We each have our own story — but it is not ours alone to tell. Those who came before us are a part of that story. They lived and loved, laughed and cried, worked hard, celebrated fiercely and always persevered. We are here because of them, and to them much honor is due.
The historic Connecticut reception venues that follow pay homage to those who preceded us, and have the added bonus of being pretty darn spectacular. What better way is there to start your next chapter?
The Lounsbury House was built in 1896 by Connecticut Gov. Phineas C. Lounsbury, who was born and raised in Ridgefield. As the story goes, while attending the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, our former “gov” was so taken with the Connecticut State Building at the fair that upon his return he built an exact replica to serve as his family home.
The magnificent Neo Classical-style, white-clapboard mansion that now serves as Ridgefield’s Community Center (lucky ducks!), is indeed a sight to behold. Picture a pedimented two-story portico supported by Ionic columns, a mammoth wrap-around porch with Doric supports, a grand center stair backlit by sunlight streaming through intricate stained glass, and meticulously preserved rooms resplendent with period woodwork, leaded glass and crystal chandeliers.
“It’s all very Great Gatsby,” sums up event manager Kate Jackson, and the best part is that between the ballroom, the dining room and the Crystal Room (the former music room), the expansive first floor of the mansion can seat up to 220 guests for a glorious turn-of-the-century-style reception.
The Augusta Curtis Cultural Center was built in 1902 as the city of Meriden’s first public library. Today, the striking white-marble Greek Revival building across from City Hall is an increasingly popular spot for extraordinary weddings of up to 120 seated guests.
“We’ve had some amazing weddings here in the last few years,” confirms Diane Warner-Canova, president of the center’s board of directors. A Rotunda Room with Corinthian-style fluted columns and a hand-painted dome ceiling can be used for ceremonies, as can the circular Rosa Ponselle Memorial Garden, named for the celebrated opera singer and Meriden native.
Back inside, the historically detailed main level features two wings with ornate oak woodworking that has been painstakingly restored and two gas fireplaces with elaborate marble and mosaic-tile hearths original to the temple-like structure. The star of the show, however, is a center ballroom with a bronze-and-glass skylight that floods the room with natural light and a luminescent tempered-glass dance floor lit from within. A dance floor fit for Cinderella in the center of Meriden — who knew!
New England Air Museum
Blue skies ahead
The New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks houses one
of the world’s top collections of aviation artifacts, including more than 80 aircraft dating all the way back to the balloon basket built and flown by Plymouth native Silas Brooks in the 1870s (believed to be the oldest surviving aircraft in the United States). Its goal is to present not just the “story of aviation” and the “profound effects that it has had on the way in which we live,” but also the “stories of the men and women who built, flew and made history with these famous machines.” It is easily one of the state’s most colorful and wildly romantic places to host a wedding.
New England Air Museum weddings make a statement. After-hours rental of the museum, which completed a $1.8 million renovation in 2017, includes use of three hangars that remain open throughout the event. Consider the new mezzanine overlooking the Civilian Hangar for your ceremony, the B-29 Hangar for cocktails or the Military Hangar for seated receptions of up to 350 guests, suggests the museum’s private events manager, Erin Sniffen. When not sipping champagne, guests can even climb into the cockpit of a North American F-100A “Super Sabre” supersonic fighter, explore a Vietnam-era Bell UH-1B “Iroquois” helicopter or check out the bomb bay in the belly of one of the few remaining Boeing B-29A “Superfortress” World War II bombers in existence — how cool is that?
860-623-3305, ext. 332,neam.org
Tarrywile Mansion was built in 1896 for Dr. William C. Wile, a former Civil War surgeon. The good doctor Wile is said to have chosen said name for his 24-room architectural showpiece because he wanted his guests to know they were welcome to come visit and “tarry a while” at the new digs. In 1910, the home was sold to Charles Darling Parks, president of Danbury’s American Hatters and Furriers Co., who enclosed the original estate with a stone wall, expanded the property to include a dairy farm and added a lake (because he could). Tarrywile, which the Parks called home for nearly 75 years, is now the centerpiece of a 722-acre park owned by the city of Danbury.
Today’s brides are “looking for something beyond a ballroom,” Tarrywile Mansion event coordinator Anne-Marie Sholtes says. “They want somewhere with not just charm, but a rich history behind it.” The warm and still-welcoming Tarrywile checks all the boxes.
Favored spots for Tarrywile ceremonies are beneath the lush grape arbor and its intricate tangle of green, on an expansive wrap-around veranda that seems to look into the treetops, or in a light-filled glass conservatory, which was added to the home in 1918 to showcase the plethora of flowers grown on the property.
A tent can be set up beside the mansion for al fresco receptions of up to 150 guests, while indoor receptions for 120 are spread throughout handsome first-floor rooms like a dining room with paneled walls and a gilded-tray ceiling and a drawing room where well-dressed ladies who lunched back in the day would adjourn for a spot of tea — pinkies up!
Dubious claims that “George Washington slept here” have become somewhat of a running joke over the centuries since ol’ G.W. wandered these parts. In the case of Wethersfield’s Joseph Webb House, one of three 18th-century houses that make up the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum,“claim” is actually documented fact. In May 1781, when Mr. Webb’s circa 1752 abode in the center of what is now Connecticut’s largest historic district served as Washington’s headquarters, the Continental general met with French commander the comte de Rochambeau to plan the joint military campaign that led to the victory at Yorktown and the end of the American Revolution — nice work, boys.
“The historical aspect of a Webb-Deane-Stevens wedding really is special,” weddings and events rental coordinator Katie Sullivan says. “This is the real deal.” A circa 1840 barn at the rear of the property can seat up to 135 guests for April through November receptions. (If you add a tent, up to 170 can be accommodated.) Ceremonies are held beneath the spreading limbs of an ancient honey locust tree on a sweep of lawn between the barn itself and an old-fashioned garden tumbling with blooms. A stone patio beside the massive barn doors is the place for cocktail hour, during which, Sullivan suggests, the Webb House can be staffed with guides so that guests can view the room where George spent his five nights here — it even boasts its original wallpaper.
860-529-0612, ext. 16,webb-deane-stevens.org
Cheney Brothers Silk Manufacturing Co. built Cheney Hallin 1866 to serve as a theater and cultural center for Manchester. In the years since, it has hosted such prominent speakers as presidents Grover Cleveland and William H. Taft and women’s rights leader Susan B. Anthony and served as everything from an armory (in the Spanish-American War) to a hospital (during the infamous flu epidemic of 1918). It also happens to be the oldest operating theater in Connecticut, and current home of the Little Theatre of Manchester. When said theater is not in session, the regal Victorian with its mansard roof, stately brick-and-brownstone arches, segmented and full-circle windows, and intricate corbelled cornices, is available to host weddings quite unlike any other.
“There’s nothing ‘cookie cutter’ about a Cheney Hall wedding,” says Debbie Gustafson, external-relations assistant and a recent Cheney bride herself. The auditorium/performance venue (think ornately carved oak and chestnut trim, towering windows and rich maple floors) can seat up to 200 guests. Ceremonies often take place on stage in front of a magnificent 1866 E. and G. G. Hook pipe organ built into the rear stage wall, which frames the beaming bride and groom just perfectly. There’s also a brick patio (perhaps an outdoor cocktail hour?), dressing rooms for the bridal party and the option to use theater lighting and sound systems to add to the magic. The options are endless, so “go crazy and make it your own,” Gustafson advises.
In the company of patriots
Early American statesman John Hancock, who would soon attach his larger-than-life signature to the Declaration of Independence, married one Miss Dorothy Quincy at the Burr Mansion on Aug. 28, 1775. Unfortunately, this early incarnation of the Fairfield manse no longer exists thanks to some Redcoats who were miffed at the locals and decided to, oh, burn the town down in 1779. Luckily, owner Thaddeus Burr, uncle of Hamilton frenemy Aaron Burr, was of hearty stock, and with some help from his bud Hancock, who was by then governor of Massachusetts, decided to rebuild. It is Burr’s grand 1790 mansion, now owned by the town of Fairfield and managed by the Fairfield Museum and History Center, in which weddings are held to this day.
“There’s something about the history of the Burr family that really resonates with people,” says Burr Mansion manager Allison Burress — perhaps because it is our story, too? The first floor of the mansion with its high ceilings, classically elegant detailing, pastoral mural of years gone by and portraits of our well-dressed forebearers watching benevolently, can seat up to 75 for an indoor reception, while a tent, set among the property’s four acres of restored gardens and reflecting pools from April to early December, can seat up to 180.
Bank on it
The United Bank Building in New Milford was built soon after what the folks in these parts call the “Great Fire of 1902.” The New Milford Savings Bank and the New Milford First National Bank were leveled in the blaze (as were the post office, the town clerk’s office and most of the downtown business district), but Yankee ingenuity prevailed and the unlikely duo quickly united to build a joint facility, christened the United Bank, whose stately edifice has stood proud at the corner of Main and Bank streets ever since. In September 2015, after nine months of renovation, the landmark building now listed on the National Register of Historic Places became the reception venue known as 19Main.
Combining “modern amenities with historic elegance” is the goal at 19Main, event coordinator Kylie Costello says. The former fiduciary’s bright main floor can seat up 150 guests for a reception accented with warm neutrals, gleaming hardwood floors, 18-foot ceilings and original woodworking. There’s also a “man cave” on the basement level for the groomsmen (it has a foosball table — enough said) and a dressing suite for the bride and her gals that includes a glam hair salon built into one of the original bank vaults. “The vaults are always a huge hit,” Costello says — another can be set up as a photo booth.
Bonus: 19Main owners Village Green Investments also own Bank Street Theater just around the corner. Couples can thus have photos taken at the Art Deco movie theater and request their name in lights on the theater marquee.