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Four fantastic locales to hold your destination wedding — no passport required.
Whether your family is far-flung and you need a central meeting place, or you just want to do something a little different for your “I Do’s,” a destination wedding makes it easy to have your whole wedding celebration in one place. Here, four unique options to hold the ceremony and the reception — and book the rooms — all together, right here in the U.S.A.
CASTLE FARMS, CHARLEVOIX, MICH.
Madonna’s not the only Michigander (or former) who gets to wed in a castle: Play up the magical fairytale wedding at the gorgeously romantic Castle Farms in Charlevoix. The French Renaissance-style castle was built in 1918 as a model farm to raise prize-winning livestock (and showcase the newest farm equipment) by Albert Loeb, a Chicago attorney and then the acting president of Sears Roebuck and Co. Using local fieldstone in the construction and designs, based on the resplendent stone barns in Normandy, the farm opened to the public, selling cheese and ice cream and offering a picturesque spot to watch the local baseball team play.
Once the Depression hit, the Castle changed hands and uses a number of times over the years, including a period as a well-known venue for concerts, playing host to Bon Jovi, Aerosmith and the Beach Boys. In 2001, Linda Mueller fell in love with the castle, snatched it up with her husband, Richard, and painstakingly renovated it to its former splendor.
For your ceremony, choose from three outdoor courtyards, with details like ornate crenellation that embellish the stone walls, magnificent arches and a rustic central fountain or a picturesque gazebo in a garden enclosed with arborvitae trees and flowers. Lighted fichus trees and wrought iron chandeliers illuminate an indoor chapel with soaring ceilings, grand cathedral window and original stone walls. Five reception options include two garden rooms, a tavern and two castle rooms, all twinkling with tiny lights and offering views of the gardens and courtyards.
CAPACITY Reception options seat up to 350 guests for dinner.
MENU While Castle Farms does not provide catering, it has vetted a recommended list of caterers who are familiar with the venue and offer exceptional service.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE A vacation mainstay for generations of Metro Detroiters, Charlevoix has tons to offer all year long: beaches, sailing, skiing, golfing, antiques shopping, restaurants, boutiques and plenty of historic cottages and mansions to sight-see. Nearby Petoskey, Traverse City, Walloon Lake and more make for picturesque day trips.
CONTACT (231) 237-0884; castlefarms.com.
ROYAL PALMS RESORT AND SPA, PHOENIZ, ARIZ.
Looking for luxe? Head to the Royal Palms Resort and Spa in Phoenix, Ariz., for a fabulously flawless Mediterranean-style wedding experience in the Valley of the Sun. Nestled at the foot of the majestic Camelback Mountains in the Sonoran Desert, the Royal Palms began as a winter respite for snowbirds Delos Willard Cooke, a New York industrialist and financier, and his wife, Florence. Built in 1929 by Phoenix architectural firm Lescher & Mahoney as a 3,500-square-foot Spanish Revival villa, the mansion’s driveway is lined with lofty palm trees leading to a flowing 250-year-old fountain. Mahogany and iron double doors open to white-plaster-covered brick, Granada-tiled roofs, elegant archways and high-beamed ceilings while rare flora and a lush citrus grove exude grand elegance yet offer quiet seclusion. Changing hands several times over the years, the villa opened its doors as the Royal Palms Inn in 1948 and welcomed such luminaries as Helena Rubenstein and Groucho Marx (and was popular in the ’50s among Jewish locals for their nondiscriminatory access to the country club amenities).
Today, the Spanish-Mediterranean-designed Historic Hotels of America member is a AAA Four-Diamond resort, and guests can roam the lush courtyards and stone-paved paths, where exotic foliage and fragrant citrus grove connect 119 elegant casitas, hotel rooms and villas, many brimming with pieces from the Cookes’ original European antiques collection. Weddings benefit from more than 20,000 square feet of ceremony and reception space on the Palms’ nine-acre property, including the Alegria Garden, a private outdoor courtyard enclosed by stone walls and surrounded by blooms and citrus trees, with a brick aisle leading to an elevated stone platform; the Vernadero Lawn, which offers an unparalleled sunset view of Camelback Mountain; and the Estrella Salon, whose wrought-iron chandeliers are suspended from high-beamed ceilings, illuminating the rich Mediterranean palette while an adjoining patio provides views of the Moorish-styled Reflecting Pool.
Couples also can take advantage of the Palms’ own Romantication romance planner — led by their director of romance — to fill their stay with details from placing rose petals on a turned-down bed to a hot-air balloon ride followed by a gourmet brunch in the open Sonoran desert.
Yet with all the luxuriously ornate touches, the Royal Palms still exudes an intimate, residential, almost homey ambience so that you and your guests will feel like pampered guests at a private estate.
CAPACITY Various reception areas can seat up to 40 for an intimate celebration or rehearsal dinner up to 180 for seated dinner and dancing.
MENU The Palms’ award-winning T. Cook’s Restaurant will customize a menu for every event, from bridal showers to afternoon tea to a casual rehearsal dinner.Wedding packages, including Scottish Salmon Tacos, Fried Goat Cheese with Grape Chutney, Braised Beef Short Ribs and Pan-Roasted Bass, plus a show-stopping custom-designed wedding cake prepared by the on-site pastry shop, start at $90 per person.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE Your guests can lounge at the heart-shaped pool; indulge in a pre-party facial at the Palms’ Alvadora Spa, where a full menu of treatments take advantage of the herbs and oils indigenous to the region and guests can float weightlessly in the Watsu pool; schedule a VIP tour of the world-class shopping in nearby Phoenix or Scottsdale with the Palms’ director of shopping; or hit the greens at the nearby TPC Scottsdale gold club’s two championship courses.
CONTACT (800) 672-6011; royalpalmshotel.com.
GREENBRIER, WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.V.
Fancy a bit of history with your luxury? Follow in the footsteps of assorted presidents and family (Joseph and Rose Kennedy honeymooned here in 1914), Rockefellers and Astors, Davy Crockett, Princess Grace, Bing Crosby and General Robert E. Lee, and soak up the gracious elegance of the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. Tucked into a valley within the spectacular Allegheny Mountains, what originated in 1778 as a mecca for health-minded visitors coming to “take the waters” and socialize at the resort’s Springhouse, still on the property today, has over the years become renowned as the epitome of Southern graciousness and impeccable service. The 6,500-acre estate is highlighted by lushly manicured grounds and a stunning interior: Thirty miles of carpeting, 15,000 rolls of wallpaper and 45,000 yards of fabric were hand-picked by New Yorker Dorothy Draper, the queen of 20th-century interior design, and vividly lavished throughout the estate (an on-site upholstery shop whips up replacement fabrics beginning to show signs of wear).
Used during various wars as a hospital, military headquarters — even a top-secret Cold War underground bomb shelter — the Greenbrier is a National Historic Landmark with 682 rooms, suites, guesthouses and cottages at your disposal for a celebration as all-encompassing or intimate as you choose. Bride and groom can arrive in a horse-drawn carriage and choose from a rose-covered gazebo, an ornate pink ballroom with dinner served on custom china trimmed in 24-karat gold, a stunning mountaintop ceremony or a simple streamside service to say their “I Do’s.”
CAPACITY Up to 400 guests can be accommodated for seated dinner and dancing.
MENU A brigade of more than 150 chefs will be on hand to customize a menu using produce grown by the culinary team at the on-site Greenbrier Farm and beef from the Greenbrier Cattle Company. Led by the resort’s French pastry chef, the on-site bakery, which has been in continuous operation since the 1800s, has 12 full-time bakers to create the cake of your dreams.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE Guests can take advantage of the resort’s four championship golf courses (Sam Snead was hired as the golf pro in 1936 and remained until his death), 40,000-square-foot spa, indoor and outdoor tennis courts and pools, an assortment of dining from casual to formal plus the underground Casino Club. No need to leave the grounds for a shopping excursion: More than 30 shops and boutiques offer everything from high-end designers to gifts for the home and gourmet chocolates.
CONTACT (888) 598-0246; greenbrier.com.
GEDNEY FARM, NEW MARLBOROUGH, MASS.
When Jenna Lyons, now creative director at J. Crew, was married at the “black-tie barbecue” of her dreams in 2003, the site, Gedney Farm in New Marlborough, Mass., suddenly found its name rolling off the tongues of East Coast elite and fashionistas and written up in New York’s gossip pages. Since then, the charming locale tucked into the Berkshire Mountains, always a local favorite, has quietly played host to many rustic-chic weddings on the farm, including that of a Glamour fashion editor highlighted in the pages of Martha Stewart Weddings in 2010.
If gathering up an intimate group of friends and family and opening their eyes to the stars and the simple and gentle beauty of a historic corner of the country they likely never have heard about sounds like a dream come true, check out Gedney Farm, at the east end of the historic village of Berkshire. Built at the turn of the century as a showcase for the finest Percheron stallions and Jersey cattle of the day, the barns at Gedney Farm were modeled after the great Normandy barns of 19th-century France. Beautifully detailed dormers and cupolas, gambrel slate and cedar roofs majestically illustrate the Berkshire’s Gilded Age and high standards for craftsmanship — a principle from which all renovations were begun. What used to be the cattle barn, with soaring, 30-foot ceilings, has been transformed into 16 rustic yet elegant guest rooms and suites with granite fireplaces and large tiled whirlpool tubs — some under glass-domed ceilings — in a design that effortlessly integrates the past with contemporary design and modern comfort. Across a courtyard and garden terrace used for cocktail receptions, the former horse barn is now a magnificent space used for weddings and other special events.
Additional guests can stay down the road in the privacy and serenity of an Old Berkshire manor house. Built in 1906 as a family estate on gently sloping lawns by a prominent New Marlborough resident, Mepal Manor and Spa, a country hotel and luxury 6,000-square-foot spa and yoga studio, offers 12 guest rooms while a great hall opens to a covered terrace and spectacular panoramic views of the rolling Berkshire hills to the Southwest. The area is also packed with an abundance of charming inns, bed-and-breakfasts and hotels.
CAPACITY Gedney Farm can accommodate up to 250 people for a seated dinner with space for a band and dancing.
MENU Try hors d’oeuvres like Medjool Dates with Goat Cheese and Pistachios, Mac ’n’ Cheese in Parmesan Tuille or a Sushi Station; or entrees including Sesame Crusted Fillet of Wild Salmon with Lemongrass Sauce or Grilled Petite Filet Mignon, starting at $95 per person. Exquisite custom cakes start at $8 per person.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE History buffs will thrill in the village that was settled in 1738. Nestled within the rolling Appalachian mountains and a three-hour drive from New York City, the Berkshires is about as picturesque as it gets. Enjoy farm-fresh dining, quaint villages, antiques shopping and an abundance of Gilded Age mansions to tour; or take the short drive to hear the Boston Symphony Orchestra at its summer home, Tanglewood.
CONTACT (800) 286-3139; gedneyfarm.com.