The latest update for this article is written by Lindsay Podolak.
Congratulations, you’re engaged! You’ve told your friends and families, and even posted a cute engagement announcement on Instagram. But now comes the (other) big question: Where are you going to have your wedding? Will you go the traditional route and book one of the Garden State’s many beautiful wedding venues? If not, New Jersey couples seeking a venue others might not think of have plenty of surprisingly delightful options.
“Couples who are looking for something that doesn’t have a typical ‘New Jersey ballroom’ feel can absolutely find venues,” said Jenny Orsini, owner and creative director of Jenny Orsini Weddings & Events in Berkeley Heights, speaking to Best of NJ. In fact, the state is so full of hidden gems, we’ve put together a feature dedicated entirely to unconventional wedding venues!
Wineries are a great idea, according to Christine Cusano, owner and events coordinator at Events by CC in Fairfield. In fact, Cusano told Best of NJ, “I wish New Jersey had more wineries; it makes for a beautiful atmosphere.”
Why I like it: Wineries give off a chic, sophisticated vibe for your event. Many of them also offer a handful of rooms to choose from. Think cocktail hour in the cellar, then dinner in the main tasting room.
Speaking of wineries…maybe you’re more of a beer lover? New Jersey is full of craft breweries and a portion of them can even accommodate a smaller wedding. Trap Rock Restaurant and Brewery in Berkeley Heights can host a party of up to 50 people in its Garden Room. And this is more than just a beer joint. Trap Rock is known for its delicious menu items as much as for its handcrafted ales and lagers.
Iron Hill Brewery in Maple Shade also has room for 55 for a sit-down dinner or a larger group could do a cocktail and hors d’oeuvres reception, all while sampling the brewery’s beers and touring the facility.
Why I like it: If you’re searching for a spot to have a more casual, fun event, a brewery is hard to beat. Cheers!
Your Alma Mater
For college sweethearts, returning to the scene of the crime is a popular choice for a wedding ceremony. Rutgers University offers you the chance to wed outside in one of the Rutgers Gardens, then move to the Log Cabin and Alumni Pavilion for your reception…and no need to be an alumni to get married here!
Princeton University’s Palmer House and Prospect House are available to faculty, staff, alumni and graduate students for special events such as weddings. Your ceremony will take place on the gorgeous grounds of these historic mansions, with stunning gardens as a backdrop.
Why I like it: What better way to get your old college buddies to attend your wedding than having it at your alma mater? It’s a homecoming plus celebratory visit in one trip!
The Liberty Science Center in Jersey City is a fun, quirky choice of venue. Take your vows under the second largest Hoberman sphere in the world as it expands and contracts. You can rent the entire museum out, so your guests can enjoy the interactive exhibits. They can also take in the views of Liberty State Park and New York City from the fourth floor Observation Tower, a glass pyramid atop the Center’s 170-foot tower.
Another funky choice is to get married at Adventure Aquarium, situated on the Camden waterfront just across from Philadelphia. The aquarium has both the Currents Ballroom and the Ocean Realm Gallery available for your guests to wine, dine and dance the night away in front of colorful sea creatures.
Have you ever thought about having your wedding at a sports arena? The Prudential Center in Newark has spaces such as the Platinum Lounge, Club Lounge East and Club Lounge West, and one known as The Restaurant. Each space can accommodate as many as several hundred people. When booking a wedding at the Prudential Center, guests can enjoy views of the New York City skyline and downtown Newark.
Why I like it: Even the most non-committal guys would jump through hoops to get married at a sporting arena…provided they are Devils fans, of course!
“Couples often look for places with views of the New York City skyline,” said Orsini. Unfortunately, they get sticker shock when they find out great views come at a premium. However, Waterside Restaurant and Catering in Edgewater is a space many couples don’t consider; most think it is just a restaurant, but they do weddings there, too. It is more affordable than a traditional venue and offers skyline views.
Why I like it: Having a venue that provides its own food leaves you with one less detail to worry about. At Waterside you can choose between the Grand Cocktail or the Premium Wedding packages for your event.
The Great Outdoors
We aren’t called the Garden State for nothing! Why not take advantage of one of New Jersey’s many parks and say your “I dos” amongst nature?
In Middlesex County, nine parks have gazebos available for rent for a two-hour ceremony. Choose one near the water or a find a more secluded one surrounded by trees. Edison’s Roosevelt Park, the oldest park in the county, also has a butterfly garden that offers a picturesque backdrop for you and your guests to enjoy.
Many beachfront towns will also allow you to get married on the beach…sometimes it’s even free! Check with the specific town, because rules vary. Island Beach State Park has several beaches to choose from once you submit a Special Use Permit application.
If the ceremony takes place in-season between the hours of 9:00 am and 5:00 pm, Belmar allows you to hold a wedding on the beach at no cost other than all guests having a daily beach badge. If you’re getting married in the off-season, it’s free.
Why I like it: When you’re trying to have a simple, no-frills wedding, a park ceremony is the obvious choice. Plus, it’s much cheaper than a traditional venue.
Whatever you decide, don’t be afraid to use your imagination; Cusano revealed she once did an event at the Essex County Airport in Fairfield. Don’t forget that New Jersey is known for its beaches, mountains and gardens. These places could provide a completely different environment for a wedding. “People don’t realize what something can turn into. I have seen a blank space transformed into a glamorous affair,” Cusano concluded.