Lauren & Cameron

Ceremony at the Historic Concord Exchange wedding venue St Paul MN

If first meet Lauren and Cameron in the Cities. They were looking for the right photographer to cover their September ceremony and their entire celebration. At had just created a profile on weddingwire, and that’s how the found me.

We had our first rendezvous in coffee shop in Minneapolis. After one hour of presentation and explanation of my photography services, they were ready to sign.
He grew up in Minnesota while she is from Texas trying to get used to this cold weather. They meet at university. He asked her to marry him on the Stone Arch Bridge.
We decided to start a few weeks later with their engagement photos which started at the same place.
For that, we went to the Stone Arch Bridge and along the Mississippi River. It was a great engagement session and that helped them on their wedding day.

To celebrate their special day, they decided on a very photogenic venue: the Historic Concord Exchange Hotel located in South St. Paul. Now, let’s dive into Lauren and Cameron’s wedding day !

They Get ready

It was a pretty sunny day which offered me all the light I could expect to perfectly catch the bride’s preparation.
Lauren used the lady’s getting-ready room with large windows and a makeup table. Lauren was surrounded by her sisters, maid of honors, and her mom. She was a bit nervous when I arrived and she kept this tension on the edge until she met her fiancé later.
While Lauren had her hair done by the hair stylist, I escaped into the bride and groom’s room to take pictures of details of the bride’s attire.

Groom preparation
Then I took a picture of the grooms and all his groomsmen who were getting ready in the martini room. They were pretty relaxed, and shared a glass of whisky, which really helped relaxing everyone!
The father of the bride and the father of the groom joined us and helped Cameron.
Then, when he was dressed up, Cameron’s mother came to congratulate him. I am proud to have managed to catch a really strong emotional moment: a couple of tears and a lot of unsaid exchanges through the eyes of these two. Her teenager who turned into an adult, and now it was turning into a husband who might become father soon! Time flies so fast, but a mother’s emotions remain unchanged.
Then, we used the historical looking corridor to stage a groom and groomsmen photo. I enjoyed giving this picture a men’s club’s style, using a short-wood table, the red padded chairs and the whisky glasses.

The Bride’s Dress

Finally came the last and the most important part of the preparation, when the bride finally turned into a princess, I mean the dressing. Surrounded by her entire bridal squad, the bride operated the last touch of her transformation. I liked to include the majestic room decoration as a background to the pictures.

First Look With the Father at the Multi-Level Main Room

We set up the father daughter’s first look into the multi-level main room. The father planned to offer a necklace to his daughter. But when he discovers her, he was speechless. While they both cried, the sisters and friends were watching the scene from the first floor’s balcony! I can easily understand how difficult it is for the bride’s father to realize his daughter is getting married!
Here again, it was a strong moment full of emotion, and I am proud to catch all this into photographs that will last for a lifetime.

First look and Group pictures at the Simon Ravine Trailhead, Saint Paul, MN

For their first look, the couple decided on this small park with a creek flowing in the middle of two hills covered by trees.
I was hoping to go to the Mississippi River (very close by), or to a bigger park in the Minneapolis area. Actually, this park had just enough nature that could be needed for the photos.
The groom was waiting for his fiancé to show up.

Despite all his friends’ and relatives’ jokes, Cameron was very nervous and it was difficult for him to wait so long for his beloved.
When she finally arrived he cried, again. That was cute moment to capture, and to testify of the connection between these two lovers. When Cameron’s amazement was over (Lauren was pretty gorgeous in her dress), and after a short but intense hug, the husband and wife-to-be were ready to take advantage of the park’s natural background for their wedding pictures.
Almost all the wedding party was watching them, but given they were trained during their engagement session, they managed to stay concentrated on what is the most important: their complicity.

They spoke, walked and had fun together.
The bride’s sister was very implicated and wanted to push everything to the perfection. In consequence, she turned into a super personal attendant and also a makeup artist. Sometimes she also turned into an art director telling the photographer what pictures she wanted. Luckily for her, we shared the same tastes, so that worked well.

all started a few years before at the university

Family’s Portrait

Then we took the family pictures and the bridal pictures. We had some high temperatures; it was one of those days where temperature beats a record. We tried to find a place in the shades, with fresh lawn and fresh air from the creek to take the entire bridal party’s portraits.

The trail is maybe not the most beautiful place in the Twin Cities, but it’s convenient, and closer than Minneapolis. As their photographer I had to keep them on track for their ceremony, so we head back to the Historic Concord Exchange Hotels to take more pictures.

Couple’s Pictures

In this exceptionally hot September day, everyone enjoyed the fresh air (coming from the Historic Concord AC), except maybe my camera’s lenses, covered by steam. That was pretty funny; I had the sensation to be in another country much more in the south! After a quick lens cleaning, I was ready to pursue with the couple pictures. We used the gorgeous stairs offering gorgeous handcraft woodwork for the bride and groom’s pictures.

Nice decoration for a ceremony: more than a florist job

Most couples assumed the decoration is the florist job.
Actually, it’s Josey, the great wedding planner (different than a simple coordinator), who made sure that the final decoration touches were perfect.

The key of great decoration is to coordinate the vendors, finding the harmony between the florist and dinner ware, the linens, the props and the lightening.

She set up some candle lanterns on the ground with some green leaves. That worked pretty great, creating an interesting reflection in the dark waxed floor!
She finally lighted up all the candles, and the guests started to arrive. They waited in venue’s large hall until the usher came to seat them.

check at the vendors and the florist job

Marriage ceremony with music and emotion in Twin Cities

When we arrived, the officiant was waiting close to the fireplace. There was no rehearsal.
The groom enters with the officiant, and waits for the processional.
Sometimes it’s difficult for a wedding photographer to catch human emotions. But with these two families I was pretty lucky, it was not hard! Indeed, the entire ceremony was a succession of laughs and tears from both sides.
I especially loved the parents’ face expressions, that I managed to capture into candid shots.
One groomsman played guitar during the bride entrance and later during the ritual, what amplified the sentimental power of the scene.
At one point, all the close relatives gathered to have a big family hug. That was a pretty nice moment to photograph.
During the ritual, I used the waxed floor reflection and the symmetry offered by the bride and groom standing on their feet at the center of the aisle to create the beautiful image below.
As you can expect, she said yes and they exchanged their vows and rings. After this, the officiant officially presented them as husband and wife! They kissed and walked out the aisle.

Marriage certificate and more pictures

While the guests were invited to have a drink at the hotel’s bar and to mingle during the cocktail hour, the bridal party signed the marriage certificate.
Then, we used the outdoor front stair to stage additional family pictures. It’s during this period that I had the opportunity to catch this funny and candid picture of the mother helping the grandmother to apply her lipstick.
In the meanwhile, the venue’s staff quickly turned the celebration room into a diner room. A few minutes later, all the guests were seated and ready for the bride and groom’s grand entrance.

Dinner, Speeches and Blessing

They first started the dinner with the father’s blessing.

Quickly after, the brother and sister’s toasts occurred. That was also an intense scene. They described how the two lovebirds met and how they fell in love. They comment on how their recent (but deep) love managed to survive despite all the distance that separated them. Indeed, just after they met in University in Netherland, Cameron had to fly back to the USA. They obviously managed to overcome those difficulties with long nights of video sessions.
Thanks to the internet and all those amazing websites that allow us to stay connected all over the world, with a simple click!

Historical part of Minnesota and Midwest History

After the reception, the staff quickly removed some tables and chairs, and the DJ turned the historic venue into a dancing club.
It’s maybe during the evening that we enjoyed the more the historic concord atypical multi-level main room with a balcony. You probably don’t know, but before being a wedding venue, and a hotel in the ’90s, the building (named the Stockyards Exchange) was initially the office of what would later become the largest stockyards in the United States. In other words, it was built to host business partners, clients and impress them. Today, it still produces the same effect on visitors.
But let’s go back to Lauren and Cameron’s wedding.

With the great music, people quickly gathered on the dance floor. To catch the atmosphere and the dancing parts, I used my wide-angle lens and I went close to the guests. I especially liked the grandparent’s face when I went to take their portraits!
The DJ’s lightening was great; he really enhanced the venue’s architecture. I also set up some additional flashes, adding some touches of red and blue colors to the images.
Check the pictures of the bride tossing her bouquet. And check when the groom is doing his silly dance to seduce her (kind of west side story remake).

One of the Nicer Venue in The Twin Cities With a variety of options

While the guests enjoyed the ballroom, I asked for the bride and the groom to follow me for more pictures. Indeed, I wanted to take advantage of the multiple photography spots offered by the historic concord exchange.
That’s how I took this stunning picture with the chandelier in the corridor, and the image behind the front desk with the two lamps.
The hotel is a very large building with 4 or 5 floors. Thus, it offers a multitude of rooms, each of them having its own style! So that’s great for the guests, but also for the photographers to take pictures!

Grand Exit

After a couple of hours of intense dancing, it was time for the bride and the groom to exit the party.
They had bought a bunch of sparklers that they gave to their guests. When they were all lined up, sparklers lighted up in the air and the bride and groom happily exited and went to their car.

I can’t thank enough for the bride and the groom for trusting me as soon as we met and letting me catch the memories of their special day.

grand exit with sparklers

Should you plan receptions in this venue?

If you are planning a wedding in Saint Paul, MN, or Minneapolis, this event venue is a great place to host weddings! Let me explain why and give you some good reasons.


In a strictly practical point of view. This venue has many accommodations. It’s close to the city, can handle inside ceremonies and cocktails and dinner in all different rooms. What’s more there are several rooms for families to sleep the night, and extra rooms you can use to your convenience!

The Limit of Historic Buildings

Hosting wedding ceremonies in an old mansion is usually reserved from middle size celebration.

Indeed, an intimate wedding might not fill the large ballroom. Larger events might turn to more modern (and bigger) venue in Town and Country club in St Paul, MN.

A Limited Number of Similar Jewels in Minnesota

Most people want a nice covered venue to avoid rainy outdoor weddings, and ending choosing a post-industrial urban-chic style venue in Minneapolis, but that’s clearly not the same! A venue with:

  • a makeup room
  • lots of windows and natural light
  • a sublime bride’s suite
  • Some iconic rooms for the groom to get ready
  • Other unique rooms for families to sleep
  • breathtaking wood stairs
  • a personal coordinator service
  • 3 bars with services serving all kind of beverage (bear, martini, etc.).
  • Extra room to host a photobooth
  • Most of all and two level ballroom is just extremely rare!
  • A real historical dimension, raw character and soul

Are there other Options in Minnesota?

If challenge you to find a similar opportunity. Check on Weddingwire and the Knot! The Union Depot is nice, but is terribly missing natural light. Other nice historic venue nearby is the Landmark Center, the Central Library, the Athletic Club (one of my favorites also).

The Renaissance hotel depot in Minnesota is also very nice: a mix of historic and modern architecture.

Otherwise, most of the venue in St Paul are or underground with no natural light (such as the 413 on Wacouta and Lowertown event center), or completely new (such as Saint Paul Hotel).
But if the Lowertown and the Wacouta event center are nice, they have a major downside regarding the photography. The Lowertown don’t have any natural light, check at my article to see more images.

At last suggestions if you like old buildings would be to check at the University of Minnesota. Indeed, they have plenty of good-looking venues (such as the University Club).
But still, they don’t match with the HCE.

So if you are looking for an authentic place with a soul that would please you, your guests and offer you some good pictures, don’t hesitate and contact the Mansion!

PS: Even If I am part of the vendors they recommended, I don’t touch any commission.

makeup adjustement
The Historic concord near the train depot
The Historic concord in The Twin Cities
detail of the historic venue in Minnesota
The bride walking down the stairs with her father
amazing decoration with candles
historic venues in Minnesota
The Historic concord near the train depot in Minneapolis
they know each other since univeristy
they met at university