5 U.S. Wedding Venues That Make You Feel Like You're in Europe
Face it: America may be beautiful, but Europe has that romantic, historic charm, which is why destination weddings have become so popular. Only problem is, they can be a hassle to go abroad (think of your grandparents or pregnant sister!) If you fancy the feel of a European wedding without the transatlantic trip, look no further than these U.S. locations. The awe-inspiring venues provide the dramatic impact of a villa or castle abroad—no passport required.
If you love the Scottish Highlands
Try: The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, in California
With a setting fit for Outlander, this five-star sleep perched above the Pacific offers dramatic scenery akin to Scotland's coast, as well as two world-class golf courses along the water (you won't even miss St. Andrews's famous links). Take in the scenery with a cozy post-rehearsal evening roasting marshmallows around the resort's fire pits, then plan for an outdoor wedding at sunset atop the bluffs. For full effect, welcome guests with a rendition of "Scotland the Brave," performed by the resort's bagpiper.
Party Tip: For an outing your friends and family won't soon forget, organize a group cruise around Half Moon Bay to spot gray whales.
The Details: Site fees from $6,000; ritzcarlton.com.
If you love Venice
Try: Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, in Miami
When farm-equipment magnate James Deering built his Florida estate in 1916, he modeled the lavish Biscayne Bay– fronting property on the Old World villas of Italy, celebrating its completion with gondola rides and revelers dressed as Italian peasants. It's now home to an art museum surrounded by formal tropical gardens where wedding ceremonies can be held, while grand waterfront terraces can accommodate up to 300 for a seated dinner and dancing.
Party Tip: Plan extra time for portraits—the images captured along Vizcaya's winding paths and secluded courtyards are sure to be stunning.
The Details: Venue rental from $7,500; vizcaya.org.
If you love the Alps
Try: Sonnenalp Hotel, in Vail, Colorado
A family of German hoteliers built Vail's Sonnenalp as an homage to their sister resort in Bavaria. Its regal beauty is particularly striking in winter, when Vail Village becomes a snowy wonderland surrounded by 5,289 pristine acres of some of the country's best ski trails. After an elegant reception in the resort's glass-covered atrium, couples can escape to the property's chalet- inspired suites, with gas-burning fireplaces. During the holidays, the resort's "elves" can deliver a fresh Christmas tree to the newlyweds' room.
Party Tip: Host a casual rehearsal dinner of fondue and raclette at the cozy Swiss Chalet restaurant.
The Details: Site fees from $1,500; sonnenalp.com.
If you love the French countryside
Try: Auberge du Soleil, in Napa Valley, California
Founded by French restaurateur Claude Rouas in 1981, this Relais & Chateaux property in California wine country evokes Provence with its Mediterranean-style buildings and 33 olive-tree-covered acres. Weddings can take place on a terrace overlooking the vine-covered hills, and receptions feature Michelin-starred fare prepared with locally sourced ingredients. The wine list, naturally, is stellar, with ample New World offerings as well as hundreds of bottles from the Loire Valley, Burgundy, and Alsace.
Party Tip: For a French flavor, serve Champagne and mignardises, a selection of hand-rolled truffles, seasonal tartlets, pâtés de fruits, and petite financiers.
The Details: Wedding packages begin at $5,000, aubergedusoleil.aubergeresorts.com.
If you love a medieval castle
Try: Barnsley Resort, in Adairsville, Georgia
Located an hour from Atlanta, Barnsley is ideal for couples who desire the storybook romance of a castle wedding. Created from British shipping tycoon Godfrey Barnsley's former estate, the resort has its very own crumbling manor house ringed by formal gardens. Ceremonies can be held among the ruins, followed by a tented reception. For the full fairy-tale treatment, arrive via horse-drawn carriage.
Party Tip: Life on a castle estate involves a host of outdoor pursuits—and so does a visit to Barnsley. Organize an afternoon of sport, like a group clay shoot or horseback ride, with your wedding party.
The Details: Reception packages from $199 per person, barnsleyresort.com.