Wedding venues that go beyond the ballroom


In late March, Heather Davis and her then-fiancé Nick Gray made a deposit at a non-profit garden club in the Tampa, Florida area for their wedding on December 3. A signed contract followed a few days later. Then they were taken off the schedule and their bond was returned.

“I received an email informing me that we had been bumped because they had booked twice,” said Davis, 29, a supply chain consultant for ArganoArbela, a technology consulting company based in Irvine, California. “There was panic and anger. I thought, ‘This can’t be right, this can’t be real.'”

The couple’s search for a replacement site proved difficult. “Ninety-five percent of everything we reviewed after receiving the email was booked,” Davis said.

They then turned to a non-traditional option: a cigar factory.

Pandemic postponements coupled with post-pandemic commitments have made it increasingly difficult to find availability in typical spaces – hotels, wineries, upscale restaurants and resorts.

As a result, many couples were forced to get creative with their research, considering everything from bowling alleys and cinemas to bookstores and libraries. Here are four places off the beaten track that can host weddings.


The JC Newman Cigar Co. in Tampa, where Davis and Gray booked their wedding, is one of the oldest family-owned cigar makers in the country. Last year, the factory, which produces between 50,000 and 60,000 machine-rolled cigars and 300 hand-rolled cigars daily, added events to its list.

“We didn’t know it would be such a sought-after experience,” said Karissa DiPillo, the company’s events and community partnerships coordinator. “We thought we would only have a few couples. We already have 23 weddings booked in 2022 with all Saturdays in October and November taken.”

Aside from the lack of availability in more traditional venues, DiPillo attributed the renewed interest to couples wanting distinctive spaces and experiences. “We organize the cocktail hour on the first floor, where the store and the museum are located; our reception also serves as a bar and cigar rollers are used as tables, ”said DiPillo. “The second floor is the reception hall where we dine and dance. The third floor is where we have the ceremony.”

The space can accommodate 150 guests. The cost of renting a floor is $ 4,500; each additional floor is $ 500. The space is available for hire from 10 a.m. to midnight. Tables, chairs, parking and security are included. Catering is extra.

Closer to home

Are you a couple from the Chattanooga area planning a wedding at a non-traditional location? Or maybe you have already organized your ceremony in an unconventional space? Send details to [email protected] for story review.


For book lovers, stores like Manhattan’s Housing Works bookstore and the Strand offer nostalgic, romantic and cozy settings. The Strand hosts weddings in its rare book room; for events at the Housing Works bookstore, the lighting on its mahogany shelves is subdued and votive candles are added to its spiral staircases. Ceremonies usually take place in one of the recesses under the balconies, while sit-down dinners, cocktails and dancing take place on the ground floor.

“Over the past four or five months we’ve seen a 40% increase in inquiries,” said Elizabeth Koke, creative director at Housing Works, a New York-based nonprofit focused on the fight against AIDS and homelessness.

The organization’s mission, she added, “is for people who want to spend their special day giving back. All proceeds go to Housing Works services: housing, health care, and social justice advocacy.

At the Housing Works bookstore, Koke said that “the booking rate hasn’t changed, so we still have 40-50 weddings a year.” But, she said, “We are booking more in advance, especially since so many people want a Saturday.”

The capacity for a sit-down dinner is 135; for cocktails, it’s 175. Costs for a five-hour event include a tax-deductible membership fee of $ 5,000, plus $ 5,000 to $ 10,000 for bar prices, rentals and the staff. Catering is extra.


In 2016, Four Brothers Drive-In and its adjacent restaurant in Amenia, New York, added weddings to their offerings. John Stefanopoulos, owner of Four Brothers, as well as the neighboring Millerton Inn, in Millerton, New York, said bookings had increased since the start of the pandemic.

“Once COVID happened people went crazy. It amplified the movement to do non-traditional marriages,” he said. “Couples go to local places rather than franchises.”

Stefanopoulos cited the desire for off-the-beaten-path experiences and outdoor options as attractions. Additionally, couples have the option to play their favorite movie in the background. “We usually organize the reception and the cocktail party on our terrace,” he said. “The ceremony takes place in the tents, and the dinner and dance take place in front of the big screen so you can watch while you eat.”

An eight-hour event for up to 200 people at Four Brothers costs $ 30,000 to $ 45,000 for space, movie, food and service. Additions like tents, tables, chairs, a DJ, photographer and flowers, or any other arrangement that Four Brothers can provide, like shuttles, will increase the cost by an additional $ 10,000 to $ 15,000.


FlowerSchool New York is a floral design school by day and reception space, known as the ILA Penthouse, by night. Everything from the design, staffing, planning and execution of the plant-based menu takes place in-house in its more than 4,000 square foot space on the seventh floor of a building in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.

“The number of venues and staff has declined while the number of people getting married has increased,” said Calvert Crary, the school’s executive director, who estimates the space will host 100 weddings next year.

Crary said the flowers are part of the celebration of life occasions and speak to all guests. “A floral design studio makes sense to have a wedding because we have a strong aesthetic and tons of flowers,” he said. “Setting them up is really easy because they’re all here instead of moving them to another location. “

The space, which starts at $ 4,000 for a six-hour rental and costs $ 500 an hour after that, can accommodate 200 guests for cocktails or 150 for cocktails and dinner, and includes flowers and tables with decor, linens and chairs. On-site catering and herbal cocktails are billed per person in addition.

All decor, added Crary, “is either composted or reused by us. We have a strict one-use plastic-free decor policy.”


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