Photography by Kristin Weaver
If you’re planning to be married, you’re faced with an embarrassment of riches in Winter Park. Whatever your taste — from a nationally renowned boutique hotel to a retro red-brick railroad station — you’ll find an unforgettable venue in good old 32789.
Going to the Chapel
The gorgeous Rollins College campus, with its Mediterranean Revival-style architecture and lush landscaping, is home to historic Knowles Memorial Chapel, built in 1932 and the site of 60 to 70 weddings a year.
Over the decades, it’s likely that some couples who didn’t even want to marry were compelled to make the leap solely because of the opportunity to say “I do” in this jewel box of a building.
For decades, however, these coveted chapel nuptials were available only to faculty, staff and alumni of the college as well as their children. That all changed three years ago, when the chapel was made available to those with no such Rollins affiliation.
Concurrently, the erstwhile campus bookstore was repurposed as a reception and banquet hall. The 10,000-square-foot Rice Family Pavilion, which can accommodate receptions and rehearsal dinners of up to 230, features a recently added rotunda with floor-to-ceiling windows. There’s a full kitchen downstairs, where in the 1960s a coffee shop hosted budding folk singers.
The chapel, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, boasts dramatic towers arched overhead and sunlight filtered through stained-glass windows. A vintage pipe organ adds a majestic touch to this sacred space, which was designed by Ralph Adams Cram. The legendary architect’s other achievements include a master plan for Princeton University and the Gothic transformation of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.
Following ceremonies, couples are often photographed at the chapel’s majestic entry or in a rose garden located just steps away. Indeed, the entire campus provides multiple backdrops for stunning images.
Weddings are held on Saturdays only, and openings are limited because of holidays and college events. (That’s why getting married at the chapel can’t be a spur-of-the-moment decision.)
If you have no college connection, you must book a package that includes both the chapel and the Rice Family Pavilion. But that’s something you’d likely do in any case, considering the proximity of the venues. An in-house planning service, 1885 Events — named for the year the college was founded — will be your guide.
Homey and Historic
Capen House at the Polasek sits on three lush acres skirting the shores of Lake Osceola, alongside the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens. How it got there is a story worthy of Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
The circa-1885 Tudor Revival home famously faced the wrecking ball in 2013, until community members raised funds to float the structure — via barge and in pieces — across the lake to the museum’s property, where it was reassembled and restored. Surely there’s a wedding analogy in there somewhere.
The herculean effort to preserve the home has made it a treasure in the hearts of Winter Parkers. Pinewood floors, beadboard ceilings, crystal chandeliers, bronze sculptures and a case filled with silver teapots are among the details that make it an endearing and enchanting place for weddings.
Larger groups hold ceremonies on the manicured Lake View Lawn, which is surrounded by blooming gardens. Smaller groups often opt for the expansive patio, which can be outfitted with tables draped in white tablecloths for elegant outdoor dining.
Indoor weddings take place in the Grand Parlor, which is highlighted by a Victorian staircase. Cocktails can be served on an enclosed porch that offers a spectacular view of the grounds and the water. A dock allows guests to arrive by boat, if they so choose.
The Peacock Room, with its French doors, oriental rugs and a sofa accented with pretty tapestry pillows, serves as a charming dressing/waiting room for brides. And the house has a full catering kitchen, where any caterers on the Capen House preferred list can set up.
Czech-born sculptor Albin Polasek’s Mediterranean-style home, now a museum, is just steps away. In addition to viewing a collection of figurative and whimsical mythological sculptures on the grounds, guests can tour the exhibition gallery, see the artist’s personal chapel and enjoy his courtyard — where the iconic “Emily” sculpture welcomes visitors with her harp.
Other historic venues in the city include the cozy Winter Park Country Club, a welcoming clapboard cottage built in 1914 and painted in summer shades of yellow and white. Its screened-in porch faces the Winter Park Golf Course, the region’s second-oldest nine-hole layout.
The unpretentious interior features two fireplaces, paddle fans and highly polished wood floors. The main dining room seats 78, while the lounge accommodates 49. The venue, which also has a bricked outdoor gathering area, is run by the City of Winter Park.
Also adjacent to the golf course is another blast from the past that offers an entirely different sort of wedding experience. Casa Feliz Historic Home & Venue — which dubs itself “Winter Park’s Community Parlor” — is a little bit country. Meaning, in this case, an entirely different country (and era).
At 6,000 square feet, this Andalusian-style masonry farmhouse was built in 1933. However, architect James Gamble Rogers II wanted it to look several hundred years older — which he accomplished with arches crafted to resemble ruins, a whitewashed red-brick exterior and a weather-worn clay barrel-tile roof.
The interior of Casa Feliz (“happy house” in Spanish) evokes 19th-century Spain and is replete with beamed ceilings, oriental rugs, ornately carved chairs, fireplaces and paintings in gilded frames. It can accommodate up to 120 for a reception.
A cozy courtyard with a fountain featuring colorful Mallorca tiles that depict floral and bird designs is just one of many unique photo opportunities. Larger weddings are often held in the courtyard or on the front lawn, while smaller events may be held indoors. Upstairs, the beautifully furnished hospitality suites provide a comfortable place to prepare.
Like the Capen House, Casa Feliz was rescued from demolition and moved to its current site when community activists rode to the rescue. The structure, which was hauled from Interlachen Avenue to its current location on city property in 2000, is owned by the city and operated (using its own funding) by the nonprofit Friends of Casa Feliz.
Capen House at the Polasek, the Winter Park Country Cluband Casa Feliz Historic Home & Venue are all listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Flowers are meant to bring joy to a wedding — which explains, in part, the popularity of getting married in a garden setting. At Mead Botanical Garden, the Little Amphitheater, cocooned by pink azaleas, a frilly wrought-iron trellis and tall oak trees, has been a favorite wedding locale for more than 50 years.
Tiered bench seating for as many as 350 eliminates the need for cumbersome folding chairs. A bonus is access to the 47-acre site’s other picturesque locations, from the Butterfly Garden to Alice’s Pond. After the ceremony, friends and family can gather in the 3,000-square-foot Azalea Lodge, just steps from the amphitheater.
Weddings and receptions may also be held at the adjacent Grove at Mead Garden, an outdoor performance area that features a raised stage that faces a gently sloping lawn. There’s a rustic pole barn off to the side.
The 50-by-60-foot platform is big enough to accommodate the Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra, which performs there. And it’s also big enough to accommodate at least a dozen tables for a seated dinner. Caterers can serve drinks and appetizers from the pole barn.
Other outdoors-themed weddings are held at 13-acre Kraft Azalea Garden, which faces Lake Maitland along Alabama Drive — a winding, shady street lined with historic homes and modern showplaces.
The garden is filled with cypress trees that reach soaring heights and drip with Spanish moss, which blows gently in the breeze. And, of course, there are acres of azaleas. On the edge of the lake is the iconic exedra, an open-air, temple-like structure whose architectural heritage dates to ancient Greece.
The exedra, which was built in 1969, is particularly breathtaking (and photogenic) at sunset. However, only groups of up to 20 are permitted to use the city-owned property, and there’s no dressing area — so come prepared.
If you like the idea of an outdoor wedding but prefer that amenities be a little closer at hand, you may opt for the Central Park Rose Garden, located in the southern reaches of the city’s signature Central Park.
Located near the corner of Park and New England avenues, the urban oasis is convenient to venues where receptions can be held. No parties are allowed in the park and, like Kraft Azalea Garden, there’s no preparation area (or even restrooms). Groups are limited to 20.
Weddings at the luxurious Alfond Inn at Rollins,a boutique hotel owned by the college,are popular in part because out-of-town guests have a handy place to stay.
Oh, but what a place it is. The 112-room Alfond — located just a block from Park Avenue — has earned Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Award as the Best Hotel in Florida every year from 2014 to 2018 and has a AAA Four Diamond rating.
The Alfond is, of course, frequently full. But if you book a wedding, you’re guaranteed a block of rooms and can be certain that your guests will be well taken care of — and will be within walking distance of shops, restaurants and museums.
The hotel’s signature Conservatory, with its dramatic glass-dome ceiling, is a one-of-a-kind wedding space in the region. Adding further interest are thought-provoking pieces from the Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art, which is held by the college’s on-campus Rollins Museum of Art.
The Inn frequently hosts weddings on the Courtyard Lawn, adjacent to the Conservatory, which is carefully manicured and lined with pots of bougainvillea.
Receptions are usually hosted in the Park Avenue Ballroom, which can be transformed through lighting, draperies, floral displays and elegant table settings. Because the hotel is a boutique property, it can handle only one wedding at a time. That means the highly professional staff will lavish you with attention.
On the theory that you can’t have too much of a good thing, two years ago the Alfond announced an expansion, slated to be complete this summer, that will add 71 guest rooms and suites in a new wing, as well as a spa with seven treatment rooms and a new fitness area.
On the second floor of the new wing, the spa will open onto an amenity deck that will encompass a second swimming pool, private cabanas, a neo-classical fountain and a shaded canopy that will cover an extensive outside living room.
How about a heaping helping of modern architecture as a backdrop for your big event? The Winter Park Events Center, an anchor of the $42 million Winter Park Library and Events Center campus, was designed by renowned international architect Sir David Adjaye and has become a regional hot spot for weddings.
The Events Center, located on the city’s west side, offers a variety of indoor and outdoor settings. If you’re looking to go big, you’ll want to check out the 4,700-square-foot Grand Ballroom, which accommodates up to 250 seated guests. This room’s 17-foot ceilings and expansive windows create a spacious, light-drenched atmosphere.
Offering views of Lake Mendsen and beyond, the 2,200-square-foot Rooftop Terrace can accommodate up to 142 guests for outdoor ceremonies, dinners or cocktail receptions. There’s also a Rooftop Meeting Room with a capacity of about 50 — perfect for bridal showers.
Oh, but there’s more. The elevated 6,300-square-foot Belvedere Platform can handle roughly 420 guests for outdoor events and may be tented for added character and imaginative décor. This space features a beautifully landscaped circular zone with uplighting.
Another outdoor option is the Tiedtke Amphitheater, which holds about 350 guests and provides tiered seating at the lake’s edge. Whatever venue you choose, you’ll have access to upstairs and downstairs get-ready rooms that allow you to prep in comfort.
Clubs, Churches and More
The Chapel & Cellar was built as Grant Chapel on Winter Park’s west side in 1935 and served as a house of worship for the predominantly African American neighborhood for almost 70 years.
In 2002, the building was bought by Sydgen
Corporation — which redeveloped much of Hannibal Square in the 1990s — and was for several years leased to a company that used it as a photography studio and wedding venue.
In 2013, Sydgen moved the chapel to its present location on Lyman Avenue near the railroad tracks and across from the Farmers’ Market. As part of the move, the company renovated the structure and added a well-equipped basement space for receptions and other events.
It’s an intimate space (capacity is just 49) that features six of the church’s original pews in the chapel area. The cellar, entered through hand-forged iron doors imported from Mexico, has black-stained concrete floors, oak tongue-and-groove ceilings and Edison light fixtures.
In the center of the room, two antique Chicago brick pillars anchor a banquet table, while lining the walls are tufted-leather banquette benches and six smaller tables. There’s also a granite-top bar.
The Winter Park Farmers’ Market is likely not top of mind as a wedding venue. But perhaps it should be. After all, railroads and romance have a long and storied history together.
The old Atlantic Coast Line freight depot, which was built in 1913, has anchored the popular
Saturday-morning market since 1979. The place has a certain rustic appeal that many couples find charming.
The exposed red-brick walls and wood sliding doors are original to the building, which is air conditioned and seats 180. The parking lot can be used for a tented event.
Located on West New England Avenue in downtown Winter Park, the city-owned, 2,800-
square-foot venue also has a prep kitchen and an ice machine. Tables and chairs are included with the rental.
You’ll need to keep in mind that the building is next to the railroad tracks — not surprising for an erstwhile freight depot. If your wedding is on a weekday, SunRail cars will rumble past every half hour. An Amtrak incursion is also a possibility, so it’s smart to check the schedule if you don’t want to hear the train a’coming (as Johnny Cash might say) during your ceremony.
The Winter Park Community Center, located in Hannibal Square, is likewise an under-the-radar wedding location. But it’s got all the bells and whistles, including a ballroom that accommodates groups ranging in size from 50 to 350 for dinner and dancing.
There’s a full commercial kitchen on site — and two basketball courts to work off those extra pounds after gorging on hors d’oeuvres.
The Winter Park Racquet Club, located on Via Tuscany, is a warm, inviting space on the edge of Lake Maitland with a dreamy view of the water framed by the branches of cypress trees.
No matter where you hold the ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner and dancing, guests will delight in the splendid views and posh appointments. But you must be a member, or have a member sponsor you, to use the facility.
That’s also the case with Interlachen Country Club, located off Lake Howell Road on lake-dotted property that encompasses a Joe Lee-designed, 18-hole golf course. There are more than a dozen weddings a year at the club, many of them for families that were member sponsored.
Other clubs, though, open their facilities to anyone for weddings. The Woman’s Club of Winter Park, located on South Interlachen Avenue in downtown Winter Park, often hosts weddings in its clubhouse — which was completed in 1921 — or on its beautiful front lawn.
The facility has a full kitchen and a stage for a DJ or a band. The room seats about 120 at tables and about 150 with chairs only. A long terrace that runs along the building’s south side is ideal for cocktail receptions.
Ditto for the University Club of Winter Park on North Park Avenue. The main ballroom of its clubhouse, which was completed in 1934, can handle up to 120 at tables or up to 200 for a reception. There’s also a stage and a full kitchen.
The library is available to host pre-wedding catered dinners for as many as 40. And elsewhere on the property stands an oak-shaded gazebo where outdoor ceremonies are often held.
Still, many prefer to be married in a house of worship. If so, there’s no shortage in Winter Park — although some only perform weddings for members and their families. Several, though, are of historic interest.
All Saints Episcopal Church, for example, with its peaked roof and arches, was built in 1942 and designed by Ralph Adam Cram, whom you’ll recall from Knowles Memorial Chapel. It’s located on East Lyman Avenue.
St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church, with its Mediterranean architecture and cavernous contemporary interior surrounded by stained-glass windows, provides a beautiful setting for wedding ceremonies.
First Congregational Church of Winter Park, established in 1884, is the first church of any denomination to be established in Winter Park. The original building is long gone, but the current Colonial Revival sanctuary, completed in 1925, holds 400 and has an adjoining meeting room with a full kitchen for receptions.
It’s worth noting that First Congregational, which also has a smaller chapel on its South Interlachen Avenue campus, is the only church in Winter Park that performs same-sex marriages.
Venue and Services Guide
Alfond Inn at Rollins
300 East New England Avenue, Winter Park
Hilton Garden Inn Winter Park
1275 Lee Road, Winter Park
Knowles Memorial Chapel and the Rice Family Pavilion
1000 Holt Avenue, Winter Park
(Rollins College Campus)
SpringHill Suites by Marriott Winter Park
1127 North Orlando Avenue, Winter Park
Central Park Rose Garden
250 South Park Avenue, Winter Park
Kraft Azalea Garden
1305 Alabama Drive, Winter Park
Mead Botanical Garden
1300 South Denning Drive, Winter Park
Capen House at the Polasek
633 Osceola Avenue, Winter Park
Casa Feliz Historic Home & Venue
656 North Park Avenue, Winter Park
Chapel & Hudson’s Cellar Hannibal Square
216 West Lyman Avenue, Winter Park
Winter Park Country Club
761 Old England Avenue, Winter Park
Winter Park Farmers’ Market
200 West New England Avenue
University Club of Winter Park
841 North Park Avenue, Winter Park
Woman’s Club of Winter Park
419 South Interlachen Avenue, Winter Park
Winter Park Community Center
721 West New England Avenue, Winter Park
Interlachen Country Club
2245 Interlachen Court, Winter Park
Note: You must be a member or be
sponsored by a member.
Winter Park Racquet Club
2111 Vía Tuscany, Winter Park
Note: You must be a member or be
sponsored by a member.
Winter Park Events Center
1050 West Morse Boulevard, Winter Park
Bangz Park Avenue
228 North Park Avenue, Winter Park
Dolce Vita Salon
1286 Orange Avenue, Winter Park
Gary Lambert Salon & Nail Bar
517 South Park Avenue, Winter Park
658 North Wymore Avenue, Winter Park
433 West New England Avenue, Winter Park
Winter Park Village
460 North Orlando Avenue, Winter Park
Una Donna Piu
216 Park Avenue, Winter Park
Calvet Couture Bridal
Winter Park Village
520 Orlando Avenue, Winter Park
The Bridal Finery
976 North Orange Avenue, Suite C, Winter Park
The Collection Bridal and Formal
301 North Park Avenue, Winter Park
1143 Orange Avenue, Winter Park
Arthur’s Creative Events & Catering
860 Sunshine Lane, Altamonte Springs
5470 Lake Howell Road, Winter Park
549 West Par Street, Orlando
John Michael Exquisite Weddings
627 Virginia Drive, Orlando
Puff ’n Stuff Events Catering
250 Rio Drive, Orlando
Atmospheres Floral and Décor
2121 West Fairbanks Avenue, Winter Park
805 South Orlando Avenue, Winter Park
Winter Park Florist
537 North Virginia Avenue, Winter Park
Lee Forrest Designs
51 North Bumby Avenue Orlando
STATIONARY AND INVITATIONS
Maureen H. Hall
116 Park Avenue, Winter Park
Rifle Paper Co.
558 West New England Avenue, Suite 150, Winter Park
Be On Park
152 South Park Avenue, Winter Park
Jewelers on the Park
116 South Park Avenue, Winter Park
Reynolds & Co. Jewelers
232 North Park Avenue, Winter Park
220 North Park Avenue, Winter Park
John Craig Clothier
132 South Park Avenue, Winter Park
Leonardo 5th Avenue
121 East Welbourne Avenue, Winter Park
Siegel’s Winter Park
330 South Park Avenue, Winter Park
Contact: Ricky Sylvia
Craig Crawford – Saxophonist
Contact: Craig Crawford
The Elite Show Band
7512 Dr. Phillips Boulevard, Orlando
Leonard Brothers Band
Weddings Only DJ Entertainment
Contact: Brian Scott
A Chair Affair
613 Triumph Court, Orlando
1255 La Quinta Dr., Orlando
Orlando Wedding & Party Rentals
2452 Lake Emma Road, Lake Mary
1075 Florida Central Parkway, Longwood
Allan Jay Images
Art Faulkner Photography
805 South Orlando Avenue, Winter Park
Brian Adams Photo
Cricket’s Photo & Cinema
16618 Broadway Avenue, Winter Garden
Gian Carlo Photographer
Jensen Larson Photography
Kristen Weaver Photography
1624 Smithfield Way, Suite 1126, Oviedo
Rudy & Marta Photography
13953 Lake Mary Jane Road, Orlando