There’s more than a little magic in the salt air that wafts through South County, Rhode Island. This coastal cluster of 11 towns – Charlestown, Coventry, Exeter, Hopkinton, Narragansett, North Kingstown, Richmond, South Kingstown, West Greenwich and Westerly – lays claim to enough natural beauty, historical gems and pristine beaches to stir the heart of the least romantic among us. Whether you envision exchanging vows on the beach, in a historic home or under a tent on the grounds of a stately hotel, South County can fulfill your wedding dreams.
“What makes this region special is the unspoiled beauty of the rolling countryside that spills down to more than 100 miles of coastline with over 20 public beaches,” says Myrna George, president of the South County Tourism Council. “The community is ecologically sensitive, retaining the history of its indigenous people and earliest settlers.
“You can get married overlooking Wickford Harbor or at Watch Hill. Smith’s Castle, one of the oldest homes in the state, the Gilbert Stuart Birthplace and Museum in Saunderstown, and the 18th-century Babcock-Smith House are all popular venues,” she continues. “We also have extraordinary beaches. Because of the Gulf Stream, the water gets warm earlier in the season and stays warm longer than most Cape beaches. I’ve seen people swimming in mid-October. We have some of the best-kept secrets on the East Coast.”
Brandi Lacoste, owner of Blissful Events Wedding and Event Planning in Wakefield, is well-versed in the draw South County has for wedding couples, many of which hail from out of state. “Brides and grooms come from all over to get married in South County; some are college alumni, some are from New York City looking to find a more budget-friendly locale,” says Brandi. “Many of my clients pick this area because of its beauty and welcoming community.
“It’s a great place to get married because it offers so much variety,” she adds. “The coastline is home to a wide range of different venues, from historic locations, such as the ruins at South County Museum, to garden settings at Farmer’s Daughter.”
The abundant and accessible options of recreational activities, restaurants, shopping and cultural offerings, like music on the beach or Shakespeare under the stars, yield a perfect destination wedding choice.
“I think South County is popular because it offers so much to wedding guests,” says Brandi. “A lot of people end up coming early or staying afterwards to make a vacation out of it. The beaches are clean and safe, there are a ton of cute boutique stores to shop in throughout the area and everyone is only a ferry ride away from a day on Block Island.”
Restaurants like the venerable Aunt Carrie’s (serving fresh seafood since 1920), Matunuck Oyster Bar (featured in National Geographic for its aquaculture), Two Ten Oyster Bar & Grill and the recently reopened Coast Guard House restaurant with 180-degree views of Narragansett Bay offer delicious local menus and spectacular settings for rehearsal dinners, post-wedding brunches or welcome parties.
South County’s community spirit and congenial tone make it more than just a pretty place. “Its vendors have been in the business for years and are so great to work with,” contends Brandi. “The planning process of a wedding should be fun, stress-free and affordable. We are all one big family and we all just want the very best for our clients.”
VENUES & ACCOMMODATIONS
Watch Hill Inn | 38-44 Bay St., Watch Hill; 401-584-7400
Ocean House | 1 Bluff Ave., Watch Hill; 401-584-7000
General Stanton Inn | 4115 Old Post Rd., Charlestown; 401-364-1818
The Break | 1208 Ocean Rd., Narragansett; 401-363-9800
Story by Lenore Cullen Barnes
Photo Captions & Credits (top to bottom): Susan Sancomb Photography; Smith’s Castle, courtesy of South County Tourism Council; Gilbert Stuart Birthplace and Museum, courtesy of South County Tourism Council; Joseph Laurin Photography; Two Ten Oyster Bar and Grill, courtesy of South County Tourism Council; Coast Guard House restaurant, courtesy of South County Tourism Council
Note: This article originally appeared in the 2014/2015 Southern New England Weddings: Destination Edition