by Eric j. Wallace
Great destination weddings suspend reality amid a spell of nostalgia, hope, generosity and joy. That sweet string of days brings attendees a sense that they’ll be experiencing something poetic – something fleeting and once-in-a-lifetime. Unfortunately, for most couples, engineering that magic from scratch is next to impossible. Finding places that fit the bill can be surprisingly hard. While most venues cite hosting abilities, few specialize in crafting destination weddings. The trick is to merge aesthetics and logistics in a manner that makes sure it happens. It’s also good to have a little help. So, with that in mind, we bring you four selections that can make that experience truly memorable.
TIDES INN, IRVINGTON
Looking for classic elegance, high-end accommodations and rural seclusion in a waterfront setting?
The 106-room Tides Inn resort dates to the 1940s and occupies a small, private peninsula on the outskirts of Irvington’s National Historical Register district. Envisioned as a Southern escape for Northeast socialites, the property won international acclaim in the 1960s. Though renovations in the 2000s have added modern touches, the distinguished aura remains.
Facilities are nestled amid mature trees on Carter’s Creek – a tributary of the nearby Rappahannock River – overlooking a 60-slip marina and various small coves. It is surrounded by beautifully landscaped grounds that include a championship 18-hole golf course, walking paths, a 50-acre lake and a collection of crape myrtles, weeping willows, sugar maples and Southern live oak.
Inside, guests experience old-style elegance, including a lobby with wood-plank ceilings, exposed rafters, walnut and cypress paneling, stone tiles, marble-topped tables and dark leather furnishings. Rooms are outfitted with boutique sofas and chairs, and antiques ranging from dressers, to coffee tables, lamps and four-poster beds. Windows, ceilings and French doors are trimmed with ornate mahogany; countertops are granite or marble.
An in-house events team works with couples to create custom wedding experiences for parties of up to 300, including menus crafted by Executive Chef Alex Pasco. Multiple ceremony sites are available and range from small parties on the beachfront, to an intimate stone patio nestled amid wooded gardens, to a treelined lawn with creek-side views that can accommodate hundreds. Reception options are similarly varied.
THE OYSTER FARM AT KINGS CREEK, CAPE CHARLES
The Eastern Shore’s best one-stop wedding spot is also its most glamorous. Ceremony and reception sites are tucked away on the north side of the 1,729-acre Bay Creek Resort & Club, which overlooks the Chesapeake Bay.
Better still, The Oyster Farm is just a mile from historic downtown Cape Charles. Walking trails and ordinances that allow golf carts – available for rental – provide easy access and group adventures.
The resort offers luxury villas, suites and condos – all within quick walking distance of the action. Expect a fantastically colorful village of beach cottages presented in a spirited blend of Modern Coastal and 19th century Italianate architecture. Options range from single-room suites on the marina, to 5,000-square-foot bayside homes with in-ground pools. Interiors are universally modern and luxurious.
Tiffany Mohr, director of special events, leads the resort’s wedding team and works directly with couples to craft the perfect ceremony and events schedule. Catering is overseen by Oyster Farm Head Chef Shelly Cusmina.
Options for nuptials range from a 50-seat gazebo on the shores of sparsely developed King’s Creek to the docks of an adjacent marina to a grassy area with Bay views and space for hundreds. Possibilities for receptions are numerous.
Groups of 100 or less can take advantage of the 3,000-square-foot Cabana Room, located atop the Oyster Farm Seafood Eatery. Here, it’s all about that chic coastal elegance. Expect window-lined walls and panoramic views of the Bay; modern furnishings, color schemes and mood lighting; a vaulted ceiling culminating in a lavish cupola; gorgeous stone-tiled floors; ornate beams, molding and trim; and more.
Larger parties can be accommodated outdoors on the lawn via tents, or on a large deck and bar area that seats about 300. Additional indoor options include the 19,000-square-foot Pearl Event Center, which features multiple rooms for staging different phases of the evening, including deck access and a bandstand-equipped dance floor.
THE WILLIAMSBURG INN, WILLIAMSBURG
One of just 121 U.S. hotels to earn a AAA five-diamond rating in 2019 – and a designated member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Historic Hotels of America – the Williamsburg Inn offers classic, high-end splendor reminiscent of the Gilded Age.
The hotel sits on the periphery of the Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area, which boasts 88 homes and buildings dating to the 18th and early-19th century, and hundreds of period-correct reconstructions. The 62-room inn was built in 1937 under the direction of philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. As the flagship of Colonial Williamsburg Resorts, it crowned his effort to make this a destination of international distinction.
And while renovations and updates have brought modern comforts, Rockefeller’s vision remains intact. The result is a combination of grounds, accommodations, service and amenities that’s sure to awe the most discerning guest.
The effect begins upon arrival. The big, sprawling inn is nestled among mature oaks and maples, and is fronted by an elegant promenade that includes landscaped boxwoods, lawns and gardens, and an exquisite stone pool. The building’s neoclassical façade is of white-washed brick and features a restrained but regal array of columns, arches and pediments. The interior brings a lobby outfitted in Regency-style décor with hardwood floors, high ceilings, gilded chandeliers, fireplaces trimmed in marble, early-1800s furnishings and paintings, and more. Rooms are similarly equipped and include extravagant touches like marble bathtubs, antique canopy beds and luxurious linens in keeping with high early-19th century fashions.
Options for ceremonies are myriad. For instance, couples can be ushered to and from the promenade by horse and carriage. Behind the inn, a 7,000-square-foot stone terrace and sitting area opens onto a wide grassy lawn with mature trees, gardens and vine-enwrapped trellises—all backed by views of the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club.
Receptions can be held outdoors on the terrace, or inside at a number of variously sized event rooms (in total, there’s about 67,000 square feet of dedicated space). The most impressive of these is the Regency Room, which accommodates up to 160 guests. An in-house events crew transforms the space into a ballroom with the feel of a royal dream. A central, recessed ceiling is decorated with ornate molding and hung with a vintage crystal chandelier. It overlooks a wooden dance floor and stage area replete with incredible marquetry work. Floor-to-ceiling windows line much of the space; French doors offer access to a large stone patio. Accents include walls hung with 18th century tapestries and hand-carved hardwood buffets topped with green marble.
Further perks include access to an onsite spa and a catering team helmed by Executive Chef Travis Brust.
Want to be a little more south?
THE CHESAPEAKE, CAROVA, NORTH CAROLINA
Two miles north of Corolla is one of the Outer Banks’ most isolated and luxurious destination-wedding venues. Accessible only by four-wheel drive, the Chesapeake is surrounded by dunes and maritime forests, and overlooks the ocean. With 18,600 square feet of interior space, a large private pavilion, and 24 guest suites split among two wings, it’s ideal for couples seeking an intimate beachfront ceremony and reception among loved ones. The property can accommodate groups of up to 150. Shuttle service is provided for larger parties, ferrying guests to and from hotels in Corolla with luxury 4x4s.
The Chesapeake is built like a rectangular compound, with guest wings and common areas opening onto an interior courtyard with covered and open deck and patio spaces, and a marvelous stone swimming pool. The latter is flanked by a 3,600-square-foot pavilion and bar area. Beachside, a wraparound porch and upstairs deck bring views of the Atlantic and added mingling space.
Inside, an elegant 60-seat dining hall boasts communal wooden tables, wide-planked wood floors, cast iron chandeliers, fireplaces, French doors, vaulted ceilings and many windows. It is neighbored by a chic, 40-seat barroom with white granite countertops, flatscreen TVs, exposed rafters and beams, gaming tables, and repurposed light fixtures from old boats. Both rooms offer access to the courtyard and front porch. Additional lounge and sitting areas are found throughout the building.
Bedroom suites are uniquely outfitted – though most feature wet bars, sitting spaces, jacuzzi tubs and private decks. Expect deluxe modern furnishings, interesting design motifs and bathrooms cool enough to inspire tours. The bride and groom share a grand suite encompassing the building’s top floor. It has a large living room, two dressing rooms, a wet bar and a kitchenette, as well as east- and west-facing decks.
But what about catering and planning? Property manager J.P. Cronin says he’s assembled a contract team that includes “the best wedding professionals on the Outer Banks.”