The world is totally upside down right now and wedding planning is a nightmare. If you’re planning on ditching the giant guest list, planning a small wedding just in case, or simply love the idea of an intimate setting, eloping might be the answer.
The idea that eloping is just for shotgun weddings, low budget shindigs, or last minute decisions is just plain false. There are many many reasons to elope and a national pandemic has made it’s way on to the list!
It’s no secret that Wisconsin is built for the outdoorsy person. There are so many options for anyone willing to adventure. Here are just a few places to have a small wedding in the great outdoors of Wisconsin.
1. State Parks
Wisconsin offers a plethora of state parks. Within those parks you can find beaches, camping, waterfalls, forests, lighthouses, and more.
As a photographer, I travel all over the state to large and small venues, but I have a special place in my heart for state parks. Many of them offer a location to rent out and is usually quite affordable. I love exploring the hiking trails and spots away from the crowds to offer so privacy for my couples to let the importance of their wedding day sink in and get some amazing wedding photos.
Make sure to check for permits (and permits for your vendors) as well as options for parking. Another thing to consider is when the bathrooms will be open. It’s always a good idea to call and ask for tips.
Some of my favorites.
Close to the Fox Valley area, High Cliff State Park is a great option for small weddings. A variety of scenery supplies endless photo opportunities and areas for your guests to explore. Lake front beach, trails, bridges, cliffs, wild flowers, and a look out tower are scattered throughout the park. Your wedding can be outside, but there is also a small building for reception or in case of bad weather. Before entering the park, they have a banquet building by the golf course to host weddings/receptions as well. Jamie and Alex had their reception there!
Many of my couples that have larger weddings choose to have their engagement session at High Cliff as well. It’s an awesome location for an adventurous couple. Minimal walking will get you to any of these beautiful spots.
Nate & Anna’s High Cliff Engagement Session
Jaime & Tyler’s Penninsula State Park Engagement Session
Janie & Nathan at Kohler-Andrae State Park.
Another beautiful beach in Wisconsin is in the Kohler-Andrae State Park. Janie and Nathan got married on a small stage tucked in to the woods, then celebrated with photos around the park and on the beach. Such a gem!
State Parks are my favorite place to have a small wedding in Wisconsin because there is so much beauty to be found and explored.
Here is a link to Wisconsin’s State Parks for you to explore. https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/findapark.html
The majority of incredible beaches of Wisconsin are located somewhere on Lake Michigan. At any given time of year, Lake Michigan offers gorgeous views and a sense of calm.
Check out some of the best beaches here: https://www.thecrazytourist.com/15-best-beaches-in-wisconsin/
Wisconsinites have caught on to the barn wedding trend and held on tight. I have been shooting weddings for 9 years and don’t see this going away any time soon. There are seriously sooo many options! Here is a screen shot of just a quick search of barn wedding venues near me.
One of my favorite barns to photograph weddings at is Simply Country Barn.
Do you recognize these two…?
Simply Country barn offers a bridal cabin to get ready with your girls in and a separate area for the guys. Ceremonies can be held inside or outside. Dinner is held in the barn and during reception time, guests can stay in or linger to the outdoor area for games and fresh air.
Can you believe there are over 40 waterfalls in the state?! Northern Wisconsin houses the majority of waterfalls. Surprisingly, there are a few others scattered throughout the state.
I took my kids and pupper for a hike at Dave’s Falls recently and we absolutely loved it there. It is not just one area to explore. Walk the hiking paths and you’ll see more and more options. the further you go, the less people you’ll see. My guess is that if you had a week day wedding here, you might only see a few other people.
I love this link to some of the best waterfalls in Wisconsin. Check it out!
I have been to waterfalls in almost every state I’ve visited and every country I’ve been to. Maybe I’m a little obsessed? Waterfalls in Alaska, Costa Rica, Tennessee, just to name a few.
I CAN NOT WAIT TO PHOTOGRAPH MORE WATERFALLS! Let’s plan an epic waterfall elopement together!.
5. Bed & Breakfasts
I don’t pretend to be an expert of bed and breakfasts, so I’ll leave this one to the people who know what they are talking about.
The Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast Association has a great website that lays it all out for you. They even have a tab just for B&B’s that host weddings all over Wisconsin!
6. Wineries-Door County
Door County is known for it’s wine and stunning scenery, but Wisconsin has wineries all over, not just in Door County.
Stone’s Throw Winery -Door County
LedgeStone Vineyards – Greenleaf
Whistler’s Knoll Vineyard– Hortonville
Just to name a few.
Need I say more? Orchards are gorgeous, period. Especially if you can catch them blooming in the spring.
Most people living in Wisconsin have a cabin up north or know someone that does. Cabins are a great place to shoot weddings and engagement sessions!
More of Jaime & Tyler in Door County-this time at the cabin on Lake Michigan!
One way to get some privacy is to hold your ceremony during the week. Most people visit their cabins on the weekend or around a holiday. Having your wedding during the week will limit traffic and noise in the area allowing you to have a truly memorable experience.
9. Back Yards
People might think that back yard weddings are a thing of the past, but I’ve noticed that they are becoming more and more popular again.
One of the biggest tips I can give you for a backyard wedding is to hire someone to spray for mosquitos! Your guests will appreciate it and everyone will stay longer to enjoy the celebration instead of running and hiding from bugs. Spraying makes all the difference for a backyard wedding in the midwest.
Amie & Matt’s backyard wedding
Barbara & Bill’s Backyard Wedding
Marissa & Stefan’s Backyard Wedding
Seriously though, if I had a yard like that, I’d get married there too…What a great place to have a small wedding. You’re familiar with it and the restrictions are limited. The toughest part about a lot of backyard weddings is parking.
Jess & Cody’s Intimate Wedding
Jess and Cody had their ceremony and reception at Cody’s parent’s property in Neenah. It is known for haunted hay rides in the fall, but there is nothing scary about this gorgeous setting by the pond. Their wedding deserves an entire post, so I’ll just leave you with this little teaser.
It’s ok to not want hundreds
of people at your wedding.
No matter which route you take, remember that this day is about YOU and your fiance. Forget about what everyone else may want or expect. If you don’t feel comfortable being the center of attention for hundreds of people, don’t be. If you don’t want to be meeting a ton of people on your wedding day, don’t. Just invite those that are closest to you and truly enjoy your wedding day. Or, go to the complete opposite side of the spectrum and forgo the guest list and elope with just the two of you and maybe a couple witnesses. After all, this is about celebrating your love and your uniqueness as a couple.
If you need help planning or finding new locations, I’m your girl.
Wisconsin is my home base, but traveling is my passion. So let’s pack those bags and explore somewhere beautiful together.
You can check out more information on small weddings and elopements here! Happy wedding planning!