Stop and listen to the sounds of your favorite state park: Chirping birds. Rustling leaves • A gurgling brook • And wedding bells?
Yes, you’re more likely than ever to hear the music of matrimony mixed with the sounds of nature as more and more betrothed Buckeyes seek out a scenic state park when they’re ready to tie the knot
Fortunately, the newly engaged are in luck • Whether their desired venue is woodland, waterfront, gazebo or grassy lawn – there’s an Ohio State Park to fill the bill
Among Ohio’s 74 state parks, nine feature resort lodges set amid some of the state’s most scenic landscapes. Each is well equipped to host weddings and receptions, from the rehearsal dinner the evening before through breakfast the day after the ceremony • If the guest list is for 50 or 250, these experts will make sure that your big day is one to remember
The Lodge and Conference Center at Geneva is Ohio’s newest state park lodge • This shining jewel along Lake Erie’s eastern shore has become a wedding destination • Its sweeping views of the lake provide brides and grooms with a picture-perfect backdrop • A similar experience can be found at Maumee Bay Resort and Conference Center along western Lake Erie • It also boasts a championship 18-hole golf course, a popular feature for many wedding parties
South of Geneva, in Geauga County, is the English-style Tudor manor house at Punderson – the smallest of Ohio’s nine state park resort lodges • It’s also the only one originally built from a private residence • Just inside the lodge’s heavy wooden doors is the “Grand Hall,” featuring a dramatic spiral staircase that lends itself to some stunning wedding photos
And the list goes on, with each of the other six resort lodges providing its own special touch that ensures a memorable wedding day • These include the lodges at Mohican, Deer Creek, Salt Fork, Burr Oak, Shawnee, and Hueston Woods state parks
But who said the wedding had to be at a resort lodge?
Malabar Farm State Park in Richland County and Quail Hollow State Park in Stark County provide vintage settings for unique nuptials
Malabar Farm is the former home of Pulitzer-prize winning author and renowned conservationist Louis Bromfield • The only working farm in Ohio’s state park system, it also features Bromfield’s 32-room “Big House” • For romantics, this was the very place where Hollywood legends Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall tied the knot • Across from the house stands a restored 1896 timber-frame barn, which makes an excellent setting for receptions
Tucked amid the rolling hills of northeastern Ohio is Quail Hollow State Park • The centerpiece of this scenic park is Stewart Manor House, originally built in 1838 and expanded under the Stewart family until it grew to be a 40-room manor house • Although weddings cannot be held inside, there’s no lack of ideal outdoor locations • Two popular spots for couples to exchange their vows include a formal 9,000-square foot herb garden, accented by a quaint stone archway, and the nearby 16-foot white gazebo
Rustic and charming, gazebos add an extra touch of class to any outdoor wedding – and they’re available for rent at several state parks • Picturesque gazebos at both Lake Milton and Scioto Trail state parks have been the scene of many wedding moments over the years • While Lake Alma and Mount Gilead state parks boast new gazebos, for which park staff is already busy taking reservations
Some couples are looking for an even simpler, but still distinctive way to celebrate their wedding • Many brides-to-be inquire to the availability of Marblehead Lighthouse • While the lighthouse and nearby keeper’s house are not open for such events, wedding parties with 50 or fewer guests are welcome to “take the plunge” along the adjacent Lake Erie shoreline
Another delightful alternative to the traditional church wedding can be found at Blue Rock State Park in southeastern Ohio • This modest but beautiful park has a scenic covered bridge and nearby shelter house, providing an enchanting backdrop for the betrothed to pledge their love
Some couples say they first met at a state park, and that’s where they want to return when saying their “I Dos” • Still others envision getting married beneath a canopy of trees, hosting a picnic reception then inviting their guests to overnight at the park’s campground
All it takes to get the old ball-and-chain rolling is a commitment from your true love and a telephone call to your favorite Ohio State Park