Wedding at the Sublime Swedish Institue, Minneapolis, MN

Allison & Reid Wedding photos at the Swedish Institute Minneapolis

Before moving to Minnesota, and covering weddings in Minneapolis and the Twin Cities, I worked for an advertising photographer. Thanks to this experience, I have learned the secret of lightening low light environment. And on this special day, I was about to need all this knowledge in order to take pictures in the beautiful but dark Swedish institute.
I will take advantage of this article to introduce to you this special venue.

But first, let’s start with the bride and the groom.
Alison is nothing less than an established and experimented architect! After studying art, she specialized in contemporary architecture and she is now in charge of designing buildings such as schools!

Reid is a calm person, handling complicated situations. He takes care of the logistic of the entire Wisconsin boy-scout association!
The bride and the groom booth meet in high school being a member of the school orchestra. At this time Reid, who was more interested in exploring the sewer system with his best friend, and didn’t notice Alison (true story). Finally, thanks to his best friend (who was also his best man), he realized she had a crush on him, and he falls in love. Since they stayed together.

Preparation at the Hilton Garden Inn Hotels

Given the institute doesn’t have any bridal suite, the entire bridal party was getting ready at the Hilton Hotel. Living in Milwaukee, they arrived a day before their event and had a rehearsal dinner in town. After that they slept at the Hilton Hotel.

Bride Preparations

I took pictures of the wedding dress, the shoes and the jewels while the bride had her hair and makeup done in her suite. Then florist drops the bouquet, so I staged a few pictures with it. I also took something old, something blue, and something borrowed.

The window was facing north, so I played with the morning light. This kind of light is usually soft and reminds me of the Flemish paints.
After that I went to capture candid shot of the bride and bridesmaids. They were all wearing a silk dress and drink mimosas. Given they didn’t see each other for a while and we’re all very excited! I capture a lot of candid shot!

The game! I love the variety of options!

Groom and Groomsmen

Grooms are usually not big fans off having their portraits taken during their preparations. Indeed, guys don’t have makeup and don’t turn into a princess…They basically just put their suit.
That’s why they love to gather with their best friends around them to have fun. In consequence, they needed a large room, and thus, they choose a meeting room offered by the hotel.
I am not a big fan of meeting room because they are usually pretty ugly. That’s why I switched off the electric lights, and played with the natural light coming from the large windows. That allows me to isolate the guys from a dark background, like use to do Flemish painters such as Jan Van Eyck, or painters using chiaroscuro (light and shade) effects.

Reid being consistent in his love and in his friendship, all the groomsmen (who were not relatives) were childhood friends. As a result they created a small board game for Alison and Reid Wedding. They listed 25 situations that could happen during the day and each one of them had to make a prediction. I think it is a pretty simple and super fun game to do!

So, once Reid had help most of the guys to fix their tie, he isolated himself in the hallway and opened his fiancée letter. That provides me with emotional images.

Bride Get Dressed

This dressing was very emotional as well. The bride isolated herself with her mother and a few friends in another hotel room to put on her dress. The mother and daughter moment was pretty intense.
I believe the most beautiful and cutest moment were when the bride gives a pen to her mother and asked her to reproduce a tradition they had when she was a child: asking her mother to draw something on her arm (kind of little tattoo).
When I fist Meet Allison and Reid in the Twin Cities, they were looking for a professional wedding photographer to cover their wedding in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and to capture all the little moments of emotions. That was definitely one of those symbolic moment taking place and I was more than happy to immortalize it with my camera.

After that, the bride opens the groom’s letter and dropped a tear.

Photos Time

Then we all drove to the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis. It has its own attached parking lot, which was pretty convenient!
Indeed, it can be difficult to find a parking on Park Avenue in Minneapolis (used to be known as the Golden Mile one century ago because it features 40 mansions, in the Phillips West neighborhood of midtown Minneapolis).

As we will explain it later, the institute is the combination of the Historical Turnblad Mansion and new building with a very modern architecture, the Nelson Cultural Center.

First Look

They discover each other in a little aisle covered by birch trees alongside the building. Alison was very stressed and Reid was pretty nervous. He almost cried with joy when he saw her. I give the couple five minutes alone, so they reassure and comfort each other before the ritual.

Couple Photos Reap the Benefits of Their Engagement Session

Thanks to their engagement session at the State Capitol in Saint Paul, MN, and in Minneapolis at the Stone Arch Bridge and Boom Island, Alison and Reid quickly relaxed. That allowed me to immediately catch some good pictures. It’s a reason I always encourage coupe to have an engagement session. On this day, it was significantly appreciated given we were running late and didn’t have much time.

After that we took some pictures using the exterior of the castle and then the interior. We used the Grand Hall and the Veranda.

Then we stage a picture on the stairs including the iconic Visby Windows (stained glass) in the background. I especially enjoy the bright Salon with his stunning ceiling.

Bridal Party Pictures

Then we staged the traditional group pictures. I wanted to take advantage of the historical building, so we staged the groups on the lawn. They had a lot of fun, and we even had a surprise guest: a little rabbit!

More Pictures on Rooftop

After that we quickly drove to Minneapolis, MN, on a rooftop near the Millennium Hotel and its famous view on Minnesota. More than the point of view of the city, it is the sensation of liberty produced by the immediate adjacent buildings that give to that place so much energy.
Given we didn’t have a lot of time, we made it quick and fast. We just had the time play with colored smoke bombs and had to go back for the ceremony.

Ceremony in Front of the Main Entrance

The ceremony took place in front of the main entrance, on the top of the stairs and under the porch. All the guests were seated on the front lawn. The bride’s brother played some guitar while Reid, fallowed by all the bridal party make their entrance.
Finally, the bride walks down the aisle at her father’s arm. You could feel a tangible emotion in the air.

Their officiant was one of their best friends, an English Teacher. His speech was personal, funny, serious and temper. As a result most of the guests had their eyes wet (and so did I).
After some readings they exchanged their wedding ring and were introduced to the people as a husband and wife.

Cocktail hour at the Turnblad Mansion

Immediately after, the wedding party escaped to share a glass of champagne. The wedding coordinator brings to witness the marriage certificate to sign. They decide to go into the veranda to sign it with natural light.
Then it was time to enjoy the reception and to mingle with their guests.

Given the weather was uncertain, the cocktail hour took place inside the historical part.
There were people everywhere, in the Grand Hall, the Bright salon. I was quite surprised that guests were allowed to drink their cocktails inside the historical part (which is sometimes forbidden in protected locations).

That was for me the opportunity to shoot a lot of candid and funny shots.

Dinner in the ASI Courtyard

It’s in the slate paving courtyard that the dinner took place. The table was perfectly decorated by the florist and the rental decorations. After all the guests wear seated, the wedding coordinator makes a sign the bridal party to start their grand entrance.

Having outdoor celebrations inside the cities is pretty rare. What’s more the modern location was just super romantic. Indeed, the dinner takes place between the Nelson building cover with slate stone, and face the historical home. The sky is covered by light bulb that brings a vintage and intimate atmosphere.
The caterer cook some really good food. And as a French, you can guess that I am really picky about food! What’s more I have been served by the staff among the first ones. That is really great because that allow me to quickly eat so I can continue to take pictures during the rest of the dinner.

This is precisely what happens when the speech took place. I run to shoot pictures of the funny speeches.

The first drop of rain started to fall just after the end of the dinner. All the guests and the staff run inside the cafeteria were the dance floor was a set-up.

Dance at the Fika Cafe

The bride and the groom hired a music band for their reception. During the dinner I ate with other wedding vendors, including the musicians who briefed me about the kind of music they were about to play.
That allowed me to set up my remote flashes accordingly to light up the events.

The first dance was a rumba. It was intense! The bride dress flew in the air when she was spinning. Everything was going superfast. That’s one of the best dance openings I had ever seen.

They continued with a father-daughter dance and a mother-son dance. After that the music band turned managed to bring almost everyone on the dance floor.

Last Creative Picture

Before living I have set up some flashes for creative pictures in front of the Turnblad Castle. I took advantage of the bride’s dance abilities asking her to spin again for another spectacular picture!
Then I congratulated the bride and the groom and let them enjoy their event!
That was one kind of wedding that gives a sense of the word marriage, and I left the party happy.

Should you get married at the American Swedish Institute?

As a photographer I visit a lot of wedding venues. Of course I will share my individual opinion, and thus you should read other reviews to have complete point of view.

An Active Museum

First thing all you should understand that this wedding venue is, before all, an active museum.

It has two major buildings: an old historical one (the one we might prefer), and a very modern one (the Nelson Cultural Center).
Both welcome exhibitions, featuring pieces of art mostly from the north of Europe: Scandinavia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland. They also host a bunch of pedagogic activities and a variety of events.
In other words, like all events taking place in museums, you would have to share the space with visitors and families until the museum closure.

So, is that a big deal?

In practical terms it’s not, but should be taken in consideration, especially if you are planning to have your photography taken early and you don’t want visitors standing in the background of your pictures.
That being said, Minnesotan people are very polite and we never had any issue.

A real gem in Minnesota

The ASI is one of the rare venues in Minneapolis offering rentals with a stunning historical wedding venue and a complementary modern building.
As a result if offers clients a high number of spaces, with all kinds of capacity, to adapt your events regarding your number of guests and depending on the weather.
The modern part (the Nelson Cultural Center) is pretty classy. It’s a Minimalis white design, with long lines. It has a floor-to-ceiling windows, and a terrasse with a view on the backyard and the castle.

The “Castle”

Turned into a museum, it’s a 33-room house that was originally built for his wife by Swan Turnblad’s. His was born in Sweden, but his parents moved to America where he met the American dream!
He grows up in a modest family of farmers, and after studying in Minnesota (near Goodhue) he became typesetter for newspapers. After a marriage with a Swedish woman, he continues his carer in the printing press.
Long story short, he became the boss of one of those Swedish language newspaper, hired his brother as the editor. He became one of the richest men in Town, and hire the architects Christopher Boehme and Victor Cordella to design his luxurious home in a French Chateauesque style with turrets, towers and gables. And voilà!

For your information, the French Chateauesque style refers to some castle alongside the Loire River in France, a region featuring numerous fancy castles.

The interior of the castle is baroque, with an abundance of ostentatious decorations: stunning ceiling with plaster moldings with gold leaf, different kinds of wood used (oak, walnut and mahogany) and 11 decorative tile stoves imported from Sweden.

The Grand Hall

The 2-floor hall and its balconies are one of the most impressive and spacious spaces of the castle. Located at the center of the home and without direct natural light, it’s also one of the darker rooms (which is usually the case in historic buildings offering receptions services).

The Salon

With beige walls, bright wood floor, decorated ceilings and grand piano, the Salon is one of the brightest rooms of the venue, and probably one of the most photogenic.

Answer: 11 reasons to choose the ASI for your wedding in Minneapolis!

Except if you want to have multiple ceremonies starting early in the afternoon, then the Swedish institute in Minneapolis, is the perfect place for receptions and should clearly be on the top of your list.
Indeed, it offers  not only the beautiful decor from an historical Minnesota masterpiece of architecture, but the flexibility required by a lot of vendors to host large receptions.

I would suggest that you reserve rooms in one of the adjacent nice hotels in Minneapolis (to get ready and to sleep), and you would have a perfect combination for your wedding.

Find here a list of good reason to choose this location:

  • First and most of all the beauty of the Turnblad Castle
  • Outdoor ceremony option
  • Outdoor receptions in romantic location
  • Capacity for large and small reception thanks to the modern building
  • Cocktails are allowed inside the historical part
  • The Modern Nelson building offers a room, which is pretty convenient to have a makeup touchup and to store things (for the bridal party of even some vendors).
  • Nice chair rentals
  • Private Parking
  • 5 min driving from Minneapolis Downtown
  • A bunch of Photography spots located all around in Minneapolis
  • Not decoration needed, save on florist and other rentals

So, let’s try to be critical and giving a list of the bad side of choosing the Swedish institute in Minneapolis for your wedding:

  • There is not a bridal suite to have your hair and makeup done.
  • The interior of the castle is pretty dark
  • It’s a Minneapolis active museum
  • Photography with flash is usually not allowed inside, especially when there is an exhibition taking place
  • The ASI ballroom is pretty modern and lack of charm (in contrast with the historic part)
  • You might need bus rentals to transport your guests to their hotel.


The Swedish institute in Minneapolis, offers similar outstanding decors, such as the University Club of Saint Paul, and a variety of rooms available for receptions. We could also mention a variety of other historical venue in Minnesota such as the Van Dusen and The Semple Mansion, the Historic Concord Hostel (less luxurious), The St Paul Athletic Club (pretty amazing), the Summit Manor (smaller), the Minneapolis Club, the James J. Hill House or the St Paul College Club.