Destination Weddings: Try the Norman Rockwell Charm of New England

Written by | Lifestyle, Travel

Newport Coastline

Dreaming about a wedding that captures the seaside spirit of New England? We decided to see what we could whip up in picturesque Newport, Rhode Island. With nine coastal communities, miles of unspoiled beaches, scenic trails and an abundance of quaint shops, it’s no wonder Newport became America’s first big resort town. Situated on a 37-mile stretch just southeast of Providence, the summer resort is known for grandiose mansions where the Vanderbilts, Astors and Widener families took their vacations, and on September 12, 1953, John F. Kennedy married Jacqueline Bouvier right here at St. Mary’s Church in Newport.

If you’re looking to throw a lavish rehearsal dinner ripped from the page of an Edith Wharton novel, look to Marble House. When this Vanderbilt “summer cottage” opened in 1892, it was hailed as the most lavish house in America. Throw a rehearsal dinner on the terrace — which can seat 200 or accommodate 250 for a cocktail reception). Or for a more intimate pre-wedding fête on the property, its Chinese Tea House was commissioned in 1912 and is a Beaux-Arts tribute to 14th Century Ming Dynasty temples which can play host to events for up to 50 celebrants for a seated dinner or 75 for a formal cocktail reception. Both Marble House and the Chinese Tea House are only available to be booked for rehearsal dinners.

Rosecliff is a Gilded Age masterpiece seen in films such as The Great Gatsby, True Lies and 27 Dresses. This snow-white terra cotta mansion features the largest private ballroom in Newport. Created as a showcase for summer entertainments, the mansion was modeled after the Grand Trianon, a baroque pavilion built in the great park of Versailles. Its ballroom features a heart-shaped staircase that’s provided the perfect frame for photo memories of the happy couples for decades.

Perks at Rosecliff include the ocean view, over 8 acres of manicured grounds, the French-style ballroom (featuring a trompe-l’oeil ceiling with painted clouds), museum staffing and free parking. The main ballroom can accommodate up to 180 guests for dinner and dancing with an adjacent salon that can seat an additional 90 (or accommodate 130 for a ceremony), and the Dining Room is available for the Viennese Hour. Speaking of food, two of the top caterers in town are Blackstone Caterers and Russell Morin Fine Catering.

Another gorgeous wedding venue is the 40-acre Castle Hill Inn, a historic Newport Hotel, established in 1875. The property hosted Grace Kelly while she filmed High Society in in the 1950s and Thornton Wilder on frequent visits to write. From a historic lighthouse to sprawling green lawns, Castle Hill Inn has a variety of options for nuptials with the sprawling views of the Atlantic Ocean and Narragansett Bay in the background. On property venues include the chalet terrace, the lighthouse,and the oceanfront lawn.

For smaller gatherings, consider the elegant Forty 1 ° North. Situated at an old marina, there’s room for a reception of up to 280 on the Pavilion alone. With just 24 guest rooms the hotel lends itself to more quaint events upstairs in the Grill, Oval Bar & Lounge. Inside, your dinner or reception features two fireplaces, wraparound windows, balconies and French doors opening onto views of Narragansett Bay. You can opt to sail away on a private yacht after cutting the cake and send the guests to Christie’s next door to continue the night’s fun. Be sure to go with a local florist like Stoneblossom Floral & Event Design, Broadway Floral Designs or Weatherlow Florals to enhance your big day. And consider Five Star Entertainment or the Boston Common Entertainment to get the party started.


Rosecliff—Image courtesy Preservation Society of Newport County

Newport is a charming town for guests to spend a few days before or after wedding festivities. Guests looking to shop till they drop can check out Thames Street, the main commercial strip since the 18th Century. Cliff Walk, along the eastern shore of the city offers a poetic view of the architectural triumphs of the city’s gilded age, whereas Ocean Drive offers a glimpse of the city’s many landmarks including King Park, the Fort Adams State Park, Hammersmith Farm (the site of Jack and Jackie’s wedding reception), Gooseberry Beach, and the Newport Harbor. The Preservation Society of Newport County preserves and protects the best of the area’s architectural landmarks through Newport Mansions offering tourists and locals the opportunity to get up close and personal with the great mansions. Docent-led tours are provided at Chateau-sur-Mer, Chepstow, Hunter House, Isaac Bell House and Kingscote. Individual tours are possible at The Breakers, The Elms, Marble House and Rosecliff with state-of-the-art audio players. Finally, a trip to Newport isn’t complete without a visit to the thorough International Tennis Hall of Fame — where you can also host a wedding and even add to its turn-of-the-century feel by having their on-site Wedding Concierge add Old Fashioned tennis players to the wedding package. Your guests will truly feel like they’ve stepped back into Newport’s Gilded Age.

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Last modified: September 18, 2018