Not what you had in mind? Then imagine this: A simple wedding in a park or museum on the Fourth of July, followed by an "intimate" evening of fireworks and a free concert shared with a few thousand of your closest friends along a parkway.
Whatever your style, if you are considering a "destination" wedding, just remember, the Greater Philadelphia area is a "destination." Together, the city, nearby Bucks County, Lancaster County, and New Jersey Shore towns such as Cape May offer museums, landmarks, inns, mansions, wineries, farms, and anything in between.
For their wedding and reception for 180 guests on June 3, Laura Myers Puglisi, 26, an occupational therapist from Bucks County, and Brian Puglisi, 30, a pharmacist from Northeast Philadelphia, chose the Delaware River vista offered by the Pen Ryn Estate in Bensalem.
"Everybody loved it, loved, loved it," the bride said. "The view is incredible. Boats were going by. We had amazing weather. Everybody said it was so serene."
Laura Puglisi had worked at Pen Ryn several years ago and, after rejecting more-exotic venues, thought it would be "the ideal place for a wedding."
"I wanted a destination wedding, like going-to-an-island destination wedding," she said. "After we talked about who was going to be able to be there, we realized it would be too many people that we would alienate, who would not be able to take a flight somewhere."
Pen Ryn and its sister property, Belle Voir Manor, are on a 100-acre estate built in 1744 by Abraham Bickley, a wealthy merchant, and owned by a succession of Philadelphia's most prominent families, including the Whartons, the Drexels, and the Biddles. Later home of the Pen Ryn School, it was vandalized after a developer went bankrupt in the late 1980s. Private investors bought it in 1993 and restored it.
Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Pen Ryn and Belle Voir host about 200 weddings each year. Patty Bitting, a catering sales manager for the estate, said the grounds and river are the biggest draw.
"I think a lot of brides coming here want some type of waterfront," she said. "I think it's unique. It's not a country club. It's not just a hall. I think after going to so many places when you are a bride, you just keep on seeing the same things. So coming here is different."
Another Bucks County option is HollyHedge Estates in New Hope, a bed-and-breakfast with a terraced garden and a fieldstone barn for indoor weddings and receptions. For the morning after the wedding, HollyHedge also offers a breakfast.
"It's more like having a whole weekend for your wedding, even though it's only an overnight stay," said Wendy Hendricks, the event sales manager. "It kind of makes it your home for the day, and I think that's what people like. They just feel comfortable and relaxed here."
Built in 1736, the inn hosts about 100 weddings a year and has 15 guest rooms, Hendricks said. In fact, she said the wedding business was doing so well that HollyHedge purchased the 1740 House Country Inn, about four miles away, to add 24 more rooms for overnight guests.
Other Bucks County venues worthy of consideration for your special day include Fonthill Castle in Doylestown, Ash Mill Farm Bed and Breakfast in Holicong, Crossing Vineyards and Winery in Washington Crossing, Sand Castle Winery in Erwinna, and the Lake House Inn in Perkasie.
Renee Kopp, owner of Celebrations!, who has been planning weddings since 1989, said she sees an increasing number of Philadelphia couples because the area offers "quality vendors and quality venues, and they are going to be paying a fraction of what they would be paying for the Main Line."
"Brides are catching on," she added. "We do the same things they see on all the TV shows that every bride watches nowadays and through the Internet. They are seeing that the wedding they want, they can get it here."
The wedding of your dreams in Lancaster's Amish country could come with a rented horse and buggy, or a more fanciful carriage, to such popular venues as the Rockford Plantation in Lancaster, Cameron Estate Inn and Restaurant in Mount Joy, White Chimneys Colonial Homestead at Gap, the Inn at Leola Village in Leola, and Lititz Springs Park in Lititz.
If it's an oceanfront wedding your heart desires, look at the Victorian-era resort of Cape May.
"They come here for the beach weddings," said Catherine Walton, proprietor of Weddings by the Sea. "Every year, we get more and more."
Cape May hosted more than 430 beach weddings last year, she said, not counting vow renewals and receptions for weddings held elsewhere.
"One of the reasons we are so popular is that we have been working at it a long time," Walton said. "The whole town is wedding-friendly, very wedding experienced. Everybody is in on it."
For their wedding on Aug. 12, Renee Wersted, 35, who is originally from Mount Holly and now lives in Schenectady, N.Y., and Todd Markle, 38, chose Cape May because it had special meaning for them.
"We vacation here every year, and he proposed here last year on the beach," she said. "We like it because it's laid-back. It's friendly. It is low-key. It has everything we like. It's family-oriented."
The ceremony took place at the Howard Street beach before 50 guests, followed by a wedding dinner at the Chalfonte Hotel, a Victorian inn close by, one of many venues available in this resort town.
If none of the country or beach destinations works for you, Philadelphia itself offers convenience, a rich history, and vast possibilities. Consider Fairmount Park with its big spaces, mansions, and treasures such as the Japanese House and Garden. By the way, the Philadelphia Museum of Art does not host weddings, but bridal parties often use it as a backdrop for photo shoots.
Some other "really cool offbeat locations" to consider come from Cara Schneider, media relations director, Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation: the Philadelphia Zoo, Philadelphia's Magic Gardens, the Water Works Restaurant and Lounge, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
PAFA provided the artsy backdrop for 32 weddings last year, more than ever, according to Judi Garst, director of external events.
"Word has gotten out that we do an excellent job, and the space is beautiful," she said.
If you can plan your Philadelphia wedding around a citywide holiday celebration, so much the better.
"There are a few times of the year that we know people plan weddings because they want big, free Philadelphia entertainment like the Fourth of July and New Year's Eve," Schneider said. "You get basically a free fireworks show for both and a parade. So, instead of planning a big expensive party, people have used that as the entertainment."