For some couples, love blooms brightest under an open sky. Luckily, the Garden State offers a full palette of romantic outdoor venues including the Jersey Shore, fragrant vineyards, horse-country estates, High Point and Delaware River vistas and hidden formal gardens. At Crossed Keys Inn, a picturesque eighteenth-century garden estate in Andover, owner Katherine Rodriguez hosts gorgeous tented weddings from May through October. “A garden wedding feels like a destination wedding minus the travel,” she says, “whereas a catering hall costs as much and feels like plain vanilla.” Brides who are laid-back, a bit daring or not satisfied with spending the day indoors might well consider the outdoor option. “A setting like ours offers a romantic ambience that cannot be re-created inside. My brides say it’s like heaven,” Rodriguez adds.
Outside weddings can be as formal as an inside event, but a lot more flexible and better suited to an intergenerational guest list. At Crossed Keys, dinner and dancing take place under an elegantly draped tent, but guests have room to roam—men to savor a fireside scotch and cigar, kids to burn sparklers or play badminton and grandparents to stroll in the garden. A rustic country flavor—defined by bubbles and balloons, picnic fare and home-baked pies, mason-jar flower vases, plus outdoor party games—is a natural fit for garden weddings. But this year some brides are turning instead toward the old-fashioned elegance of Downton Abbey or Great Gatsby—replete with cabbage roses in sterling-silver compotes, vintage parasols, croquet in long gowns, flowing libations served by gloved butlers, crisp ivory table linens and similar extravagances of a bygone age.
Other trends include farmhouse table dining, horseshoes and other classic games, roaring campfires encircled by Adirondack chairs and ice cream and other food trucks. “It’s pure magic,” says Crossed Keys wedding planner Jessica Rodriguez when describing their setting. “Imagine wearing your white wedding dress in a verdant green meadow. Picture a lush open space where guests can discover landscaped places to frolic and have fun.” Magic indeed.