or simply gorgeous venue is most inspiring. Brides know that their wedding day is one of the most important days of their life. I know that I don't need to worry about which venue my St. Charles brides select, because they each offer something special. There's an incredible variety of venues, too: resorts, a nature center, hotels, and even a farm. No matter which venue is chosen, St. Charles, IL brides will look back at their wedding photos and see something picture perfect.
As I drive down Main Street, the historic Hotel Baker always catches my eye; it is an iconic fixture of downtown St. Charles. The site of celebrity weddings, this popular venue has several spectacular ceremony locations that make exquisite backdrops for images.
My heart skips a beat at the blend of history and scenery reminiscent of Europe at the Baker, a dream for any wedding photographer. Brides can choose from the Waterfront Ballroom or the iconic Rainbow Room for their reception. The Waterfront Ballroom overlooks the Fox River, and the marble floor and elegant chandeliers are a beautiful choice for an intimate gathering. The Rainbow Room has a unique oval shape and the lighted ballroom floor is surrounded with dark mahogany columns and balcony. Both spaces provide a special atmosphere, and can be used in any season. A shot of the couple in front of the hotel's brick edifice, then the twinkling lights of downtown St. Charles, and then on the bridge in front of the picturesque Fox River keeps me thrilled with the artistic opportunities available. A bride can go vintage or glamorous at the Hotel Baker, knowing this venue can accommodate her unique style.
The Hotel Baker is a favorite of wedding guests too, since it provides timeless, elegant rooms with vintage style. It's a lovely place for guests to call their home-away-from-home during the days of wedding festivities.
Relax and enjoy
The 250-acre Pheasant Run Resort is the epitome of variety. I love being able to provide something a little unexpected and different for each bride. At the resort, a bride can choose an outdoor venue or a ballroom, with the New Orleans ballroom being an exceptionally unique experience. Whether a bride has hundreds of guests or only fifty, the Resort will have a ceremony and reception site well suited for her.
A reception at "The Run" promises to be just as memorable as the ceremony, with incredible catering options. Whether it's a Southern-inspired cocktail reception on the replica Bourbon Street or a complete farm-to-fork catered meal, the award-culinary team works with brides to create the perfect menu for the big day.
Even better, Pheasant Run Resort offers so much more than a ceremony and reception site; a highly-rated spa, catering, and planners perks all lure brides to this St. Charles haven, not to mention the loads of activities for wedding guests who stretch their visit into a vacation. There's nothing better than a wedding celebration that lasts for more than just one day!
With 95 acres of nature to explore, I love to find new, interesting shots on the grounds of Q Center. This venue was built near the river's edge, which is a beautiful spot for outdoor wedding photos. I love the secluded, natural feeling on the grounds of the Q Center, even though charming downtown St. Charles is only a few miles away.
Q Center offers both indoor and outdoor options for the wedding ceremony and reception, so brides can really create the wedding of their dreams. The experienced and detail-oriented staff is on hand to assist with every detail.
My brides are especially thrilled with the amenities offered. Onsite accommodations are convenient for out-of-town guests, package deals can include pre- and post-wedding events, and the incredible food is prepared by chefs who customize it for each event. The onsite event production team at Q Center can help with transforming the ballrooms into something truly unique, shooting special wedding videos, and much more. Q Center really provides everything that a bride needs to make her day extra-special.
Beauty in variety
I consistently go with clients to LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve; after all, it has everything a couple could want in a natural setting. Creeks, grassy fields, trees, wildflowers, and several vintage weathered red barns offer plenty of gorgeous backgrounds for wedding photos. Sometimes a wedding venue doesn't offer much variety for wedding portraits, but the Creek Bend Nature Center is nestled in the midst of this deliciously diverse forest preserve, making photo options nearly endless.
A lovely white 1930s house is set amongst the foliage of LeRoy Oakes and is available to couples for private rental. I love the large windows, giving the house a light, airy feel. Under such advantageous circumstances, I always get beautiful shots at the Creek Bend Nature Center.
A lovely landscape
The incredible scenery offered by the Greater St. Charles area makes these wedding venues my favorite to photograph. I love placing my bride and groom in front of rolling hills, luscious forests, or in the case of the Fishermen's Inn, a unique blend of spring-fed lakes and greenery. An arching bridge and historic water wheel also offer fun touches to the wedding portraits.
Let's face it, Illinois weather can be unpredictable, and having an equally good indoor backup plan for an outdoor reception is a must. The Fishermen's Inn has multiple wedding venues, including several gorgeous indoor options. This 1960s renovated Inn is picturesque with a blend of history and modern touches, and I'm always excited to have the opportunity to shoot here.
Rustic and ravishing
Heritage Prairie Farm is the ultimate venue for an eco-chic affair. When I am discussing style with my brides, I often hear a bride talk about wanting a wedding with a perfect blend of modern elegance and rustic flair. So much of the overall "feel" of a wedding (and thus wedding images), is derived from the venue. And Heritage Prairie Farm, with its breathtaking scenery and quiet grace is so fitting for the elegant, rustic bride. A garden ceremony? Yes, please!
As a wedding photographer, I'm not only capturing the couple, family, and friends, but I'm looking for little details that add to the overall wedding day. This venue provides organic food served tastefully, adding a finishing touch worthy of my camera's attention. I love how Heritage Prairie Farm creates a customized menu for each wedding, working with couples in an especially personal way.
Floating down the Fox
Also along the Fox River, a ceremony aboard a Paddlewheel River Boat is another exciting locale. The scenery is constantly changing, providing all the beauty of the Fox River shoreline from the water's vantage. Spring, summer or fall, no two weddings look alike when celebrated on this vintage and romantic vessel. If you've never seen the Fox River in the fall, you're missing out. A bride's wedding colors become the brilliant, fiery red, orange and yellow of the autumn leaves reflecting on the water; it's impossible to duplicate the natural beauty of the river's edge.
Despite the open air, the paddlewheel boat is surprisingly intimate. I like to grab a few shots at the launch point, Pottawatomie Park, before boarding, and also as the boat meanders up the river.
For my nature-loving brides, Hickory Knolls Discovery Center is a wonderful blend of fun-loving and natural serenity. While on weekdays this Center is a great place for learning, its budget-friendly rental rooms feature views into the Majestic Oaks Wetland just outside.
This Oaks Wetland is the perfect spot for a close-up portrait or an artistic landscape shot. The mature woodland area features gorgeous maple and oak trees, easily accessible on trails-extra important with a beautiful dress! I never pass up the chance to capture a bride and groom swept in a kiss under one of the towering oak trees.
Making the final choice
As I look across the desk at the hopeful and excited bride, I run through the many venues options in my mind, and then I exhale, because I'm not nervous about which venue my St. Charles bride has selected. The Greater St. Charles area offers a wide variety of natural and urban beauty, and no matter my couple's style, I know that their wedding choice will give them stunning wedding photographs to smile at for years to come.
Get inspired by St. Charles, IL wedding venues for your picture perfect day!