A reception should be a memorable affair, wowing guests with every detail, from the sparkling table settings and entertainment right down to the wedding favors. So it's not surprising that today's brides forgo the catering halls and choose less traditional wedding and reception venues.
Long Island offers inspired choices and unusual settings. For Gatsby-era opulence, you can pop the corks in Gold Coast splendor at two newly available historic sites: Orchard Hill at Old Westbury Gardens and Chelsea Mansion on the Muttontown Preserve. Or you can take your vows near a World War II plane or celebrate with your wedding party and guests at an amusement park. You can even turn back the clock 150 years at Old Bethpage Village Restoration.
Here are some of Long Island's exceptional places to celebrate your union.
How about a cotton-candy colored wedding - with real cotton candy? At Adventureland you can serve the sticky-sweet concoction along with hot dogs, hamburgers and other classic theme park fare. Adventureland, which opened in 1962, has been the site for many events and is capable of accommodating weddings, says manager Steven Gentile. Wedding parties can be held in a room at the back of the arcade, with seating for a maximum of 120 people, or in the amusement park's restaurant and outside patio, which can hold 250 to 300 people.
Guests can fan out among the park's 45 rides and midway games. The carousel, Ferris wheel, haunted house and train, which circles around the park, are popular photo backdrops for just-married couples, Gentile says. For thrills, wedding parties can get a rush from the Hurricane or Lady Bug Coaster. ($40-$50 a person includes food, rides and room rental.)
American Airpower Museum :1230 New Hwy., Farmingdale, 631-293-6398, americanairpowermuseum.com
At the American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, brides and grooms can have their weddings and receptions at one of Long Island's historic hearts. The museum is on the site of Republic Aviation, where more than 9,000 P-47 Thunderbolts were produced during World War II. Ceremonies can be held under the wing of a C47 transport plane used in the D-Day invasion in 1944, says Gary Lewi, museum spokesman. For added nostalgia, the bride and groom can taxi in the C47, with their entire wedding party, to the reception area and be welcomed by war-era re-enactors. Receptions are held in the museum's 35,000-square-foot hangar. (Venue rental for 100 people or less, $6,500; more than 100, $8,500.)
You can disappear into the past at Old Bethpage Village Restoration. Comprising 55 historic buildings and seven reconstructions, ensconced on a 209-acre site owned and operated by Nassau County, Old Bethpage recreates a pre-Civil War Long Island farming community. It's the site of the annual Long Island Fair in October and entertainment by candlelight in late December. Ceremonies can be held in the Manetto Hill Church, built in 1857, and the first building to be moved to the restoration property after the county took over in 1963. The church interior has been restored and the exterior will be repainted this fall, says Jim McKenna, the site director and curator. (Brides of all faiths are welcome to use the church, by the way.) Receptions use the Fairgrounds Exhibition Hall, a four-winged barn in the shape of a Greek cross, built in 1995 as a reproduction of the 1866 Mineola Fair Exhibition Hall. Installation of heat, air-conditioning and restrooms will be complete this month. The village is open from April through December, but weddings can be planned off season, McKenna says. (Call for rates).
Old Westbury Gardens has caught the eye of many a movie crew over the years. It was a location for Alfred Hitchcock's 1959 thriller "North by Northwest," "Hitch," a 2005 romantic comedy starring Will Smith, and other films. "Sex and the City" even shot a wedding episode there. "Many more couples these days are looking for something other than the cookie-cutter catering hall," says Lisa Thornell, visitor services and special events associate. "Orchard Hill at Old Westbury Gardens offers them an exclusive and intimate setting with the ambience of a unique period in Long Island history," she says.
Orchard Hill is a Quaker farmhouse built in 1859 by the Hicks family and moved in the early 20th Century from Hicks Lane in Westbury to the property. The house was a wedding present from John S. Phipps to his daughter Peggie Phipps, who lived there from 1930-2006 and was the founder of Old Westbury Gardens. Sitting on 35 secluded acres, the building, which has been opened up for receptions recently, has several rooms and kitchen amenities. The living room, with its pink wallpaper and fireplace and access to a porch, is the largest room. The house can accommodate up to 60 people (seated) or 80 for cocktails. A tent in the backyard can shelter 150 people. (Rental: $1,000-$3,000).
Shoreham Village Hall:80 Woodville Rd., Shoreham, 631-821-0680, villageofshoreham.org
Sitting 75 feet from the water's edge on a Long Island Sound beach facing the Connecticut shore, Shoreham Village Hall is among the island's little known catering facilities. It's on the site of the old Shoreham Country Club building, which burned down in 1987, and was rebuilt by the Incorporated Village of Shoreham, which now owns it and rents it out for weddings. (The Shoreham Country Club still exists as a social organization for residents and is based in the village hall.) The building, which can accommodate 175 people for a reception, features wraparound windows and deck overlooking the Sound. There's also a large bar and dance floor and a stage for a band or DJ. The beach, lower lawn or bluff are popular spots for wedding ceremonies, says Village Clerk Colleen Piscak, who also acts as the building manager. If you are not a resident or sponsored by one, you'll need to select from among five approved caterers to use the hall. ($3,700 includes rental of the site, tables and chairs, as well as serviceware).
Designed by heiress Alexandra Moore during her yearlong international 1921 honeymoon with Benjamin Moore, and built in 1924, Chelsea Mansion was conceived as a "fairy tale French castle," says mansion director and interior designer Michael Butkewicz. There's even a moat, full of frogs and water lilies. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 40-room mansion and grounds, on the northern edge of the 568-acre Muttontown Preserve, have already undegone more than $1 million in restoration. The mansion had its first wedding reception in April. Interior details include a sweeping French staircase with wrought iron railings - a popular spot for wedding photos. The dining room paneling is said to have come from the Duke of Wellington's estate in England. A reception room's 85-foot mural, painted in oil over white gold, was the first American commission by the Spanish artist Jose Maria Sert, who went on to create murals at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. By the end of next summer, tennis courts and a wrought iron gazebo with surrounding gardens also will be ready for receptions, Butkewicz says. (Site fee: $5,000 and up).