Happily Ever After

Love Marks the Spot: Selecting the Right Wedding Venue

Mar 20, 2017

Selecting the right wedding venue is an adventure all its own, taking into account your time frame, vision and budget. Will it be a beach ceremony, with the shore break in view? Or bayside, awash in the radiance of the setting sun? Perhaps overlooking the rolling greens of an exquisitely manicured golf course? Or nestled inside an elegant bed and breakfast or restaurant dining room, surrounded by an intimate gathering of close family and friends?

The possibilities in the greater Long Beach Island region run the gamut. The owners and managers of some of the area’s leading wedding sites told us what they feel sets them apart, illustrating the diversity of the venues the region has to offer.

The Sea Shell Resort and Beach Club, Beach Haven. Owner Tom Hughes has said the Shell’s biggest selling point is having everything under one roof – or sky, as it were.

The bride and groom can welcome guests with a poolside party at the outdoor Tiki Bar; perform the ceremony on the private beach surrounded by live palm trees; hold the cocktail hour on the poolside patio and reception inside the banquet facility; include a day-after brunch; and put everybody up for the entire weekend in the 53-room hotel.

Tom’s daughters Jaimee and Brittany provide in-house wedding planning services. “There are no preconceived ideas,” according to Hughes. “It’s just about whatever your dream is and doing whatever we can to make that happen.”

Since destination weddings tend to be multi-day events, a wedding at the Shell means guests can park their cars Friday and forget their worries until Sunday. Owned and operated by the Hughes family since 1960, the venue considers itself the Island’s premier choice for beach weddings of all sizes, from 75 to 217 guests, from April to October.

To get started, visit seashellresortandbeachclub.com.

Sea Oaks Country Club, Little Egg Harbor. Across the bay from Beach Haven, the 31-room luxury Inn at Sea Oaks sits on nearly 200 acres, making the country club a complete destination for weddings and other special events.

Sea Oaks has long been a popular choice for weddings, given the intrinsic sophistication and traditional appeal of the country club atmosphere. A pre- or post-wedding golf outing adds an extra special element to the event. Rehearsal dinner and next-day brunch can be arranged in the club’s restaurants.

The clubhouse’s ground-floor dining room, which has its own bar and can be closed off for privacy, is perfect for a reception for up to 120 guests. For a larger party, the upstairs ballroom can accommodate as many as 275 and overlooks the golf course, with views from the deck of both Atlantic City and Long Beach Island.

Sea Oaks is available year ’round with flat rates for January and February. Visit seaoakscc.com.

The Tuckerton Seaport, Tuckerton. A unique setting on historic Tuckerton Creek, the Tuckerton Seaport is a re-created maritime village with a boardwalk and the Tucker’s Island Lighthouse. Imagine saying “I do” on the lighthouse porch with the Seaport in the background, or boating up Tuckerton Creek to arrive in shipshape style. The unique reception sites include the lighthouse and/or three other buildings and outdoor areas. The most popular venue option includes both indoor and outdoor space: the Lighthouse, Marshelder, Hotel DeCrab, Crest Fishery and the boardwalk, with a 20-by-20-foot tented area with a capacity for 150 guests. With additional tenting the site accommodates up to 300 people for $4,000.

Catering and tent rentals are extra, but the Seaport can help direct couples to local businesses that have worked there in the past. Affordable options include a ceremony-only fee of $250 or rental of the Hunting Shanty for 59 people and four hours during the day for $250 or at night, $400. Ceremony rehearsal is included, and golf carts are available to bring guests from the parking lot.

Seaport Deputy Director Brooke Salvanto is the contact person for all questions and to book a date. Call her at 609-296-8868 or email brooke@tuckertonseaport.org.

Cuisine on the Green at Atlantis, Little Egg Harbor. Wedding packages for up to 125 guests are now available in the banquet facility at Cuisine on the Green, which is located on the Ocean County Golf Course at Atlantis off Radio Road. The banquet room is beautifully appointed with a chic décor designed to complement the setting for any event. Adjacent to the pub, the venue provides seamless transition from a cocktail setting to formal dining area. Large windows provide sweeping views of the golf course, and a door leads out to the bistro-like patio and comfortable couch seating area. A beautiful gazebo surrounded by attractive foliage and landscaping is a wonderful backdrop for memorable photos. A variety of wedding menus are available, from “classic” and “grand” plated, to “contemporary” and “traditional” buffets, in addition to a “regal cocktail reception” menu and “wedding enhancements.”

Contact Banquet Manager Frank Gruber at fgruber@mail.ocvts.org.

Long Beach Island Historical Museum, Beach Haven. The original sanctuary of Holy Innocents’ Episcopal Church, built in 1882, the museum is complete with a wooden, vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows. The open auditorium is decorated with hundreds of historic LBI items, and can seat up to 170 people. It can also be heated or air-conditioned and is handicap accessible. Separate areas are open for bride preparations, and the 75-foot covered porch is available for pictures or light fare. Located in the heart of the Queen City’s historical district, the Victorian building is just blocks away from the beach, restaurants, quaint bed-and-breakfasts and accommodating motels.

Brant Beach Yacht Club, Brant Beach. BBYC hangs its hat on its spectacular view of the bay and the setting sun. The club’s location, spread out along seven bayfront blocks lined with sandy beaches, enables the nuptial couple to have their private ceremony onsite, and the sweeping bay vista is even easier to appreciate from the spacious back porch, which includes an outdoor bar for cocktail hour. The facility is adaptable to almost any decorating scheme and can comfortably accommodate 150 to 200 guests. Check out bbyc.net.

Surf City Yacht Club, Surf City. Enjoy a beautiful bayside wedding in the club’s Warren Room, complete with a spacious dance floor, service bar and newly renovated kitchen. Banquet tables and chairs are provided, and the couple may choose their own caterer. An automated lift accommodates disabled or handicapped guests. A deck with expansive views of the Island makes a wonderful backdrop for pictures. Visit scyc-nj.org.

Other local yacht clubs to explore are Little Egg Harbor Yacht Club in Beach Haven (lehyc.org); Spray Beach Yacht Club in Spray Beach (spraybeachyc.org); and High Bar Harbor Yacht Club in High Bar Harbor, off Barnegat Light (hbhyc.com).

Then there’s Mallard Island Yacht Club, on Mallard Island, which is not actually a yacht club in any way. Mallard is for the couple with a generous budget. Sheer opulence defines every square inch of space in every room. Decadence oozes from every eyeful of structural design and adornment, at every level – marina, “groom’s shack,” boathouse chapel, ballroom, suites and bridal penthouse. See for yourself at mallardislandyachtclub.com.

Tony and Patti Baldino own the catering company Taste, which can accommodate hundreds at various local venues, including Mallard Island Yacht Club and The Stateroom, two of Chris Vernon’s Weddings of Distinction Properties. Weddings are a core part of their business, Baldino said. With his engineering background, the bride and groom can expect a blueprint of the experience and rest assured no detail will be overlooked. For more info, visit tasteoflbi.com.

The Stateroom, Ship Bottom. Located at the center of Ship Bottom’s gateway to Long Beach Island, the Stateroom can accommodate up to 275 guests in romantic, tropical style, greeting them by stone paths, a dramatic arbor, colorful landscaping and a lush tropical patio. Inside await impressive furnishings and dual fireplaces. Upstairs, huge windows offer panoramic views of the bay and sunset photo ops. Sculpted ceilings in the ballroom add elegance, aided by warm amber crystal chandeliers. See more at stateroomlongbeachisland.com.

The Grand Ballroom at the Holiday Inn of Manahawkin and Long Beach Island, Manahawkin. Weddings in the Grand Ballroom at the Holiday Inn unite attention to detail and commitment to excellence, with the result a unique and memorable event for the bride and groom and all their guests. A variety of wedding packages are available, or a couple can tailor the event to their own vision.

The ballroom can host intimate gatherings of 75 people, or lavish occasions with up to 500 guests, with an expert staff ensuring the perfect atmosphere. Innovative menus and the superior service of an experienced and creative catering team complete the experience.

The Holiday Inn is conveniently located on Route 72 East in Manahawkin, just minutes from Long Beach Island. The hotel features 110 guest rooms and six spacious two-room suites, a cocktail lounge, an indoor pool and hot tub, and a fitness room. Stafford Restaurant and Grille – located in the hotel – serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. For more information, visit grandballroomhimanahawkin.com/weddings.

Ocean Acres Country Club, Manahawkin. Couples can begin the festivities by getting married at the country club’s gazebo.

“It’s a beautiful place – you get a great view of the lake,” said chef Casey Fulcher.

Following the nuptials, the reception can be held inside the banquet hall, which has a capacity of up to 200 people and a lovely view. The reception dinner can be buffet or sit-down and feature hot and cold appetizers, as well as various entrees featuring beef, chicken, seafood and more. The average cost is $80 to $90 per person.

Telephone is 609-597-9395.

The Gables, Beach Haven. The lovingly restored Victorian bed and breakfast in the heart of the Queen City can hold weddings for parties up to 125. The ceremony can be orchestrated in the lush backyard garden, or up the street at the beach, followed by dinner and reception in and throughout the separate dining rooms and indoor/outdoor settings. Candlelight and a wood-burning fireplace – not to mention exquisitely decorated guest rooms upstairs – make the complete experience one of intimacy and luxury. Sondra Benninati is your innkeeper/hostess extraordinaire. Visit gableslbi.com.

— Victoria Ford

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