Wedding: A Weekend Affair

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Why should you get only five or six hours to celebrate one of the most important days of your life? A weekend wedding gives you a chance to linger over the entire occasion and spend more time with family and friends, many of whom have flown or driven long distances to attend your Big Day.

Typical wedding weekends begin with a Friday-night rehearsal dinner that includes all of your out-of-town guests, and end with a farewell brunch on Sunday. With all that our region offers to visitors and a wide selection of venues to match whatever atmosphere you wish to create, you can make your dream wedding a festive two- or three-day event — and the perfect weekend getaway for guests.

HISTORIC ADVENTURE

You’ll be making your own history, so start by setting your wedding in a place steeped in Philadelphia’s past. The 15-room Morris House Hotel, a national historic landmark built in 1787, will give you and your guests an intimate space to celebrate the entire weekend.

General manager Gabriela Buresova says that weekend weddings leave everyone feeling relaxed. “It’s better to come in a day earlier,” she says. “[Guests] can check in and have the whole night to unwind.”

Buresova says the hotel offers a discount if you rent the whole facility, and when you do, you have the run of the place. An on-site restaurant makes planning from rehearsal dinner to the last breakfast easy. And while you’re in the last throes of preparation for the ceremony, hotel guests can gather for afternoon tea and cookies at the Morris House or sightsee — the Liberty Bell and Independence Visitor Center are just steps away.

“We wanted our guests to come and not only enjoy the wedding, but the weekend,” says Philadelphia bride Susan Lowry. When she and husband Cody tied the knot Labor Day weekend in 2006, they filled the Morris House’s rooms with family and friends.

“[Everyone was] all in the same house, so it was a wonderful way for our families to be able to mingle and get to know each other,” she says. “It was especially nice for us because our families are so far apart. How often do you get to sit down and enjoy each other’s company?”

Morris House Hotel, 225 South 8th St., Philadelphia, 215-922-2446; morrishousehotel.com.

SUBURBAN SOJOURN

For a weekend of suburban sophistication, check out The Radnor Hotel on the Main Line. With full-service facilities and gardens bursting with color from spring through fall, the hotel offers plenty of ways for brides to include special touches to their extended festivities.

“On Friday, we can start with a bridesmaid tea or luncheon,” says Ann Marie Jackson, certified wedding consultant at the hotel. “It’s a relaxed way for everyone to gather and talk about logistics for the next day.” And while the bridal party prepares on Saturday, guests can head to nearby Wayne for shopping and lunch, or visit The Barnes Foundation or
the gardens at Chanticleer.

The on-site Glenmorgan Bar & Grill is open late, so those who want to keep socializing after the reception can stay up past their bedtime — after all, the commute to sweet dreams is a short walk to one of The Radnor’s 171 rooms.

The hotel is open to the public on Sundays for a champagne brunch, but you and your guests can enjoy that meal in the private Garden Room where up to 90 people can sit together.

“The wedding is so exciting, but during your event you might not get a chance to talk personally to all of your guest as much as you want to,” Jackson says. “With the weekend functions, you get a little more contact with them. It’s more personal and intimate.”

The Radnor Hotel, 591 East Lancaster Ave., St. Davids, 610-341-3500; radnorhotel.com.

AN URBAN AFFAIR

For five-star city chic, try The Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia. And while it’s a rare party that would take over the entire place, the hotel hosts so many multiday wedding events that they offer a package called “The Total Wedding Weekend.”

To introduce the city to out-of-town guests, Melanie Gaffin, catering sales manager, suggests the hotel’s “Taste of Philly” menu at a casual Friday rehearsal dinner. “We have stations with food representing South Philly, the Italian Market, Chinatown and more,” Gaffin says.

Gaffin works with brides to coordinate events to take place in different parts of the hotel, a national landmark built to be a bank in 1908. She also encourages photographers to take their subjects and roam — to discover the elegant spaces, such as the sky dome ceiling in The Rotunda, that make for fantastic backdrops.

Though your guests don’t ever have to leave The Ritz-Carlton, which offers several on-site dining options, a fitness center, and a full-service spa and salon, the hotel concierge will connect the adventurous with city tours or shopping on Rittenhouse Row and at the Reading Terminal Market.

After a black-tie reception, guests who want to continue celebrating can move on to The Rotunda or The Vault for cocktails and music. The next morning, the whole group can reassemble to savor a private post-wedding Sunday brunch.

“People plan for their weddings for six months to two years,” says Gaffin. “And it’s really nice when it’s not just a five-hour event.”

The Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia, 10 Avenue of the Arts, Philadelphia, 215-523-8000; ritzcarlton.com/hotels/philadelphia.

SEASIDE EXCURSION

Love the water but don’t fancy treading sand in your gown? At Congress Hall in Cape May, spring and summer ceremonies can take place on the landscaped grounds with blue waves in the background. Fall and winter brides will find beauty of another kind inside. “Our building was built in 1816, and we still have the old charm,” says Laura Glod, sales manager for weddings and social events. “And you can see the ocean from the ballroom windows.”

For a rehearsal dinner, Glod suggests keeping it beachy. “Our pool cabana is a great place for a casual gathering. We can do a themed buffet like a clambake,” she says. There’s something to do during any season. Guests can shop and play golf nearby, or rejuvenate at the on-site spa.

Recent bride Jenn McDermott had a Friday-night ceremony at the center of her multiday festivities last December, kicking things off with a Thursday-night rehearsal dinner. “Many of our guests were from out of town, and they came in Thursday and stayed until Sunday,” says McDermott. “They loved Cape May, and many said they planned to return.”

Though brides can plan a private breakfast, McDermott opted for casual. “We didn’t plan a formal event for Saturday morning. We figured we’d let everyone do their own thing,” she says. After all, weddings inspire people to socialize, and often guests will find their own way to mingle. “Most of our guests got together at the Blue Pig for breakfast.”

Congress Hall, 251 Beach Ave., Cape May, 609-884-8421, 888-944-1816; congresshall.com.

GO TO TOWN

True to its surroundings, The Brick Hotel in Bucks County offers old-fashioned, small-town hospitality for weekend-long weddings. “We like to say that they own The Brick for the weekend,” says Lisa Beeson, manager of marketing and event planning. “They’re moving in, and they’re taking it over.”

She says that for one wedding, the bride requested a room overlooking the garden so she could peek out at guests assembling as she got ready.

The Brick’s history includes weddings and family affairs that have taken place there over the years. “People get engaged here, then want to get married here. Then they come back for family celebrations,” says Beeson.

In the warmer months, there’s a garden for small weddings. For chillier days, opt for the hotel’s main room with its fireplace and twinkling lights. Beeson says she works with couples to plan menus starting with the rehearsal dinner on Friday. When there’s not a wedding-specific event happening, guests can eat at the on-site restaurant and explore Newtown and nearby New Hope.

Couples also can opt for a private “Honeymoon Brunch” on Sunday morning before The Brick opens to the public. “The bride and groom can say good-bye and thank you,” says Beeson. “It’s a nice close to the weekend.”

The Brick Hotel, 1 East Washington Ave., Newtown, 215-860-8313; brickhotel.com.

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