Tying The Knot? Try A Miami Mansion Or Historical Hotspot

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By: Riki Altman

Though it's true Miami wasn't one of the original cities established in America—we were founded in 1870, more than 1,000 years after the first on record—our city has its share of beloved, deeply rooted historical sites that make for grand wedding venues.

One of the most familiar, perhaps, is Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, which has hosted hundreds of weddings over the years. Built by agricultural industrialist James Deering in 1916, the European-inspired estate embodies a 400-year range of styles. Magnificent views of a barge-shaped breakwater serve as an elegant backdrop from an open-air portico overlooking Biscayne Bay. However, trusting Mother Nature will be in a good mood, most brides request that their weddings take place inside the 10-acre formal gardens, comprising splashing fountains, beautifully manicured foliage and shell-encrusted enclaves.

James Deering's older brother, Charles, also built a mansion nearby on 444 acres that has become known as an amazing outdoor wedding venue. Celebrations at Deering Estate at Cutler can be had at a lower price point, too. Ceremonies are held outside on an expansive, manicured lawn overlooking Biscayne Bay, while receptions take place inside a ballroom at the 1922 Stone House mansion or in the tree-shaded courtyard, with the picturesque Richmond Cottage in the background.

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The Curtiss Mansion & Gardens is another elegant, unique, vintage setting for romantic nuptials. Listed on the National Register for Historic Places, this 1925 Pueblo Revival-style estate, renovated and restored to its original splendor, was the home of American aviation and motorcycling pioneer, Glen Hammond Curtiss. Three beautiful outdoor spots are perfect for a picturesque ceremony - in a lush, shaded grove, in front of a charming bridge, or beneath a lovely stone archway. Multiple spaces are available for both large and intimate indoor, outdoor and courtyard receptions and ceremonies. Whatever setting you choose, your celebration will be sophisticated and special.

Couples wishing to tie the knot outdoors also gravitate toward The Barnacle Historic State Park, one of the last remnants of the tropical hardwood Miami Hammock located on 40-acres of bayfront land. The Barnacle, a house built in 1891 for Coconut Grove pioneer Ralph Middleton Munroe, is a beautiful two-story mansion with a spacious porch.

    Strolling Peacocks

    Coconut Grove is also home to Villa Woodbine, a private mansion designed in Mediterranean Renaissance-style. Built in the 1920s, the property features Spanish arches, colorful tiles, spacious loggias, and handcrafted Cuban furnishings. Nighttime receptions are especially magical here, as guests can dine under grand oak trees wrapped in twinkling lights, while daylight ceremonies treat friends and families to views of climbing bougainvillea, swaying palm trees and even strolling peacocks. Local favorite Bill Hansen exclusively handles catering for Villa Woodbine and also the 1921 home nearby where the Woman's Club of Coconut Grove is based. Now that the house has received a recent facelift, it is once again ready to host weddings with style. Brides should consider this venue if they are in search of charming, warm surroundings, like wooden floors, a great patio and even a stone pit fireplace. Artifacts and photos from the past not only serve to create a unique ambiance, but they also give guests something interesting to view and discuss while they sip on their cocktails and bite into hors d'oeuvres.

      Spanish Monastary

      Brides-to-be who wish to really surround themselves in history should investigate The Cloisters of the Ancient Spanish Monastery, located in North Miami. The original group of buildings, known as The Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux, dates back to 1133 in Segovia, Spain. Monks occupied the space for 700 years before the property was sold and converted to a granary and stable in the mid-1830s. William Randolph Hearst purchased the Cloisters in 1925 and had it dismantled, packed and shipped to the United States, where the structure sat in a Brooklyn warehouse before being purchased in 1952. A year and a half later, the property was reassembled and it has remained a valuable piece of Miami's history ever since. It's also a wonderful place to host a wedding, either in its sacred chapel, amidst the tropical grounds, or inside the elegant reception area.

        Wurlitzer Organ

        Another breathtaking, albeit slightly unusual, spot for a wedding is the Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, known to locals simply as "The Gusman." Built in 1926 as a silent movie palace, this Moorish-style venue danced its way into prominence when Elvis Presley performed there in 1956 and has since hosted Carly Simon and Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Relics dating back from opening day still remain, including a massive Mighty Wurlitzer organ with three keyboards and 15 ranks of pipes, but the venue is most known for its cloud-covered ceiling. It's the perfect place for any starlet in white satin.

        Three other venues in Miami seem to attract glamorous brides of all ages: the Alfred DuPont Building, the Biltmore Hotel, and The Villa Casa Casuarina, formerly known as the Versace mansion.

        The Alfred DuPont Building is found in the heart of Miami's downtown. With its black granite accents, octagonal window frames, and main entrances consisting of double glass doors set within brass frames, the outside of the duPont Building hints to the grandeur inside. Built in 1939, the building's interiors are also said to be some of the most ornate in downtown Miami, boasting tropical motifs as "bas-relief" decoration, painted Seminole Indian motifs, and walls clad entirely in marble. The building once belonged to Florida National Bank and its teller cages forged out of wrought iron still remain. Many brides tend to print details about the building's history in their wedding programs so guests get a better appreciation of their surroundings.

        Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, however, needs no explanation. One of Miami's most stunning architectural sites, this luxurious hotel repeatedly hosts celebrities, dignitaries and famous faces from all over the world. The Biltmore is often featured on popular television shows, too, especially when weddings are the focus. Planners know they can call on the Biltmore to host events either intimate or enormous, indoor or en plein air, demure or dramatic. The best part about this venue is that guests need only take an elevator ride to return to their rooms, so they can drink and dance the night away.

          Mosaic Garden

          Or if they really want to keep the family and wedding party nearby, brides can consider buying out the entire The Villa Casa Casuarina packages already include a suite for the bride and groom after the ceremony, but after guests have enjoyed the poolside or beachfront ceremony, the courtyard cocktail reception, and an elaborately catered dinner in the Mosaic Garden beside the Thousand Mosaic Pool, they're not going to talk about leaving the mansion any time soon so party hosts might want to consider taking care of their accommodations.

          Regardless of which historic venue brides choose, whether quaint or expansive, romantic or retro, dating back merely decades or many centuries, their guests will be talking about that special day for years to come.

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