June 2006 Issue
Getting Hitched in Hocking Hills
A growing number of couples are heading to this scenic region that specializes in...
Lori B. Murray
Mary Boksan of Hilliard, Ohio, knew where she would get married almost an entire year before she knew whom she would marry. While surfing the Internet, she came across A Georgian Manner, a romantic southern-style mansion located on the shores of Lake Logan in the Hocking Hills.
Later, when Boksan became engaged to Benjamin Cooley, the couple traveled to the Hocking Hills to see the mansion firsthand. "We went down in the fall when the leaves were turning," she says. "It was so beautiful, and we both knew that no other place could be more perfect for our wedding."
On May 28, 2005, Mary and Benjamin exchanged vows beneath the pergola by the water. The wedding was memorable not only for the newlyweds, but also for their guests. "When people arrived, they had no idea what they were driving up to," Mary says. "When they saw this beautiful mansion behind the lake, they were so surprised." With the sun setting in the background, the lakeside pavilion was transformed into a dance floor, and 95 guests were on hand to celebrate the marriage. Mary and Benjamin spent the night in the Honeymoon Suite of the elegant, five-bedroom, bed-and-breakfast retreat.
Mary and Benjamin Cooley and their guests are not alone. Captivated by the area's natural beauty and presented with a growing number of wedding venues, more and more couples are getting married in the Hocking Hills. Luxurious cabins, romantic wedding chapels, breathtaking outdoor settings - all provide a romantic backdrop that is unequaled in the state.
"It's getting to be like the Smokies," says Lisa Eifelstein, manager at A Georgian Manner. "It's just so beautiful that the brides started asking if they could get married here." Over the past few years, the idea of getting married in the Hocking Hills has become so popular that the area is now commonly referred to as Ohio's wedding capital. And inns and service providers are happy to accommodate - and encourage - the trend.
Couples dreaming of a wedding in an elegant manor patterned after the stately Southern plantations of Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi need look no further than A Georgian Manner. Originally built in 1840, this out-of-the-way mansion was purchased by current owner B. J. King in 1995 and refurbished. The seven-year project yielded a charming yet sophisticated bed-and-breakfast furnished in antiques and adorned with Civil War-era memorabilia. For King, the house is a labor of love, but for his guests, it's an escape to another place and time.
Wedding packages are available to accommodate anywhere from two to 125 people, and outdoor weddings are the specialty.
Nevertheless, many of the smaller weddings are held indoors. Denny and Katherine Klesch were married in the French music parlor. "We are both in our 50s and we each have two children that are about the same age," says Katherine. "We decided we just wanted our children there with us." The small number of guests made the parlor the perfect, intimate setting for the nuptials. Denny and Katherine chose King to officiate. (A Georgian Manner's owner, like many other innkeepers in the area, is licensed to perform weddings.) "The whole place is appointed so nicely," says Katherine. "Right down to the swans swimming in the lake, everything is so romantic."
Best of all, A Georgian Manner's wedding coordinator takes care of the details, including flowers, photography, decorations and accommodations. Or, the B&B can provide contacts for additional wedding services in the area, including catering.
A Georgian Manner, 29055 Evans Rd., Logan, 800/606-1840. www.georgianmanner.com
Lorene Kerans and Richard Bailey of Parkersburg, West Virginia, were looking for a place to get married when Richard's daughter suggested the Glenlaurel Inn. After a visit to the inn, the couple agreed that it would be perfect. Richard and Lorene exchanged vows in the Wedding Circle, a grass and stone area located behind the inn, complete with decorations and a bright yellow-and-white canopy. A Columbus priest performed the ceremony, and a harpist played during the wedding and afterward while the 25 guests enjoyed dinner in the inn's dining room. "We just had an excellent time," says Richard.
Glenlaurel features a Scottish-themed country inn and cottages, an escape for romantics. The 140-acre estate has built its reputation as a place for couples, boasting elegant lodging and fine dining in an off-the-beaten-path setting - the ideal backdrop for a wedding.
Events coordinator Connie Crist helps to plan weddings that accommodate between two and 65 guests. "I would say the majority of weddings we do are elopements," she says. "A lot [of people] don't want to mess with the hubbub and want an elegant, simple ceremony."
Glenlaurel hosts about 75 weddings a year. "The key is actually our staff," says Crist. "We make everyone feel as if they were the king and queen when they are here."
Glenlaurel's Anniversary Club attempts to keep the romantic tradition alive by offering a 10 percent discount on a couple's wedding night accommodations, as well as 20 percent off on their one-year anniversary. The percentages increase by 10 percent each year up to 50 percent on the couple's fifth anniversary. "They get a honeymoon plate when they get married and an anniversary plate on their anniversary years," says Crist. "Our estate is geared toward the romantic couple, and we want to keep that love alive as long as possible."
Glenlaurel Inn, 14940 Mt. Olive Rd., Rockbridge, 800/809-7378. www.glenlaurelinn.com
Going to the chapel
Kallista Chapman knows why couples choose the Hocking Hills for their weddings. "People want to get out of the city. It's quiet and secluded and far enough from town for peacefulness," says the wedding coordinator of Hocking Hills Wedding Chapel. "They don't have to do a lot; we can do everything for them." The Chapel, an offshoot of the popular Valley View Cabins, hosts about 100 weddings a year.
The log chapel sits within 40 wooded acres and is connected to a gazebo by a walkway. "We do smaller weddings year-round," says Chapman. "We get a good amount of second marriages that are more intimate and private with closer friends and family." The chapel accommodates up to 75 people, and planning includes catering, photography, flowers and music. Most of the packages include a stay in the Honeymoon Cabin.
Hocking Hills Wedding Chapel, 29301 Klump Rd., Sugar Grove, 888/222-4691. www.valleyviewcabins.com/chapel
Fit for royalty
Weddings are nothing new at Ravenwood Castle: owners Sue and Jim Maxwell have been hosting them since they opened their inn 11 years ago. This medieval-style castle and accompanying village of Old English cottages is located near Ash Cave, one of the area's most popular natural sites. Close to all the parks in the area, Ravenwood boasts 115 acres of heavily wooded land with no cell phone or TV reception.
"We have always enjoyed English history and British travel," says Sue Maxwell. "This is our fifth bed and breakfast, and the only one we built from scratch." It's the ultimate setting for a royal wedding.
Various packages are available year-round, including the King and Queen Package, which accommodates 40 to 50 relatives and friends. Dinner is available every night by reservation, and wedding cake can substitute as the dessert. "The Friday night buffet is popular because many of our guests arrive a little later, and we can serve it over a period of time," she says. From May through October, the English-Welsh Tea Room is open with a menu that includes such specialties as Coronation Chicken.
Ravenwood Castle, 65666 Bethel Rd., New Plymouth, 740/596-1541. www.ravenwoodcastle.com
By the falls
The folks at the Inn at Cedar Falls take a more customized approach when helping to plan the big day. Owner Ellen Grinsfelder has opened her inn, cabins and cottages to weddings, but she is hesitant to offer any specific packages. "We haven't put anything on the web site that says this is the package, because weddings are an intimate and important time, and we want to create what [couples] want," she says. Some people opt to get married on the porch, while others take advantage of the walkway leading to the garden. Some couples exchange vows underneath the apple trees, while others venture out into the surrounding state parks. "Maybe when the guests arrive on Friday evening, we can do a cookout on the patio," she adds. "On Saturday they can plan anything from simple to elegant for the wedding."
The Inn at Cedar Falls is geared toward small weddings (20 or fewer people), but can accommodate a maximum of 50. There are six 1840s log cabins in addition to the inn, and four years ago, 12 more cottages were added. The complex is conveniently located between Old Man's Cave and Cedar Falls, two of the area's most sought-out attractions. Normal fare in the restaurant is fine dining in a laid-back atmosphere, meaning an elegant, five-course meal in tennis shoes and jeans is often the norm.
Inn at Cedar Falls, 21190 St. Rte. 374, Logan, 800/65-FALLS. www.innatcedar falls.com
From flowers to music, couples can find the resources they need to plan a memorable wedding in the Hocking Hills.
The Place: Hocking Hills State Park
Although Ash Cave is the area's most popular site for outdoor weddings, there are many others, including Old Man's Cave, where smaller gatherings take place. Couples should obtain a permit from the park manager as far in advance as possible, due to the increasing popularity of the area for nuptials. The park allows one hour for the ceremony. Call 800/222-4655.
The Posies: Flowers by Darlene
Nearly every weekend, Darlene Savely arranges flowers for a wedding, some as large as 300 or 400 guests. 98 W. Main St., Logan, 740/385-6311.
The Photos: The Old Bear's Den
Eric Hoffman photographed 53 weddings last year, the majority of them in the Hocking Hills. He's not shy about touting his favorite setting. "There is nothing neater than being married near the waterfall near Ash Cave," he says. "The setting is absolutely amazing; it's like a giant cathedral." 740/380-2039, www.theoldbear.com
The Tunes: Appalachian String
Musician Mike Ingalls plays his cello at about 30 weddings in the Hocking Hills each year. He performs both solo and as part of a trio or quartet. 740/385-2357, firstname.lastname@example.org
For additional information and ideas, visit www.1800hocking.com or call 800/HOCKING.