Northeast Ohio is home to many historic churches. Available for your wedding ceremony, these historic churches come alive again echoing the sights, sounds, and spirituality of an age long past. Our area is also studded with gracious mansions from yesteryear. The former homes of prosperous industrialists, the mansions today are exquisite as venues for wedding receptions.

Historic architecture brings about a delightfully different kind of event. You can carry out the nostalgic theme with period-correct apparel, music, and transportation, making your wedding truly unique. With historic architecture many new options are opened up but many new considerations must be addressed as well. Though there are some obstacles to work around, the thrill of bringing your nuptials into historic architecture can be worth it.

When trying to envision your event think about the placement of guests and how they will move about during the event. Consider the atmosphere of the venue and the atmosphere you wish to create. The venue may be a museum, an upscale bed & breakfast, or a fully-functioning church; and while your event is very important to the caretakers, no piece of historic architecture is operated exclusively for weddings. Examine how “working within the parameters” of a particular venue effects your event.


Historic churches can be settings of wonderful sanctity for couples finding themselves in unique situations – it may be the perfect answer for the bride and groom not quite fitting within the parameters of the religion in which they were raised. Historic churches with fully-functioning parishes tend to be of open-minded faiths. Encore marriages, as well as interfaith, interracial, and nontraditional couples find a welcoming venue for their nuptials. A refreshingly new style of ceremony can be created as different traditions are interwoven. A few of the churches listed at the end of this article are parishes with active congregations. Attending a service at a particular church can introduce you to that parish’s spiritual approach. You’ll also get an idea of how an event flows in that sanctuary. At the churches that function as museums or historic sites, the rental contact person can provide a list of ministers to officiate at your ceremony.

Upon considering historic architecture you may need to scale down your guest list. Vintage houses of worship are often small by today’s standards and mansions were originally built as private homes. In today’s churches, pews tend to be placed with a lot of space around them. In the past, church pews tended to be placed closer together. So, some historic churches, despite their intimate feeling, seat a surprisingly large number of guests.

Churches of the early Western Reserve were multi-use buildings. They originally functioned as houses of worship, courts of law, town halls, and Saturday evening dance halls. Pews were movable and the furniture was constantly being rearranged for the activity at hand. Today, as rentable spaces, some churches still have movable pews and chairs enabling you to customize the setup to suit your taste. These churches were built as free-standing sanctuaries – without additional rooms and long before the advent of indoor comfort facilities. So depending on which church you choose; you may need to make arrangements for changing rooms and restrooms at other buildings nearby.
 
A reception in a stately mansion calls for orchestrating a floorplan. Chances are you’ll be seating guests in different rooms. Place cards, table numbers, and a large floorplan or seating list displayed on an easel will facilitate locating seats. If the mansion can’t hold enough tables for a sit-down dinner, an open house style reception may be the answer. Line chairs around the perimeter of the room and have food stations in one or more locations. Give each guest a luncheon size plate, a fork, a piece of stemware, and a dinner size napkin. Guests can seat themselves or mingle. Adjust the menu so food items are small, boneless, and easy to cut with a fork. Your guests will enjoy the ability to move around and will have a greater chance to get to know each other.

One innovative crowd-pleasing ways of serving would be ‘action stations’ where the food is prepared in front of the guests, such as at a carving station or a portable sushi station. With action stations you can mix and match different ethnicities of cuisine. You might combine sushi as an appetizer with an entree of a lean filet mignon.


At a mansion, chances are rooms will need to serve more than one function. The parlor may be initially set up as a chapel, then as a dining room, then a dance hall. You’ll want to come up with ways of moving guests out of the room so the turning can take place. For instance, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres could be served outside for the chapel-to-dining-room turn and the cake cutting could take place in another room for the dining-room-to-dance-hall turn. 

 
Remember that mansions are not catering facilities. Many of the things that make your reception a party may need to be brought in. This can include tables, chairs, linens, china, flatware, glassware, serving dishes and utensils, carafes, and coffee urns. Some of these items will be provided by your caterer – and some will be rented. You, your consultant, or your caterer will orchestrate the rental. Remember that the items will be delivered, perhaps placed in temporary storage, set up, torn down, placed again in storage, and finally picked up. Due to the rental and handling factors, your total cost could be comparable to that of an elegant party center – or somewhat higher.

The price of renting historic architecture is based on what kind of organization is operating the architecture and to what degree of restoration the architecture is in. The moderately-priced mansions offer the budget-conscious, do-it-yourself bride an opportunity for an elegant event.


It is important that you treat the building, fixtures, and furnishings with the utmost care. Pew decorations must be attached with ribbon – not wire, tape, or nails. Candles should be the dripless kind with bobeches or plastic sheeting under the candelabras. Remember that historic architecture is irreplaceable and should be cherished.

In all, historic architecture offers a coveted chance to turn back the clock. You can have the exquisite church wedding you’ve always dreamed of, and your guests can be graciously welcomed at a house that, just for a moment, has the feeling of being your home.

A DIRECTORY OF HISTORIC CHURCHES

Olmsted Unitarian Universalist Congregation in North Olmsted was built in 1847 in New Englandesque Greek revival architecture and is still in the hands of its original congregation. Noteworthy are the circa 1915 ornate Victorian-style stained glass windows. The sanctuary seats 125 and the dining hall seats 100. On site is a 41-car parking lot, a parlor, changing rooms for the bride and for the groom, and a well-equipped kitchen. Any caterer can be brought in or a wedding can be self-catered (catered by the bride and/or her family). Olmsted Unitarian offers quite a bit of flexibility in terms of the religion or denomination of ceremony – and in terms of the types of couples that can be married. For those who prefer something similar to a traditional Christian service (be it Catholic, Protestant, or non-Christian), Olmsted Unitarian maintains a list of officiants to whom brides and grooms are referred on a case by case basis. Pastor Rollins and Rental Coordinator, Damaris Davis, can both be reached at 440-777-6622.

Spiritual Life Society in Hudson, also known as the Old Church on the Green, is a delightful country Gothic white clapboard church built in1854. The former home of a Catholic congregation, the sanctuary is graced by brass chandeliers, a tin plate ceiling, and a bell tower with a bell that Reverend Larry Terkel rings as he sends off the bride and groom. Noteworthy are the stained glass windows, some dating as far back as 1854. The sanctuary seats 176 and the pews are on casters, offering flexibility in the setup. The bride and groom are offered a choice of ceremonies: Catholic, Protestant, Non-Denominational, Jewish, or Native American. Reverend Larry Terkel and Reverend Norman Jentner are both available for ceremonies. “The Spiritual Life Society,” says Reverend Terkel, “is a place where everyone is welcome.” Reverend Terkel can be reached at 330-656-2267 from Cleveland and at 330-650-1216 from Akron.

Grand Pacific Wedding Chapel in Olmsted Falls was built in 1851 in Greek revival architecture and was the house of worship of a Methodist Episcopal congregation. Recently restored, the chapel features a rebuilt bell tower, banquet chair seating with a touch of Victorian style, a changing room for the bride, and a patio overlooking Plum Creek. A shining brass cross and brightly colored stained glass windows give the sanctuary an uplifting, spiritual feel. Ceremonies take place in the sanctuary then guests can be ushered downstairs to an elegantly appointed cocktail area while the catering staff resets the sanctuary with banquet tables. Guests can then be ushered back into the sanctuary for a luncheon or dinner reception. The sanctuary as a chapel seats 200.  The sanctuary as a dining hall seats 170.  For information and reservations contact Don Muntean at 216-267-6555.

The Church at Century Village in Burton is a delightful white clapboard country church. It was built in 1846 and was originally known as the First Disciples Church and later came to be known as Auburn Community Church. The church is under the auspices of the Geauga County Historical Society. Prominent features include a pump organ and a kerosene lamp chandelier. Some of the pews have a Gothic trefoil design. The church, with rented chairs placed near the chancel, seats 80. Office Manager at the Historical Society, Bonnie Jemison, can be reached at 440-834-1492 ext. 21.

Tallmadge Historic Church, also known as the Church in the Circle, was built in 1825 by architect/builder Lemuel Porter (who also designed and built the Hale House at Hale Farm & Village). Its Federal architecture and soaring spire are impressive. Today, the church is operated by the Ohio Historical Society. “One of the special qualities of the church,” says Caretaker, Dana Gibson, “is its history. We’ve had great-great-grandchildren of the founders of the church retrace their ancestors’ steps and get married here. Unique to this church,” continues Dana, “are its curved pews, dating back to the 1930’s. The curve provides more seating, which brings real intimacy to a wedding.” Though cozy, the church seats 400. The surrounding grassy village green is a refreshing atmosphere. Caretaker, Dana Gibson, can be reached at 330-733-5879.

The Mary Ann Sears Swetland Memorial Meetinghouse at Hale Farm and Village in Bath was built in 1852 in Greek revival architecture. A bride gets the feeling that the clock has been turned back to 1852 upon walking down one of the two aisles. Potbelly stoves, pews with dividers, and loom-woven runners recapture the New Englandesque country feeling the Western Reserve had. A candle chandelier makes the Meetinghouse perfect for romantic candle-lit weddings. Since the Meetinghouse is in the Village, Hale Farm provides a convenient tram to take guests from the parking lot (near the Gatehouse) to the Meetinghouse. The Meetinghouse is available after 6:30 p.m. and seats 170.  For decorating purposes, florists have access to the Meetinghouse after 5:15 p.m. The Gatehouse, with its rustic charm and exclusive caterer, seats 250 and is available for wedding receptions. Group Sales Coordinator, April Moreland can be reached at 330-666-3711 ext. 226.

New Spirit Revival Center at the Civic in Cleveland Heights was built in 1925 in the grand Byzantine style of architecture and was originally the home of B’nai Jeshuran, a Jewish congregation. Still adorned with many of its original Jewish symbols, the space, today, has come alive with energy as the New Spirit Revival Center puts forth a wide-reaching Christian ministry. Gracefully blending historic with new, the sanctuary features a high domed ceiling, elegant brass chandeliers, and an inviting subtle rose and forest green décor. The sanctuary offers comfortable seating for 1,500. Pastors, Darrell and Belinda Scott welcome non-member couples and offer informative pre-marital classes. You can choose from four wedding reception party rooms, depending on the size of your guest list. The largest party room seats 300 for a sit-down meal and has a stage for your band or orchestra. Your caterer will appreciate the spacious kitchen facilities and your guests will appreciate the 500-car parking lot. Even with the roomy atmosphere the space offers a cozy feeling. The Recital Hall seats 70 and the Center Hall seats 120 for a sit-down reception. Building Manager, Robin Lampkins, can be reached at 216-371-3498.


A DIRECTORY OF HISTORIC MANSIONS

Mooreland Mansion in Kirtland was built in 1898 in neoclassical architecture as the summer home of Edward William Moore and Louise Chamberlain Moore, who co-founded the Cleveland Painesville and Eastern Interurban Railway. Today the restored home is under the auspices of Lakeland Community College and is a “delightful gem” on the college campus. Perfect for an April-to-October indoor/outdoor wedding, Mooreland Mansion, for a sit-down meal, seats 90 in the Oviatt Room, 42 in the Restoration Room, 24 in the Dunlap Room, and 60 on the awning-covered outdoor veranda. (Total seating is 210.) Seating for indoor winter weddings is 150. The outdoor pergola and rose garden are stunning backdrops for your outdoor nuptials. Marketing Coordinator, Staci Moran, can be reached at 440-525-7551.

Glidden House in Cleveland’s culturally-studded University Circle, was built in 1910 in French Gothic Eclectic architecture by Francis Kavanaugh Glidden, son of the founder of the Glidden Paint Company. Operated today as a boutique hotel, Glidden House offers 52 exquisitely appointed guest rooms for your wedding entourage. For a sit-down reception, Glidden House seats 125. “The most important aspect of Glidden House,” says Assistant General Manager, Bill Falcon, “is the upscale, yet intimate, historic charm. Within the original ornate architecture is a bold and daring blend of rich colors and stimulating textures. With the staff’s expertise and genuine caring, Glidden House is transformed into your romantic wedding venue.” Director of Catering , Carrie Cooney, can be reached at 216-231-8900.

Henn Mansion in Euclid was built in 1923 in Tudor and English Manor architecture with elements of the Bungalow Craftsman style by Albert and Gertrude Henn, who co-founded the National Acme Company, a manufacturer of screw fasteners.  Overlooking Lake Erie, the home is surrounded by Euclid’s Sims Park. The mansion is operated by Friends of Henn Mansion and is under the auspices of the City of Euclid. Beveled lead glass windows and marble fireplace mantles grace the interior. Your wedding guests will be “greeted” by a Palladian-motif entryway. The hand-carved wood fireplace and beautifully-restored staircase are lovely as backdrops to your wedding photos. Henn Mansion accommodates 80 guests. Any caterer can be brought in or a wedding can be self-catered. The home is open for public viewing every Wednesday from 7:00 p.m. till 9:00 p.m. Messages can be left at Henn Mansion by calling 216-731-5060. 


Nicholson House in Lakewood was built in 1835 in New England architecture by farmers James and Betsy Nicholson. Nicholson house is under the auspices of the Lakewood Historical Society and the City of Lakewood. Featured are Victorian-era antiques, period-correct wallpaper, and gaslight-looking reproduction chandeliers. The four rooms in which a wedding reception would take place are engagingly nostalgic. A side porch adds to the charm. Nicholson house seats 125. The historical society can be reached at 216-221-7343. The contact person is Rental Manager Karen Saer.

The Mansion at Manakiki Golf Course in Willoughby Hills was built in 1908 in Southern Colonial architecture and was the summer home of the Howard Hanna family. The home is currently under the auspices of Cleveland Metroparks. The Mansion with soaring white pillars and fanlight-topped windows exudes grace and charm. A parlor, seating 70, and a ballroom, seating 170 both have fireplaces with mantles that may be decorated. The exclusive caterer of the home can be reached at 800-837-5899. The contact person is Karen Bender.

Stan Hywet Hall in Akron was built in 1915 in Tudor Revival architecture by Franklin Agustus and Gertrude Seiberling, co-founders of Goodyear Tire and Rubber and Seiberling Rubber. The spacious, 72-acre grounds offer three ceremony venues:  The West Terrace sits atop an elegant flight of steps. The Overlook is an elegant stone area with curving balustrade which overlooks a sweeping ravine. The Tea Houses with Oriental flair overlook two beautiful ponds and a Japanese-style bridge. To make her entrance at the Tea Houses, a bride can walk down a lovely stone walkway where white birch trees create a foliage canopy. Outdoor ceremony locations at Stan Hywet Hall accommodate 100. Within the mansion, Manor Hall Auditorium seats 185 guests for a sit-down reception or 200 guests for a buffet-style reception and has a raised balcony for a band or disc jockey. For the more intimate wedding, Carriage House Auditorium seats 85 for a sit-down meal or 100 for a buffet-style event. The bride and groom can choose from three renowned caterers. Three trams are available for bringing guests from the parking lot to your wedding venue. Linda Waite, director of rental services can be reached at 330-315-3210.

Hower House in Akron was built in 1871 in Second Empire Italianate architecture and was the home of John Henry and Susan Hower, industrialists who were active in the milling, reaping, and cereal industries. Today the ornate mansion is owned by The University of Akron and is supported by two volunteer groups, the Friends of Hower House and the Hower House Victorians. The home is an exquisite remnant of Akron’s first “Gold Coast.” Stately black walnut woodwork graces the first floor doorways and staircase. An engaging setup for a ceremony is to have your chancel be the octagonal center hall and seat guests in the three parlors flowing from the hall. A sense of intimacy is created, yet all guests have a clear view of the bride and groom. Hower House seats 80 for a ceremony, 58 for a sit-down meal, and accommodates 80 for an open house style reception. Director, Sylvia Johnson, can be reached at 330-972-6909.

All information in the above article is subject to change. We suggest that you contact each location to confirm the details of the facility.

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