FROM TAKING IN a baseball game to taking in spectacular scenery, these wedding venues have one thing in common: They answer the demand for unique sites.
Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas
Recommended by Colleen Rickenbacher, CMP, vice president of event planning, Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau
Rickenbacher says this venue creates the perfect ceremony and reception site because of its regal ambience: Even without decoration, it has such an elegant look to it. She likes the venue so much that she held her daughter's wedding here.
The building features high ceilings and a lot of open space, which make it flexible for groups large and small. It can accommodate more than 500 guests, but it can still be downsized for a cozy atmosphere, she says.
The amenities include kitchen facilities and an in-house caterer.
The Lyceum, Alexandria's History Museum, Alexandria, Va.
Ten years ago, this museum began renting its facilities for couples who want to get married in a historic location, says Erica Threatt, the site's event coordinator. Built in 1839, the Federal-style building can accommodate up to 100 people for a seated dinner and 140 for a reception.
Threatt says the galleries are left open for the event.
Receptions can be held in the building's Electra Hall. The room measures 1,624 square feet and features wall-to-wall carpeting and upholstered armchairs. It's an elegant room for an evening reception, Threatt says.
The museum provides catering facilities.
Gore Place, Waltham, Mass.
Suggested by Brian Rafanelli, president of Rafanelli Events, Boston
The mansion on this 45-acre estate was built in 1806 as the summer home of former Massachusetts Gov. Christopher Gore. Just 15 minutes from downtown Boston, the venue includes acres of gardens surrounding the Federal-period mansion. The mansion serves as a beautiful backdrop for a tented wedding, Rafanelli says. For an outdoor wedding, the sky's the limit here.
The estate's carriage house, built in 1793, can be rented for weddings from May through October. The house is equipped with kitchen and restroom facilities and can accommodate 110 people.
Call 781/894-2798, or visit the Web site at www.goreplace.org.
Los Willows, Fallbrook, Calif.
Just 30 minutes from San Diego, Los Willows offers a wedding package in a 44-acre private setting. The bride can make a grand entrance by gliding across a natural lake in a boat. The ceremony takes place under a lakeside gazebo, and the reception is held under a tented pavilion. During the summer, we take off the sides to get more breeze in the pavilion, Los Willows event coordinator Irene Powell says.
The pavilion can accommodate 225 people.
The package includes setup, cleanup and the wedding cake. We also offer a Rolls-Royce for their departure within a 3-mile radius, Powell says.
At this writing, Los Willows was getting ready to debut its eight-room bed-and-breakfast/day spa. The day spa is targeted for pampering the bride, Powell says. The bed-and-breakfast will include two bridal suites.
Call 760/728-8121, or visit the Web site at www.loswillows.com.
Stardance, Tucson, Ariz.
Located on the border of Saguaro National Park West in the Sonoran Desert, this 30-acre venue is nestled in the foothills of the Tucson Mountains. Owner and event planner Debbie Ferns says the location allows the bride and groom to share the beauty of the desert with their guests. The Tucson desert is filled with plants and trees; people don't expect that when they come here.
Most couples exchange vows by the natural waterfall near the front of the 11,000-square-foot reception pavilion. Food can be prepared in the kitchen facilities and on the 24-foot-long mesquite grills.
A rodeo is also an option, with a sand arena just 150 yards from the pavilion. When the bride and groom are rodeo fans, they can bring in professional bull riders and do a rodeo as entertainment, Ferns says.
The bridal party can get ready at the on-site ranch house, built in 1898.
Call 520/744-4990, or visit the Web site at www.azstardance.com.
Legends of the Game Baseball Museum, Arlington, Texas
Recommended by Theron Tomicki, sales director, Beverly Clark's weddinglocation.com, Carpinteria, Calif.
Located at The Ballpark in Arlington, the Legends of the Game Baseball Museum offers a fresh alternative for a bride and groom. We're a three-floor museum with more than 100 items on loan from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, event coordinator Elspeth McDonald says.
A window wall on the second floor allows guests to look out onto the field to watch the American League Texas Rangers baseball team take on visiting teams. The third floor is a learning center with touch-screen exhibits and a virtual-reality game where guests can play catcher to Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan's pitches.
McDonald says the venue is popular with brides because it provides entertainment for the guests while they wait for the bride and groom to arrive at the reception. Brides also like it because it is unique. While there is the informality of a baseball game, there is the formality of being in a museum, she says.
The museum is open year-round and can accommodate up to 1,000 for a reception and 350 for a seated dinner.
Ocean View Manor, Malibu, Calif.
This Mediterranean-style, private residence is perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The wedding ceremony takes place under an Italian-style gazebo that offers a panoramic view of the ocean and the Santa Monica Mountains. After the ceremony, guests can enjoy cocktails and hors d'oeuvre as they gather around a 55-foot-long- infinity edge pool that seems to flow into the ocean.
An outdoor reception on the lawn can seat 350 for dinner. From the lawn, guests get a clear view of Escondido Falls, the highest waterfall in the Santa Monica Mountains. The 7,000-square-foot villa can be rented for groups of up to 100.
The manor is managed by Malibu Events. K.O.
Special Events Magazine Advisory Board members from past and present share their favorite hotels to host weddings.
Historic Hot Spot
My favorite is the Park Hyatt Philadelphia. It's a historic hotel and very famous. It has the most elegant ballroom in the region, including a balcony as part of the grand ballroom. It also has a grand staircase for brides to walk down.
Harith Wickrema, Harith Productions, Oreland, Pa.
We are blessed with several great hotels in our city including the Hotel Adolphus, Four Seasons, Hotel Crescent Court, Mansion on Turtle Creek and Hotel St. Germain.
Colleen Rickenbacher, CMP, Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau
I like The Savoy, London. The room overlooking the River Thames where you can marry is really beautiful; it contains a number of ornate rooms for the wedding breakfast. Guests feel really important to be invited to such a prestigious landmark in London, and the staff at The Savoy just can't help you enough.
Sally Webb, The Special Event Co., London
To the Ritz
The Ritz-Carlton in Pasadena (Calif.) is one of my favorites. Not only [are] the service and food impeccable, but I especially love the back sprawling lawn with beautiful views all the way to downtown Los Angeles.
David Merrell, An Original Occasion, Los Angeles
My favorite hotel in Chicago is The Drake. It is a classic with sophisticated ambience, great-tasting food, excellent presentation and superior service. They understand my role as the wedding designer/consultant/coordinator and make it a win-win situation for both of us, which only passes on to a fully satisfied client.
Frank J. Andonoplas, Bridal Consulting and Event Planning by Frank, Chicago
I think a wonderful place for a wedding would be the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel (in Dana Point, Calif.). There is a gazebo on a cliff where weddings take place that is fabulous.
Janet Elkins, EventWorks, Los Angeles
My favorite wedding venue is The Sandton Sun and Towers Inter-Continental in Johannesburg, South Africa. It's a five-star great venue; good shape, good height, not exposed to the elements, so if it's cold and rainy or boiling hot outside it doesn't affect this very important and beautiful day for the bridal party and guests. Most important, though, is the staff. They are really great to work with professional, caring, considerate and efficient.
Janet Landey, CSEP, Party Design, Johannesburg, South Africa