January 2014 Issue
From an enchanting winery just north of Cincinnati to a charming inn along Lake Erie, Ohio offers an array of special places to say, “I do.”
A wedding is the start of one of life’s great adventures, so where and how that journey begins is an important decision. Proximity to family and friends often leads couples to choose a spot near their hometown, but a 2012 study by TheKnot.com found that one in five couples now opt for a destination wedding.
An out-of-town spot can provide a charming natural backdrop or a touch of elegance, and more intimate venues allow couples to better connect with family and friends. “People feel like they’re part of the wedding much more than being a guest,” explains Nicole McCabe, assistant innkeeper at the Inn at Cedar Falls.
Plus, heading out of town doesn’t mean you have to ask guests to buy expensive plane tickets. Here are four in-state locations that offer beautiful and memorable spots for the big day.
Lakehouse Inn & Winery
A lakefront wedding has more benefits than simply providing beautiful scenery. With a beach and marina nearby, couples also have the option of riding, or rowing, into the sunset.
“I did have a groom who built his bride a boat,” says Andrea Bushweiler, event coordinator at the Lakehouse Inn and Winery in Geneva-on-the-Lake. “He and his groomsmen came up from the beach, and [we] had the ceremony.”
The exchanging of vows typically takes place on the stone patio situated between Lake Erie and the lake house, where the inn, winery, restaurant and day spa are located. Receptions are held in a large white tent nearby.
The setting gives off a backyard feel. While buffet and sit-down dinners are offered, some couples opt for a barbecue buffet or clambake feast.
“Because it’s outside, we get a lot of couples going for relaxed, more casual [celebrations],” Bushweiler says. “They’re using nature and Lake Erie … [as] the decorations.”
Some couples also incorporate beachfront themes. Nautical terms such as “port” and “starboard” replace table numbers, and ship ropes and buoys make their way into table centerpieces.
Wedding ceremonies at the Lakehouse Inn tend to be small, and the bed and breakfast’s eight rooms are included in the facility fee. Bushweiler says celebrations here often give the feeling of going away with the extended family for the weekend. “It’s almost like a mini family reunion,” she says. 5653 Lake Rd. E., Geneva-on-the-Lake 44041, 440/466-8668, thelakehouseinn.com
Hilton Columbus Downtown
The Hilton Columbus Downtown’s beautiful ballrooms, adjoining gathering spaces and spectacular views of the city skyline offer plenty of options for couples looking to customize the place where they celebrate their big day.
For example, the ceremony can be held in one room before guests move on to another for the cocktail reception. When the junior ballroom transforms into a massive dance party, guests who want to have a conversation in a quieter space can adjourn to one less than 15 feet away.
Another option leads guests to dinner in the contemporary 12,000-square-foot grand ballroom (usually for weddings with 125 to 500 guests). The 20-foot ceilings can be decorated with drapes for a tented appearance or played up with color lighting.
Plush couches and oval coffee tables from different areas of the hotel can also be set up in the ballroom to provide a place to gather. “They have their own speakeasy lounge right there in the reception space,” says Julia Hansen, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing.
Some couples choose to embrace one of the hotel’s most unique features: a glass skywalk that stretches between the hotel and the convention center. The striking corridor provides couples an unconventional place to recite their vows while enjoying modern architecture and the city around them.
“It illuminates in different colors in the evening so we can tailor those colors to the bride’s wedding,” says Blaire Blechinger, senior catering manager. “It doesn’t need much decor because it’s stunning in itself.” 401 N. High St., Columbus 43215, 614/384-8600, hilton.com
Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls
Exposed wood beams along the vaulted ceilings help set a rustic mood for reception dinners at the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls. The log beams were originally part of an 1840s log cabin and the flooring was crafted from reclaimed wooden pallets. “It’s much more cozy than your traditional white room,” explains Nicole McCabe, assistant innkeeper.
The 1,026-square-foot Gathering Place is more like a cozy living room that can hold up to 50 guests, creating an intimate atmosphere. The adjacent Fireside Lounge is even smaller and filled with oversized armchairs, polished wood coffee tables and a massive stone fireplace.
“We use that a lot for cocktail hour,” McCabe explains. “Or once the wedding is finished, guests often get up and mingle there.”
The reception room’s floor-to-ceiling windows offer views of the wraparound porch, the 75-acre property’s grounds and the surrounding Hocking Hills.
While the rooftop garden — a patio complete with raised flowerbeds and a wooden gazebo — is a popular spot for elopement marriages, most ceremonies take place at the hilltop garden.
Brides ascend a small hill and stroll through the manicured garden, which has trees lining two sides and a wrought iron arch in one corner. During evening weddings, twinkling lights and candles often adorn the clearing.
“It makes a grand entrance to meander through the garden,” says McCabe. “We have also had people go out and pick wildflowers and use those in their bouquets, because they’re so abundant here.” 21190 St. Rte. 374, Logan 43138, 800/653-2557, innatcedarfalls.com
White stairs stretch from a wooden arch to the veranda below, where rows of white chairs greet wedding guests. Couples recite their vows in front of a half-acre, heart-shaped lake and a trellis spans the length of the patio, offering the perfect canvas for decorations.
“The prettiest I’ve seen is [when] they put up baskets of flowers,” says Jackie Goins, Vinoklet Winery’s general manager.
Located less than 25 miles north of downtown Cincinnati, the winery evokes a country getaway. Nestled between rolling, wooded hills, the vineyard is speckled with ponds and fresh blooms. Although Vinoklet hosts receptions for couples that want to marry off-site, Goins says about 90 percent of wedding customers hold their ceremony there as well.
Large windows on two walls of the banquet room offer views of the grounds and the trees that border the 30-acre property. The 2,500-square-foot indoor space leaves room to put up curtain walls and extravagant balloon designs (one bride opted for balloon archways) or drape streamers for a tented look.
For a slightly larger group (150 to 200 guests), receptions move outdoors under a large white tent pitched next to the rows of grapes. Goins says the spot offers the perfect place for photo opportunities as evening falls. “The sunset is something they always try to get a picture with.” 11069 Colerain Ave., Cincinnati 45252, 513/385-9309, vinokletwines.com