There are countless venues near or in State College, PA, home of the Nittany Lions! Though, not every venue can do it all in one shot…that is ceremony, reception, and lots of gorgeous photo opportunities! With that being said, with all the years we’ve been wedding photographers, Joel and I have compiled a list of five wedding venues in Centre County that we think are not only wonderful places to have your wedding, but are also our favorite places to photograph. Drumroll please!…….
#5 Harmony Forge Inn
Harmony Forge is a barn/rustic venue on our list, but with a bed and breakfast twist! The property grounds are beautiful and there are multiply locations available to have the ceremony outside. If it does rain, the ceremony can be done inside the barn. The beautiful stone house adjacent to the two barns gives the bride and groom a very accommodating option for a place to spend the night. The house also provides lots of light in the rooms and is nicely decorated making it an ideal place for the those getting ready photos or a back up if it rains. Outside, there are plenty of photo opportunities. Your guests can enjoy cocktails and play games out on the lawn or roast marshmallows at night by the fire pit. It truly is a down to earth, cozy, and yet charming venue that both you and your guests with enjoy!
Things to Consider: The main barn where the reception is held is neither air conditioned or has heat, so take into consideration the time of year when booking this venue and plan accordingly. We’ve seen people use space heaters in the fall or large fans in the summer. You would also need to hire a caterer and possibly rent tables/chairs. Bathrooms are in large portable restrooms outside the barn.
#4 Fern Hill Weddings (Formally McCann School of Art)
If you are an art and nature lover, then this venue is for you! Fern Hill captures all the beauty of tall forest trees growing in beds of green leafy ferns and provides plenty of photo opportunities around every stone stacked corner or sculpture. It’s serene, peaceful, and visually beautiful. There is a small pier and bridge in the middle of the pond down below the main property that is always a crowd favorite. Wedding guests have the opportunity to explore the art gallery building during the cocktail hour (which can also work for photos if it rains), walk the peaceful pathways around the property, or sit in the sculpture garden. Ceremonies are typically done in the sculpture garden with the bride and groom under a large ornate gazebo. Receptions can be either inside the art school, but are normally under the pavilion outside. The good thing is guests can use the bathrooms inside the art school rather than having to rent portable restrooms. You and your wedding party can spend the night in the large cabins on the property which also make a nice space for getting ready photos. Fern Hill definitely provides charm, culture, and a unique choice for a wedding venue if you’re searching for something different.
Things to Consider: Because majority of the wedding may be outside, plan accordingly for the weather. If you still want to have the reception outside in the pavilion due to space constraints (since the art school is limited), plan to have space heaters if your wedding is in the fall. Similar to General Potter Farm, you would need to hire caterers and possibly rent tables/chairs. And though the surrounding areas are beautiful, you would need to put more planning into decorating the reception (perfect for any DIY Pinterest bride).
#3 Nittany Lion Inn
If you are the bride and groom who bleeds blue and white, this venue is perfect for you. Not only is it on Penn State’s campus, but the Inn is an old historic building with lots of character and ties to any Penn State alumni. Inside the Inn, the main ballroom is very large and spacious with a big beautiful chandelier hanging in the center. The food is also delicious. They are known for their restaurant/bar, Whiskers, The Dining Room for fine dining, and the popular brunch buffet every Sunday. The rooms/suites have blue and white charm and are nice for those getting ready photos. Outside the Inn, it is well kept with seasonal flowers and photo opportunities either around the Inn or within walking distance to the Lion Shrine and campus. While not as commonly done, they do ceremonies outside on the back patio. We ironically haven’t done a ceremony at the Nittany Lion since many of our couples have used the campus chapel or churches downtown for a ceremony location. Though we have photographed many with the cocktails on the patio or inside the atrium that’s adjacent to the ballroom and Whiskers. The staff staff is also very attentive, courteous, and professional.
Things to Consider: Because the ballroom is very spacious (though nice), if you’re not having a large wedding, it can look a little empty. There are smaller rooms downstairs of the Inn, but may need more on the decorating side if a boardroom style room is not your initial vision. Also, since Penn State has year round events, the Inn can be very popular, especially on football game weekends, which will either limit their availability or the prices will GREATLY increase.
#2 General Potter Farm
We have a special love for General Potter Farm! Binky Lush, the owner, is simply lovely and delightful. Both the farm and the barn where the reception is held has lots of rustic charm. The ceremony can either be outside down by the beautiful woodsy stream, or inside the barn downstairs against the old stone walls. We’ve photographed both types of ceremonies, and they are equally as beautiful. The great thing about this barn is that it’s not so rustic that it doesn’t have central air or heat like others we’ve been to which is amazing when you like the look of a shabby chic wedding without feeling too shabby. 😉 A big plus is that the bathrooms are inside the barn, not outside; making it a great venue all year round. You also have the option of going lighter on the decorations since the barn itself is charming and already has stringed lights and a nice chandelier for ambiance. The grounds surrounding the main barn are beautiful with lots of variety and options to work with. Cocktails can either be downstairs in the barn or outside. There is space for the bridal party to get ready in a large back room that can be sectioned off if you want both the bridesmaids and groomsmen to get ready without seeing each other (or you have the men or women get ready elsewhere).
Things to consider: There is a kitchen to use, but there is not a cooking staff provided, and so you will need to hire a catering/bar company. You would possibly need to rent tables and chairs as well. There is not a place to stay at the venue, so you would also need to book hotel rooms for you and your party. Wedding guests can be bussed to and from hotels to your venue, so that you don’t have to worry about drunk driving. Another good thing is that you rent the place for the weekend, and so you will have extra time to setup and tear down for your event (perfect for the bride who has a lot of DIY details that take time to setup).
#1 Toftrees Resort
And our top pick is…….Toftrees Resort! There are lots of pros when booking your wedding at this venue! Not only will the wedding party and your guests have a space to spend the night, the resort consists of beautiful woodsy and scenic views for your wedding photos. There are also suites designated for the bridal party’s use to get ready, the outdoor ceremony location is beautiful overlooking the lake and golf course grounds, the food is amazing (try the very popular restaurant The Field for happy hour and delicious gourmet burgers), the staff is friendly (Event Coordinator, Katie Clegg is amazing). The large ballroom doesn’t look like a boardroom and has character, and if the weather is nice, your cocktail hour has a beautiful backdrop view of the grounds out on the patio. To the folks who like to golf and want to a play a round before the wedding, have I mentioned the golf course?
Things to consider: If the weather is not suitable for an outdoor ceremony, the inside option can be pretty, but needs love with DIY decorations since it’s a boardroom. Options for a variety of photos can also be challenging inside the resort if it’s a complete rain out, but this is why hiring a photographer who can roll with the weather changes is important. Some of our favorite photos this year have been from rainy weddings at which happened to be at Toftrees. Click here to see!
So there it is…our list! We have had the privilege of photographing many wonderful venues during our photographic careers. Depending on what you’re looking for, many other venues would also be just as charming and accommodating. However, as far as all inclusive concerns, these five venues surely take the wedding cake! We hope you enjoyed our list or at least were inspired to visit one of these lovely venues and see for yourselves!