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GLOBE MAGAZINE

Eight historic Massachusetts wedding venues for your big day

From a country estate with literary pedigree to a grand museum, here are majestic local spots steeped in both history and romance.

The Worcester Art Museum.
The Worcester Art Museum.Erica Ferrone

Your wedding will be a historic moment in your life, so why not infuse the big day with vintage charm by way of your venue? Whether your vision for saying “I do” involves a country estate with literary pedigree, a grand museum, or a picturesque farm in the same family since the 1800s, Massachusetts is home to ideal wedding spots steeped in both history and romance. Here are eight locations rooted in the past that make for magical matrimonial backdrops.

Worcester Art Museum, Worcester

You can exchange vows in front of 70 guests in the 12th-century French chapter house of the Benedictine Priory of Saint John at Le Bas-Nueil — not in Europe, but in Massachusetts. The Worcester Art Museum acquired the stone-vaulted space from its original home in France in 1927. Or you can host your celebration of 120 in the adjacent Italianate piazza-style Renaissance Court, which opened in 1933 and houses the famed Worcester Hunt mosaic from the ancient Roman city of Antioch. Weddings in those areas of the museum start around $2,900, plus $500 for the ceremony (with a 10 percent discount for Fridays and Saturdays that don’t fall on holiday weekends), and include museum security, furniture setup, and a museum event facilitator.

55 Salisbury Street, Worcester, 508-793-4327, worcesterart.org

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1620 Winery, Plymouth

Industrial chic is a wedding trend, and this coastal winery is packed with it. The venue was originally the home of the Plymouth Cordage Company, a 19th-century rope maker that produced rigging used on the USS Constitution and operated through the mid-20th century. Now the brick walls, rustic wood floors, and beamed ceiling provide a stunning backdrop for weddings of up to 200 guests, with an average cost of the venue, food, and alcohol coming in at $25,000.

55 Cordage Park Circle, Plymouth, 508-746-3532, 1620winery.com

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The Herb Lyceum at Gilson’s, Groton

You may have heard of James Beard Award semifinalist Will Gilson, the chef-owner of Puritan & Company in Cambridge. But you may not know that he grew up on a 4-acre farm in Groton that’s been in the family since the 19th century, one that grows “pretty much everything that you can cook with or smells nice,” he says. Gilson’s relatives built the farm’s house and carriage house in the late 1800s, and the team behind his restaurant runs all weddings at the farm. Host an intimate, 30-person wedding in the carriage house or a 150-person party in the greenhouse. “There really is no place else that I can think of in the region where you’d be able to go and see such well manicured and storied gardens that somebody driving by wouldn’t even be able to tell [are] there,” Gilson says. “I think it’s a fun thing to be able to have a wedding in a place where your special day is kind of a secret.” Rental fees range from $3,500 to $10,000.

368 Main Street, Groton, 617-615-6195, herblyceum.com

Lyman Estate, Waltham

In Great Gerwig’s 2019 film version of Little Women, Jo March and Laurie have a frenetic dance party for two on a veranda while the rest of the guests politely dance in the mansion’s ballroom. The scenes were shot on the Lyman Estate, where the waltz was introduced to Boston society in the same ballroom, according to Historic New England, which owns the 1793 property originally constructed for shipping merchant Theodore Lyman. “The house was built for entertaining,” says Patrick McNamara, functions manager for the heritage organization. It has room for up to 150 guests for dinner and dancing. A tent on the property can hold 225. And the rental fee goes toward preservation efforts. The price ranges from $1,200 to $5,800, depending on the day of the week and time of year.

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185 Lyman Street, Waltham, 617-994-6672, historicnewengland.org

Clockwise from top left: The 1620 Winery in Plymouth; the Herb Lyceum at Gilson's; the African Meeting House / Museum of African American History; and the Lyman Estate in Waltham.
Clockwise from top left: The 1620 Winery in Plymouth; the Herb Lyceum at Gilson's; the African Meeting House / Museum of African American History; and the Lyman Estate in Waltham. Winery by Lena Mirisola Photography; Lyceum by Elizabeth Willis Photography; Meeting House by Steph Stevens; Lyman by Molly Quill Photography

African Meeting House / Museum of African American History, Beacon Hill

Built in 1806 primarily by free African-American artisans, this National Historic Landmark is the oldest black church building that’s still in existence in the United States. The space, which was Boston’s heart of African-American life and culture in the 19th century, is awash in history: The New England Anti-Slavery Society was founded inside it by William Lloyd Garrison; Frederick Douglass spoke out against slavery there. In 2011, the African Meeting House reopened after an estimated $9.5 million restoration that returned it to its 1855 appearance. You can rent out the space, with its rounded pews, for your own wedding ceremonies of up to 200 guests for $3,500. (The venue does not host large receptions.)

8 Smith Court, Boston, 617-725-0022 ext. 216, maah.org

Fairmont Copley Plaza, Back Bay

When the sister hotel of New York City’s The Plaza debuted in Boston in 1912, Mayor John F. “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald helmed a reception for more than 1,000 guests in the Grand Ballroom, a palatial space with a 30-foot ceiling, gilded arches, and mirror-covered walls. Over the past century, the ballroom, which can accommodate up to 500 guests for dinner and dancing and is one of multiple reception rooms in the hotel, has hosted ritzy parties both real and fictional, including the “Parisian” affair attended by Amy and Laurie in 2019’s Little Women. “As soon as we open the big mirror doors from the cocktail hour into the ballroom, people always gasp,” says senior catering manager Alice Fay. Weddings generally cost from $180 to $400 per person before fees and taxes, plus $3,000 for the ceremony.

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138 St. James Avenue, Boston, 617-867-8562, fairmontcopleyplazaweddings.com

Boston Harbor Distillery, Dorchester

Lots of weddings feature signature cocktails, but when Boston Harbor Distillery makes them for guests, they incorporate their own craft spirits. Rhonda Kallman, who cofounded The Boston Beer Company, opened the distillery in 2015, inside a former mill building constructed in 1859 that has produced everything from horseshoe nails to yachts to ice cream. Now charmingly rustic weddings for as many as 140 people can incorporate the distillery’s whiskey barrels into the decor. The price is $6,050 for just the venue.

12R Ericsson Street, Boston, 617-533-7492, bostonharbordistillery.com

Top, from left: Boston Harbor Distillery in Dorchester and The Mount in Lexox. Bottom: The Fairmont Copley Plaza.
Top, from left: Boston Harbor Distillery in Dorchester and The Mount in Lexox. Bottom: The Fairmont Copley Plaza. Distillery by Karen Sparacio; The Mount by Tricia McCormack; Fairmont by Christian Oth Studio;

The Mount, Lenox

Book lovers might consider throwing a wedding at Edith Wharton’s Berkshires home, which the first female winner of the Pulitzer Prize designed and built as a summer writing retreat in 1902. Couples can host the ceremony in either the Italian Garden or the French Flower Garden. Wharton herself took a great deal of pride in the grounds. (“Decidedly, I’m a better landscape gardener than novelist, and this place, every line of which is my own work, far surpasses The House of Mirth,” she wrote in a letter.) Then guests can mingle in the mansion during cocktail hour prior to dinner and dancing for up to 250 in a tent. The venue has small rental windows — from Memorial Day through the end of June, and then from September through the second week of October — and the fee for the site starts at $10,000.

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2 Plunkett Street, Lenox, 413-551-5116, edithwharton.org

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This story has been updated to correct the identification of a photographer. Elizabeth Willis Photography took the picture of the Herb Lyceum at Gilson’s.

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Alison Goldman is a writer and editor based in Chicago. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.