Marrying History And Ceremony

By Sharon Naylor

October 31, 2012 5 min read

Brides and grooms who wish to hold their wedding in a nontraditional venue -- a top trend right now -- are looking at historic locations to add an extra dash of marvel to their big day.

Historic sites offer stunning scenery, ornate buildings, gorgeous gardens and grounds, and of course the artifacts and rich history that afford an environment of fascination for wedding guests. Many historic buildings and landmark homes are exquisitely decorated and house priceless artwork, allowing guests to peruse interesting items during the cocktail hour or simply enjoy being transported back in time through the location's sense and style.

When held in a historic spot, the wedding becomes extra-special, and wedding photographs and video forever capture the ceremony and its marvelous setting.

The landmark itself may be iconic, such as Ellis Island, where upscale, luxury weddings are held. Or it might be a historic home on the national register of landmarks or a historic building that is often used for weddings. Their grandiosity will vary, as will the atmosphere created by their design and decor.

What they all have in common is that you'll need to ask some very specific questions of the site's event managers. Historic homes have rules and restrictions you'll need to honor, and you also want to make sure the site you choose has everything you need.

*Be Sure To Ask About...

--Hours when the site would be available to you. Patti Golden, sales manager for Ellis Island Events, says, "Ask about the hours of operation, since the site may be available to you after its operating hours." Any historic site open for tourism may shut down at a certain time to visitors, and then your event staff would need a few hours to set up in preparation for your wedding. So you may find that only a nighttime event is open to you.

--Air conditioning and heating. Many historic properties are old and may not have built-in temperature control, which could require you to rent portable heaters and air conditioners.

--Enough electrical outlets. David Lombardi, special events manager for Westin Governor Morris, which holds wedding events at a next-door historic home and gardens, says, "You need to be sure there are enough electrical outlets in enough places so that your caterers can use them." Include in that power plug-ins for your entertainers and other wedding vendors. An older building may have older electrical systems with limited power, so you might need to bring in a portable generator to help light and operate your wedding.

--The site's restrictions. They may not allow visitors in certain areas, and they may not allow beverages in areas where they have priceless antiques such as couches and artwork.

--Permits. Some historic sites, in order to maintain their operations, require permits for the use of their property, and some sites may charge hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars just for the use of the site.

--Seasonal hours. Golden suggests asking about the different hours during summer months, when the site may stay open to tourists later, which could affect your event's timing and outdoor lighting for photographs.

--Alcohol and food permits. Lombardi says that some historic sites may require special licenses for alcohol service and food handling, which is a vital detail to learn ahead of time.

If it seems like there are too many restrictions, bear in mind that wedding coordinators are very experienced with historic wedding settings and may have a streamlined process for acquiring all the permits needed. They also know how to walk through the site as you're considering it and check for those electrical outlets, any stairs that are not up to safety codes, working fireplaces, kitchen size and capacity, insurance and inspection certificate checks and all other important details. Leaving the site assessment to a professional may be a wise decision because he or she knows exactly what to look for to protect you and your wedding.

You may find a historic site located next to a hotel with a partnership to conduct events there, which would make catering and other services far easier to arrange.

When all the criteria are met, it's time for the enjoyable process of envisioning where and how you'll arrange your cocktail party, your reception, your decor and all of the delightful aspects of styling your day in the enchanting historic site that will turn your wedding into one to remember.

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