There’s a lot of pressure when planning a wedding. It’s expensive, the attention is primarily on two people, and it’ll [hopefully] be the only time you say, “I do.” In addition to figuring out who to send invites to and deciding on food and music, you also have the responsibility of finding a venue – that, among other expenses, is where it can get quite pricey.
So, whether you’re looking for a bargain wedding on the beach or a blowout ball on a majestic mountaintop, read on for our list of 10 romantic hotels to match your bottom line.
Affordable Beach-wedding Venue: The Shores Resort & Spa – Daytona Beach, Florida
Romance may not be the first that comes to mind when you think of Daytona – the area is more known for spring-breakers and that 500-mile NASCAR race – but the draw changed with the rebirth of the Shores Resort & Spa (a former Hilton hotel).
Nestled on a barrier island between the Atlantic and the Intracoastal Waterway, the area’s only four-diamond-rated resort is one of Florida’s best-kept secrets and one of the best, affordable beach wedding venues. Hold your ceremony just steps from the surf on the Ocean Terrace (seats 200), where a raised stage guarantees all eyes will remain on you and your special someone through, “I do.”
Then, move to the second level for open-air cocktails before a seated dinner in one of four rooftop ballrooms, with views that stretch for miles in either direction. Room rental is complimentary with a 75-guest minimum at one of the best, relatively cheap wedding destinations.
Splurge Beach-wedding Venue: Four Seasons Resort Nevis – Nevis, Saint Kitts and Nevis
At this 196-room, Caribbean escape in the British West Indies, visitors traveling via St. Kitts arrive on a festive ferry, where bottomless rum punch sprinkled with nutmeg is on the house. To get guests into relaxation mode, reserve a section of oceanfront Mango restaurant (seats 80) for a welcome bash complete with grilled spiny lobster and signature mangojitos.
You can say, “I do,” in front of the property’s historic sugar-mill ruin, framed by colorful bougainvillea, or beside the surf on silver-hued, volcanic sand, with 3,232-foot Nevis Peak standing sentry in the distance.
For the reception, hire local reggae/soca/dance-hall band the Kore to liven up the night. Post-wedding, explore the clear-blue waters with a group sunset sail, or just relax the day away surfside in one of four gingerbread-trimmed beach-house cabanas, each fitted with a flat-screen TV, board games, books, a mini fridge and six chaise lounges for soaking up the Caribbean sun.
Affordable Winery-wedding Venue: Paso Robles Inn – Paso Robles, California
This 98-room inn in the heart of Central California’s wine country is ideally located across from the historic town square, which makes it easy to stroll to shops, galleries and wine cellars (maps are provided for guests to explore on their own, or you can ask the hotel to arrange a tour via trolley).
For extra romance, oenophile couples can book a hot-air-balloon ride over the vineyards. TO kick things off casually, the inn’s Steakhouse is perfect for a group of up to 20. Or take your rehearsal dinner of angus beef and fresh Morro Bay halibut to the restaurant’s al fresco patio (seats 55), which overlooks a koi pond and a waterfall for one of the best, affordable destination weddings.
This wedding venue can accommodate parties of up to 200. Opt for a ceremony in the peaceful garden to enjoy a backdrop of lush seasonal flowers and an actual babbling brook. The original inn burned to the ground in 1940, but the historic grand ballroom mostly escaped fire damage and has been renovated to its 1890s grandeur, with high-beam ceilings, original hardwood floors and wainscot and turn-of-the-century details like floor-length burgundy velvet curtains.
Splurge Winery-wedding Venue: L’Andana – Grosseto, Italy
Chef Alain Ducasse partnered with the wine-producing Moretti family to run 33-room L’Andana situated in the Maremma region. Sunlit country-chic rooms done in deep earth tones of copper and crimson offer views of the rustic landscape (rows of grapevines, cyprus trees and pines) and the ancient town of Castiglione della Pescaia.
This affordable wedding venue embraces the natural splendor of Tuscany: lush gardens, centuries-old olive trees and seaside hills. Catholic couples can exchange vows in the property’s private terra-cotta chapel (seats 30); other ceremonies take place in the surrounding, neoclassical garden (seats 100).
For an unforgettable wedding feast, Ducasse’s Michelin-starred Trattoria Toscana will create a tailor-made, reimagined Tuscan menu, including local wines made by the Morettis. Bespoke touches can include a serenading violinist and a breathtaking fireworks display. To whet guests’ palates, arrange a trip to nearby vineyards Petra and Tenuta la Badiola to sample the region’s irresistible reds, or get your group cooking with a class led by Ducasse’s team of chefs.
Affordable Castle-wedding Venue: Biltmore – Asheville, North Carolina
It may be a stretch to call this 210-room, French Renaissance chateau a steal, but the savings come when you factor in that you don’t need to fly to Europe for a touch of royalty – albeit, American-style. The largest private residence in the States when George Vanderbilt III built it in 1895, it still showcases the family’s collection of original furnishings, art and antiques.
Thirteen venues include the champagne cellar (holds 30), the grass courtyard of the barn in Antler Hill Village (for 40 to 300) and Diana (seats up to 550), set high in the hills with views of the Biltmore home and Blue Ridge Mountains. At the last option, make an entrance in a horse-drawn carriage, and say, “I do,” near a marble statue of the famed goddess while surrounded by a shady grove of hemlocks at one of the best, affordable wedding destinations.
Hold a stately reception under the high ceilings and crystal chandeliers of the Vanderbilt ballroom, where guests can feast on field-to-table ingredients from the 10-acre Kitchen Garden, paired with wine from the neighboring Biltmore winery. Guests can tour the expansive grounds (designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the genius behind New York City’s Central Park) via bike, carriage, horse or Segway.
Splurge Castle-wedding Venue: Waterford Castle Hotel & Gold Resort – Waterford, Ireland
A private, 310-acre island is the enchanting setting of this 16th-century castle on the River Suir. For a charmed arrival, guests take a ferry across the waters to a beech-lined path that leads to the 19-bedroom estate. Stone walls and Jacobean-style antiques (think intricate, original tapestries, gilt-framed portraits, four-poster beds) channel times past and give modern weddings a princely feel.
Make a memorable entrance down a long, wooden staircase to exchange vows in the grand entrance hall, then dine on Comeragh lamb or fresh-caught John Dory in the Munster Room (seats 120), with original, oak-paneled walls and an ornate ceiling. Photo ops abound in the gardens, filled with pink and purple rhododendrons (they hit their petaled peak in mid-April to early May).
To extend the revelry, plan a gourmet pig-on-a-spit barbecue, play a round of golf on the island’s 18-hole course, or shoot clay pigeons on the croquet lawn. Note: Wedding groups must book the entire castle for exclusive use.
Affordable City-wedding Venue: Grand Bohemian Hotel – Orlando, Florida
In the center of Downtown Orlando, this modern, 247-room hotel offers the best views of the burgeoning city. For a stellar scene surrounded by high-rises, hold a ceremony in the Rooftop Bohemian Garden (seats 125), a tented pavilion with white bunting and wrought-iron chandeliers. Afterward, move down to the whimsical ballroom for a buffet spread capped with key lime pie a la Boheme.
Don’t miss a photo session among the hotel’s eclectic artwork (the in-house gallery features more than 150 contemporary pieces) and live music at Boheme Restaurant, home to one of only four Hans Hollein Imperial grand Bösendorfer pianos in the world. Before and after the big day, enjoy the sunshine in a heated, outdoor pool facing downtown, or explore the world-famous theme parks just 10 miles away and the NBA’s Orlando Magic over at Amway Center.
Splurge City-wedding Venue: Mandarin Oriental – Las Vegas, Nevada
With Asian-inspired touches, this calming, contemporary, 392-room hotel offers welcomed respite from the Vegas freny, but its mid-Strip address at CityCenter still places you in the heart of the action. For a spectacular vista, book a private pre- or post-wedding party at the 23rd-floor Mandarin Bar (holds 150); for a smaller fete, reserve the Edge, a section at the bar’s perimeter (holds 30).
Either way, sip Mandarin Martinis while gazing at the bright lights below. Hold the main soirée in the third-floor ballroom (seats up to 350 with a dance floor), here the city’s signature neon, viewed through floor-to-ceiling windows or from the outdoor terrace, makes a fabulous backdrop.
To prep for the big day, soak in the spa’s relaxing vitality tub (yes, this, too, overlooks the hustle and bustle), and settle into a cityscape room whose panorama stretches to the surrounding mountains. Still haven’t had enough? See the sights from a different vantage point: The hotel can arrange a helicopter tour for observing the city from above.
Affordable Mountain-wedding Venue: Omni Mount Washington Resort – Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
At the base of Mount Washington (the highest peak in the Northeast), the circa-1902 grande dame is a national historic landmark with modern touches, thanks to a $60 million renovation. Up to 300 can witness your walk down the aisle of the Jewell Terrace’s rooftop garden (blooming with mums in autumn and tulips in spring) atop the Presidential Wing, with 180-degree views of the presidential mountain range.
For formal cocktails, hire a musician to tickle the ivories of the hotel’s rare Steinway grand piano in the semicircular conservatory (holds 200) with a fireplace, mahogany furnishings and a painted ceiling. Then savor the mountain view over dinner in the stately grand ballroom (seats 300), a 1920s-esque space with vintage, flower-shaped lighting fixtures, a large inlaid dance floor and a spacious stage for a band.
In winter, arrange a sleigh ride around the property, or swoosh down the slopes of the largest ski area in the state; in warmer months, take the group on the high-octane Bretton Woods Canopy Tour, which includes suspension bridges, hiking trails and 10 ziplines at one of the best, affordable wedding-destination locations.
Splurge Mountain-wedding Venue: The Little Nell – Aspen, Colorado
This haute, 92-room hotel is arguably the swankiest spot in Aspen, an every-season playground for the belle monde. Kick off the festivities with a rehearsal dinner of seasonal Colorado fare at Montagna restaurant (seats 110), overlooking Aspen Mountain; then take the partiers out to sample local microbrews at Ajax Tavern.
Come wedding day, the world is at your feet with a nearly 12,000-foot-tall mountain top ceremony on the hotel’s exclusive wedding deck (holds 280). The gondola ride up is enough to get guests talking, as are the drop-dead -gorgeous views of the Elk mountain range. Afterward, move into the property’s alpine-chic Aspen Mountain Club, where pine-wood paneling, stone fireplaces, antique Austrian tables and hand-woven rugs make for a cozy reception vibe.
The Nell’s concierge can arrange a group hiking or biking trip or get the gang on the slopes with ski tickets and lessons, too.