Why get married in a boring ballroom or country club, when you can find a location as unique as you are? I’ve put together a list (with photo examples, of course) or some of the best unique wedding venues in PA, NY, NJ, and the surrounding areas. From Philadelphia to Brooklyn, to the coast of New Jersey and the mountains (Pennsylvania’s Poconos and New York’s Catskills), there are so many amazing venues. Industrial warehouses, lush conservatories, open gardens, and historic estates…there’s somewhere for everyone, and since I’ve shot weddings for years, I wanted to share my knowledge with you!
Without further ado, in no real order, wedding venues that don’t suck…
Fairmount Park Horticultural Center (Fairmount, Philadelphia) – link
With catering from Stephen Starr’s own Starr Events, plus one of the only greenhouse venues in the area, the Horticultural Center is a home run. Every time I get the honor of working here, it’s such a joy, and it seems to fit so many different types of couples. It’s the best of both worlds – you’re surrounded by nature, but you don’t have to worry about a rain plan. The grounds are also amazing, with a huge reflecting pool, and acres of trees and greenery to use as your own playground. If you get married here, bring me along please!
Bartram’s Garden (West Philadelphia) – link
One of my favorite venues ever. Tucked away in the middle of nowhere West Philadelphia is Bartram’s Garden, perfect for a garden party style wedding. Your guests can stroll through the country’s oldest botanical garden before making their way over to the tented stone patio to dance the night away. There’s even a view of the city skyline from the meadow nearby! This wedding was featured over on the Wedding Chicks blog – see more from Lexi & Joe’s day here.
Terrain at Styer’s (Glen Mills, PA) – link
Terrain is Anthropologie’s home and garden center, and a great place for trendy couples to tie the knot. Any season, any weather – it’s gorgeous no matter what. For outdoor ceremonies, the white wooden temple is a stunning backdrop, and in inclement weather, the hot house is just as beautiful. They meticulously decorate the grounds with different vignettes and seasonal displays, so there’s always somewhere beautiful to take photos. Couples can get ready in the Kinfolk-y “Mushroom Hut,” and enjoy a seated dinner in the “Garden Shed.” The design team and coordinators are friendly and helpful, and the food is always amazing! Some notable menu items created by the Terrain catering team include a loaded tater tot bar, boozy ice cream floats, homemade hand pies, and a cookies & milk bar. There are a million reasons why this is everyone’s favorite wedding venue!
Morris House Hotel (Washington Square West, Philadelphia) – link
Maybe it’s because I shot one of my all-time favorite weddings here, but I can’t say enough good things about Morris House Hotel. It’s anything but your average hotel – it’s a historic landmark that’s now a boutique hotel, restaurant, and event space. In the outdoor courtyard, you forget you’re in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the Washington Square West neighborhood. The rooms are lovely, and perfect for getting ready or for out of town guests, the food is amazing, and the venue itself is almost too charming. Such an amazing location for an outdoor wedding.
Power Plant Productions (Old City, Philadelphia) – link
All-white everything – anyone who knows me knows that I am obsessed with neutral, clean color palettes. This spacious loft-style industrial setting fits the bill, but it can also be transformed into pretty much anything your little heart desires. With white brick walls, high ceilings, and gauzy curtains, it’s a photographer’s dream. There’s ample room to host your ceremony and reception here, but it’s a real show-stopper when guests walk in for the first time to a beautifully laid out room of tables and decor. Consider holding the ceremony outdoors at any of the historic Old City parks, or for a memorable background – try nearby Race St. Pier.
The Washington at Historic Yellow Springs (Chester Springs, PA) – link
An old Revolutionary inn with stone ruins and tons of character, the Washington at Historic Yellow Springs is a quaint little gem. It can host up to 150 guests in the downstairs reception room, but my favorite places are the smaller nooks and crannies. The upstairs bridal suite, with its minimalist decor. The outdoor courtyard, great for ceremonies or cocktail hour. The very Southern-feeling porch, which looks great every time of year. And of course, across the quiet road, a field where the light always seems to hit juuuuuust right. I’ve shot at Yellow Springs in rain and shine, in spring, summer, and fall, and I always think, “I could get married here.”
23rd Street Armory (Philadelphia) – link
Raw industrial at its best! This space is absolutely massive – it can fit 1,000 people, so you can invite your family, friends, plus their family and friends, and every rando you know. This space is best when paired with an outdoor ceremony spot (pop-up wedding, anyone?) and a team of vendors with a vision. When styled properly, it’s dreamy and spacious, and has a few smaller classic-looking rooms for your getting ready suite or back-up ceremony location.
Pocono Springs Camp (East Stroudsburg, PA) – link
If you’ve always dreamed of getting married Wes Anderson-style, maybe a camp wedding is for you. Best of all, your guests can stay on-site in cabins, so you can make a whole weekend of it. There’s even wi-fi. And unlike most camp venues, you’re allowed to have alcohol. Win! Check out Joanna & Zac’s Pocono Springs Camp wedding here.
Appleford Estate (Villanova, PA) – link
A historic estate in the Villanova area, with literally a million gorgeous backdrops for photos. A rose garden. Authentic interiors. A hedge garden. An old (read: run-down, but so charming) greenhouse. Oh, and a duck pond. Last time I was there, there was not only a mama duck plus ducklings, but a male and female duck making the rounds during cocktail hour. Does it get more adorable? Receptions are hosted in a tented area connected to the house, so it feels more classy than your average backyard tent, but in nice weather, guests can wander the grounds and feel like they’re in the English countryside.
Metropolitan Building (Long Island City, NY) – link
When I first came to the Met Building, I couldn’t believe where I was. Inside of a pretty bland looking building in NYC was a space I’d only dreamed of working at. The 2nd floor is the main event space, where most ceremonies and receptions comfortably flow together. The 4th floor is also an event space, but in my opinion, it’s not as unique or as beautiful as floor #2. Lastly, there’s the third floor. Aka, photo heaven. Many a celebrity has been photographed in this stunner of a space, among vintage furniture and immaculately decorated rooms-within-rooms. Overall, it’s a super memorable place – a personal favorite of mine is the all-blue getting ready room.
Material Culture (East Falls/Germantown, Philadelphia) – link
A magical emporium of international antiques and decorative wares, and a super unique setting for a wedding. You can hang out amongst imported rugs and styled rooms of beautiful, ornate things. Get married underneath the watchful eyes of multi-cultural statues and deities, and have a wedding that’s so quirky, Zooey Deschanel might show up (okay, probably not, but this place just screams “I’m quirky!” in the best way).
Physick House & Powel House (Old City, Philadelphia) – link & link
Nestled in one of the city’s prettiest neighborhoods, Old City, is the Physick House. It’s great for small, mellow weddings – it fits up to 100 people, and there’s a strict noise ordinance after 9pm. Perfect for a laid back couple having a low key dinner reception, or a cocktail party type celebration. The inside is elaborate and regal, but the private outdoor garden is what makes this venue so great. For a similar setting that’s equally beautiful, check out the Powel House, only a block away.
Down Town Club (Washington Square West, Philadelphia) – link
One of the only stunningly beautiful ballrooms I can think of. No carpet, no weird lighting or awkward paintings staring down at you. Just dark wood floors, white walls, and simple but classic touches. The Cescaphe Event Group is known for their impressive food displays – if you can think it, they can make it. I particularly loved seeing a build your own taco bar, and waiters walking around with mini milkshakes and cups of fries. Genius. They also have killer service and an eye for detail, and it’s located right next to Washington Square Park, so you can utilize it for outdoor portraits.
Brooklyn Botanic Gardens (Prospect Park, Brooklyn) – link
If you’re looking for a NYC wedding location that’s nearby, but doesn’t feel like you’re in the city, Brooklyn Botanic Gardens is the place for you. You can imagine that like most botanic gardens, it’s a lush setting rich with all kinds of plants and flowers, and several themed conservatories – check out the Desert Pavilion for an array of cacti and succulents. You can host your reception in The Palm House, a glass-walled conservatory that’s modern but still so timeless.
Camp Dark Waters (Medford, NJ) – link
Maybe a Quaker summer camp doesn’t immediately scream “wedding venue,” but it should! With so many couples shying away from tradition and doing their own thing for their nuptials, a camp can be a fun and fresh place for a wedding. With all kinds of activities, and a remote setting, Camp Dark Waters is a great place to set up a white tent and tie the knot. It’s especially gorgeous in the fall, when the trees along the river change colors and show you the very best of the northeast’s seasons.
The Inn at Barley Sheaf (Holicong, PA) – link
Barley Sheaf has everything. A huge manor house with elegant getting ready rooms. An actually nice-looking reception tent. Vast grounds with gardens, fields, and a picturesque, long tree-lined driveway. Oh, and ponies. The whole place screams “countryside,” but in the absolute best way.
Bahdeebahdu (Kensington, Philadelphia) – link
A gallery and workshop, bahdeebahdu is a unique industrial space that can host small weddings for cool people. Featuring the works of R.J. Thornburg and Warren Mulller, this artsy spot is a jaw-dropper in the Kensington/Fishtown area of Philadelphia.
Awbury Arboretum (Germantown, Philadelphia) – link
This Victorian-style home and surrounding garden wonderland are perfect for smaller weddings. The tent is the usual spot for receptions, but for more intimate gatherings, the wide wrap-around porch is perfect for long tables. The grounds feature fields, trees galore, and a literal “secret garden.” I’ve heard that Awbury is exceptionally beautiful in the fall!
Barbuzzo (Center City, Philadelphia) – link
The private upstairs dining room at this Philly staple has a cozy-meets-industrial vibe, perfect for up to 65 guests. Enjoy a gourmet Mediterranean menu (and that damn. salted caramel. budino. SO GOOD!) from some of the city’s favorite restauranteurs, right in the heart of the Gayborhood. Barbuzzo is the perfect venue for the non-traditional couple who loves food and wants to eat it with only their closest pals. Plus, after the wedding, you can visit the main restaurant downstairs and re-live the day through the food. It’s also great for rehearsal dinners – check out this feature on Philly in Love.
Bok (South Philadelphia) – link
By far, Bok is one of the more unique venues that Philly has to offer. It’s an old vocation school that takes up an entire block. It’s been revived into offices, workspaces, a thriving rooftop bar, and a space for events small and large. The auditorium, featured in these photos, is great for ceremonies or for intimate dinner receptions. There’s a gymnasium that can be transformed into a quirky couple’s dream setting, and a workshop that’s straight out of your Anthropologie dreams. They also do ceremonies up on the roof during select hours, so you can make the most of the absolute stunner of a view.
The Asbury Hotel (Asbury Park, NJ) – link
Brooklyn meets LA, but at the shore. So thoughtfully designed that you forget you’re at a hotel, and you forget you’re in New Jersey (I know!). The Asbury has some of the best hotel rooms for getting ready that I’ve ever seen – modern, monochromatic rooms with lots of light. The common lounge area has a huge velvet couch area with games and books, an air hockey table, an insane record collection, and a bleacher-style sitting area for hanging out. It’s basically straight out of your vintage teenage dreams, but with better style. The event space has garage-style doors that lift to join the indoor room with the paved outdoor patio. It’s a new venue, but this place is already a hit.
City Hall (Center City, Philadelphia) – link
Weddings aren’t for everyone. That’s where elopements come into play. Elopements are weddings’ more laid back, low key sister. You can bring up to 8 guests, or you can keep it simple with just the two of you, and meet everyone for dinner afterwards. Elopements are one of my favorite things to photograph, since there’s such an emphasis on the couple, and not on a bunch of traditions that can seem forced. Photos afterwards can take place anywhere, since the world is your oyster on a weekday, but City Hall itself is gorgeous, with marble walls, dramatic stairwells, and seasonal activities outside – like the playful fountain in summer. It’s also important to note that you can elope anywhere – the sky’s the limit (literally). If you’re planning on eloping, contact me!
Stone Rows Farm (Stockton, NJ) – link
You guys know me. I don’t really do “rustic.” But Stone Rows Farm is so, so cool. It’s Southern in the best way. I love the red barn – it has an all-wood interior and several huge doors that open for a modern, bright look. The grounds are a little more down-to-earth, with fenced-in fields and tree-lined paths perfect for walking with your loved one.
Strawberry Mansion (Strawberry Mansion, Philadelphia) – link
I was so pleasantly surprised when I discovered that Strawberry Mansion is an actual mansion, and they host weddings! The grounds are very English, with roses and peonies galore, and woods surrounding. A gorgeous sitting room upstairs with painted walls is a perfect bridal suite or intimate dinner setting. In the back of the house, a large yard is a private setting for outdoor ceremonies and cocktail hours.
Here are some more awesomely notable wedding venues:
Maas Building (Olde Kensington, Philadelphia)
Rodale Institute (Kutztown, PA)
Front & Palmer (Kensington, Philadelphia)
Jardin de Buis (Pottersville, NJ)
Reading Art Works (Reading, PA)
The Inn at Fernbrook Farms (Chesterfield, NJ)
Woolverton Inn (Stockton, NJ)
Foxfire Mountain House (Catskills area – Mt. Tremper, NY)
Brooklyn Winery (Williamsburg, Brooklyn)
Basilica Hudson (Hudson, NY)
Pioneer Works (Red Hook, Brooklyn)
Meadowburn Farm (Vernon, NJ)
Maken Studios (Kensington, Philadelphia)
More: The Venue Report