It is often said that little girls (and boys) dream of their wedding day. Prince or Princess Charming is one day going to sweep you off your feet, and the day will be absolutely perfect, with sun shining, and not a cloud in sight.
Sometimes that happens, but other times, Mother Nature has different plans.
Last October, as clouds rolled over and the rain started to fall, temperatures dropped to 50 degrees Fahrenheit and I crossed my fingers — hoping it would stop in the next two hours. The light drizzle made everything look gray, created mud puddles down the aisle, and left wet benches where 150 guests were expected to sit at the small outdoor chapel on Mount Norris Scout Reservation in Eden. What was I going to do? Move the ceremony to the reception hall?
That was plan B — but luckily the rain finally stopped half an hour before the ceremony, and everyone just went with the flow. Towels were used to wipe every seat, and while the train of my ivory wedding dress picked up a lot of silt, it was nothing a dry cleaner couldn’t fix.
If I had been at a Vermont State Park, I would have had more options.
The weather may not be something you can control, but it is something you can plan for.
Pick a park
The Vermont State Parks system offers 55 different locations, each with its own quirks and amenities.
“What’s cool about weddings at Vermont State Parks is the amazing views, largely on a body of water,” or a mountain, said Rochelle Skinner, Vermont State Parks sales and services manager.
Guests can choose to camp for a few days, kayak, hike, swim or bike, too.
Most parks can accommodate large event tents or open-air weddings. They have pavilions that can hold up to 300 guests, depending on the park, and because they’re public venues, they’re wheelchair or elderly accessible.
Worried about the rain or wind?
Lake Elmore, Seyon Lodge, Kingsland Bay, Mount Philo and Camp Plymouth offer indoor accommodations for 30 to 150 people.
“Mount Philo, on top of the mountain, is a popular wedding destination,” Skinner said. “It was actually Vermont’s first state park, and it has a shelter at the top that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.”
Other favorites include the beach at Button Bay, Camp Plymouth, Coolidge, Kingsland Bay and Seyon Lodge.
Reserving for your day
There are many things to consider when thinking about a Vermont State Park wedding.
Beside the weather and the views, one of the first things that should be decided is the date.
You can book up to 11 months in advance — and the earlier the better.
These are public parks, and spaces can fill up over the summer and fall months — the most popular for weddings and recreation — especially if guests are planning to stay and camp for a few days.
There are also different rates for weekdays than on the weekend, and for couples on a budget, you may want to consider a wedding sometime Monday through Thursday, as many of the pavilions can be rented for free. On weekends, prices range from $25 to $2,500.
There’s a small charge for guests to enter state parks: $3 per adult and $2 per child (4 to 13 years old), if there are more than 25 people, and you pay as a group. Otherwise, park entry is $4 per adult and $2 per child.
Most of the pavilions are near restrooms and changing rooms where the wedding party can get dressed.
Music and alcohol are also permitted in all of the parks, but there are a few caveats attached.
While wedding parties will have exclusive access to the pavilion or building they rent, they may not be the only people in the parks, and state park employees have to consider their other guests as well.
Music can be played, as long as it’s at a level that won’t annoy other park users, and sound systems or DJ services must be pre-approved by the park ranger.
For alcohol, kegs or alcoholic beverages in containers larger than a gallon must be served by a liquor-licensed caterer. Group members are also welcome to bring their own drinks, but any alcohol served to someone other than the person who brought it must also be served by a licensed caterer.