Weddings have taken on a personality of their own, as couples are opting for distinct destination weddings versus the standard walk down the white-sand aisle. “There has been a rise in out-of-the-box wedding options as couples begin to capitalize on making their special days as unique as their relationship,” says Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort’s executive chef Daven Wardynski.
A Plantation Wedding
In Florida, the Omni Amelia Island Plantation has launched its Sprouting Project, the creation of chef Wardynski, as the property’s latest wedding offering.
“More couples are looking to capitalize on epicurean trends, such as the farm-to-table movement fully exemplified by The Sprouting Project, as well as the ever-popular destination wedding. Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort allows guests to indulge in the beauty of Amelia Island, without ever setting foot off-property,” Wardynski says. The Sprouting Project consists of an aquaponic greenhouse, an organic garden, a large collection of beehives, and the soon-to-open smokehouse. “The Sprouting Project ensures the freshest ingredients are incorporated into wedding meals—from sampling straight-from-the-barrel to fresh honey dripping from the comb, and fresh basil from the aquaponic greenhouse,” says Wardynski.
The organic garden seats about 140 guests in a lush, intimate setting surrounded by strawberry vines, blackberry bushes, and pineapple guava trees. The aroma in the air is filled with sage, rosemary, and basil, while handwritten garden markers mark the herb beds. A hand-built bridge takes guests from the garden to an apiary that houses over 100,000 native bees.
In addition, chef Wardynski has added a barrel room to The Sprouting Project, where he’ll age honey varietals, vinegars, hot sauce, and cocktails. The barrel room will also provide a space for intimate events such as rehearsal dinners, or even as the bridal party’s private dining room as it can accommodate seating for up to eight guests. Wedding packages start at $208 pp; and starting room rates at the property are $299 per night.
A Glamping Wedding
Glamping has been gaining popularity over the past few years and to respond to that popularity, Conestoga Ranch, a high-end resort in northern Utah, has added a glamping venue for weddings and private events.
“Glamping has really taken off around the world (UK, Asia, etc.) and is growing in popularity in the United States, particularly in the West. The ranch had so many requests for private events during its first summer that it made sense to offer a dedicated space to accommodate weddings and family reunions,” says Tom Hendrick, partner of Conestoga Ranch. In response, the 18-acre property, which has an onsite event planner who assists with wedding coordination, is constructing a new Event Tent and a new Royal Tent Suite.
The Event Tent will be situated on the hillside overlooking Bear Lake and the surrounding mountains. This 1,700-sq.-ft. space can accommodate up to 100 guests seated at round tables, or 125 theater/ceremony style, and features 15-ft. ceiling heights at its peak. Plus, the tent is equipped with built-in power to facilitate for a DJ, a band, or slideshows.
“The new Event Tent allows wedding parties to have a Western-style, open-air experience with magnificent views,” says Hendrick. To add to the festivities, couples can also host a welcome reception, an outdoor adventure activity, a pig roast and line dancing rehearsal dinner, a groom’s luncheon, or a farewell breakfast.
The Royal Tent Suite, meanwhile, which opens this summer with rates of $135, offers luxurious private accommodations for couples, featuring an en-suite bathroom with a clawfoot tub and separate shower, as well as indoor and outdoor seating areas. There’s also enough space for the bride to get ready, a king-size bed, and a campfire. “It is the ranch’s honeymoon suite; ideal for couples and honeymooners,” points out Hendrick.
He adds, groups can take over the whole resort, and there’s plenty of dining options between the Campfire Grill Restaurant, the banquet offerings, and Shakes at the Lake, which serves raspberry shakes, lemonade and snacks.
A Heli Wedding
Daredevils can go on the thrill ride of a lifetime, and we don’t mean just saying “I do” to a lifetime of commitment. Rockies Heli Canada offers an experience like none other—Heli Weddings and Elopements. Three distinct packages—Love in the Rockies, Exclusive Love in the Rockies and Heli Weddings and Elopements—offer daring couples the ultimate in an “I do” experience. After soaring thousands of feet above the mountains on an aerial tour, the couple then lands on a romantic alpine location with stunning views. Here, with nature as their backdrop, the ceremony is performed. The most inclusive package, starting at $395 pp, includes a helicopter flight to and from the location for all attending the ceremony, including bride and groom, wedding commissioner, photographer, and guests. Additional perks can be added to this package such as sparkling wine, picnics, and desserts, as well as fly-in tents and port-a-potties, chairs and tables for a fully catered reception. The Exclusive Love in the Rockies package, starting at $1,296 per couple, includes a 42-minute heli flight and a 1-hour stop, plus a demi-bottle of sparkling wine, and dessert, as well as a photo. Guests can opt to add a light meal for an additional $30, a professional photographer, and a wedding commissioner for an additional fee.
A Horseback Wedding
A wedding ceremony followed by the bride and groom being whisked away by horseback sounds like the makings of a movie romance, but at Arizona’s Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass, couples can do just that. Let me paint the picture: The wedding would be set up at the Sierra Estrella Sunset Lawn, and just as the sun begins to set over the western Sierra Estrella mountain range and the couple have said, “I do,” two Mustang horses approach the wedding lawn to whisk the bride and groom across the river that flows behind the ceremony lawn and into the sunset on either a private carriage or on an individual horse. Following the horseback ride, the couple joins their guests for a reception on the Wedding Terrace (ceremony plus horseback is approximately $3,000, depending on the season; reception is based on guest count and is anywhere from $8,500 to $14,500).
And to add just a little more oomph to that fairytale story, the following day the couple can take advantage of the offerings in the Wild About You package, which includes deluxe overnight accommodations, a 50-minute companion massage at Aji Spa, two prickly pear mimosas, an exclusive hand-painted gourd bowl by local artisan Aaron Sabori with a special story of love depicted through art and a special blessing for guests’ journey home, a bottle of massage oil, a custom fragrance, a romantic 3-course Chef’s Tasting dinner at Kai, and a 60-minute Margarita Sunset horseback ride by Koli Equestrian Center ending with cowboy margaritas on the rocks plus chips and salsa. Package starts at $579 per night; ask for rate plan WLDABTU.
The property, which offers desert views, plenty of outdoor wedding venues, a 17,500-sq.-ft. spa, 36 holes of championship golf, fine dining, and an onsite equestrian center, has all the ingredients for the making of a unique wedding, with lots of bragging rights. Couples also earn triple Starpoints when their guests stay at Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass, while guests earn Starpoints on the eligible nights. Plus, the couple also receives special rewards and bonus Starpoints for booking their wedding at the property, which can be used immediately towards honeymoon nights.
A Treehouse Wedding
Couples opting for more intimate nuptials can opt for a ceremony in the Treehouse at Hotel Wailea in Maui. This grand Treehouse, suspended over the canopy in the property’s mango and avocado orchard, offers views of the coastline, and for a truly magical moment, recommend the sunset nuptials. Weddings at Hotel Wailea can be reserved along with onsite wedding planning services by the Maui Wedding Company.
The hotel itself is the first and only Relais & Chateaux property in Hawaii, offering a European-inspired elegance mixed with relaxed island luxury. The all-suite property completed a $15 million renovation in January 2015, transforming it into an intimate adults-only escape featuring 72 suites. Accommodation rates start at $499.
Conestoga Ranch: conestogaranch.com
Hotel Wailea: hotelwailea.com
Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort: omnihotels.com/hotels/amelia-island-plantation
Rockies Heli Canada: rockiesheli.com
Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass: wildhorsepassresort.com/chandler-wedding-venues