Feature Article - October 2005
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Stunning Shelters

Planning and protecting outdoor structures

By Stacy St. Clair

Marriage Wows

Striking gazebos and other shelters that attract weddings and other special events bolster a park's image—and prove to be lucrative investments. Just ask Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Va., which ranks among the top wedding sites in the Washington, D.C., area. The park has become a coveted location, in part, because it has clear rules on how ceremonies and receptions will be conducted. It also has a policy on how to handle unreserved wedding parties.

Here are a few of the regulations that help Meadowlark weddings go off without a hitch:

  • Weddings only may be held in a garden gazebo that has no reserved function taking place at that time. If bridal parties see a function taking place in a gazebo, they are instructed not to enter. Instead, they are required to go to the visitor center upon arrival and ask if a gazebo is open.
  • Weddings must take place in designated gazebos or the atrium. They are not allowed in any other areas of the park.
  • The bridal party and guests are instructed not to stand in or walk through flowerbeds or any planted garden area without a path. Grass areas are open to walking and picture taking.
  • The atrium building and gardens are strictly off limits to unreserved wedding parties during reserved atrium events. Patrons should check the atrium schedule at the visitor enter front desk.
  • Unreserved wedding parties are required to pay all garden entrance fees. There is no group discount for wedding parties regardless of the size.
  • All patrons vehicles associated with unreserved wedding parties must use the visitor parking lot.
  • Limousines may discharge passengers in front of the visitor center but must wait in the parking lot until passengers return. Limousines are not permitted to wait in front of the visitor center or in fire lanes.
  • No musical instruments, chairs, tape recorders or radios are permitted.
  • Guests are reminded not to block pathways or doorways as to impede garden visitors.
  • No food is allowed. Alcohol of any kind is strictly prohibited.
  • Failure to follow these rules can result in the wedding party being asked to leave the gardens.