With a history of hospitality, Meadow Brook Hall is Michigan’s most beautiful wedding venue. The entire estate was built with an eye for entertaining, from its 16 lush gardens to the two-story Gothic-inspired Ballroom. This special blog series showcases the unique areas and entertaining spaces that have played host to breathtaking weddings and unforgettable celebrations across the years.
Entertaining Spaces: Meadow Brook’s Grand Staircase was Built for Brides
Nestled among Rochester’s rolling hills and wooded valleys lies Meadow Brook Hall, the storied Tudor-revival estate and National Historic Landmark that was the dream of Matilda Dodge Wilson, widow of John Dodge, and her second husband Alfred Wilson.
She worked closely with the architect to ensure that every detail of Meadow Brook reflected their tastes, interests, and activities. It is representative of the lavish living and entertaining lifestyles of the 1920s and was a passion project for Matilda. She wanted Meadow Brook designed to host parties for over 250, seated dinners for 40 and comfortable living space for a family of four.
The completed estate is all of that and more. In the years since, Meadow Brook has built a legacy of hosting beautiful weddings and celebrations.
Read on to hear the story of one of Meadow Brook’s most famous celebrations—the wedding of eldest daughter Frances Dodge—and most entertaining spaces—the Grand Staircase.
The Social Event of the Season
The wedding of Frances Dodge to James (Jimmy) B. Johnson Jr. on July 1, 1938 was the social event of the season. It was one of the most iconic weddings ever to take place at Meadow Brook Hall. With a 13-and-a-half-foot train and a gorgeous custom gown of the palest blue silk, the Detroit glamour girl’s nuptials went down in history.
Around 500 guests attended the wedding reception, which featured a receiving line in the Library, refreshments served from the Christopher Wren Dining Room, and a performance by the local swing band, the Sophisti-cats. The band played as the guests danced on a specially constructed outdoor dance floor. By all accounts, it was a fantastic party!
The Grand Staircase: Built for Brides
The celebration was also a dream come true for Matilda. She had envisioned the entire wedding years before—and specifically requested the Grand Staircase with Frances’ wedding day in mind. The elaborately carved oak staircase climbs from the Great Hall to the Upper Great Hall, revealing its immense barrel-vaulted ceiling in carved plaster.
Frances made her grand entrance to the wedding escorted down the stairs by her brother Dan. Frances and Jimmy were wed in the Living Room at an altar set up near the fireplace. Later that year, Dan would wait at the bottom of the stairs as his bride Annie Laurine MacDonald came down the staircase for his own wedding.
Modern Entertaining at the Stairs
Today, the Grand Staircase is still a prized feature for brides, grooms and spouses-to-be. While most modern weddings take place in the two-story Gothic-inspired ballroom, many couples still step down the stairs hand in hand to start their reception.
Cocktail hours in the Great Hall encourage guests to explore the historic home at their leisure, and many couples cut their cake at the foot of the Grand Staircase. It’s a beautiful place to raise a toast and enjoy an enticing array of butler-passed hors d’oeuvres.
Meadow Brook continues to be a beautiful and unique wedding venue. Modern couples can host a wedding and reception inside the historic mansion in a way that suits their style, from an inviting strolling dinner for up to 275 people, or an elegant seated dinner in the Christopher Wren Dining Room and Ballroom for around 200 guests.
Whether you’ve dreamed of making a grand entrance or hosting a glamorous wedding, Meadow Brook is sure to deliver the entertaining spaces, inspired cuisine and first-class service for an incredible event. For more information about being married at Meadow Brook, contact our events team at .