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'Normal' wedding season is underway in Minnesota

Wedding planning is known to be a stressful time in anyone’s life. There are food, venue and floral arrangements to consider, but what about a global pandemic?

Weddings were all over the board, and regulations changed several times, said Christy O’Keefe, chief operating officer of the Bavaria Downs event venue in Chaska.

While some couples chose to celebrate their big day anyway, others postponed their wedding for when they felt more comfortable. It was a challenging, emotional and rewarding time, O’Keefe said.

“You really felt like you made it through with the couples when it came to their event day. By the time their event day arrived, we had all been through so much,” O’Keefe said. “I think that we felt closer.”

It’s pretty safe to say that weddings are back to “normal,” according to O’Keefe. However, she has noticed that guest counts have tended to be smaller since the pandemic began.

O’Keefe oversees three venues — Bavaria Downs, A’BULAE and the Van Dusen Mansion, as well as another company called Bellagala — that offer wedding services. Between those venues, nearly 1,000 weddings were postponed, she said. In Minnesota, the prime wedding season is May-October on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Because those days were taken so quickly, people are now booking weekday weddings, she said.

“That’s something we’re seeing that’s changed and I think is really neat,” O’Keefe said. “It’s great for couples because the rental rates and food and beverage minimums are typically lower on weekdays and it’s become acceptable to have a weekday wedding.”

Feeling of normalcy

Photo courtesy of Rachel Lynn Photography/ Bellagala 

The pandemic has resulted in more outdoor weddings and receptions in tented spaces.

While wedding planning feels back to normal, it all depends on the couple, said Melody Hall, owner of Events by Melody, a wedding planning and design company based out of Savage. There are some couples who never even mention the word COVID-19 and others who require guests to be vaccinated or test before the event, she said.

One bump in the road that Hall mentioned was that when the week of the wedding rolls around, some guests need to drop out because they test positive. While it’s unfortunate because meals have been planned and seating charts are completed, she encourages couples to just enjoy their day.

Hall is relieved with the state of weddings today. She said it’s nice to see couples not having to worry more than usual since wedding planning is already stressful enough without having a pandemic. However, in the back of her mind she still wonders what winter will look like, since a good number of weddings are planned for November and December.

“It’s always in the back of my head and I’m guessing a lot of our couples too, but it does feel good to kind of have a little more normalcy, if you will, in the wedding industry,” Hall said.

A relaxing big day

Photo courtesy of Kat Larrea/ Champagne and Lace 

Outdoor weddings have been very popular, whether it’s an intimate party in a backyard or a large gathering at a venue.

Champagne and Lace, based out of Savage, started as a full service wedding planning and coordination business, said owner Jennifer Brisson. Because of the pandemic, it has shifted into floral design and rentals because of the lengthy lead times, she said.

The biggest change Brisson has seen since the beginning of the pandemic is that weddings have become much more relaxed. Clients are taking a longer period of time to enjoy the engagement and to plan the wedding, she said, adding they want the wedding experience to be just as relaxed. Some couples are even having their ceremony one day, going out to breweries afterward and having their reception the next day.

Photos courtesy of Kat Larrea/ Champagne and Lace 

Since clients are taking a longer period of time to enjoy the engagement and to plan, weddings have become more relaxed, said Champagne and Lace Owner Jennifer Brisson.

“They’ve just now realized what is more meaningful to them within their event.” Brisson said. “It’s just more about the experience and enjoying the moment.”

Brisson has noticed many more outdoor weddings and receptions in a tented space. Whether that is 45 people in a backyard or 100 people in a beautiful venue, outside is the way to go at this point, she said. She is also seeing people including experiences within their reception, such as cigar rolling or caricature artists.

While everyone will have their own perspective on the current state of weddings, Brisson is loving every second of it. She enjoys seeing each of her client’s true selves and getting to know couples before their big day.

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Chaska Police Department launches new community watch program

Residents and businesses of Chaska that currently have, or may be interested in getting, a security camera for their property can now register it with the new Chaska Police Department S.M.I.L.E. program, which stands for Surveillance Monitoring Initiative for Law Enforcement.

By filling out the online form, residents allow the Chaska Police Department to know where the security cameras are on their property so they may be reached out to if a crime occurs nearby.

“If they sign up for our form, it goes into a database. This just lets us know where their camera is or who has cameras,” said Chaska Communications Manager Kevin Wright. “We don’t get access to any of the actual camera feed, but if there’s any sort of incident that happens, or any reason that we need to investigate something, we can reach out to people in the area of wherever that happened to ask if we can look at their camera.”

Signing up does not entitle the police department to your footage and residents can decline giving access to footage if an incident does ever occur nearby.

“The program is really in the interest of keeping our community safe,” Wright said. “There’s just a lot more cameras out there, so this sort of speeds up the investigation process for us. If something were to happen, instead of having to canvass the area or go ask the residents or businesses in the area if they have cameras, the information is already there on who has a camera and our investigators can contact them directly.”

After working with other organizations and agencies in the Twin Cities with similar community safety programs, the Chaska PD worked in conjunction with the Carver County Geographic Information Systems department to put this program together.

“It was actually something that community members had reached out to us about, if we had a program like this, so that was another piece of making sure we created one,” Wright said.

According to Wright, the program was not brought about due to a rise in crime, but rather a rise in technology. “It’s not related to any sort of trend other than the trend of more and more cameras out there.”

“We’ve seen a really good response to people signing up,” Wright said. “We’ve definitely had quite a few people take the time to register and go through the process, so it’s good to see that it was something that was welcomed by the community.”


Carver County Sheriff’s Office has also launched a CommunityWatch program similar to S.M.I.L.E.

“The difference is in Chaska, if something happens here, our police department takes the lead on an investigation. Whereas if something were to happen in Carver County, the sheriff’s office [has] jurisdiction, they would take the lead,” Wright said. “What we would recommend is if you live in Chaska, or own a small business in Chaska, you should just fill out our form for our S.M.I.L.E. program. They’re the same, but the information would go to the agency then that would actually follow up.

Lt. Lance Pearce, of the Carver County Sheriff’s Office, encourages those who want to sign up for both programs to do so.

“You could register with both. Sometimes we have cross jurisdictional things that happen,” Pearce said. “We’re finding that more and more people have videos of some sort. We’re hoping that we can get some people so the public can help us so we can help each other solve some of these crimes and hopefully deter them at the same time. “We’re certainly trying to leverage technology in this case.”

As with Chaska’s S.M.I.L.E program, any camera can be registered, and footage is not required to be handed over to law enforcement.

“It’s not necessarily crimes, that’s certainly the bulk of it, but we can use that for missing persons too,” Pearce said.