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It’s been 10 years since I tied the knot at a historic house museum in New England, and guests who celebrated with us still ask when we’re hosting a wedding reunion. It’s not merely because lobster was on the menu. Nor because I surprised friends and family by riding on a 15-foot-tall inflatable lobster in my wedding gown! There was something about a wedding held in a place with distinct character and enduring appeal that made the day intimate, colorful and memorable.
The costs of a wedding sure add up, and for me, choosing a historic property also meant spending those funds in a meaningful way. Couples who wed on historic grounds not only bring a unique element to the occasion, they introduce guests to a place of significance and contribute to its preservation. As I was researching my book, New England’s Historic Homes and Gardens (Union Park Press 2011), there were several Massachusetts estates I found so picturesque, I almost wished (don’t tell my husband) I was planning a wedding again! If you’re engaged and seeking a stunning setting for your special day, here are a few historic destinations where you can say “I do” not only to the one you love, but also to sustain important Massachusetts places that residents and visitors cherish.
Chesterwood (photo above; credit: William H. Johnson)
Daniel Chester French began designing the seated Lincoln sculpture for Washington, DC’s Lincoln Memorial in 1911. He didn’t consider his most monumental work complete until 1927! The artist was equally devoted to the landscape he fashioned to surround his home and studio, and brides and grooms who exchange vows at Chesterwood in Stockbridge, MA — now a National Trust for Historic Preservation property — have as their backdrop sweeping scenes and carefully planted spaces that reflect an artist’s eye. This entirely outdoor venue can be rented for a maximum of 560 guests, and ceremonies and receptions can be staged at a choice of stunning locations.
Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Edith Wharton is best known for her fiction, but she also co-authored an 1897 treatise on The Decoration of Houses that is still read by designers, and she considered her chief talent to be landscape gardening. Not surprisingly, Wharton’s former home in the majestic Berkshire foothills in Lenox, MA, is a coveted site for nuptial celebrations. Choose to marry at The Mount, and the gates will be closed to the public, giving you and your guests exclusive access to the mansion and grounds. The non-profit Mount was on the brink of bankruptcy just a few years ago, so you’ll know your wedding is also a worthwhile investment in supporting this inspiring place.
The Mount; photo credit: William H. Johnson
Why go to the expense and hassle of marrying overseas when you can enjoy a castle wedding on Massachusetts’ shores and support one of the state’s quirkiest museums in the process? Built in the 1920s by eccentric, prolific inventor John Hays Hammond, Jr., Hammond Castle in Gloucester, MA, is an unforgettable wedding venue. After the museum closes for the day, you and your guests can have the granite fortress and its Atlantic vistas to yourselves as you pledge your love and make merry. The captivating castle’s great hall, Renaissance dining room, courtyard and cliffside lawn can all serve as locales for everything from cocktails to an expansive feast.
Hammond Castle; photo credit: William H Johnson
William Cullen Bryant Homestead
Situated in rural Cummington, MA, and operated by The Trustees of Reservations, the grounds of the former home of poet and The New York Evening Post editor William Cullen Bryant are a spectacular setting for daytime weddings mid-June through mid-September. After all, they inspired Bryant to write melodious and romantic verse. With lush hills, sparkling streams, a rustic red barn and winding carriage roads framed by an enchanting allée of 200-year-old sugar maples, there are myriad spots for picture-taking and toasting your union.
William Cullen Bryant; photo credit: William H Johnson
Kim Knox Beckius is the author of seven books including New England’s Historic Homes and Gardens (Union Park Press 2011), which breathes life into the history of the region’s thirty-six most important and picturesque homes, from the earliest homesteads of the 1600s through the Gilded Age mansions of the early twentieth century. With vivid color photography by William H. Johnson, the book inspires travelers to see and support these important architectural landmarks and to delve into the stories of those who inhabited them.
An Internet pioneer, Beckius has shared her home region with a global audience for more than 14 years as producer of About.com’s New England Travel Web site. She lives in a remodeled and expanded 1880 farmhouse in Connecticut.
Union Park Press is an independent publisher specializing in books about the arts, history, and culture of Boston and New England. New England’s Historic Homes & Gardens is available online (on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble) and in bookstores across Massachusetts.
For a complete listing of Massachusetts wedding venues and locations, click here.