Turn Our State into a Wedding Destination

Why You Should Plan a Destination Wedding in Eastern NC

The “go big or go home” rule doesn’t always apply to weddings. For example, swapping a destination abroad for a destination wedding in our home state, North Carolina, makes “go home” look like a dazzling option. Eastern North Carolina is home to quality and comfortable venues in diverse regions, with an added bonus of in-state wedding planning and minimal travel costs. Long-distance travel is often expensive, and with the presence of a pandemic, travel can be unreliable and stressful – an ordeal you’ll want to bypass for all of your wedding guests. Read on for our top tips to planning a destination wedding in Eastern NC.

Tips for Planning a NC Coastal Destination Wedding

The coastal plains of North Carolina offer pristine natural scenery, and the Outer Banks is one of the most beautiful locations in the South. This unique strip of islands off of the coast of North Carolina has pristine beaches, a romantic sound, fresh seafood and even wild horses! Imagine walking down a sandy aisle toward your soul mate during the golden hour with the Atlantic Ocean as your backdrop. Charming historic towns and stunning waterfront locals are also rife with myriad event venue options.

First, consider the size of your event, Visit New Bern’s Executive Director Melissa Riggle suggests. “This will enable you to dial in on ideal eastern North Carolina venues that can accommodate your guest count.”

Public beaches don’t have a maximum guest count, but most beach access points on the Outer Banks aren’t available for private rental, and you may need to contend with beachgoers. Booking a private venue with beach access is the only surefire way to guarantee privacy. If you’re considering a microwedding or small event of fewer than 50 guests, ask venues and vendors about special elopement packages and pricing.

Resources for Planning Your Coastal Destination Wedding in NC

Let the Outer Banks Wedding Association (OBXWA) be your local wedding planning guide. OBXWA offers a website and magazine that features top Outer Banks venues, planners, florists, caterers, hotels and more.

Beth Conery of the OBXWA recommends that couples think carefully about the date for their coastal wedding. While people automatically assume that summer would be the ideal season for a beach wedding (and the natural time to visit the beach for vacation), the blazing heat can make it quite uncomfortable unless you’re planning to tie the knot in a swimsuit. As many North Carolinians know, formal attire and a full face of makeup don’t mix with July heat. Beth advises that late September and October are perfect months for a beach wedding in NC as the weather mellows out.

Wedding Venues and Destinations in Eastern NC

Jessica Adele Mitsch and Joshua Reid Homes married at River Dunes. The community and event facility boasts 14 miles of coastline in the town of Oriental, North Carolina. The couple dreamed of an intimate celebration with their closest family and friends, “and wanted everyone to feel like they were on vacation,” Jessica says.“We wanted to structure our wedding weekend in a way that maximized the quality time we could spend with our loved ones and make sure it was an all-around relaxing and fun-packed weekend. We heard about River Dunes through Josh’s aunt, who lives in New Bern, and we knew it was the perfect place for the experience we wanted to create.” River Dunes provided guest accommodations; the spaces for their rehearsal dinner, ceremony and reception; and the catering, creating a seamless event.

Nikkita Briones and Wyatt Scriever were married on June 12, 2022, at the Inner Banks Inn in the coastal town of Edenton, North Carolina, the picturesque and historical Colonial capital of the state.

“We loved the small town and … the quaint downtown mall right on the water,” Nikkita says. “We could not have asked for a better environment for a cozy and one-of-a-kind wedding weekend!”

Many Eastern North Carolina wedding venues can provide the resources for turning your wedding day into a long-lasting coastal celebration. Michaela Amanda Pulley and Jamison Storm Gray also tied the knot at the Inner Banks Inn. This coastal wedding venue hosted their rehearsal dinner, ceremony, reception and provided accommodations for guests. The couple says they chose the venue because it allowed the wedding party and immediate family to spend the entire weekend together. Jessica and Joshua also prioritized recreational activities and downtime with their closest circle.

“We were able to spend the weekend having quality time with guests [while] enjoying the pool, river, yard games and relaxation at River Dunes’ beautiful property,” Jessica says. “It felt like a fancy but laid-back summer camp for adults.”

In the Inner Banks town of Belhaven, The Retreat at Riverrun similarly offers a long list of weekend activities for couples and their loved ones to enjoy while spending quality time together. The waterfront property and two-story home allows for boating, fishing and other water sports to be incorporated into the wedding itinerary. In addition, lawn games and a fire pit can be the focal point of your cocktail hour or reception. There’s really no better choice for the couple who wants the luxury of having their accommodations, ceremony site, reception venue and entertainment wrapped up in one!

Emerald Isle: Pristine Coastal Wedding Destination in NC

One of the most beautiful beaches in North Carolina is Emerald Isle. Located on the Crystal Coast, Emerald Isle is a romantic destination. It has a relaxed vibe and natural beauty that are ideal for NC destination weddings, honeymoons and vacations. Emerald Isle Realty manages several venues and vacation properties that can be used for these purposes.

More Key NC Coastal Wedding Planning Info – Beach Wedding Tips

Summertime at the beach is also peak tourist season. If you plan a wedding at the peak of summer, be prepared for surge prices, increased traffic and intense heat. Also, be aware that hurricane season runs from June through the end of November. Don’t let this deter your plans for a coastal wedding in that time frame. However, you’ll need a backup plan. An indoor event space to smoothly move your ceremony or reception to in case of rain is essential.

Most beach access points on the Outer Banks are public and not available for rent or private use. One way to secure a spot is to set up early. If someone is a bit close for comfort, politely ask if they would mind moving farther away. If you’re having a seated ceremony, you can set up chairs and decor early. Also, there is no minimum or maximum number of people who can attend your ceremony on a public beach! This is a great option if you don’t want to pare down your guest list or police every plus-one. However, we encourage booking a venue with private beach access to ensure you’ll have a private and romantic beach wedding. Remember, you are competing with both local and out-of-state couples who view the NC coast as a destination. Book your venue and priority venues ASAP. If you are indeed having a wedding on the beach, our pro tip is to consider having a shoe valet or shoe station and/or a de-sanding station.

Eastern NC Destination: New Bern

Melissa Riggle says that “Visit New Bern‘s team has the ability to work with local venues, hotels and bed and breakfasts as well as caterers to streamline the wedding planning process. This service ensures that your special day is one that both you and your guests will remember. New Bern’s spring and fall seasons are ideal for couples who desire an outdoor wedding. One of New Bern’s strengths is its variety of venues, which enable couples to tie the knot throughout the year.” Stunning wedding venues in New Bern include Tryon Palace (pictured above and below).

“You don’t have to choose a wedding venue on the beach to have beautiful waterfront scenery,” Melissa says. “New Bern offers stunning coastal views at half the cost of venues at the beach. This allows couples to make the most of their budgets. Some examples include Amelia Grove, Copper Ridge on the Neuse, North Carolina History Center and the Riverfront Convention Center of Craven County, among others. Tryon Palace’s immaculate gardens and Commission House, circa 1880, and The Gardens at Isaac Taylor are just a few notable examples for those dreaming of an intimate celebration.”

Planning Your Wilmington, NC Wedding

If you’re looking for a wedding venue near Wilmington, NC, don’t pass up River Landing. This country club venue is situated next to the Cape Fear River with the air of an elegant countryside manor. Plenty of terraces and balconies are ideal for the couple seeking an indoor/outdoor event, while the Grand Ballroom can accommodate as many as 850 people. Of course, on-site accommodations are available so that you and your loved ones can spend as much time as possible together, and forego the stress of traveling to a secondary location.

Right in the heart of downtown Wilmington, Dram & Draught offers up its modern cocktail bar for private events like wedding festivities. Just like its other locations across the state, this bar has on hand more than 300 types of whiskey (perfect if your soon-to-be-spouse is a cocktail lover) and a refined atmosphere. But, Dram & Draught also provides nonalcoholic choices, draft beer, soda and more to please all of your guests. We highly recommend this Wilmington cocktail bar for your welcome dinner, rehearsal or send-off gathering.

Wrightsville, NC Wedding Venues – Eastern NC Beachfront Sites

Bluewater Waterfront Grill has a stunning view of the sound in Wrightsville. What’s more, there are a total of five spaces to pick from when you book this venue. The Captain’s Lounge offers a nautical theme and a private, covered deck for a perfectly beachy cocktail hour or reception.

Bluewater is owned by LM Restaurants – the same group that oversees one of our fave eclectic Raleigh restaurants, Vidrio – which also operates Wrightsville’s oceanfront restaurant and event venue Oceanic at the Crystal Pier. Oceanic overlooks the Atlantic Ocean on the other side of the island. For those seeking a true beach wedding experience, Oceanic offers access to Crystal Pier, the only wooden pier in Wrightsville. Tie the knot right on the pier with up to 150 guests, or choose one of Oceanic’s multiple private spaces for a larger or more intimate event.

More Eastern NC Destinations

Just to be clear, eastern North Carolina is home to much more than beach venues! Juliana Gorena and Mitch Hall tied the knot at The Cornealius Properties in Goldsboro, North Carolina, on July 29, 2022. A little over 50 miles southeast of Raleigh, this venue’s open-air chapel and intimate setting proved idyllic for their big day. “The reception hall and the entire property was beautiful – the perfect medium between modern and hometown,” Juliana says.

One of the newest wedding venues in the Eastern Nc region, Wild Oaths occupies a refurbished warehouse in Kinston, North Carolina. This is a perfect warehouse venue option for those in eastern part of the state. The warehouse offers 6,000 square feet of indoor space, plus an expansive outdoor area.

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