Dreaming of a destination wedding that is equal parts elegance and grace, classic and modern, perhaps with a touch of historic or nautical charm? The seaside town of Newport, Rhode Island, has it all. Synonymous with family names like the Vanderbilts, the Astors, and the Kennedys — Jacqueline Bouvier and John F. Kennedy famously married in Newport in September 1953, with an intimate church ceremony followed by a reception for 1,200 guests — Newport has long been a popular weekend getaway destination.
Start With Finding the Perfect Venue for Your "I Dos"
As with any destination wedding, the first and most important decision you'll make is determining where (and how) you'll exchange your vows, which sets the tone for the entire weekend. Formal, traditional, intimate, casually chic, or some combination of the above, Newport has options for every type of bride. And in fact, many of Newport's historic treasures can do double duty as both ceremony and reception sites, including the Rosecliff, a Gilded Age mansion with a heart-shaped staircase and an opulent ballroom; the Redwood Library, the first public library in the country; and the newly-restored Eisenhower House, once the summer home of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Alternatively, keep it casual and carefree with a ceremony at the King Park Gazebo overlooking the Newport Harbor, which is just $100 to reserve, followed by a celebratory harbor sail on 12 Meter's classic yachts or a private celebration at the historic White Horse Tavern in Newport's Old Quarter — or why not both? Another intimate reception option in the Old Quarter is the Grace Vanderbilt hotel, a charming and historic property that has a lovely garden courtyard as well as a rooftop terrace that's ideally suited for a sunset soirée featuring cocktails and canapés. Whatever your bridal style, start your research with Discover Newport's vetted list of local wedding vendors, which covers everything from cakes and catering to venues and videography.
Now, to Plan the Rest of Your Newport Wedding Weekend...
One of the inevitable (and happy) conundrums about planning a destination wedding is that you'll be planning more than just the wedding ceremony and reception. Your guests will most likely be spending a couple of nights in town, and will be looking to you for ideas about what to do — and hoping to see you, too. Two essential steps will ensure that calls, texts, and last-minute questions are kept to a minimum: 1) Designate a hotel property as home base for all wedding weekend-related affairs, where the bridal party, immediate family and many guests will stay; and 2) Clearly outline the details for any official pre- or post-wedding engagements (e.g. the rehearsal dinner, morning-after brunch, any local activities) on your wedding website and also printed for inclusion in your welcome gift bags.
And while Newport has no shortage of hotel options, ranging from major hotel chains to quaint inns and B&Bs, The Grace Vanderbilt, mentioned earlier, stands out for several reasons. A midsize boutique hotel of just 33 rooms (not too big, not to small), the elegant, 1909 residence has a ton of innate character — perfect for getting ready photos. Additionally, The Grace Vanderbilt specializes in organizing bespoke experiences, so when it comes to planning a local activity for your wedding guests — say, a sunset harbor sail or a private, behind-the-scenes tour of the iconic Vanderbilt summer estate, The Breakers — the hotel team can handle all of the details, which is one less planning item off your list.
Don't Forget Your Exit Strategy
Whether you're planning on taking your honeymoon immediately after the wedding weekend or are planning to enjoy your newlywed status with a minimoon — with an extended honeymoon in the future — you still need an exit strategy for saying goodbye to your nearest and dearest, one that has you exiting in style. New England-based classic car and concierge service Fuel Fanatic can attend to every detail of your departure, including delivering the sweet ride of your choice (think vintage Porche, Volvo P1800, or Ford Thunderbird models) to the front door of the Grace Vanderbilt, as well as planning a custom, tailored-to-your-interests road map and itinerary for your New England minimoon. All you have to do is smile for one last photo op — and hit the road on your first adventure as husband and wife!