By Mel Grau
Modern rustic weddings combine contemporary elegance with nostalgia for simpler times. Wisconsin is the ideal destination for this kind of unfussy fairy tale charm. To find a diamond in the rough—a pearl in the pastoral—look no further than these five Wisconsin inns.
It doesn’t get more rustic than a secluded island with log cabins and no cars. Despite ferry-only access, Stout’s Island Lodge boasts rave-worthy service, locally sourced dining, and classic beauty in both nature and architecture. Nicknamed “The Island of Happy Days,” Stout’s Island Lodge is great place to start happily ever after.
Frank Stout, a wealthy businessman from Chicago, built the lodge at the turn of the 20th century. Cabins named for Stout’s children are scattered along the main island, and each boasts moss-covered roofs, carved German beams, and thick plank floors. Because of its storied history, the lodge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Partners can reserve the entire island for their wedding, ensuring no distraction from the main event. Tie the knot in any of the sweetly secluded spots on the island, but the south lawn is one of the most popular options for larger parties. Regardless of where you say “I Do,” it’s hard to beat the sun setting over your own private island.
For a more nautical island nuptial, the Inn on Madeline Island is a superb choice. Picture gliding sailboats, romantic docks, and an endless beach framing your ceremony. It’s not a sand-in-your-sheets kind of place though—it has modern conveniences like flat screen TVs and Jacuzzis. While the inn is certainly newer than historic Stout’s, it channels a rustic Great Lake culture in its fresh fish menus and lighthouse-like lodging.
Madeline Island is the largest of the acclaimed Apostle Islands in Lake Superior. Secluded and romantic, the inn is right on the water and offers various boating activities. Wedding guests will travel to the Inn via a ferry from Bayfield, a quaint Wisconsin artist’s town that offers entertainment for company not inclined to be isolated on an island.
Ideal for casual weddings of 50 guests or less, the Silver Star Inn offers an intimate and personal backdrop for the big day. The inn is built in the style of upstate New York or Colorado lodges, complete with a large field stone fireplace. In the winter, couples will exchange vows in front of the fire while frost kisses the windows outside. The summertime ceremony hotspot is the wrap-around deck that overlooks a perennial garden and forest.
Though the building and surroundings are rustic, the artwork adorning the lodge’s walls is contemporary. Original Wisconsin artists’ paintings, mixed media and sculpture add a slightly eclectic vibe.
Silver Poplar Studios LLC in Door County, aka “Ellison’s Wonderland,” is the most offbeat location on this list. It’s got the history of Stout’s and the artsy tradition of Silver Star, but more Byelorussian folklore than any fairytale. Imagine walking into a storybook where the cottages are made from recycled material and the forest consists only of wildflowers.
The property takes up 15 acres, with each unique structure a reclaimed and repurposed work of art. From convent windows, to a wooden barn silo, to plaster ornaments from a Chicago theater, this artist’s retreat unifies many stories into one inspiring concept. Much like a marital union, the estate symbolizes harmony.
At first glance, the hand-carved oak staircase, Danish wooden floors and lakeside allure make the French Country Inn seem docile. Once you know the boutique hotel’s gritty history, however, its charm becomes glamorous.
The least secluded inn on the list makes up for lack of anonymity in beauty and style. Situated on picturesque Lake Como, the inn attracted notorious gangsters like Baby Face Nelson and the John Dillinger gang in the 1930s. The previous Dutch owners—who canoodled with George “Bugs” Moran—used to even run a speakeasy from the inn’s basement.
If you’re looking for a modern rustic wedding, but aren’t akin to the country, this Inn offers a serene backdrop coupled with luxurious accommodations. Plus, you’re only five minutes from nearby Lake Geneva.