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Weddings

Boston wedding venue guide

Reception sites to suit every style.

KENDALL PAVAN FOR ZENOBIA STUDIOS

HOTEL BALLROOM

Hotels offer soup-to-nuts service, with in-house planning help, a staff that really knows the drill, and affiliated vendors at the ready to take care of every detail. Jessica and Dwayne Barnes of Sturbridge (pictured at far left) married at the Fairmont Copley Plaza in 2008. “They made it very easy,” she says of the planning staff and the hotel’s reliable, knowledgeable vendors. Lauren and Vaios Theodorakos, who live in Weston, celebrated their wedding in the hotel’s Grand Ballroom in 2007. Her only regret is that she didn’t take better stock of the size of the room. “We only had a four- or five-piece band,” Theodorakos says, “and we needed like a 12-piece band.” Her simple cake, too, got a little lost. “You really have to understand the scale of the room,” she says.

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> Fairmont Copley Plaza, Back Bay, 617-867-8562, fairmont.com/copleyplaza

Cost to rent $150 per person and up

When to book 12 months in advance

Maximum guest list 450

Also consider Lenox Hotel, Boston; Liberty Hotel, Boston; Seaport Boston Hotel; W Hotel, Boston

HIDDEN GEM

Many out-of-the-way venues, like the Multicultural Arts Center in Cambridge, offer the most freedom for plan-it-yourself-minded couples. “It’s not a wedding package,” says Aimee Kerr, who married Patrick Kerr there last fall (pictured above). “It’s not for a couple who just wants to write one check.” Kerr, an artist and art teacher who lives with her husband in Brookline, designed and printed her own invitations. She and the groom also found the caterer and DJ, had simple flower arrangements done by Whole Foods Market, brewed beer for the ceremony, and had each of seven friends who love to bake bring a cake. The result? Exactly what they wanted – including the cost. “I wouldn’t do it any other way,” Kerr says.

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> The Multicultural Arts Center, Cambridge, 617-577-1400, cmacusa.org

Cost to rent $3,800 until July 1 (the cost generally increases annually)

When to book 18 months in advance

Maximum guest list 200

Also consider Museum of African American History, Boston; Artists for Humanity EpiCenter, Boston; Harvard Faculty Club, Cambridge (open to everyone, but many universities have venues only for alumni and others who are affiliated)

STATELY HOME

Kimberly and Chris McLaughlin of Reading wanted their 90-guest wedding last September to feel “like something we’d do in our home,” she says. To offer that sense on a grand (but not enormous) scale, they chose Hampshire House, the 1910 Beacon Hill mansion famous for Cheers Boston, formerly the Bull & Finch Pub. “It’s a very comfortable space and not overwhelming,” McLaughlin says. She and her husband, both sports lovers, increased the personal touch by playing up the Boston theme. They had the skyline on their invites, cupcake favors with sports-related toppers, a Bruins-themed signature board instead of a guest book, and tables named after local sports legends like Bobby Orr and Larry Bird. Whatever theme you choose, McLaughlin says, for a reception like hers, “it’s the little things that really help you take advantage of the space and make it feel homey for people.”

> Hampshire House, Beacon Hill, 617-227-9600, hampshirehouse.com

Cost to rent starting at $175 per person

When to book 9 to 12 months in advance

Maximum guest list 200

Also consider Hammond Castle Museum, Gloucester; Bradley Estate, Canton; Crane Estate, Ipswich

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SMALL TOWN

Having her winter wedding at Cohasset’s Red Lion Inn, says Lea Fortkamp, a Duxbury native now living in Illinois with her husband, Mark, was nice because the inn took care of everything. And the Fortkamps found the coziness they were seeking. “We had the feeling that we were populating a small New England town with all of our best friends and loved ones,” she says. Fortkamp says the couple’s first inclination was to do something glamorous and spectacular in the city, but they soon realized they wanted to make their event more personal. “In picking the venue and what kind of day you want to have,” Fortkamp says, “make it true to you. Make it genuine. Ours really felt that way.”

> Red Lion Inn, Cohasset, 781-383-1704, redlioninn1704.com

Cost to rent $70 to $100 per person

When to book 12 months in advance

Maximum guest list 320

Also consider Thornewood Inn, Great Barrington; Hartman’s Herb Farm, Barre

BOSTON LANDMARK

Having her wedding at the main Boston Public Library, says Lucy Fitzpatrick – she and Logan Ramseyer, who live in the Back Bay, married there last summer (pictured above and at left)– was lovely, like “being in Europe in the middle of Boston.” Like hotel weddings, landmark venues generally have established relationships with vendors who guide the bride and groom through the process. One of the challenges with Boston landmarks, though, is transportation. “Boston’s hard to navigate,” Fitzpatrick says, “especially driving. The last thing you need is your great-aunt getting lost in the shuffle.” The library’s solution: Guests received vouchers that allowed them to pay $7 for 24 hours of parking at a nearby garage. They left their cars, took cabs or the MBTA to the church, and a shuttle bus returned everyone to the reception, stress-free.

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> Boston Public Library, Back Bay, 617-859-2212, bpl.org/central/eventspaces.htm

Cost to rent $7,000 and up for 6 hours

When to book 12 to 15 months in advance

Maximum guest list 350

Also consider Fenway Park; Old State House; USS Constitution Museum; New England Aquarium

NATURAL SETTING

Sara Lasser Yau now lives with her husband, Cyrus Yau, in Pittsburgh, but growing up in Needham, she knew of the Tower Hill Botanic Garden. When she and Cyrus got married at the Boylston locale in June 2009 – the ceremony was in the Secret Garden and the reception (pictured above) in the Orangerie greenhouse – they chose it for its natural beauty. But with that comes a few inconveniences. There’s no air conditioning in the Orangerie, but there is a nice breeze, and unobtrusive fans are set up all around. And though the weather turned fine for this wedding, there are no guarantees outdoors. “The biggest tip I have is make sure there’s a backup plan,” just for peace of mind, says Lasser Yau. “We were lucky that the skies calmed down for us.”

> Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Boylston, 508-869-6111, towerhillbg.org

Cost to rent $5,000 for 5½ hours

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When to book 12

months in advance for Saturdays, 8 months for other days

Maximum guest list 152

Also consider Habitat Education Center and Wildlife Sanctuary, Belmont; Arnold Arboretum, Boston; Massachusetts Horticultural Society, Wellesley; Boston Nature Center and Wildlife Sanctuary, Mattapan

INTIMATE OCEANFRONT

Choosing a small inn by the sea can make even a larger wedding feel intimate, with perhaps a clambake rehearsal dinner, a shoes-optional ceremony on the beach, and a catered reception indoors or in a tent. Bob Ostrander and Laura MacSwan Ostrander (pictured above), who wed at the Chatham Bars Inn in September 2010, liked knowing that their guests were comfortable, says Ostrander, who lives with her husband in Darien, Connecticut. “I suggested they bring something to keep them warm.” As for her own sartorial choices, she saved her heels for the reception.

> Chatham Bars Inn, 508-945-0096, chathambarsinn.com

Cost to rent $100 per person and up

When to book 14 months in advance

Maximum guest list 400

Also consider Atlantic Beach Club, Middletown, Rhode Island; Emerson Inn by the Sea, Rockport; Harbor View Hotel & Resort, Edgartown; Popponesset Inn at New Seabury, Mashpee; Nantasket Beach Resort, Hull