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The Historic St. James Hotel in Red Wing: A Wedding Photographer’s Dream

You’ve heard it a hundred times before: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  So when a prospective wedding client told me she had found an amazing venue for photography at the St. James Hotel in Red Wing, Minnesota, I just smiled politely, told her I was sure it would be wonderful, and prepared myself to be nothing short of underwhelmed.  I’ve photographed weddings nationally and internationally and I know first-hand that what someone might describe as “amazing” can easily turn out to be mediocre.  Plus, as a Minneapolis based wedding photographer, I’ve shot hundreds of venues in and around the Twin Cities before (a handful of them in Red Wing) and I knew better than to assume this place would live up to its proposed luster.

Then I got to see it for myself…

The morning of the wedding, I walked into the lobby of the historic St. James Hotel and immediately understood why the bride had spoken so highly of the place.  I was awestruck!  Having arrived early for the shoot I wandered through the hotel, admiring the classic woodwork, the ornate graphic patterns on the walls, and the number of beautifully lit hallways, stairwells and rooms.

I thought, “How have I never been in here before?”

I’m often forced to choose between one ordinary backdrop and another equally ordinary backdrop to photograph, but when it came to the St. James Hotel, the options were endless!  I didn’t know how I would be able to choose only a handful of locations to shoot from with the variety of captivating settings the hotel offered. It was a dilemma I was happy to face.

St. James Hotel blue door detail
St. James Hotel lobby
St. James Hotel Summit Room
Historic St. James Hotel


We began our shoot with the bride getting ready.  Natural light cascaded in through delicate window curtains, creating the kind of soft box-style lighting that wedding photographers often try to artificially produce.

Boudoir bride photo Red Wing, MN
Bride puts on shoes in window light


Almost every hallway and open space in the hotel was lit with this romantic natural light, producing a perfectly soft, pure feel that photographers dream of.

Bride and groom snuggle in hallway
Bride and blue patterned walls


The St. James Hotel offers countless opportunities for shooting stunning photographs.  A staircase leading to a beautiful open room served as the perfect vantage point to capture the priceless moment of the bride and groom’s first look at one another.  In and around the hotel, charming settings with vibrant colors and rich textures offer endless possibilities ideal for wedding photography.

Bride and groom on stairs at the St. James Hotel
Bride laying on piano at the St. James Hotel
black & white wedding photo with piano
Bride & groom kiss near window at the St. James Hotel


While the guests were served cocktails, we had just enough time to capture the bridal veil wedding photos.

Long veil wedding photo with brick wall
Wedding photo outside of the St. James Hotel


Vintage railroad tracks, which run just behind the hotel, made for a captivating backdrop.

Bride dips by train tracks in Red Wing, MN


The reception hall offered another picture-perfect location. The hotel’s spacious Summit Room is lined with windows that provide a spectacular view of the Mississippi River. During the reception, the setting sun lit the room perfectly for capturing some beautiful photos.

Head table at St. James Hotel wedding reception
Wedding reception setup at the St. James Hotel
panoramic wedding reception photo
Sunset through a window at the St. James Hotel
Bride and groom cut cake at the St. James Hotel


The St. James Hotel may be outside of the normal coverage range for many Minneapolis area wedding photographers, but I can assure that it is absolutely worth the drive.  This hotel perfectly reflects the beauty and sentiment of a wedding day, making it the ideal venue for hosting and photographing a memorable once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Port of Red Wing sign
Historic Hotels of America plaque
blue St. James Hotel awning
St. James Hotel entrance
St. James Hotel in Red Wing, MN
historic organ
Antique cash register
Colorful organ tubes
Bride and groom under veil
Bride and groom photo at the St. James Hotel entrance
beautiful pink and white bridal bouquet
Bride and groom kiss outside St. James Hotel
Wedding trolly rental in Red Wing
Wedding party in a trolly black & white photo
pouring champagne in a trolly
Wedding photo in Red Wing
Bride spins by Red Wing train tracks
St. James Hotel champagne bottle
White rose wedding cake
St. James Hotel napkins
Vanilla cupcake tower
Beautiful wedding photography in Red Wing
Newlyweds at the St. James Hotel
Sunset kiss at the St. James Hotel
Panoramic wedding photo at the St. James Hotel
Bride and groom near Red Wing railroad tracks
Wedding reception at the St. James Hotel
Kids dance at wedding in Red Wing
St. James Hotel wedding dance

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  • February 5, 2013 - 3:01 am

    Victoria Freyberger-Wolf - All I can say is WOW and THANK YOU!

  • February 5, 2013 - 8:20 am

    Jessica Hazelton - Absolutely gorgeous – thanks for posting such amazing photos. I love seeing how all the hard work turns into such an breathtaking celebration!

  • February 5, 2013 - 2:03 pm

    Lucas Van Heuklom - Awesome, thanks for sharing! Great photography. However it is the Mississippi River, not the St. Croix. I’m glad you appreciated the venue!

  • March 6, 2013 - 8:51 pm

    Ceremonies by Positively Charmed - These are gorgeous pictures! You’re right about the atmosphere at the St. James…so stunningly romantic! A perfect place to celebrate a wedding day!

  • March 7, 2013 - 12:15 pm

    Patricia Johnson Lenton - Amazing photos of an amazing venue!

  • April 28, 2013 - 7:57 am

    Sarah Bryan - I am so proud of the town where I grew up and am very fortunate it is home to one of the most stunning wedding venues. It is like a fairytale; The St. James Hotel is quaint, charming, romantic, and historical. Preston couldn’t have done a better job capturing the essence of the stunning Hotel.

  • July 18, 2013 - 5:32 pm

    Forever Bride - Your wedding pictures are stunning!