Fernwood Botanical Gardens offering pop-up weddings

NILES — The historical grounds and unique settings within Fernwood Botanical Gardens are a popular wedding destination for couples through the warmer seasons. Adapting to the current safety precautions and mandates due to COVID-19 have both wedding venues and couples needing to get creative. Couples have lost their original wedding plans to the pandemic.

The organizers at Fernwood have put together an offering they are calling “pop-up wedding packages,” where the details are already taken care of for the happy couple.

The pop-up weddings will be available for couples to reserve pre-chosen dates and times. Each date, July 18, Aug. 1, and Sept. 26, will have three opportunities for a 20- to 30-minute ceremony on the grounds, followed by a one-hour photoshoot.

The two gardens chosen for the venues are “The Green” and “The Boxwood” The pop-up weddings cost $1,800 to reserve and come with features already pre-planned for the couple.

The wedding will have an officiant with one meeting prior to go over the legalities and rehearsal, a photographer, professional sound, flowers, a cake for two and free admission to the gardens for the guests.

“The Green will vary quite a bit through the seasons,” said Heidi Tuthill, rental facilities and visitor services coordinator for the gardens. “It has a variety of wildflowers in bloom, and it’s along the cottage perennial border. The Boxwood garden is completely different. It stays green year-round.”

The gardens usually host an average of 15 weddings per year. This year, the number has plummeted as popular wedding months of April, May and much of June were lost to the COVID-19 mandates.

“This is really appealing for Fernwood as well,” said Elaine Rowland, director of development and external relations at the gardens. “We are not a state park. We are not a county park, and we’re not a recreation area. We had to be closed during that time. For a non-profit, public garden, we lost a tremendous amount of revenue, so this helps us a little bit as well.”

Rowland said it was also an opportunity for Fernwood to partner with vendors on the list to give everyone a boost.

“It’s all about coming together and providing a beautiful, low-stress setting,” Rowland said.

Guest lists are kept to the number the state allows gatherings indoors in case of rain. In the case of a rainy wedding day, ceremonies are planned to be moved indoors at the Sims Education Center. The setting allows for a way for the closest friends or family members to celebrate together.

“For a normal wedding, people would be responsible for getting their own vendors and their own photographers,” Tuthill said. “We pretty much just provide the space and set everything up for you. In this case, you basically just have to come dressed, have the rings, and if you want to, you can plan a reception at a later date. That’s really all that’s needed.”

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