Looking for a classically-elegant wedding destination, that also offers tons of activities for your guests? I recently got a sneak peak at the romantic Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation, just an hour outside of Atlanta on Lake Oconee. The 251-room resort, surrounded by towering pines, feels like a rustic English hunting lodge that also happens to have all the awesome perks of being on a lake—think jet-skiing, kayaking, and wake-boarding (to name a few).
When Carrie Underwood married hockey star Mike Fisher here in July 2010, the couple took over the entire property and set up a gorgeous tent to hold 250 guests on the back lawn. Now, a similar white tent is kept up there March through October, complete with chandeliers and AC for those hot summer days. Brides looking for a more rustic setting can forgo the swanky shelter and do everything outdoors, with a ceremony under the romantic pergola by the lake, followed by a reception on the nearby Landing or Lakeside Lawn (which accommodates up to 400 people). For a smaller, more intimate affair, you can do dinner and custom-crafted cocktails for 30 at the clubby Linger Longer Steakhouse.
Photo: Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton, Reynolds Plantation Resort
Multiple wedding venues aside, what's really cool about the Ritz Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation is that it's upscale—but not overly formal. Guests can gather around a bonfire for s'mores on Friday nights, enjoy live music in the lobby lounge, and don't have to worry about leaving their four-legged family members at home. (Carrie's pooch, Ace, walked down the aisle in a pink Swarovski crystal-encrusted tuxedo—really!) Pre-wedding, guys can jet-ski, fish, or charter a boat cruise around the lake; girls can relax by the infinity edge pool, or hit the 27,600 square-foot-spa for mani-pedis and hot stone massages. The day after the celebration, gather your guests for a barbecue sauce cook-off challenge. The resort's catering team will bring out a slew of ingredients (Coke, ketchup, mangoes, hot sauce) and teams have 15 minutes to whip up their own secret sauce. (I did this and my team won! We created a spicy, Asian-inspired sauce with a touch of brown sugar, and named it "Gangnam Style.")
The rooms, though comfy, are due for a refresh and will have a light, airy color palette by March of next year—just in time for wedding season to kick off. Rooms from $209.
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