Skip to content

Family Wedding in a Splendid Historical House

Wedding At Summit Manor St Paul Mn

I first met Alicia and Andrew in a coffee shop in the east suburb area of Minneapolis. They were planning the wedding of their dreams at the Summit Manor in St Paul MN. They were looking to hire a wedding photographer to catch candid pictures of their engagement session and their ceremony in the Twin Cities.

I remember while I was explaining the details of how I retouch the pictures, the groom and I shared the same frustration regarding the screen calibration and the way it influences the image fidelity.
Indeed, some (bad) photographers are using a non-calibrated photo screen to work with their images, so it disappoints their clients when they finally print posters.
The result is far away from clients’ expectations.

Today, many devices (like smart phones) have a higher level of contrast and saturation that they should. As a result, the image looks great on the device, but in reality the image colors are different. That subtle difference is often the source of disillusion when printing.
Well, I guess my (well printed) albums and my services convinced them! A few minutes later, we decided for their engagement session details. And a couple of weeks after, we had a rendezvous in a small town of Minnesota Hasting.

Pre-Wedding Photo Session

I always recommend to my couples to choose an unconventional location in the Twin Cities for their engagement session (such as a rooftop in Minneapolis). The day of their ceremony couples rarely have the time or the opportunity to go to gorgeous places.
Well, Alicia and Andrew had their pictures taking at Hasting’s Marina.

I remember on the day of their session; it started raining when we were supposed to start the photos. So we took a coffee until the rain stopped. It was a nice session. Alicia and Andrew confessed to me they were not used to kiss in public! Therefore, we tried to work on this point!
Several months later, they were ready for their special day.

The Preparation

First Alicia had her hair done in a hair salon close to downtown, specialized for curly hair.
When she headed up to the venue, her maid of Honor, her best friend, and her sister-in-law were waiting to start the activities.
Andrew was not present yet, so I focused on taking pictures of the details such as the bride’s attire first. This venue offers a lot of photogenic places, with handcraft woodwork, vintage wallpapers, and a bunch of antique furniture. If you combine that with a sunny morning, and all the beautiful natural light coming from the windows, then you have the perfect working area for a photographer. It was a real pleasure to shoot at this historical building!

The Historic Room Upstairs

The bride preparation took place upstairs, at one of the antique rooms. It was a pleasant room, with brown color tones, several windows and antique furniture. The Summit manor actually offers many amenities to choose between, which are all great to get ready. Alicia was quite calm and excited. Her niece brought a touch of candid happiness during that moment, and she made everyone feel more comfortable.
Alicia used the big mirror to get dressed, and I played with it to take pictures. I was happy because I rarely see many of these large mirrors. The tiny sun ray coming from the windows created a dramatic atmosphere in the room, and I tried to take advantage of it.

The Groom Preparation in the Basement

The groom was surrounded by his two best men. They used the basement, which has been renovated in a kind of “cigar club” room, or maybe should I say a “speak easy” bar. The white brick wall was covered by black and white photographs and vintage prints dating from the prohibition’s period.

It was, what I would call, a genuine guy’s preparation. Put it in another way, it was extremely sympathetic, but it was totally disorganized and chaotic. But I loved it; I had the feeling to be with my childhood friends. I especially liked the candid shot of the best men arriving at the venue with his messy hair, a neglected tie and his long shirt completely out of his black pants. Later during the day, he made fun of me with his parents. He shared with them the first thing I told him when he arrived: “Your shirt is a real disaster!”

Finally, I asked the groom to go to the Manor’s wood hall for the last pictures of his preparation, and we staged a silhouette picture of the men in the living room.

First look in on the lawn

It’s under the majestic oak that the bride and the groom had their first look. They were happy to meet, yet they would stay pretty nervous during the rest of the day.
We immediately started taking the photos of the couple. For that, we used the Summit Manor’s Garden and the immediate streets featuring their sumptuous trees. The garden was not enormous (one or two acres maximum), but big enough to shoot the photos of the bride and the groom, and, of course, to host a garden wedding. The shape of the old oaks gives the location the look of a painting.

The summit street is absolutely gorgeous too, with many sublime historic houses and many manors. It just gives you the feeling to live in another time. You go 100 years back, in the aristocratic part of St Paul MN when the city had a prolific expansion, at the time of the famous Gatsby’s parties.
Anyway, it’s in this type of luxury propriety that I enjoy more taking pictures.

The Bridal Party and the Family Pictures

The bride and the groom wanted their pictures to be done before getting married. Thus, they asked for their close family members to arrive prior to the event. The garden and the historical house served as a great backdrop for their photos. I really appreciated the inside of the manor. The wood stairs are especially outstanding!

Buffer Time

While all the guests were arriving one by one, the couple and their close family members stayed hidden inside the manor. It was for me an opportunity to catch several candid and funny shots. I liked the niece playing around and going under the buffet’s table. I also like the photograph of the maid of honor erasing a stain out of the bride’s dress with a special stain remover pencil.

They Tied the Knot in the Garden

Alicia and Andrew chose a very special officiant among their family: the grandfather! For sure, a grandfather is the best officiant you can expect in a wedding; he knows you since you are a child. Even if there was no rehearsal prior to the ritual, everything went smoothly.
To walk down the aisle, they decided for an original combination. Andrew actually walked down with his fiancé’s mother, then Andrew’s parents enter together, and finally Alicia came last with her father. That worked pretty well!

The officiant went straight to the point, so the ritual was actually pretty short. Therefore, it didn’t take long for Andrew to put the wedding ring on his fiancé’s finger and to kiss her. During this outdoor event, I tried to catch the reaction of the guests and especially of the nieces.

Cocktail Hour

After walking out the aisle, the newlywed couple welcomed all the guests, who formed a receiving line. It took quite a while, but at least they had some words with every single guest. After that, they signed their marriage certificate, and they went to the first floor at one of the biggest accommodation rooms. They actually had a first dance rehearsal there! During this time, family and friends enjoyed the cocktail hour by mingling in the Summit Manor and the beautiful historical part.

The grandfather gave a blessing, and the parents followed by the couple thanked one more time everyone for coming. For the toast moment, the couple stood on the wooden stairs.
Shortly after, they cut their wedding cake in the adjacent room.

A Manor reception, the Dinner and the First Dance

The dinner started. The bride and the groom seated inside the main living room (the one with the fireplace) while some guests seated outside in the garden. Yes, that’s actually one very common disadvantage of many historical manors: they barely have a spacious room to accommodate any sizeable group. That’s why such Victorian-style building is usually preferred for small and intimate marriages.—This doesn’t apply to the Semple Mansion in Minneapolis, which is an exception—.
Actually, those houses were built for 100 years ago, so they were not designed to welcome 300 guests for ceremonies, but probably only small groups of rich businessmen or local intellectuals from the university.

Anyway, the diner was great (As a French guy; I am kind of picky on the food). What’s more, I shared a table with the bride and groom’s friends who were very kind.
Soon after we finished eating, the Manor’s vendors turned the fireplace room into a ballroom. So the two partners opened their first dance. On this occasion, I caught this fabulous blue and yellow picture through the chandelier.
Guests danced a little, but most of the people left shortly after. Maybe it was because the place was not big enough, or possibly because there was no real DJ to gather and motivate people on the dancefloor.

Should you plan your wedding in historical manor, heritage from the Past charged with elegance?

Having your outdoor ceremony taking place under an amazing one-century-old oak, and your manor reception in a stunning classic house is the guarantee to enjoy the prestige of the past. Such a legacy from a glorious age doesn’t even require flowers to be beautiful! So it’s a good way to skip on flowers!

But, as mentioned previously, if you can use beautiful houses as centerpieces of your receptions, that does not guarantee you a wonderful service or wonderful food. Check with your caterer that his staff can work with properly with the kitchen.

Would I recommend summit manor?

This is a very beautiful house, then I would recommend it for small groups.
You should, of course, meet the manager (David McLaughlin) and make sure to understand each other properly and share the same vision on what should be your manor reception .
Indeed, if David manages a beautiful property, and manages his staff correctly, his personality can be a bit surprising! And given he is the coordinator in charge of making your day stress free, you want to make sure he is open to discussion and offers flexibility with your needs.

For instance, on the wedding day, I asked him if it would be possible to use sparklers in the garden to take a picture with the bride and the groom. He turned red and seems pretty upset that I asked the question. I didn’t know that all kinds of flame were forbidden!
Later, I send him some picture of the wedding and offered him to use them on his website on the condition to credit me. He did use them on his website (alongside his wife’s pictures) and “forgot” to credit me (while his wife was clearly credited, which created a confusion of whom photography vendors took the pictures). Indeed, his wife is the “official photographer” of the venue and he would probably try to sell her service. I will be polite and not say what I am thinking of her photography.
When I noticed he was using my pictures on his website, but offering his wife as a photographer, I came back to him to notify him of his oversight. Then he took the pictures out of his sight without any apology.

That been said, it’s a very nice venue and I will be glad to shoot more pictures there!

Let’s compared with other historical venues

Summit Hill is a neighborhood in Minnesota, concentrating on a high number of stunning houses and historical landmarks. Some are museums, hotels and can be used for receptions. Let’s think of the James J. Hill House, the Saint Paul college club, The Burbank Livingston Griggs, the University of St Paul Club, the Cedarhurst mansion, The Davidson Hotel just to name a few.
They all share something in common, they are gorgeous and historic. But each one was specificities that would fit or not a modern reception.

To help you understand the limit of the old house, let’s see 3 examples of historical venues and their limits.

theodore wirth chalet

Theodore Wirth Park and its Historical and Modern Chalet

You can find in Minneapolis, MN many historical venues for wedding ceremonies and receptions, such as the Theodore Wirth Chalet. Contrary to the Summit Manor which is completely authentic looking, the Chalet is half modern. All the basement (which provides changing rooms for the park) is completely modern and present in consequence no charm (although it might be more convenient).


The Lowertown Event Center

Saint Paul, MN, downtown offers several basement venues (such as the Lowertown event center). They are not a lot the preferred vendor location for two major reasons: the lake of natural light (which is a big problem in photography), and the low ceiling. Customers might complain about the amenities: public bathrooms, public space, lakes of parking.
The location of such venue is pretty convenient! It’s easily accessible to all your guests, connected to the Skyways system, and near several hotels and photo spots.

van dusen

The Van Dusen

Minnesota has several gorgeous historical venues such as the Van Dusen Mansion and its modern ballroom. This is one example of a good mix between a modern architecture and a vintage style. Its high capacity modern dinner room can handle large groups.
If the historical living room and first-floor rooms are the “centerpieces” of this landmark, but the actual reception takes place in modern buildings.


In conclusion, I am very glad the bride and the groom hired me among all other photographers that they trusted me for creating their family memories, and that they made me discover this outstanding place.

Black and White Portrait of Alexandre Mayeur, photographer at French-Touch-Photography

Born and raised in Paris, I am now a proud Wedding Photographer in Rochester, MN, serving MPLS.

I don’t only capture emotions in candid pictures, I also create timeless images and artful photographs.
Recognized as one of the best photographers in the Twin Cities.

I serve Duluth and also far beyond the 10,000 Lakes State (Wisconsin, Iowa, and destination). I am more than happy to discover beautiful landscapes and new horizons.

Have a look at my previous publications to learn more. As an experienced professional photographer, I don’t limit my field to lifestyle, family, or event photography! I invite you to visit my portfolio and discover my photography and work out of the studio.