Sometimes joy is too big to be contained within four walls. And sometimes love is too powerful to let even a pandemic stop it. We live, we love and we long to move forward together — but we also need to be safe. Happily, there are an ever-growing number of Connecticut venues available to host the ever-growing number of brides looking to plan outdoor ceremonies and receptions. Read on to learn more about 10 of our latest discoveries, which between them cover everything from farm to forest, garden to golf course and all manner of extraordinary sites in between. For still more options, we also shine a light on some of the outdoor venues we’ve highlighted in the past, as well as take a peek at a few options available just beyond our borders. It is our fervent wish that you find one that speaks to your heart and will return joy tenfold. 

Saturday in the park

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Three Saints Park, Bethany

Three Saints Park in Bethany may be one of the state’s best-kept secrets when it comes to outdoor venues. The private nonprofit park is owned by Three Saints Church of Ansonia and maintained by volunteers with the help of donations from the community. You do not, however, need to be a member of the church or sponsored by one in order to rent it. From May to October the 26-acre park is available to rent for keep-it-casual receptions under a pavilion that seats up to 300. There’s also a smaller 1920s-style pavilion which can be used for ceremonies overlooking the pond, not to mention a ball field, basketball and volleyball courts, horseshoe pits and fishing, swimming or paddling on said pond — this could be fun! 800-393-8179, threesaintspark.com

Garden party

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Smith Farm Gardens, East Haddam

The property known today as Smith Farm Gardens was originally purchased in 1718 by one Mr. Matthew Smith, and its historic post-and-beam home, resplendent with exposed chestnut beams, five working fireplaces, original chestnut and oak flooring, finely detailed moldings and featherboard wall paneling, constructed in 1778. Today the 15-acre East Haddam estate, available to host weddings of up 175 beneath a Sailcloth tent set on manicured grounds surrounding the house, boasts rolling fields and meandering stone walls, not to mention a 1-acre organic vegetable garden, formal English garden and an apple, pear and peach orchard. Rentals include access to the house’s bridal suite and a fire pit to cozy, while options include overnight accommodations for up to 11 guests, rehearsal dinners, the option to use fresh produce from the farm for your menu and rental of one extremely snazzy 1954 Chevy pickup in pristine condition — wouldn’t Matthew be impressed! 860-575-3119, smithfarmgardens.com

A toast …

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Westford Hill Distillery, Ashford

The land upon which Westford Hill Distillers sits has been “under the stewardship” of Louis Chatey’s family for a little over 100 years. The 200 rural acres in Ashford are in a region known as the “Last Green Valley,” which was settled in 1711, and, if you ask Chatey, “little changed since then.” In fact, looking out from the top of Westford Hill, where receptions for up to 150 are held, there’s not another house in sight. Westford Hill is an artisan distillery for eau-de-vie (or “water of life”), a delicate clear fruit brandy. (Think Framboise from raspberries, Kirsch from cherries and Fraise from strawberries, said to “smell like June in a glass.”) Needless to say, the signature cocktails mixed for a wedding here are pretty spectacular (hello, Pear William with rosemary, simple syrup and fresh lemonade). Ceremony sites include a perennial garden that has a small platform stage for a string quartet or brass choir or beside a 3-acre pond with a stone bridge. Cocktails are served on a covered crush pad adjacent to the barn and a tent set up beside it for receptions. 860-429-0464, westfordhill.com

Creature comforts

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Bradley Mountain Farm, Southington

Your wedding day could very well be the GOAT should you choose Bradley Mountain Farm as the site of your ceremony and/or reception. The 200-year-old dairy farm at the foot of Southington’s Bradley Mountain is home, after all, to a herd of some 25 beloved LaMancha, Mini-LaMancha and Nigerian dairy goats (Chloe, Clementine, Petunia, Primrose … ) whose milk is used by owner Anneliese Dadras to create a sumptuous line of soaps. The 4-acre property is available to rent for ceremonies alongside Crescent Lake, cocktails beneath a new pavilion next to the historic 1813 Bradley House and tented receptions for up to 150 guests. The best part? The goats here are quite partial to weddings themselves and can visit during cocktail hour for photo opps, make themselves available for some goat yoga, supply you with custom soap to use as favors, heck, Miss Hope has even been asked to process down the aisle as “goat of honor” on more than one occasion — can you even stand it? 860-385-4628, bradleymountainfarm.com

Local flavor

Laurel and Chris WEDDING

Stone Acres Farm, Stonington

Stone Acres Farm in Stonington is first and foremost a working farm that has been in continuous operation since before the Revolutionary War. The folks here firmly believe that “the best food is local food,” and to that end “celebrate natural farming, sustainable food, culinary education and the preservation of open space, cultural landscapes and historic structures.” Its Farmstand Market offers the best of what Connecticut farms and artisans produce. Ithosts a variety of food-inspired events throughout the year, including farm dinners and culinary workshops; is home to the Yellow Farmhouse Education Center, dedicated to preserving and celebrating culinary, agricultural and cultural heritage through cooking classes and other education programming; runs successful CSA programs for vegetables, produce, herbs and flowers; and, oh yes, also offers numerous stunning locations for each moment of your day. Perhaps an exchange of vows in the formal garden framed by boxwood that date back to the early 19th century? Cocktails and farm-inspired hors d’oeuvres on the historic croquet course? Dinner and dancing for up to 250 in a meadow surrounded by stone walls and tall grasses? Oh, the possibilities. 860-245-4414, stoneacresfarm.com 

Apples, peaches, pumpkin pie …

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Lyman Orchards, Middlefield

Members of the Lyman family have been farming the land upon which Lyman Orchards now sits since John and Hope Lyman purchased 37 acres in what is now Middlefield in 1741. In the more than 275 years since, the property has expanded to encompass more than 1,100 acres, including orchards where you can pick from nearly 100 varieties of fruits, the wildly popular Apple Barrel Farm Market & Bakery, corn and sunflower mazes, and golf courses designed by celebrated architects Robert Trent Jones and Gary Player, with the ninth generation of Lymans working to preserve the land for still more future generations — wouldn’t John and Hope be proud! Options for weddings done Lyman style include the Lyman Homestead, located on the original 1741 parcel overlooking scenic meadows and golf courses, where a tent for up to 100 seated guests can be erected, and a 4,000-square-foot grand reception tent at Lyman Orchards Golf Club itself, which can seat up to 250. For dessert? Lyman’s award-winning hi-top apple pie in lieu of wedding cake is a “must” in our book. 860-349-6046, lymanorchards.com 

Serenity, now

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Chatfield Hollow Inn, Killingworth

As owners Ken Metz and Forrest King describe it, the log cabin that they’ve renovated to become The Chatfield Hollow Inn at Chatfield Hollow Farm has been decorated in “mid-century modern meets Daniel Boone.” It’s charming, rustic and ultimately magical, as are the weddings held here. The 26-acre property, where “gentlemen farmers” Metz and King grow edible and medicinal mushrooms, assorted garden vegetables and flowers, backs up the Chatfield Hollow State Park in the heart of Killingworth, and can be rented in its entirety from April through June and September through November for receptions of up to 180 guests. Ceremony choices on its idyllic grounds include locations by one of two ponds, in a Norwegian pine paddock, grassy meadow, fruit orchard or birch grove. 860-452-4147, chfbandb.com

All in the family

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Heritage Homestead, Northford

Northford’s Heritage Homestead is all about family. In fact, the property itself is owned by brothers Andrew, Steven and Dennis Bozzuto and part of 3B Ranch, grower of certified organic fruits and veggies along with grass-fed beef, bison, goats and pigs, upon which multiple generations of the Bozzuto family live and work. The view from the homestead’s open-air pavilion, which can accommodate 120 seated guests, takes in much of the farm’s 80 acres of rolling fields and pastures. You have your choice of ceremony locations on the property and can even opt for a vintage-style tailgate with the farm’s way-cool 1950s Dodge Power Wagon. 203-410-8475, heritageeventsct.com

Cottage chic

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Gallaher/Cranberry Park, Norwalk

The Talmadge family, who have owned Madison’s Beech Tree cottages since 1997, have worked hard over the years to lovingly restore the classic 1940s seaside retreat to its sand-in-your-shoes glory. The sense of nostalgia is strong throughout the 3-acre property and its collection of eight seasonal cottages — and made all the more poignant by the fact that there aren’t all that many places like this left. The venue, which includes a sprawling center lawn and a 1,600-square-foot patio with a custom tent, can accommodate up to 150 guests for May through October wedding weekends with a chill backyard vibe. Beech Tree Cottages even provides on-site catering; those in the know opt for the beef brisket, pulled pork, chicken and ribs served out of owner Craig Talmadge’s CT’s Roadside BBQ truck. Authentic barbecue smoked in a’65 Chevy! 203-245-2676, beechtreecottages.com

Great expectations

Gallaher Mansion in Norwalk’s 227-acre Cranbury Park, a classic example of Tudor Revival-style architecture, was built between 1929 and 1931 for the inventor and industrialist Edward Beach Gallaher. Modeled after St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on the Norwalk Green, its carved limestone, hand-painted stained glass, heavy slate roof and the cross gables that help punctuate its medieval style serve as an impressive backdrop for ceremonies and tented reception for up to 200 guests on the mansion’s expansive great lawn and flagstone terrace between May and early November. 203-854-7289

But, wait, there’s more! 

First impressions: The artists of the Lyme Art Colony liked to paint en plein air. Their hostess/patron was Miss Florence Griswold, who ran a boarding house for artists that is known today as the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, and the Home of American Impressionism. En plein air tented receptions for up to 150 guests are offered from April through September. 860-434-5542, ext. 118

Speak for the trees: The Geer Family has made its home on the land that is now The Overlook at Geer Tree Farm in Griswold since the 1680s. The Overlook is just that: a scenic lookout at the 140-acre farm’s highest point that has been artfully hardscaped to host ceremonies and tented receptions for up to 200 guests from May through October. 860-334-0467

Tickled pink: Roseland Cottage in Woodstock, a Gothic Revival-style masterwork built in 1846 as a summer retreat, has played host to four U.S. presidents over the years. Ceremonies are held from May to October and centered around a boxwood-edged parterre garden; the South Lawn is used to accommodate a tented reception for up to 150 guests. 617-994-6671

Happy campers: Weddings at Holiday Recreation Center, which doubles as a summer day camp, in Mansfield Center include full use of the 25-acre facility, which includes everything from basketball courts and miniature golf course to soccer fields and bocce. A classic twin-peaked wedding tent can seat up to 400 guests from May to mid-October. 860-423-1375

Land of plenty: Weddings on the Farm in South Windsor is all about the farm-to-table experience. Farm-fresh ceremonies and receptions for up to 200 guests can be held from the end of May to late October. 860-205-0078

Grape expectations: A tent can be set up between May and October at the 48-acre hilltop Jonathan Edwards Winery in North Stonington to accommodate up to 200 guests for a seated reception surrounded by the vineyards. Wedding ceremonies take place along a natural “aisle” formed by rows of chardonnay and cabernet franc vines. 860-535-0202

Beachy keen: It’s all about the beach at The Pavilions at Penfield Beach in Fairfield. Both Penfield Pavilion (which can seat 180 guests) and the slightly more rustic Jacky Durrell Pavilion (which can host 125) put you right on the sand facing Long Island Sound with bluesy views as far as the eye can see. Rental of the Penfield Pavilion is open year round, while the Jacky Durrell Pavilion is available from mid-April to mid-October. 203-256-3191

Venues outside Connecticut

Looking to head a bit farther afield — but not too far — to celebrate? These three beauties make traveling beyond state borders worth the trip.

True blue

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Ocean Lawn at Belle Mer, Newport, R.I.

Belle Mer, a Longwood Venues & Destinations property situated on 7 acres of manicured green lawn on the edge of Narragansett Bay in Newport, Rhode Island, has got it going on when it comes to blue views — and then some. The Water Salon at Belle Mer, a grand study in soft whites and sparkling crystal that can seat up to 280 guests, and its relaxed-but-no-less-luxurious Island House, which can seat up to 180, each boast a full wall of retractable glass doors that offer nearly unobstructed views of the Newport Bridge, Fort Adams and Narragansett Bay in all its glory. (Not to mention, what Belle Mer’s Nichole Wardle calls “the best sunset views in Rhode Island.”) When those walls of glass are open in the warmer months, glam inside-out receptions spill out and onto a sprawling Great Lawn with a ceremony circle, crushed-shell paths, fire pits and oh so much ocean blue at your feet. 617-854-5000

Climb every mountain

Five U.S. presidents have visited the Mohonk Mountain House. Not to mention naturalists, theologians, artists, musicians and generations of families who have fallen in love with the storied 1869 National Historic Landmark resort on Lake Mohonk in New York’s Hudson Valley. As the folks here like to say, Mohonk is “more than a resort” and was founded all those many years ago to provide plenty of opportunities for “recreation and renewal of body, mind and spirit” in a natural setting that just so happens to be no less than breathtaking. Love of nature, the preservation of history and respect for the world around us are much more than talking points at this diverse, but oh-so-grand, lady by the lake where ceremonies can be held outdoors amid the riot of color in the resort’s award-winning formal gardens or in its mountain-view gardens bordered by flowering-vine arbors and an evergreen maze. Cocktails, meanwhile, are often enjoyed on the Parlor Porch, which affords guests the opportunity to enjoy a signature drink or two while drinking in spectacular views of Lake Mohonk. Finally, a stone pavilion that is both rustic and grand and looks down upon said lake can host up to 200 seated guests. 845-256-2053

How now, brown cow

Cricket Creek Farm, a small, grass-based cow dairy in the Berkshire Hills of Williamstown, Massachusetts, has the stated mission to “produce nourishing food that honors our animals, respects the land and feeds our community, and to exemplify a sustainable model for small-farm viability” — sounds kind of nice, doesn’t it? Indeed, every cow here has a name, a unique personality and its own special “niche” in the farm community. (Word of warning: Keep an eye on Springer unless you happen to like big, sloppy cow kisses.) It’s a happy place to be if you happen to be a Brown Swiss or Jersey cow looking for a friendly herd, or a bride-to-be looking for a working farm that exudes positive energy as a venue for your outdoor wedding. Various Cricket Creek pastures with far-reaching views of the surrounding mountains host ceremonies and tented receptions for up to 300 guests, while a newly renovated New England-style stone barn with a northern façade that features a floor-to-ceiling retractable glass wall can accommodate indoor/outdoor receptions for up to 150. 413-458-5888