Love Boats, Enchanted Forests and More

Alternative venues contribute to unique weddings and receptions

Jan 25, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Weddings and receptions can occur anywhere. They don’t have to be in a church or a rented hall. They could be outdoors or at your favorite bar or an art museum. They could even be on a boat.

“There are a couple of things I would change about my wedding, but the reception would not be one of them,” says Teri Spindler, who married her husband Tom at a church in 2005 but opted to rent a riverboat for the reception. She says she got the idea from friends who were married six months before she and Tom were hitched.

Tom and Teri read through their friends’ old wedding magazines and found out about Celebrations Riverboats in Northern Kentucky. She says they were surprised to learn that a lunch reception on a riverboat was about the same price as an evening reception at a standard venue.

“I know that everyone thinks their wedding was the best, but I have not been to a more fun reception than my own,” Teri says.

The Spindlers arranged a four-hour cruise along the Ohio River for 200 guests, complete with dinner, dancing, entertainment and drinks. She says it was just like any other reception they might have had except the view was stunning and always changing.

A different sort of venue also meant a number of special concerns had to be addressed — once they left shore, no one else could get on board, so they arranged for a checklist at the gangplank to make sure no one who was invited missed the boat. And the pastor could only stay for part of the reception because he was scheduled to officiate another union on the same day, so they arranged with the captain to have him dropped off midway through the cruise.

“There was a Reds game that day, so that added to the ambiance,” Teri says. “To be on the boat was just amazing. We were the last ones off.”

Get Creative

Where your nuptials can take place is limited only by your creativity. The following is a handful of ideas to spark your creative juices:

If you call the Hamilton County Park District and ask where you can hold your wedding outdoors, their first answer is usually the Withrow Nature Preserve. It’s a terrifically scenic 270-acre park with outdoor landscaping and indoor shelters designed for weddings. But that’s just the start — there are also lodges and rental areas in several different parks around town that can accommodate large parties very inexpensively and beneath the cathedral of the sky. 513-521-PARK or

Your wedding could also take a cue from the Little Mermaid and go underwater. The Newport Aquarium has its own ballroom that offers a picturesque vista of the Cincinnati Riverfront and all the treasures of the ocean for viewing during the reception. Spokesman Roger Pille says one couple, who were trained scuba divers, actually made their reception appearance in the tank with the sharks. He says they wanted to exchange vows there, too, but the mother of the bride put her foot down.

“With weddings in the ballroom you could add on an animal to visit the room you booked,” he says. “We’ve actually had penguins visit and walk down the aisle.” 859-261-7444 or

A wedding site can be a reflection of your values and commitment to liberty. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center makes a grand personal statement as an event venue. 513-333-7584 or

If Indian Hill’s Little Red Schoolhouse makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time, it’s only natural. The village historical society operates the authentic 19th Century one-room schoolhouse and rents it out for weddings. There’s a timeless romanticism about the spot that makes it memorable and sweet in the way traditional weddings are supposed to be. 513-891-1873 or

If you’re romance is a storybook one, the historic Loveland Castle Chateau LaRoche might be the perfect place. The castle is a hand-built tribute to the castles of Europe and is available April-September. 513-683-4686 or

Your choice of where to hold your wedding and reception is one of the most important factors shaping a day you’ll remember forever. If the traditional church wedding isn’t necessarily for you, be sure to consider the many other options for a similarly spectacular indoor or outdoor celebration.