Destination Weddings

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An authentic “working farm” wedding experience at Fair Oaks Farms includes a variety of settings, including an idyllic waterfall. PHOTO: Fair Oaks Farms

Story by Elizabeth Granger

Something old, something new … and sometimes, totally unexpected. Indiana sites provide oodles of options for the perfect destination for the perfect wedding day.

It was not the lure of vintage cars that led Rachelle Reinking to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum in Auburn for her wedding site. It was the grand staircase.

Her husband, Daniel Church, suggested they visit the museum for a look-see. It has the element of history, which they both like. And he’d attended automobile festivals over the years. “He can appreciate the vehicles more than I can,” Reinking says.

So she was not particularly impressed – until she saw that staircase. “It’s a cool version of walking down the aisle,” she says. And that was that.

The auto museum is a definite destination for thousands of travelers who do want to see the cars. So when friends learned they could combine the wedding and the cars, they were sold on attending.

That’s often the way it goes with destination weddings. Essentially, a site that’s meaningful for the bride and groom, away from their home towns, with guests hopping on board with the bonus of visiting the destination. It’s quite a draw.

Stats tell us that up to 25 percent of today’s couples choose destination weddings.

As for cars, Indiana also offers the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Museums of all kinds are possibilities, each with its own applicable setting. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis has floor upon floor of enticements. “Access to the exhibit areas is really what makes us a unique venue,” says Kimberly Harms Robinson, director of PR and media relations. ”So many couples love the added fun and memories the galleries bring. They will never forget where they got to ride a carousel or pose by real dinosaur fossils.” In Elkhart, couples can host their big day at the Northern Indiana Event Center, located adjacent to the unique RV/Hall of Fame Museum.

The Indiana History Center in Indianapolis has not only that magnificent staircase inside but also the Central Canal outside. Conner Prairie in Fishers attracts Hoosier history buffs with a variety of sites. Also see the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis and its State Historic Sites that include the T.C. Steele site in Nashville, Whitewater Canal in Metamora and Angel Mounds in Evansville. And in Carroll County there’s the historic Delphi Opera House.

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The Victorian Gazebo at the Richmond Rose Garden can be rented for weddings. PHOTO: Richmond-Wayne County Convention & Tourism Bureau

Stately historic homes often come with expansive grounds. Check out Ruthmere in Elkhart, The Inn at Irwin Gardens in Columbus, Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site in Indianapolis, James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home in Indianapolis, Five Willows in Sullivan, Deer Park Manor in Bloomington, Seiberling Mansion in Kokomo, Smith House in Noblesville, The Jackson Estates in Rochester.

Hotels? Oh my, the dome at West Baden Springs Hotel, the glitter
of French Lick, and so many others throughout the state.

Art museums come with their original artwork. Impressive, for sure. Newfields in Indianapolis, the Anderson Art Museum in Anderson, the Eiteljorg in Indianapolis.

Repurposed buildings often add their histories. The former Coca-Cola bottling plant in Indianapolis welcomes brides and grooms to the Bottleworks District. So do Coppes Commons in a restored furniture factory in Nappanee and The Sanctuary in a former church in Wabash.

Farms – for the ultra-popular barn weddings – often come with acreage that makes for gorgeous photos. Among them

are Hawks Point Acres in Anderson, The Crystal Coop in Anderson, The Red Barn in Lapel, Three Bin Farm in Seymour, Bearcreek Events in Bryant.

One of the most popular “farm” wedding experiences is at Fair Oaks Farms in northern Indiana. Couples can exchange vows beside an idyllic waterfall and take pictures surrounded by blooming trees bursting with apples ready to pluck. They can dance away the evening in the ballroom, event field, or, during apple season, in the apple orchard. Guests can savor a meal catered by their farm-to- fork restaurant, and spend the night in the on-site Marriott, which also features an elegant bridal suite.

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The carousel at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. PHOTO: The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Many sites offer both outdoor and indoor options so weather becomes a non-factor. The Bauerhaus in Evansville, Minnetrista in Muncie, the Story Inn in Brown County. Clayshire Castle in Bowling Green adds a medieval vibe. Couples are definitely the stars at The Lafayette Theater in Lafayette, Paramount Theatre in Anderson, Fountain Square Theatre in Indianapolis, Indiana Theatre in Terre Haute, Thrall’s Opera House in New Harmony. Animal lovers can pick the Indianapolis Zoo, Wolf Park in Battle Ground, Wilstem Wildlife Park in French Lick, Heritage Farm in Flora.

“Heritage Farm told me they are open to having alpacas both in the wedding ceremony and in the wedding photos,” says Sherry Matlock, manager of the Greater Kokomo Visitors Bureau. “They haven’t had any alpacas walk down the aisle – yet – but are not opposed to it.”

Lush gardens provide a perfect backdrop. Garfield Park in Indianapolis, Wellfield Botanic Gardens in Elkhart, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory in Fort Wayne, Friendship Botanic Gardens in Michigan City, Richmond Rose Garden in Richmond, Avon Gardens in Avon.

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Avon Gardens offers five acres of landscaped gardens and water features. PHOTO: Nate Crouch Photography

Water plays a part in some choices; think Lake Michigan, Patoka Lake, the canal in downtown Indianapolis as well as small private ponds, sometimes on golf courses. Possibilities include Abram Farm in Spencer, Wasatch Lake in Poland, Potawatomi Inn in Angola, The Norris Estate in Nappanee, The Edge Golf & Dining in Anderson, and the City of Whiting’s Lakefront Park. Also in Whiting is the Mascot Hall of Fame, another unique wedding venue.

As for the choice of a wedding date, Jordan Richart, PR manager for the Jackson County Visitor Center, says, “I know some people who have moved away from here but came back to have their wedding and planned it around some of our festivals. Kind of a neat thing.”

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Hawks Point Acres is a boutique barn venue in Anderson. PHOTO: BH x Creative

The bottom line? The sky’s the limit in wedding venues. Ask around.

And in the end, emotions do trump physical surroundings. Karen Robbins, owner of Avon Gardens in Avon, says, “Talking about how brides feel is better than the facts. I wish I could capture their happiness and love in a bottle. That’s what our world needs.”