What do you see when you picture your wedding? Is there blue water stretched out in front of you? Sparkling city lights? Vineyard vines? Rolling hills or verdant gardens? Lucky for you, Connecticut brides-to-be, the venue options right here at home are vast and varied. Read on for some of our favorites and decide which view is right for you — the one against which you will shine.
Climb every mountain
Middlefield’s Marquee Events Featuring The Views at Powder Ridge may be one of the state’s newest wedding venues with a view — but what a view it is!
Yes, this is that Powder Ridge, the one where you might’ve learned to ski and snowboard, or put in some time extreme snow tubing. Now, between April and November, you can also have your wedding at the Ridge, and get this: transport your guests via chairlift to a mountaintop ceremony. Seriously? “People are definitely intrigued by the idea of arriving to their ceremony on a chairlift,” laughs Marque’s Marla Psillas, and there’s certainly no denying that the view is “just gorgeous,” especially in the fall. Ceremonies can also be held at the base of the mountain next to a pond, while receptions for up to 175 seated guests are held at The Lodge, where reclaimed barn-board doors and floor-to-ceiling fieldstone fireplaces add rustic charm.
Your palace awaits
If the view you most want to see is your name in lights, consider Waterbury’s landmark Palace Theater, where a wedding within means your name on the theater marquee out front for all the world to see.
Built in the early 1920s, the Palace was designed by period architect Thomas Lamb in a Second Renaissance Revival style and features an eclectic mix of Greek, Roman, Arabic and Federal motifs evidenced in grand lobby spaces, gilded dome ceilings, marble staircases and cut-glass chandeliers.
Weddings are scheduled between June and early September (availability at other times is limited by the performance schedule), and take full advantage of the grandeur of the Grand Foyer, Orchestra and Mezzanine lobbies, which together seat up to 240 guests, while the stage of the 2,543-seat theater itself can also seat 250. Due in no small part to the theatrics of the setting, there’s “a lot of room for creativity and personalization when it comes to Palace weddings,” says special event coordinator Audra Petrucelli. “Tickets” can be picked up at the box office in lieu of place cards. Digital poster cases can display special images, and the stage, of course, along with the orchestra boxes, is a killer spot for photo opps.
Old man river
The views are not in front of you on a journey aboard the MV Becky Thatcher, they are all around. The grand ol’ Mississippi-style riverboat operated by the Essex Steam Train is available from May through October for evening charters that take in the myriad glories of the Connecticut River.
The 70-foot-long classic vessel was built in 1961 and has three decks for guests (up to 150 for cocktail-style receptions and 66 for seated receptions) to drink in 360-degree views. Time, tide, traffic and weather determine exactly where Becky will travel, but her route generally covers the Connecticut River from the Goodspeed Bridge in East Haddam to the Baldwin Bridge in Old Saybrook. Favorite sites along the way include the Goodspeed Opera House, Gillette Castle and Selden Island. “It’s an ever-changing view,” says the Essex Steam Train’s Pam Amodio, one that might include bald-eagle sightings at one time of year and stunning foliage at another.
But, wait, the views don’t end there: because Miss Becky is operated by the Essex Steam Train, weddings begin and end aboard vintage train cars that deliver guests from Essex Station to Deep River Landing and back again.
The house on the hill
Theodate Pope Riddle designed what is today Hill-Stead Museum in 1901 to showcase the Impressionist masterpieces amassed by her father, Cleveland iron industrialist Alfred A. Pope. Thanks to the pioneering female architect, Monet, Degas, Manet, Whistler, Cassatt and more live on in this Colonial Revival-style country home-turned-museum, set on 152 hilltop acres in Farmington.
An octagonal, one-acre sunken garden designed by celebrated landscape architect Beatrix Farrand circa 1920 (It’s all about “girl power” here!) is set in a natural depression, surrounded by rustic stone walls, and boasts a summer house, brick walkways and 36 beds of more than 90 plant varieties. The Impressionist-style garden is forever “frozen in time” and is a “gorgeous” spot for ceremonies, says Hill-Stead’s Sarah Wadsworth.
The West Lawn adjacent to the Mount Vernon-style veranda hosts tented receptions for up to 400 seated guests and offers expansive vistas all the way to the Litchfield Hills. Additional options include The Grass Court (once the Pope family’s tennis court) for tented receptions of up to 175 seated guests and the Arts and Crafts-style Makeshift Theater, set in a barn from the early 1900s, for smaller gatherings.
Priam Vineyards, situated on 40 hilltop acres in Colchester, is not only the first winery in New England to be completely solar powered, it has been certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a natural bird and wildlife habitat. Bluebird boxes are scattered throughout the vineyard and hayfields to encourage feathered residents to keep insects at bay, as are wood duck boxes on the ponds and cozy homes for barn owls, kestrels and other native wildlife. In other words: they take the preservation of nature in all her glory pretty seriously around here — and have the views to prove it.
Sugar Maple Lane is where brides make a grand entrance between acres of vines. A tent is set up nearby in Bluebird Pasture for dinner amid cabernet sauvignon and merlot vines with a side view that stretches across the hills and valleys of the Salmon River Watershed all the way to Massachusetts. Priam Vineyards’ owners Gloria Priam and Jim Melillo like to describe it as a “Napa-like” view that has the added advantage of being in New England — which in the fall means 50 miles of spectacular red, gold and orange leaves.
Weddings for up to 400 guests are held at the vineyard between May and October, and a handsome new Winemaker’s Room that can host rehearsal dinners or farewell brunches was even added in June. As for which of Priam’s world-class wines you should toast with, Melillo proudly recommends the crisp Gewurztraminer 2015 that won a bronze medal at the 2017 Berlin International Wine Competition or the semi-sweet Jeremy River White that’s a perennial favorite.
And around we go
New Haven’s Lighthouse Point Park Carousel had its heyday during the 1920s and ’30s when it was the center of a seaside amusement park. On a sunny day, Lighthouse Point averaged 2,000 visitors, who would come — tin beach pails in hand — to challenge the salty waves, lick ice cream cones, listen to the band music and, if they were lucky, catch Babe Ruth at bat on the park’s baseball diamond. Most of all, however, they came to ride up and down, and merrily around, on the whirling carousel.
The 69 painted ponies here were created in 1916 chiefly by master carvers Charles I.D. Looff and Charles Carmel. They’re examples of the “Coney Island” style of carousels, marked by gold and silver leaf, black pinstriping and plenty of scrollwork, and are “true pieces of art,” according to events coordinator Sabrina Bruno. The turn-of-the-century beachfront pavilion in which the magical creatures live is available for rental between May and October for up to 298 seated guests and surrounded on four sides by vast expanses of windows. Daylight offers unparalleled views of Long Island Sound, Five Mile Light on the adjacent beach and Southwest Ledge Light off in the distance; at night hundreds of twinkling white lights reflect the glow of the carousel. “When you come right down to it, a wedding is about the joy it brings to a family,” says Bruno. “The carousel only adds to that joy.”
Pomfret’s Tyrone Farm is a fourth-generation, family-owned country estate whose roots in the Quinebaug River Valley date back to 1742. Weddings here include use of the farmhouse drawing room with its marble fireplace and Steinway piano as well as a sun porch that leads to a bluestone terrace that takes in far-reaching views of all the 170-acre property has to offer: from the manicured lawns, formal English gardens and centuries-old maples that line the main entrance to the rambling stone walls, wooded hillsides and granite pergolas available for ceremonies. The terrace can be tented for up to 149 guests, while a mid-19th-century Chestnut Barn, home to animals of all sorts and sizes over the past 120 years, has been repurposed as a rustic-chic gathering space for up to 135 guests. It boasts original hand-hewn beams and wide-plank floors as well as modern conveniences like heat and air conditioning powered by the farm’s own photovoltaic system.
The best news yet? In 2012 Tyrone Farm was placed under conservation easement in order to permanently preserve the farm and protect it from potential development — gorgeous views for generations to come!
Bright lights, big city
Once upon a time the Hotel Bond was where Hartford’s elite socialized. The 12-story landmark, which opened its doors in 1921, included a penthouse ballroom where men in white tie and tails and women in lavish gowns waltzed beneath gilt chandeliers in a room lined with 17 towering windows that presented unobstructed views of Hartford. The cityscape may have changed just a bit in the past, oh, almost 100 years, but the views from the circa-2017 Bond Ballroom, which hosts weddings for up to 250 seated guests, are equally impressive. Three walls of arched windows stretch from floor to ceiling and each has a window seat so your guests can get comfy while taking in the Hartford skyline. Understandably, “guests spend a lot of time looking out those windows,” says Bond Ballroom Owner Joe Howard. The Capitol dome and The Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch are just two of the sites to see. Plan your wedding for New Year’s Eve, suggests Howard, and you’ll score a prime view of the fireworks over Bushnell Park.
To the mansion born
The Branford House on Avery Point in Groton cost a reputed $3 million to build — and that was in 1903! The 31-room, Newport-style mansion, once the home of wealthy businessman/gentleman farmer Morton Plant and his wife Nellie, is now a part of the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point campus and available for weddings with spectacular blue views.
The waterfront mansion, designed by Nellie, who studied architecture at the Sorbonne, boasts an oh-so-grand exterior done almost entirely in the Tudor style, using granite quarried from the grounds. The interior is something else entirely, and combines a mélange of different styles — Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, Classical and even Flemish — that the Mrs. was inclined to dabble in. It has dozens of fireplaces (including a grand two-story model), rococo ceilings and acres of marble and magnificently carved mahogany, oak and walnut. The mansion can accommodate up to 200 seated guests, with more spilling out onto a bluestone patio or billowing white tent on a green expanse of lawn fronting the Long Island Sound. The view from here? Water on three sides, not to mention four lighthouses.
The wild blue yonder
Old-school aircraft like a yellow 1941 Boeing Stearman biplane or a silver AT-6 Texan from ’49 are a part of the view at The Hangar at Danbury Airport. They also happen to be what makes the sprawling 9,000-square-foot event space “as flexible as it is cool,” according to the folks at OnTheMarc Events, exclusive caterer for the venue. Ceilings soar more than 25 feet inside the hangar, so the vintage planes can serve as seriously cool centerpieces for aviation-themed receptions of up to 250 seated guests, or choose to treat the open space as a blank canvas to make your own with lush draperies, backdrops, lighting … oh, the possibilities. Heated floors keep things comfortable year-round; in warmer months keep the hangar’s massive door open to take in what promises to be a “beautiful sunset over the runway,” suggests OnTheMarc’s Caitlin Abruzzo.
Looking to keep it a little more cas’? The Longshore Pavilion at Norwalk Cove, which offers uninterrupted views of Long Island Sound and the Norwalk Islands, has its own private beach as well as a new 46-by-105-foot sailcloth tent with hardwood floors and twinkling bistro lights that can seat up to 250 guests and a second 46-by-85-foot sailcloth tent with connecting canopies for larger parties or — not that it will happen — rain. The two-acre beachfront property is available from May through October to make your own: Plan a sand-in-your-shoes ceremony at the water’s edge or a butter-drippin’, finger-lickin’ clambake. Bring kayaks or paddleboards, Spikeball or KanJam. Plan on a fire with s’mores or maybe some fireworks to light the night.