12 amazing destination wedding locations within driving distance of Charlotte

By Alyssa Ruane

Courtesy of 21C Durham

Want a destination wedding without going too far from home? Create your own matrimonial masterpiece with these artful and interesting venues that are within driving distance of Charlotte. All are perfect places to start the rest of your lives together.

North Carolina

21c Museum Hotel Durham

A boutique hotel with more than 10,500 square feet of contemporary-art-filled space and a rooftop terrace, the 21C Museum Hotel combines the best of both worlds—doubling as a venue and guest accommodations. Though, if guests want to stay elsewhere, no problem—the hotel also offers complimentary sprinter vans within a five-mile radius. The main gallery has enough room for 170 seated wedding attendees and reception groups as large as 350.

www.21cmuseumhotels.com/durham, 919.956.6700, Dur.Events@21cHotels.com

Airlie Gardens

This garden by the sea may be a popular Wilmington destination, but unconventional brides looking for a colorful backdrop to their big day will swoon when they see the lesser-known Bottle Chapel on the grounds. Large enough to fit up to 150 guests, this structure was created out of shiny glass bottles to honor Airlie Gardens’ longtime gatekeeper and visionary artist, Minnie Evans. It is a sight to behold while you secure your own “to have and to hold.”

airliegardens.org, 910-798-7705, nherron@nhcgov.com

Airlie Gardens Bottle Chapel, by Tasharazzi Photography

Artspace NC

Rent out the entire building in this Raleigh venue, and let the atmosphere full of art illuminate your night. In total, Artspace can accommodate up to 300 guests, minus the 30 artist studios that also live there. You can also choose to only rent a gallery for a smaller guest list. It’s a true experience here, where you can feel the creativity churning within the walls—a neat option for couples looking for a low-key celebration.

www.artspacenc.org, mkkennedy@artspacenc.org, 919-821-2787

Asheville Masonic Temple

You are the star of your wedding day, so why not act like it? The historic Asheville Masonic Temple has been recently restored, lending brides the opportunity to get married on the ornate theater stage, where drama, elegance, and romance reign. Plus, since you are on a real stage, you can choose from 62 breathtaking backdrops to set the scene to your happily-ever-after. The entire building, including onsite bridal party and groomsmen rooms, can accommodate 400 guests.

www.ashevillemasonictemple.com, events@ashevillemasonictemple.com, 828.239.0928

The Atrium by Ligon Flynn

Live out a literary fantasy in this real-life secret garden. In the 1980’s, architect Ligon Flynn transformed a dilapidated building in Wilmington’s downtown historic district into the beautiful, open-air atrium space it is today. The hidden contemporary garden can fit 150 seated guests and sprawls with greenery behind the unassuming white facade. Add this scenery to your love story for a one-of-a-kind start to your next chapter.

www.atriumwilmington.com, 910-520-7956, jill@atriumwilmington.com

Atrium by Ligon Flynn

Cameron Art Museum

Though it’s outside, the courtyard at the sleek Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington feels as if it were your own private ceremony space thanks to the three metallic-looking gray stone walls that only partly exclude it. The fourth side opens up to the greenery of gardens. The modern venue has a capacity of 200, with the added bonus of unique lighting for drama when the sun goes down. Tack on an exhibition area to your rental to gift guests the full museum experience, where they can view art during a classy cocktail hour.

www.cameronartmuseum.org, 910.395.5999 ext. 1016, hivady@cameronartmuseum.org

Elizabethan Gardens

For intimate celebrations hosting 50 people or less, the manicured Sunken Garden within this Outer Banks botanical paradise is a remarkable setting with antique statues sprinkled into the delicately designed hedges. There are plenty of other sites to get hitched here, too. Overlook Terrace, for example, offers more open space, room for 200, and a picturesque view of the ocean beyond the trees. Elizabethan Gardens lingers at the very end of Roanoke Island, so seaside scenery is a given. www.elizabethangardens.org, 252-473-3234,


North Carolina Art Museum (ACAM)

Party among the art. With plenty of interesting backdrops for creative wedding photos, the North Carolina Art Museum in Raleigh presents brides with a few ceremony, reception, and cocktail hour choices. The Museum Park features artful arches for dramatic photos; the North Courtyard has a sculpture collection and reflecting pools; and the West Building houses the museum’s entire permanent collection, fitting up 250 people for standing room.

www.Ncartmuseum.org, mgreer@ncartmuseum.org, 919-664-6839

South Carolina

Artisan Traders

Experience Old World allure in the heart of downtown Greenville’s, S.C. Art District. Boasting 12-foot ceilings, an interesting mix of plaster and exposed-brick walls, and windows galore, this warm space oozes natural light and intriguing industrial charm. Works from local artists grace the walls, and a glass “garage door” can be opened to celebrate al fresco on comfortable evenings. Artisan Traders has a maximum capacity of 100, making it a cozy-cool spot to tie the knot.

www.artisantraders.com, 864.420.2882, Info@artisantraders.com

City Art Gallery

Brick walls and 14-foot ceilings give downtown Columbia’s City Art an airy, industrial feel, while the contemporary art throughout the three galleries keeps the space unique. There is room for 300 inside this warm and elegant reception spot. As guests are greeted with twinkling lights in the trees posted up at the entryway, they’ll enjoy stepping into this vintage venue—The antique square grand piano dates back to 1848, and the maple plank hardwoods make up one of the best dance floors in Columbia.

www.cityartonline.com, 803-252-3613

Columbia Museum of Art

There are six floor plan packages to choose from at the Columbia Museum of Art (CMA), so you should have no issue securing a modern space to match your vision here. Natural light abounds in the reception gallery, and an eye-catching Chihuly sculpture anchors the Atrium and the lobby below, which can accommodate large parties when the two rooms are combined. Curate your ideal wedding day at the CMA, or rent out the whole museum—there’s room for 1,400 total in the entire venue.

www.columbiamuseum.org, 803-343-2212

Gibbes Museum of Art

The Gibbes Museum of Art occupies a spot along Museum Mile in Charleston’s historic district, providing an overall atmosphere rich with history and the city’s undeniable charm. Because the circa 1905 building has since been restored, expect to marvel at the fascinating architectural details. Soaring ceilings make the Rotunda an attractive ceremony option for smaller weddings, while the massive garden invites up to 350 seated and 500 cocktail guests.

www.Gibbesmuseum.org, 1.843.722.2706, privateevents@gibbesmuseum.org

Gibbes Museum, by Tim Will Photography

A version of this story appeared in the fall issue 2018 of Carolina Bride magazine.



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