by Reannon Muth
Gone are the days when a wedding was as simple as ‘goin’ to the chapel to get married’. Today, many couples are ditching tradition and with it, the Chapel of Love, opting instead to get hitched on glaciers, rollercoasters or as was the case with Pamela Anderson (who married a shirtless Kid Rock while wearing nothing but a white bikini), a yacht. One Illinois couple went as far as to tie the knot in their favorite fast-food chain. Trading wedding bells for a Taco Bell, the bride and groom were pronounced ‘Man and Wife’ as Taco Bell diners cheered and employees passed out hot sauce packets with the words “Will you marry me?” inscribed across the top.
While plastic purple trays and processed cheese may not be everybody’s idea of a winning wedding combination, for some off-beat brides and their beau’s, a non-traditional wedding venue makes for a perfect place to start a fun and excitement-filled life together. The following is a list of nine unique wedding locales for those wishing to make their ‘big day’ a big adventure.
1. Animal Farm
The Toronto Zoo, Toronto, Canada
When Good Charlotte singer, Joel Madden, and Nicole Richie got married, one of the guests in attendance was an elephant. While incorporating a four-ton African mammal into your ceremony is certainly one way to ensure your wedding is a memorable one, finding one to borrow isn’t easy. Even if you’re able to convince someone to rent you their elephant for a few hours, trying to keep said elephant from inhaling your wedding cake or sitting on your great-uncle Jim-Bob can prove tricky. But luckily, there’s always the zoo. Many zoos have wedding venues available for reservation and some even include a few furry guests as part of the package (and that’s excluding your great-uncle Jim-Bob). Some zoos will give private guided tours and many allow guests to feed the animals (the Toronto zoo, for example, will let guests pet and pose with reindeers, camels, alpacas and even a boa constrictor).
2. Winter Wonderland
The Ice cathedral in Quebec City, Canada
As Billy Idol once sang, sometimes, “It’s a nice day for a white wedding”. That’s certainly a belief taken to heart by those who choose to marry in the ice cathedral in the Hotel de Glace (located 10 minutes from downtown Quebec City, Canada). The cathedral is small (it seats a maximum of 40 guests) but what sets this venue apart isn’t its size, but rather, the unusual material used to construct it. Resembling the hollowed out inside of a giant igloo, the cathedral is made entirely of ice and snow. To keep everyone warm, animal skins are spread over the seats (which are also carved out of ice) and the bride is outfitted in a white, fur-lined coat or cape and has the option of wearing a long-sleeved wedding dress specialty-made for the icy temperatures.
3. Under the Sea
An Aquarium in Long Island, New York
As romantic as a wedding by the water may be, it’s hardly unique. A wedding under the water, however, is. At the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead, Long Island, not only can couples wed while swimming with the fishes, but they can add an element of danger to the experience by doing so in a shark tank. After suiting up in scuba gear, the couple are secured into a cage and lowered into the shark-infested aquarium. Their scuba gear is rigged with a wireless communication system, so the couple and the minister (who officiates from a safe distance above water) can communicate with one another throughout the ceremony. Guests can watch and listen from the other side of the glass.
But if a white wedding with great whites sounds a bit extreme, many aquariums provide space for ceremonies and receptions in front of a fish tank instead of inside one. The aquarium in Seattle, for instance, offers a wedding package that includes a sunset wine tasting overlooking the bay, a guided educational tour of the aquarium and even an animal feeding show. A floor-to-ceiling fish tank, in addition to being a beautiful background for wedding photos, can be an engrossing source of entertainment for both children and adults.
4. Up in the Air
In mid-air in Las Vegas, Nevada
While making the commitment to remain married until ‘death do us part’ can be scary, making the commitment while suspended in mid-air can be downright terrifying, which is why booking a wedding through the company “Marriage in the Sky” isn’t the best bet if anyone in the bridal party is afraid of heights. But for those ready to throw caution to the wind, they can opt to marry 150 feet in the air in any of 40 countries the Marriage in the Sky company is located (which includes Las Vegas and Tampa, Florida in the United States).
How it works is this: Guests are strapped into their seats, rollercoaster-style, on a small platform that’s attached to a crane. The crane then lifts the entire platform into the air and the couple (who are standing in the center of the circle of guests) exchange vows and share their first dance. After the ceremony, the newlyweds are buckled into their seats and dinner and cocktails are served. In some locations, couples have the option of then taking their wedding vows to, ahem, new heights, by taking a celebratory bungee jump. While not for everyone, hurtling towards the ground at 50 miles per hour certainly provides a uniqueway for newlyweds to take the plunge into married life.
For a reception venue with a little more breathing room, the Wedding Ranch, a vacation rental in Southwest Las Vegas, has parking space for 50 cars, a covered patio, pool, hot-tub, an eight-room mansion and acres wedding-ready lanscape. With a treehouse and a trampoline in the backyard and a pool and poker room inside the house, the Wedding Ranch has no shortage of wedding reception entertainment options.
5. Farm Fairytale
On an organic farm in Gray, ME.
As barn weddings become increasingly popular, finding an outside-the-box locale that still holds an air of elegance and charm can be a challenge. Enter Caswell Farm. Family-owned and operated for three generations, Caswell Farm offers a refreshing change from the average run-of-the-mill country style wedding. With an antique 300-year-old barn, strewn bunting fairy lights, and over 50 acres of privately owned land nestled on a serendipitous country road surrounded by fields of flowers, Caswell Farm is the perfect blend of rustic and romance for the non-conventional couple looking for an authentic and down to earth wedding experience.
6. Into the Woods
In the forest in North Cascades, Washington
“Well, it’s set way back in the middle of a field” the B-52’s singer Cindy Wilson once crooned in a song about a love shack. “Just a funky old shack and I gotta get back!” For the young-at-heart couple, a ceremony in a forest ‘love shack’, campground or treehouse might be the perfect place for a playful, quirky wedding.
With its tall moss-covered trees and thick foliage, the forests of the North Cascades region in Washington, make for a whimsical and photographic setting for an outdoor wedding. Two miles outside of Bellingham, Washington and overlooking a creek, is a five-bedroom ‘Cedar Tree House’. Set on four acres of land, the property has an outdoor bonfire pit and a yurt, which has heated-bamboo floor, dimmable lighting and a sound system; an idyllic location for some post-banquet dancing. Wedding guests can stay in the cabin (which sleeps up to 24 people) or at the nearby Inn (which is a one-minute walk away). 100 miles away, in Leavenworth, Washington, is the seven-bedroom ‘Riverside Vacation Home’ which has a sand volleyball court, a hot tub, and an outdoor fireplace. The property even features a private river-side sand beach; perfect for a waterfront wedding.
7. Bare Necessities
At a Nude Beach in the French Riviera
A clothing-optional wedding is a good choice for those looking to save on expenses or to simply take the focus away from the lavish table settings or sequined wedding veil and focus on what’s most important: love, commitment and tanning away those ugly bikini lines. And what better place for a free-spirited couple to wed sans swimsuits, but at a beach in the country where the Bohemia movement began?
While nudist beaches and resorts can be found be the world over (from Rio to Ibiza to Miami Beach and San Francisco) the French Riviera is notorious for folks baring all and sunbathing in their birthday suits. The most famous of nudist beaches is Cap d’Agde, which is in fact, less a nudist beach and more a nudist town. In the ‘Naked City’ as it has been dubbed, people can (and do) sunbathe, shop, bank, dine and even wed, in the nude. But if this bare-bones ceremony is more risqué than you’re ready for, the coastal cities of Nice or Cannes have equally-beautiful but slightly more conservative beaches (where full-nudity is more the exception than the norm).
8. Night at the Museum
At a library in St. Paul, Minnesota
There’s nothing quite like declaring “I do!” while a giant T-Rex or humpback whale looms in the background, but the price tag for that experience can oftentimes be nearly as big as the T-Rex himself. The American Natural History museum in New York is a good example of that. While it’s the most famous of museum wedding venues, it’s also one of the most expensive.
But there are less pricey options. An hour outside of Salt Lake City, in Springville, Utah, for instance, is an art museum that for just 950 dollars will allow couples to rent out their entire museum for their wedding ceremony and reception. Couples can chose to wed inside one of the art galleries or among the sculptures and fountains in the garden outside. And in St. Paul, Minnesota, for under 4,000 dollars, the bride and groom can begin the next chapter of their life with a wedding in the James J. Hill reference library. With tall marble columns and two floors of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, the 90-year-old library’s stunning architecture earned it the 2011 Bride’s Choice Award for the second year in a row.
9. On the Right Track
Aboard a train in Napa, California
Start your marriage off on the right track with a wedding on a locomotive. A ceremony or reception aboard an early 20th century train is not only unique, but romantic and nostalgic as well. The Napa Valley Wine Train in Northern California hosts receptions on its restored vintage train, which can accommodate up to 300 guests (seated through three different train cars). Like the name suggests, the Napa Valley Wine Train gives daily 3-hour, 36-mile tours of the famous Napa Valley vineyards which, depending on the time of day, include a four-course gourmet dinner or formal lunch. Couples can opt to include a few scheduled stops in their tour so that guests can explore the vineyards or take an after-hours tour of a winery.