The Wedding Issue: Change of Venue

Story by Liz Pacheco | Photo by Emily WrenWhen choosing a wedding venue, consider parks, private gardens, local farms and even friends’ backyards before looking to conventional hotels and ballrooms. Facility rental fees paid to nonprofit organizations can benefit historical or environmental preservation and programming. For a winter wedding, investigate outdoor spaces with indoor counterparts, or seek out venues with environmental building credentials.

Horticulture Center at Fairmount Park

Formerly the site of the 1876 Centennial Exposition’s Horticultural Hall, the current center and accompanying greenhouse were built in 1976 for the Bicentennial celebration. The site hosts an extensive collection of plants, including a Japanese maple collection, butterfly garden, 20-plus-acre arboretum and tropical plant greenhouse ideal for winter weddings. Couples can also plant a tree in the park honoring their wedding. Starr Restaurants Catering is the exclusive caterer; rental fees benefit Fairmount Park Conservancy.  North Horticultural Dr. and Montgomery Ave., 267-886-1472,

Hotel Palomar

This luxury hotel in Rittenhouse Square boasts LEED Gold Certified credentials and green features like water and energy efficiency, and environmentally friendly building materials and furnishing. Couples can opt for sustainable, local centerpieces or nothing at all, and discounts are offered for eco-friendly transportation. Catering is provided by Square 1682, the hotel’s upscale eco-centric eatery. Blocks of rooms can also be arranged for guests.  117 S. 17th St., 888-725-1778,

Bartram’s Garden

The oldest living botanic garden in the nation, Bartram’s is minutes from historic Philadelphia. The 45-acre garden has a wildflower meadow, river trail and wetland. Ceremonies are held in the Common Flower Garden, with indoor receptions in the barn and coach house. Rental fees benefit the nonprofit John Bartram Association.  54th St. and Lindbergh Blvd., 215-729-5281, ext. 100 (Andrea Taylor),

Laurita Winery

Once a dairy and horse farm, Laurita is now a commerical winery and Healing Spirits spa. About an hour from Philadelphia, the winery is built from recycled and reclaimed materials, and solar-powered. Irrigation maximizes water retention and conservation. Inside and outside spaces are available for ceremonies and receptions with catering by Conroy Catering.  35 Archertown Rd., New Egypt, N.J., 609.758.8000,

Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve

The setting of our cover shoot is home to the Captain James Moore Pavilion, which accomodates up to 100 people, on its scenic, wildflower-filled grounds. Twelve picnic tables and a wood-burning fireplace add to the rustic charm; rental fees fund environmental education programs for adults and children, as well as native plant conservation.  1635 River Rd., New Hope, Pa., 215-862-2924 (Joyce Burian),