Villa Terrace Wedding Guide

bride and groom walking down staircase at villa terrace

Each year, many couples dream about hosting their wedding in a spectacular European destination. You’ve seen the primo wedding destinations in Lake Como, Paris and the South of France. Although a European wedding would be wonderful, many couples have to choose a local wedding venue to accommodate guests, logistics and budget. What if I told you there was a beautiful European-styled venue perfect fort your Milwaukee wedding? As a Milwaukee wedding photographer, I’m putting my hand up and calling you this way because if you’re dreaming about a decadent location full of all the European architectural touches, Villa Terrace is for you.

What Makes Villa Terrace So Special?

The estate was designed by David Adler and built in 1923 by Lloyd Smith, son of A.O. Smith, for his wife Agnes, after they visited Italy. Agnes had fallen in love with the incredible Renaissance architecture. So, like any good husband would, Lloyd came back and built his wife a Tuscan villa. With the utmost love and dedication, the couple hand selected stonework, facades, colors, tapestries and details to build the most authentic Italian villa possible, in the most improbable place – Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The property, now a private art museum, draws in a sense of stillness and vastness that is impossible to find elsewhere in the heart of the city of Milwaukee. In the bustling city of Milwaukee, just “up the river” from Chicago, Villa Terrace is an ideal wedding venue in Milwaukee.

bride and groom sitting on bench at their engagement session

The Perfect Setting for All of Your Needs

The Picturesque Gardens

Villa Terrace takes care to manicure its green space. There are grounds are made up of understated gardens, full of vignettes for your Milwaukee wedding photography. On your wedding day you can make the most of the stacked steps with cascading water, known by their Italian name of Scaletta d’Acqua. Walking down these central steps (hidden from view as you walk out onto the terrace) will set your heart afloat and your images apart. You’ll walk down with a stunning view of the lake and backdrop of mediterranean beauty.

On the lower landing of the Scaletta, the stairs, you’ll be perfectly nestled amongst the orchard trees where blossoming fruit trees decorate the hill. At the bottom of the stairs is a fountain, the Vasca, where water streams from a series of lead fish. With a panoramic view of the rolling stairs and orchard behind you, topped with an architecturally cherry on top – the Villa itself – you will be standing in the most enchanting location your heart could dream of.

groom kissing bride in garden with a villa in the background

Courtyard

The front courtyard, that sits on the west side of the property, is a magnificent display of manicured garden topiaries, a stone statue of Mercury and 4 corridors of archways – vaulted loggia. This space is arguably my favorite place in all of Milwaukee. There are Italian columns, iron lattice work, a stone staircase and beautiful wall lanterns that infuse magic in the space. The light colored neutral tones work with all skin tones and the diffused light is always blanaced, no matter the time of day. As I mentioned this is my favorite place to photograph wedding photos in Milwaukee. No surprise, as it was named as one of the eight most beautiful courtyards in America, by Galerie magazine. 

This Villa Terrace courtyard and archway corridors make a beautiful cocktail hour area, that allows both uncovered and covered lounging and is just footsteps away from both the indoor reception area or outdoor terrace. Some couples also choose to host their dinner in this area and in my professional opinion, you cannot go wrong in the loggia.

courtyard of Villa Terrace Milwaukee

Reception and Terrace

On the east side of the property, overlooking the gardens, the cascading water on the Scaletta d’Acqua and the lake itself, is the crown jewel of the property, the Terrazzo della Luna – can you guess what it means? The Terrace of the Moon. In one word: wow. This grotto terrace is a magical area, lit with bistro lights to host your wedding reception. This is the most popular space for wedding receptions so guests can overlook the property and the lake. It is stunning for photographs. When you look at these images in this post, does it look like this was Milwaukee wedding photography? No way. Italia!

Wedding party formal photo at Villa Terrace

Two covered pavilions flank the terrace. When couples choose to host both the ceremony and reception on the terrace, guests can enjoy a cocktail hour around the property or in the courtyard while the space goes through a transformation for dinner. Everything about this property suits a beautiful mid-sized celebration. If they’d only allow, I’d pack my bags, collect my pups and move in with all of my closest to live at the Villa Terrace forever – it’s that good.

Two beautiful brides holding hands at Villa Terrace wedding, overlooking Lake Michigan

Indoor Options

Every couple hopes for the outdoors at Villa Terrace, but what if it’s cold or rainy? A property of this size wouldn’t leave you without a rain option. The property has a comfortable Great Hall that has been used to entertain guests since the home was first built. It has two walls of windows that overlook the terrace and the courtyard, with central doors leading to both outdoor spaces. Walnut floors and a beautiful fireplace add warmth and style to the room positioning Villa Terrace as the top wedding venue in Milwaukee. It is also a definite contender for Chicago couples looking to get out of the city, celebrate in style, and stay near the water.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t specifically call out the priceless view from the Terrazzo della Luna. Lake Michigan may as well be the Mediterranean Sea…it looks that perfect from the steps and terrace of Villa Terrace. There is no part of this property that isn’t picturesque for your wedding day celebration. Europe is alive in this Milwaukee wedding venue. 

Top Tips for a Villa Terrace Wedding from a Milwaukee Wedding Photographer

What are the key elements to have at a Villa Terrace wedding?

A feast-style dinner. At feasts, long tables are put together end-to-end. This creates a very special ambiance, bringing all your guests together in space and celebration. Pass larger platters of great food, ensure flickering candle light and hydrate the table with lots of wine. This style compliments the mediterranean flare of the villa allowing the air to become electric and enchanting.

What helps set the tone for a wedding at Villa Terrace?

Aesthetically speaking, I find it very important to keep with the warm neutrals of the property. Keep a neutral to warm palette and play with old-world design elements. Remembering that the villa is in a renaissance revival style, will help direct selections of napkins, chairs, plates, etc. Make life easy on yourself, use the venue design to inspire you. Also remember that less can be more in many places. But you can NEVER have too many flowers.

What elements make Villa Terrace a unique wedding venue in Milwaukee for local and Chicago wedding couples?

It’s the European ambiance. As you walk in through the first iron lattice gate, your transported to Italy. I don’t know of another place in the midwest that can capture Italy so well. It’s a gem.

Is Villa Terrace an acceptable Chicago wedding venue for couples?

Villa Terrace is so easy to access, just straight up the interstate from Chicago, making it a contender for Chicagoland couples looking for a unique venue that has an intimate feel. Couples come from all over the country to be married at Villa Terrace.

How much should I expect to pay for a Villa Terrace wedding?

It’s always smart to consult with the Villa Terrace staff and a wedding planner for full pricing, as taste, desires and number of guests can tremendously affect the wedding spend. But for a wedding of 50 people, couples can plan to spend $50K to have everything they would hope for including high end local planning and catering. Of course, this can vary, but keeping this number in mind is a good estimate. My clients have spent $40-$100K for a their full weddings at Villa Terrace.

Do I need a wedding planner for my Villa Terrace wedding?

Wedding planners are a critical player in your wedding pro team as they help coordinate your day, but also do so SO much more. They tie your design elements together, they manage your variables, they account for the moments in between and all of the corners of the room. They’re everywhere and execute on the vision of your day. Wedding planners recommend wonderful vendors and bring in details that are important to couples. They can also help you infuse life into your celebration. Your planner will save you time and headache and in many cases also will help save your budget. The industry agrees, you will be better served with a wedding planner. With the on the team, all of your wedding professionals can operate better as well.

What makes 5th Photography the best Milwaukee wedding photographer for the location?

I photograph Villa Terrace many times in a season. That gives me an advantage in knowing all the best locations for each time of day. But more importantly, my style of photography which focuses on capturing all elements of beauty – the couple, the light, the ambiance and the architecture – was developed through photographing locations across Europe, demanding thoughtful and perfect composition of all images. It is my job to ensure the heart and soul of the day come through on my clients’ images. All of the images in this article are from my work at Villa Terrace. I’m passionate about this property and a huge advocate for the preservation of its beauty. I love to showcase my clients enjoying it and making Villa Terrace their own. 

See more of 5th Photography’s work at Villa Terrace.

Couple about to kiss at Villa Terrace under the archway during their engagement

Villa Terrace Details – Everything You Need to Know

Daytime and Evening Event Hours

Villa Terrae allows for partial or full day rentals. Full day rentals are from 9 am until midnight, while partial day rentals are from 9 am until 4 pm or from 5pm until midnight.

Villa Terrace offers a wonderful option for low season weddings or weddings on non-traditional days. From November through May, couples are treated to lower rates. Similarly, weddings that take place on Fridays and Sundays are offered at a promotional rate, with weddings held Monday through Thursday are even more deeply discounted.

Number of Guests

Villa Terrace can hold more guests than it appears. With the terrace, indoor great hall, and courtyard as seating options, you can comfortable hold well over 100 guests.

An outdoor reception can accommodate 120 guests
An indoor reception can accommodate 80 guests

Parking and Venue Rental Fees

Villa Terrace is located in a residential area, surrounded by brilliant luxury homes. As such, parking is on street. There is ample room on Terrace Ave, but also on intersecting streets, making parking no problem.

Villa Terrace Contact Information 

Villa Terrace is located at:
2220 N. Terrace Ave. 
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 271-3656

By selecting extension 2, you can reach the Rentals Manager, Megan Maikowski, or be in contact with her at rentals@cavtmuseums.org

So Much More to Know About Villa Terrace

Villa Terrace cornerstone with engraving "Sopra Mare"

As you drive to the front gate, you’ll notice a cornerstone etched with the name “Sopra Mare.” The villa was named Sopra Mare – above the sea, in Italian – for its proximity to Lake Michigan Sea of Michigan and fine art Italian inspiration. 

big wedding party posing in archway

Learn about the treasures in each room of Villa Terrace on their website. A personal favorite is the history around this wallpaper. Learn how it’s produced (and be in awe) here. Fascinating.

Thank you for inviting me into your day.

Reach out to Steph directly at steph@5thPhotography.com

I truly hope this article serves you. I would love to hear your plans. Together we would create photos that will stand the test of time and that will be ready to grace the pages of a magazine.

Contact me via below for a complimentary consultation.

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"Steph captured the beauty of us as individuals and our chemistry as a couple. I sobbed when of joy when we saw our photos. She captured our love - the way I felt when I held him and the fullness with which he loved me. I didn't think those things could be captured on camera. But Steph did that."

- Olivia & Enzo

Toronto Bride & Groom

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