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A wedding in front of The Nine Muses by Carlos Dorrien at Grounds For Sculpture (Courtesy of Grounds For Sculpture).

Unique Wedding Venues for Your Special Day

By Laurie Pellichero

When it comes to choosing the perfect wedding venue, one size definitely does not fit all. Fortunately, whether you want an intimate ceremony at a vineyard, farm, or the shore, or a large-scale celebration in an elegant ballroom, New Jersey is home to many unique spots that are sure to provide just the right fit for your special day.

For loves of art and nature, Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton (www.groundsforsculpture.org; 609.586.1303) is beautiful in every season and showcases more than 270 contemporary sculptures sited on 42 acres of horticultural wonder. It offers a wide variety of spacious, flexible facilities to meet ceremony and reception needs, both inside and outdoors, including the sculpture gardens, the recently-expanded Seward Johnson Center for the Arts, and the Zagat-rated Rat’s Restaurant.

“Grounds For Sculpture is a glorious location for a wedding,” said Coby Green-Rifkin, director of marketing communications, Grounds For Sculpture. “Making your vows in a picture-perfect setting surrounded by nature and contemporary works of art is unique and memorable. We’re honored to share in one of the most important days in a couple’s life.”

 “With Grounds For Sculpture and Rat’s Restaurant, you have an interesting setting based in two different worlds,” added Kathleen Newman, director of catering, STARR Catering Group at Grounds For Sculpture. “Lush gardens of simplicity, romance, and beauty with unique horticultural designs nestled in a venue with such rich history. The contemporary feel of the galleries versus the whimsical fun, relaxed atmosphere of Rat’s. It is a truly inspirational venue where food and art converge.”

The Bernards Inn (Courtesy of The Bernards Inn)

Nestled in the quaint town of Bernardsville, The Bernards Inn (www.bernardsinn.com; 908.766.0002) is a luxury boutique hotel with a renowned restaurant, an award-winning wine selection, and an array of elegant sites to host your dream wedding. Known for its historic setting, the Inn takes pride in providing an intimate, romantic location. “We consider it an honor and a privilege when couples choose The Bernards Inn as their wedding reception venue,” said Joshua Barbee, general manager of the Inn.

The Bernards Inn offers multiple rooms to host your wedding. The downstairs Silver Vault and Wine Pantry showcases the preserved history of the Inn, and is the perfect space for an intimate wedding. The spacious Fenwick Ballroom upstairs fits the criteria for those looking to hold a traditional ceremony and reception with a spacious dance floor.

In addition to the venue spaces, The Bernards Inn offers 20 guest rooms, including a bridal and grooms’ suite; first-class amenities; top-rated cuisine; and a dedicated event planning staff.

“Our dedicated team is focused on providing exceptional service and unparalleled attention to detail to ensure your Bernards Inn wedding is a joyous lifetime memory,” said Barbee. “It is tremendously rewarding to be a part of one of a couple’s happiest moments.”

Woolverton Inn (Courtesy of Woolverton Inn)

Located in Stockton, the Woolverton Inn (www.woolvertoninn.com; 609.397.0802)  has a 40-plus year heritage of providing fine hospitality. In fact, it was ranked among the top 10 bed and breakfasts in the U.S. by  BnB.com in its most recent survey. Weddings and events are a part of that heritage as the Inn lends itself perfectly to hosting celebrations — from small, intimate gatherings to larger receptions of up to 200 guests.

“Most of our larger events are held between May and October to take advantage of the beautiful grounds, which offer a variety of options at which to locate ceremonies, cocktail parties, and formal or casual dinners as well as after-parties,” said owner Mary Passalacqua.

Weddings at the Woolverton can be individually tailored to meet the vision of each couple. Options include a ceremony in the Horseshoe Garden adjacent to the historic 1792 stone Manor House. Cocktails hours can take place on the patio or front porch, or on the Great Lawn beneath the shade of towering magnolia and sycamore trees high atop the Delaware River. Dinner receptions are hosted in a secluded corner of the property, and catered with a four-course gourmet dinner beneath a beautiful tent atop a permanent wood platform.

“We typically hold our weddings outdoors,” said Passalacqua, who added that smaller events can be hosted in the Manor House during late fall, winter, and early spring.

Wedding weekends at the Woolverton Inn provide a unique opportunity for family and friends to reunite and spend quality time together before, during, and after the wedding. “We encourage our wedding clients to feel as if they were hosting the wedding in their own home, without the stress, handing over the planning and execution to our competent staff and vendors so that they can really enjoy this special occasion,” said Passalacqua.

Couples getting married on a Saturday typically reserve all 14 guest rooms for both Friday and Saturday evenings. Overnight guests receive a full three-course Woolverton country breakfast on Saturday and Sunday mornings. During the wedding weekend couples also have full use of the property, which provides the possibility to have a rehearsal dinner onsite on Friday evening that can be catered in a variety of ways — from food truck picnics to something more formal.

Unionville Vineyards (Martin Riordan Photography)

If you would like the dramatic backdrop of a vineyard, Unionville Vineyards in Ringoes (www.unionvillevineyards.com; 908.788.0400) provides an idyllic setting on an 89-acre preserved farm winery nestled in the pastoral hills of Hunterdon County.

The stately 1858 Farmhouse Mansion makes for a charming space to prepare for your special day (and provides a hideaway to steal a few private moments during the party!). For the ceremony, the lawn behind the mansion provides picturesque view of the Home Vineyard, the original estate vineyard of the winery. The ceremony and reception can also be held in several other unique areas, including the post-and-beam winery floor, the stone-walled Cave Room with wine barrels, or under a twin high-peak tent on the new brick patio adjacent to the winery. The 3,200-square-foot tent is complete with twinkle lights, chandeliers, and optional palladium window siding for chilly evenings.

“Each of these spaces provides a special atmosphere and a wedding venue unlike any other,” said General Manager John Cifelli. “The wine is pretty good, too — Unionville was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s Top 500 wineries in the country for 2017, and we are a leading producer on the entire East Coast.”

The land of Unionville itself is a rich patchwork of American history,” added Cifelli. “George Washington led his troops over much of the area, and camped nearby on the grounds that now nourish some of our finest vines.”

Lake Valhalla Club (Photo by Anthony Ziccardi)

Channeling the charm of the outdoors and infused with modern, rustic elegance, the Lake Valhalla Club in Montville (www.lakevalhallaclub.com; 973.334.3190) offers a lakeside setting surrounded by a canopy of serene trees and majestic mountaintops to celebrate your big day, or any other special occasion.

Serving members and the public since the 1930s, Lake Valhalla Club’s English Tudor clubhouse provides the backdrop for guests to enjoy a memorable dining experience with the personal touch of dedicated hospitality specialists. The vintage-chic ballroom with two grand stone fireplaces and floor-to-ceiling windows affords up to 225 guests panoramic views of the lake.

At Lake Valhalla Club, only one wedding at a time is held to ensure every detail is met and hosts and their guests feel the care and attention that their special event deserves. Not only can the award-winning venue craft specialty cocktails, if you have a sweet tooth be sure to ask about the bonfire and s’mores service.

“No request is too small. No ask is too big. We aim to make your day one you will never forget,” said Claudio Beltrami, food and beverage manager at the Lake Valhalla Club. “We have a family-forward philosophy that puts our guests’ needs above all, giving you a warm, welcoming environment.”

From the vibrant colors of the fall foliage to the winter wonderland of freshly fallen snow, this four-seasons venue offers the opportunity for picture perfect moments at every turn. Lake Valhalla Club is a 108-acre gem hidden in the mountains of northern New Jersey, yet just a stone’s throw away from New York City and major highways.

For those who prefer a shore wedding, The Reeds at Shelter Haven in Stone Harbor (www.reedsatshelterhaven.com; 609.368.0100) combines casual elegance and coastal chic with natural surroundings to create a backdrop that is unlike any other. The Reeds is a year-round luxury boutique hotel and resort located directly on the bay, and is just steps from the beach. It features 37 distinctively-designed guest rooms and was recently voted one of Condé Nast Traveler’s “World’s Best Hotels.”

One of the Jersey Shore’s most exclusive destinations, it offers many options for couples on their wedding day. Favorites include intimate sundeck ceremonies with gorgeous sea views, bayside cocktails and hors d’oeuvres on the covered veranda extending to the landscaped outdoor lounge, and dinner and dancing the the open-air ballroom for up to 220 guests.

“The Reeds’ Sweet Grass Ballroom is the ultimate celebration space for you, your entire wedding party, and guests,” said Julie Yeager, executive director of sales and marketing for The Reeds at Shelter Haven. “Wall-to-wall sliding glass spans the bayside view, allowing the opportunity to open your space to the outdoor veranda and provide an ‘indoor/outdoor’ feel with a full view of the sparkling harbor. The incredible fireplace also blends with the indoor-outdoor concept. The ballroom is simply spectacular, and provides the perfect backdrop for your special day.”

The Barn at Gravity Hill

If you want to celebrate on a working farm and also help support the community, The Barn at Gravity Hill (thebarnatgravityhill.com; 917.592.1755) is available for weddings and other events. Located minutes from the Delaware River in the historic Lambertville/New Hope area, the renovated 1740s barn overlooks farm fields, animal pastures, and the surrounding preserved park. It was designed as an intimate, indoor/outdoor space where guests can experience the beauty of the farm and enjoy the rustic elegance of the climate-controlled space. Windows have replaced the barn door, providing a panoramic view of the farm and surrounding park.

Gravity Hill Farm was founded in 2005 as a small family farm, dedicated to teaching about nature—and nurturing—through organic farming and raising animals. Its owners wanted to create a farm rooted in their community, and of service to that community. After ten years as a market farm, Gravity Hill leased its growing fields and market to Roots to River Organic Farm, so that the family can spend more time on education and community-building projects at the farm.

The Barn can accommodate 80 guests, and capacity with a tent is 120. The venue also features five bedrooms including a bridal suite, a gentlemen’s lounge with a pull-out couch, five bathrooms, an updated kitchen, a large stone fireplace, and sweeping views.

“Your event helps make it possible for us to host community and education-based organizations in a space that would otherwise be unaffordable,” said the owners of The Barn at Gravity Hill. “The important work of these organizations benefits our entire community.”

The Inn at Fernbrook Farms (Contemporary Image Photography)

A unique estate at the heart of a preserved 230-acre working farm, The Inn at Fernbrook Farms (www.innatfernbrookfarms.com; 609.298.3868) features a three-story 1750 Georgian Manor House with seven guest rooms as well as nine acres of lawns and gardens, and outdoor hearth, a summer house, and a gazebo, providing multiple venues for a picturesque wedding.

“We are a unique venue for couples and families looking for something different,” said owner Susie Kuser. “This is a very special place that has been in our family for more than 100 years. The mansion has been preserved in time, and our grounds are truly one of a kind, offering a variety of rustic and elegant spots where you may choose to have your ceremony, cocktail hour, or reception.”

Kuser emphasized the impeccable service provided at the Inn, and noted that resident chef Christine Wendland won the “Bangin’ Backyard” episode of Food Network’s Chopped on July 4. The food at the Inn is all made from scratch using seasonal ingredients, many grown right on the farm.

Weddings at Fernbrook are all-inclusive, and their team will work with you to create the wedding you have envisioned. “You get the complete Inn,” said Kuser. “From 11 o’clock on the morning of your wedding day to 10 o’clock the following day, the Inn is all yours. The ideas are endless at Fernbrook, so dream big and we will make it happen.”