Hidden Gems

Some of the best wedding venues are just off Central Florida’s beaten paths.

Spring and summer wedding celebrations can really sizzle with the right setting, but that perfect spot may not be in the obvious places, like luxury resorts or country clubs. The following venues offer intimate spaces and unique environments in which to hold a  once-in-a lifetime event.

Cypress Grove Estate

Nestled on a peaceful parcel beside Lake Jessamine in Edgewood, the Georgian estate is a throwback to Old Florida, but with a contemporary twist. The vintage Southern estate house built in 1925 is tucked in a beautiful garden setting. The lakefront is graced by tidy gardens, old towering cypress trees draped with Spanish moss and breathtaking views. Cypress Grove Estate needs very little enhancement, and it can be configured to accommodate a variety of events. Couples can choose from several locations for the ceremony and reception, including a gazebo on the water’s edge and the estate house lawn. Although it feels remote, Cypress Grove is located near downtown Orlando.

Wedding Genres: Southern charm, old-fashioned elegance, vintage, fairytale, traditional, garden

Tips: The cottage is perfect for small weddings as both a ceremony and reception site, and the brick roundabout entrance makes for fairytale arrivals and exits by horse-drawn carriage or vintage car. Celebrity wedding planner Heather Snively, of Orlando’s Wedding Unique, says it’s a popular spot for events of up to 125 people, and it looks fabulous with tents.
290 Holden Ave., Orlando. 407-749-0792. cypressgroveestatehouse.com


Photo by Kelly Canova Photography

The Courtyard at Lake Lucerne

For years, this venue’s old Southern charm and signature style have made it a popular wedding spot. Brides prize The Courtyard’s  Victorian atmosphere and décor, along with its all-inclusive-style wedding packages. Hidden in an unlikely corner near one of Orlando’s busiest thoroughfares, the inn offers accommodations in four historic buildings—each representing a different era of architecture—and a courtyard that’s mesmerizing when draped with thousands of small white or colored lights. An intimate, brick-laid courtyard with tropical plants and an antique fountain surrounds the more casual I.W. Phillips house, while a more formal, opulent atmosphere encompasses the The Dr. Phillips Mansion, along with its
grand gazebo (above).

Wedding Genres: Victorian elegance, period themes, Southern charm, black-tie, enchanted evening, historic Florida, fairytale, Art Deco, traditional

Tips: As a B&B, it’s a relaxing home base for your party before and after the wedding. The parlor is a great place to gather for pre-wedding cocktails; it can also be used for dancing and as a back-up spot in case it rains. 211 N. Lucerne Circle, Orlando. 407-648-5188. orlandohistoricinn.com


Maitland Art Center

The Art Center is a monument to visionary American artist Jules Andre Smith, who built it in 1928 as a colony for aspiring artists. With bas-reliefs, murals and carvings done in an Aztec/Mayan motif, it offers a distinctive Old World setting. “It has beautiful gardens, courtyards and a unique outdoor chapel (left),” says Snively. Carved stone sculptures and a lily pond accent the sacred space. You can choose from five different ceremony locations at the historic landmark. The main garden with a reflection pool and fountain is perfect for a warm spring day or evening. Other areas to consider are the antique cottage at Lake Lily for an intimate indoor reception or a ceremony on the museum lawn.
Wedding Genres: Bohemian, black-tie, artistic, vintage, Boho-chic, nature, cultural

Tips: If there’s a chance of inclement weather, rent indoor space at the Center as a back-up plan. Also, be sure to include setup and breakdown time in your event hours and hire outside help because there’s little help available on the weekends. 231 W. Packwood Ave., Maitland, 407-539-2181. maitlandhistory.org


Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens

Wedding planner Heather Snively calls the Polasek a Winter Park landmark. The Mediterranean-inspired archways, exquisitely manicured gardens, pathways of exotic flora and over 200 lyrical and classical works by Czech-born American sculptor Albin Polasek set the tone for the museum. Founded by Polasek and his wife in 1961, it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Overlooking Lake Osceola, the museum grounds (above) offer one of the most scenic lake views in Winter Park. The ceremony and reception can be held inside the gallery, in a charming chapel or outside on green-velvet grounds overlooking the lake, a perfect setting for  a formal garden wedding. For an added touch, you can contract with the Winter Park Boat Tour to have guests arrive by boat at the museum’s private dock.

Wedding Genres: European flair, traditional, romantic, artistic, garden, old-fashioned elegance, bohemian, elegant sophisticate

Tips: The Polasek requires an 18-month advance booking. The chapel is barely big enough for an average bridal party, and if you don’t have a tent, you’ll need a back-up rain plan.
633 Osceola Ave., Winter Park. 407-647-6294. polasek.org


Casa Feliz

The crown jewel of Winter Park is a beautifully restored Spanish farmhouse (above) designed by acclaimed architect James Gamble Rogers II. “It’s the most charming location in Central Florida,” says wedding planner Heather Snively. Bordering Lake Osceola and overlooking the Winter Park Country Club golf course, Casa Feliz is listed on the national Registry of Historic Places. Bathed in Mediterranean hues, with whitewashed bricks and Majolica tiles, Casa Feliz boasts lush landscaping with sweeping oaks, native plants in ancient clay amphoras, a courtyard with a fountain, bell tower and a heavy timber balcony. The interior has been restored to its historic grandeur with Spanish furnishings that need little to no enhancement. Its natural ethnic beauty creates a stately presence for rehearsal dinners and wedding events, and it’s a stone’s throw from Winter Park’s trendy Park Avenue shopping area.

Wedding Genres: Spanish, European, multicultural, fairytale, historic, rustic, garden

Tips: Book early. It works best for smaller weddings and events, and it has its own preferred caterer. 656 Park Ave. North, Winter Park; 407-628-0230. casfeliz.us


5 More Hot Spots For Sensational Soirées

English Gardens, Winter Park
Less than 10 minutes from downtown Orlando, the intimate spot will take you by surprise. Starting in 1990, the little bridal cottage in the middle of a garden has witnessed thousands of once-in-a-lifetime events. englishgardenweddings.com

Harry P. Leu Botanical Gardens, Orlando
The exotic, city-owned gardens are ideal for wedding events. They’re great for daytime ceremonies, particularly when the roses are in bloom. leugardens.org

Lake Receptions, Mount Dora
The wedding and banquet facility is great for elegant destination weddings and brides who want to keep it simple and all in one place The covered garden is ideal for wedding ceremonies. lakereceptions.com

Lakeside Inn, Mount Dora
With Southern charm and a setting reminiscent of days gone by, the 120-year-old inn offers a picture-perfect setting on Lake Dora and a coveted spot for countryside social events and celebrations. lakeside-inn.com

The Veranda Bed & Breakfast, Thornton Park
A classic European bed and breakfast dating to the 1900s, it offers all-inclusive wedding packages and a great location, with Lake Eola a short walk away. theverandabandb.com

Categories: Venues & Guides