Venues for Perfect Vows

Celebrated Rhode Island reception sites.

By Janice Randall Rohlf

According to The Wedding Report’s most recent statistics, nearly 7,000 weddings took place in Rhode Island in 2014. That’s not bad for the smallest state in the union! And despite being nicknamed “The Ocean State,” Rhody offers a bounty of beautiful wedding reception sites of all sorts — some are on a river or a lake; others glory in the unmatched beauty of nature, in farm or woodland settings.

The Preserve at Boulder Hills offers the ultimate in “rustic elegance,” says Nicole Mihailides, chief of staff at The Preserve and the very first to have her wedding at this special place (page 176), Rhode Island’s newest exclusive venue, bursting with natural beauty. The residents of this four-seasons sporting retreat relish the options for outdoor activities, which include golf and tennis, but also hiking trails, fly-fishing and snowmobile courses. Similarly, brides and grooms and their guests will appreciate the chance to have an outdoor ceremony overlooking the picturesque golf green and waterfalls, just a few of the many knockout locations for photos. Other bonuses, says Mihailides, are that The Preserve accommodates up to 350 guests as well as smaller intimate gatherings, and it is centrally located in the town of Wyoming, one mile off of I-95, with several hotel options within a 15-minute drive. In addition to Rhode Islanders, The Preserve is especially convenient for Connecticut bridal parties.

In the northeast corner of Exeter, Gerald’s Farm, a private estate and working farm that grows hay and sunflowers, offers bridal parties a charming carriage house on the 38-acre property in addition to the great outdoors—manicured fields, a split-rail fence lined with pink roses in the summer and a driveway lined with flowering crabapple trees in the spring. Fall foliage is beautiful, too. While the carriage house holds 75 people, there is unlimited capacity for a tented event. Two exclusive caterers, Pranzi and Russell Morin, offer full wedding planning services. “There is no other wedding venue in Rhode Island like this,” says owner Debbi Zarrella. “There are walking trails and a fire pit for cocktails or an after party, and plenty of room for parking so there are no car-spoiled vistas.” The photo opportunities are endless.

“If you can dream it, we can do it,” says Heather Pariseau, sales manager at Harbor Lights, where 72 acres enjoy coastal access in Warwick. “It is an unrivaled combination of natural beauty, panoramic vistas and modern facilities.” The property boasts a poolside Tiki bar as well as a three-season outdoor post-and-beam building for dining and drinking. Pariseau says they use six-seater golf carts to move people throughout the property. “We take them to the ceremony on the terrace and for pictures in the marina or on the manicured golf course. They really get a huge kick out of it and the breeze on the golf carts is very refreshing on a hot day.”

“We are considered a destination,” says Erin Guerra, special events coordinator at Whispering Pines Conference Center, situated lakeside in the woods of West Greenwich. “Guests come from all over, not just Rhode Island,” adds Guerra. To accommodate these visitors, Whispering Pines has 32 overnight rooms not open to the public that can be reserved for friends and family, who can enjoy activities such as hiking, beach volleyball and bocce on the 2,400 acres. Guests especially enjoy the nightly campfire with s’mores.

Quidnessett Country Club, located just 20 minutes from downtown Providence, in North Kingstown, is known for its unparalleled view of Narragansett Bay. At the club, there are two magnificent banquet rooms, each with large outdoor decks overlooking the water. Equally attractive, and reassuring, to couples is that they can count on the club’s more than 30 years of experience creating fabulous and flawless custom weddings.

Rhodes on the Pawtuxet is a historic Classical Revival building on the Pawtuxet River in Cranston. “It’s a unique, stunning and classy space,” says Sales and Event Coordinator Jessica Krasner, who spotlights “the gleaming, original hardwood floors, along with the tall ceilings and wraparound balconies.” This dynamic space is said to provide the largest dance floor in the Northeast, perfect for up to 350 guests. Wedding ceremonies are held both indoors and outdoors, where a garden, footbridge, gazebo and access to the riverfront provide gorgeous photo settings. “Rhodes is known for its customization, incredible food and service provided by Russell Morin,” notes Krasner, “and its exclusivity, as it opens its doors for just one event at a time.”

“We are a wedding and event venue that just happens to be a country club,” says Tiffany Marsocci, director of weddings and special events at Kirkbrae Country Club in Lincoln. “We don’t do cookie-cutter weddings,” she adds. “We bring in whatever the bride wants.” Marsocci plans and executes 85-100 weddings a year and although they all take place in the same ballroom, each one is unique. Outside, the splendor of the Blackstone Valley provides a natural backdrop so beautiful it’s hard to believe downtown Providence is just 10 minutes away. Guests mingle on spacious elevated patios, where the views are spectacular in all four seasons.

The Providence Marriott Downtown is proud to say that its key management staff—award-winning chef Franco Paterno, food and beverage director Jack Coppolino and Donna DiOrio, director of catering sales—have all been with the hotel for at least 25 years. “The food and beverage team works together flawlessly,” says DiOrio, who also claims bragging rights to the great rapport her staff has with each couple. The venue itself has many pluses: the only indoor and outdoor heated pool in the city; an outside venue, AQUA, with fire pits, cabanas, torches and an outdoor bar area; recently renovated ballroom and function space; and the G Salon Spa, for pampering both the bridal party and guests.

For weddings with an abundance of out-of-town guests flying in, the Crowne Plaza’s location near the airport is second to none. Yet it’s worlds away in ambience from a typical airport hotel. “The number of different rooms and styles that we have—from the Rotunda to the Atrium and Grand Ballroom—is a huge attraction for brides,” says Peggy Oliver, director of catering and event management at the Crowne Plaza. “You can have the rehearsal dinner in one room, the wedding in another and brunch in still another; each has a different vibe.” Particularly popular from April to October is the 10,000-square-foot Garden Pavilion, a tent that doesn’t feel like one.

At Warwick’s Valley Country Club, says Melodi Caruso, club manager/event specialist, “We’ve preserved most of the historical surroundings, while completely modernizing the cocktail and reception areas. Couples are delighted with the arches under the stone bridge circa 1860, which create the perfect fairytale setting for formal photographs, beginning with the Victorian structure that dates back to the 1800s.” Couples can have their cocktail hour outdoors on the covered upper and lower decks overlooking the golf course, and then proceed to the ballroom and its oversized dance floor.

The historic Providence Public Library boasts turn-of-the-century American architecture, tracing its pedigree to libraries in Italy and France. From classic and elegant soirees, to whimsical literary touches, the versatile event spaces allow for total customization to create a couple’s one-of-a-kind wedding day. Each wedding has the opportunity to use the Grand Hall, indoor Garden Courtyard and Ship Room, allowing for each couple to create a truly unique experience for their guests. Jackie Fitzgerald, assistant marketing and social media manager for Russell Morin Catering and Events, points out the exclusive partnership they have with the library, ensuring that each and every wedding “is met with unparalleled service and cuisine.”

Tony Maggiacomo, the staff event coordinator at Aldrich Mansion, has been at the French chateau overlooking Narragansett Bay, in Warwick, for more than 20 years. “He is great to work with and very accessible,” says John Gazerro, director of Aldrich Mansion. “We only book one event per day, which allows exclusive use of the property to dress, take photos and most of all relax and enjoy the day.” Another plus is the onsite Catholic Chapel, which can be rented for the ceremony. “It is important to point out that any religion may have their reception here, but if you are Catholic, the chapel is here to use,” adds Gazerro.

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