The Privilege is all Yours
For outsiders looking into Orlando’s exclusive country clubs for weddings and receptions, access is all about who you know.
Ah, country clubs. The mere mention of the word conjures up images of elegant bastions of power and privilege, where the rich and pedigreed gather to mingle. Ordinary citizens could never hope to cross the thresholds of some of Orlando’s most exclusive clubhouses.
Or so those private country clubs want you to think. Because as long as they maintain an air of selective acceptance, status-seekers will be more than willing to pay big money to belong to them.
But some private country clubs will actually open their doors to non-members seeking venues for special events. There are many advantages to hosting a wedding and/or reception at a country club, if not for the picture-perfect aesthetics, well-appointed service and higher level of sophisticated elegance alone. If you think a country club is the perfect site for your wedding or reception, here’s what you need to know about some of Orlando’s most exclusive venues.
Isleworth Golf & Country Club
Getting information from a secretive and selective country club like Isleworth is like pulling teeth, but booking a nuptial celebration there is possible. I should know. I was lucky enough to hold my own wedding and reception at Isleworth Country Club 13 years ago through a sponsor. But even if you don’t know a member to sponsor you, there’s another way to get in.
The club has a list of approved wedding planners who can book weddings and receptions there. Isleworth wouldn’t release the list for publication, but a quick Internet search for “Orlando wedding planners” plus “Isleworth” will get you started. The club will release pricing after you’ve obtained a sponsorship or contracted with an approved wedding planner.
Isleworth Country Club is an exquisitely photogenic venue for wedding events, with a golf course, lakefront dock, Spanish moss-draped oaks and a majestic, palazzo-style outdoor courtyard as backdrops. Inside, there’s a splashing fountain and a wood-floored ballroom that’s one of a kind in the Orlando area—no need to rent a special dance floor here. Cathedral ceilings punctuated with wood panels and brilliant chandeliers create an ethereal atmosphere—the most charming architectural detail being a romantic wrought-iron Juliet balcony that overlooks the ballroom. Brides often toss their bouquets from this picturesque spot.
Lake Nona Golf & Country Club
Since the private investment company Tavistock Group owns both Lake Nona and Isleworth clubs, it’s no surprise that they have similar requirements for booking a wedding or reception onsite. But Lake Nona appeared to be much more welcoming to what it terms “outside” events. You still need a member sponsor or a referral from an approved wedding planner, but the doors seem slightly more open to non-members.
Cherie Jones, the club’s wedding coordinator, will work with you to arrange a country club wedding—but you’ll have to uncover the expense for yourself, which is par for the course at these types of clubs.
At Lake Nona, you can opt for an outdoor wedding or reception on the lakeside verandah or the clubhouse’s lush lawn, or head indoors to the clubhouse. With wide verandas and stately columns, the main building’s architectural style is crisp, symmetrical neo-Georgian—a refreshing change from the predictable Mediterranean facades of the other private clubs. It’s set amidst pristine natural elements, including lakes, lush foliage and canopies of trees, which make it ideal for photographs both inside and out. The interior is drop-dead gorgeous, with colonnaded reception areas that frame the building’s dramatic rotunda. lakenona.com; 407-859-3402
Country Club of Orlando
The club has a longstanding “no comment” policy with the media, but an informal call yielded this information: A non-member can hold an event there with member sponsorship.
If you don’t know any members, ask around. Your favorite physician or an executive at your office may have a membership. If you’re lucky enough to locate a sponsor, the Country Club of Orlando is a beautiful site for a wedding, with a camera-ready spiral staircase with windows overlooking the golf course, an expansive banquet room with a stone fireplace bearing the club’s coat of arms and smaller spaces for more intimate wedding parties.
Chartered in November 1911, the golf-course community club has gone through multiple metamorphoses over the decades, ultimately adopting, in 1998, a Mediterranean-style clubhouse reminiscent of Addison Mizner’s Palm Beach-style architecture. The picturesque grounds and regal-looking clubhouse offer magnificent wedding photograph opportunities, and the spacious, richly appointed interior styling leaves very little need for additional décor.
The club won’t release pricing without a secured sponsor, but it’s obviously not a venue for the budget-minded. Still, for some, having a wedding or reception at such an esteemed Old Orlando institution is worth the cost.
Interlachen Country Club
The cachet of holding a wedding or reception at this Winter Park enclave for the old-money set may make the hassle of locating a member for sponsorship worth the effort. The club doesn’t make it easy for an outsider to gain entrance, even through a wedding planner. So work your connections if you’re determined to hold your big day there.
The sprawling estate-style club is a lovely site for a wedding or reception, with a Mediterranean-style, coquina-clad exterior that serves as a beautiful backdrop for photos. Even the cart paths offer pretty photo ops, especially the stone bridge that spans a waterway. Inside, large windows frame the fairways and pretty, gold-toned chandeliers shed light from above—perhaps illuminating the wildly patterned carpeting a bit too well. Suggestion: Opt for an evening event with candlelight instead. interlachenccfl.com; 407-657-0850
Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge welcomes non-members.
Many people think Arnold Palmer’s club is private, but it’s actually semi-private. Overnight guests at the lodge are granted golf and club privileges during their stay. The Bay Hill Club & Lodge also books special events for non-members, with no sponsorship required. If you’d like to have your wedding or reception at Bay Hill, it’s simply a matter of contacting the club and making the arrangements.
A perfect backdrop for weddings, Bay Hill boasts a very romantic, old-fashioned yet subtropical charm, from the overall look and feel to intricate décor, such as vintage-style chandeliers and table dressings. Weddings can take place on the expansive, beautifully landscaped practice green outdoors or inside the stone-accented lodge-style clubhouse, which has a variety of rooms to host ceremonies and receptions with up to 400 guests, all with a view of the putting green. The pool area is also available for rollicking receptions.
There’s a $1,500 site-rental fee and a $250 per-room fee at Bay Hill Club & Lodge, with a variety of reception dining packages starting at $90 per person plus service charges and sales tax. Wedding guests are offered special room rates at the lodge, and there’s even an onsite spa and salon for wedding-day pampering and beauty treatments. bayhill.com; 407-876-8001