Hotels and country clubs and vineyards, oh my! If you’re anything like me, you’re currently experiencing some serious exhaustion after attending wedding upon wedding at the same tired old venues. For those of you in the process of planning your own nuptials, read on for some unique wedding venue ideas to awaken guests from their ballroom-induced slumber.
1) Hitched on the High Seas
Shake up the traditional beach wedding by ditching the sandy beaches and tying the knot at sea. The options for a boat wedding and numerous and varied – pile your party onto a yacht, sailboat or ferry and say your “I do’s” out on the open water, or party on a historic ship or decommissioned military vessel that stays permanently docked. Either way, you’ve got a gorgeous setting bathed in soft natural lighting, which should make for some amazing photos!
For those couples that are really looking to blow their nuptials out of the water (pun intended), cruise weddings are also gaining popularity. Most of the major cruise lines now offer a variety of wedding options for small parties (typically 15-25 guests), with packages that include a wedding planner who is at the ready to coordinate all elements of your special day. Keep in mind, though, that cruise weddings can be pricey for guests, who will likely have to travel and pay for their own accommodations either on board or on land near a chosen port of call.
Tip: Legally speaking, weddings at sea or at a foreign port can be tricky, so be sure you study up and work out the logistics well in advance. If you’ve got a wedding planner who’s previously coordinated weddings at sea, he or she should be able to help guide you through the process.
2) Wild Kingdom Wedding
If you and your betrothed are lovers of our furry and feathered friends, take a walk (down the aisle) on the wild side with a zoo wedding. The lush grounds and exotic animal enclosures will transport you and your guests to another time and place, and will provide a wildly (last one, I swear) unique backdrop for your special day. Plus, just imagine the wedding snaps… Flamingo photo bomb, anyone?
As one example, the San Diego Zoo offers roughly a dozen sites in both the Zoo and Safari Park across a range of settings, among them a giraffe- and rhino-filled savanna, an elephant enclosure and a tiger trail. Plenty of zoos across the country offer similar options, so call your zoo of choice to find out what’s on offer.
Tip: Some zoos will throw in day passes for guests and/or memberships for the newlyweds, so ask your on-site coordinator if they’re able to include this perk in your package.
3) A Prehistoric Party
As a lifelong New Yorker who spent many a childhood weekend visiting the American Museum of Natural History, I could only dream of someday exchanging vows amongst the dinosaurs, beneath the legendary blue whale, or against the planetarium’s twinkling skyscape. You can imagine my delight when I realized that that dream could, in fact, become a reality. And it’s not just the AMNH – hundreds of museums across the country open their doors to wedding parties after hours.
Whether your interests include historical artifacts, intricately crafted fine art, aviation and space exploration or maritime history, there’s a museum out there for everyone, and you can likely get hitched right inside. Just keep in mind that packages vary widely from museum to museum and may include a lot or very little, so have a handful in mind when you start calling around.
Tip: While you probably won’t have free reign over the place, you can ask whether staff may be available to escort guests for guided tours through certain spaces or exhibits outside of your designated areas.
4) For the Bookworm Bride and Groom:
Is there anything more romantic than getting married amidst the greatest laureates and poets of our time? For lovers of lit, a library wedding may be just the ticket. The most iconic of the bunch often boast architectural details to die for, and the expansive collections mean plenty of space to work with.
Keep it classic and let the sights, sounds and scents of the space speak for themselves, or pay homage to your surroundings by incorporating your favorite written passages into the ceremony. Top it all off with book-inspired finishing touches, like flower-topped stacks as centerpieces, a paper bouquet made with the pages of a favorite tome, or even an archway constructed entirely of hardcovers.
For the most over-the-top of the bunch, choose a theme for your wedding around a beloved masterpiece; for example, a roaring ‘20s-inspired soirée for fans of The Great Gatsby, or an Alice in Wonderland affair, complete with tiny teacups and Mad Hatter toppers.
5) A Wedding in Bloom:
Forget those towering floral centerpieces – nothing says romance like wall-to-wall blooms. If a setting that’s bathed in colorful blossoms and lush greenery sounds idyllic to you, consider a botanical garden or conservatory for your big day. Most botanical gardens house indoor and outdoor spaces that can be reserved for special events, plus a wealth of secret gardens, picturesque fountains, tree-lined paths and other unique nooks and crannies for stunning photos.
Tip: In sticking with the theme of the day, send guests home with their very own packets of seeds that can be planted right in their backyards. When the buds eventually bloom, they’ll be reminded of you and your special day!
6) Bliss at the Ballpark:
Some folks marry in a church, some in the synagogue, and still others have a different house of worship altogether… Their favorite sports team’s home turf. That’s right, sports fans – stadium weddings are in fact a thing, and you too can get married on the hallowed grounds of your favorite team. Whether it’s at your alma mater or where the pros play, there are tons of stadiums that welcome private events, with your field or court of choice essentially serving as a blank canvas for you to set up as you please. As a bonus, many stadiums house a number of club rooms and lounges that are available to rent if additional indoor space is needed.
Exchange vows on the pitcher’s mound, have your first dance at the 50-yard line, or dress your wedding party in your team’s colors. Can’t you just picture throwing a touchdown pass in a wedding gown? The photo opportunities alone are endless.
7) A Showtime Shindig
For avid theater-goers, why not put on a production of your very own? A historic theater provides a grandiose, old-world feel and the type of beautifully detailed backdrop that your everyday banquet hall just won’t deliver. Plus, most theaters come complete with all the fixings of a fabulous wedding day: A stage to showcase you and your partner-to-be in all your romantic glory (complete with customizable lighting cues for the perfect wedding glow); a pit to house your string quartet; and a liquor license and bar setup, thanks to show time intermissions.
8) A Backyard Bonanza… With a Twist
Turn the classic backyard wedding upside down with a “glamping” (code for glamorous camping) wedding. A handful of companies are now specializing in outdoor weddings complete with upscale pop-up lodging for guests in the form of decked-out tents (see the recent nuptials of Guy Ritchie and Jacqui Ainsley). After partying the day away in the outdoor locale, end the evening by gathering guests ‘round a campfire for some s’mores making (and devouring!) before retreating to their luxe on-site accommodations.
And finally, just for fun, I’ve also compiled my own favorite – and craziest – wedding venues of all time. Not for the faint of heart, these four spots make for an action-packed wedding day!
9) Up in the Air
At the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico, couples can wed while soaring sky high against a backdrop of colorful hot-air balloons. Some baskets can accommodate up to 12 passengers, so couples can pile in a small wedding party plus an officiant to say their “I do’s” while rising toward the clouds.
10) Baby, It’s Cold Outside
Winter warriors can enlist the folks at the Pearson’s Pond Inn in Juneau, Alaska to help coordinate their wedding atop a nearby glacier. Just a hop, skip and a helicopter ride later, adventurous couples can wed on the icy formation dressed in their wintertime best, along with their boot-clad guests.
11) Crazy in Lava
If your love for your betrothed is hot hot HOT, then a wedding in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park might be for you. The park welcomes couples to marry within spitting distance of Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, as it spews smoke and hot lava right before your very eyes.
12) Forest of Dreams
If you were lucky enough to have a treehouse as a kid (or if you wished you did), Treehouse Point in Issaquah, Washington is the stuff of dreams. Get hitched high up within a canopy of forest foliage in a real live treehouse, surrounded by the sights of the towering trees and the sounds of a nearby river as it flows by.
As you can see, ballrooms aren’t the only option out there. Get as adventurous and creative as your heart desires and your budget allows!
Any ideas we missed? Let us know in the comments below!