Dubbed the official bachelorette capital of 2019 and consistently ranked near the top of any “hippest cities of the South” list, Nashville has become a prime spot for “experience” tourism. You go there to participate in the very tourist attractions—honky tonks, pedal taverns, open mic nights, brunch restaurants serving biscuits and gravy—that feel the least touristy, the ones inextricably tied to the city’s ethos of country music and southern charm. But even as Nashville changes to meet the demands of droves of new visitors (think: murals, murals, and MORE murals), its distinct character remains intact. And it just takes one night at the beloved Listening Room Cafe, a trip to the Musicians Hall of Fame, or a beer at Tennessee Brew Works to prove that’s true. In short, the city’s booming food scene and constant hum of live music are just the most obvious reasons to tie the knot there; explore its depths and you’ll find its most-hidden gems offer many more.
Best Time of Year to Visit
April - September
There’s no getting around it: Nashville is squarely situated in the South (both culturally and geographically). But even considering the region’s typical heat and humidity, the warmer months comprise peak season in Nashville thanks to the city’s host of outdoor activities, including June’s multi-day CMA Fest, a mega outdoor festival that nearly guarantees an appearance by Carrie Underwood. Or, traipse through the Parthenon replica in Centennial Park, soak in the beauty of the tree-lined Belle Meade Boulevard, or don your finest cowboy boots for a night of line-dancing.
Pro Tip: If you do happen to find yourself in the Music City around Christmas, consider a trip to one of its many breathtaking holiday light displays. Take the Marriott Gaylord Opryland Resort, for example: More than three million lights adorn and illuminate practically every square foot of the gigantic property. Or, if you prefer a light show you can experience from the warmth of your car, consider Gill’s Bright Lights—a display synchronized to music you can cue up from a local radio station.
This quaint, tucked-away B&B is located at the top of a tree-lined pathway and surrounded by the serene meadows of the Cumberland Plateau. True to its name, the area’s butterflies only add to its peaceful overtones. The main building has only three rooms, and a separate log cabin available for private rental has two of its own, making the eco-friendly property feel incredibly intimate. Though its most inclusive wedding package allows for up to 30 guests, an elopement deal for just the two of you includes not only a ceremony at a hillside gazebo with an officiant, a bridal bouquet, and filing of the marriage license, but also one night’s accommodation and breakfast the next morning—all for around $700. If going this route, aim for a Sunday through Thursday elopement, as Saturdays at Butterfly Hollow are usually booked with small weddings and receptions.
A sprawling, 55-acre botanical landscape with 12 gardens—brimming with everything from culinary herbs to gingkos, and even 70 distinct varieties of roses—Cheekwood is easily the pièce de résistance of Nashville’s green spaces. (Plus, the former Cheekwood Mansion is now a Museum of Art, home to a permanent exhibition and a changing selection of traveling ones.) Its most distinctive attraction, however, is its Carell Woodland Sculpture Trail (reopening in 2020 after renovations). The trail is just shy of a mile long and takes you through a striking collection of native foliage paired with contemporary sculptures. Amazingly, the property’s elopement deal allows you to marry anywhere in the gardens or grounds (outside of any buildings). And because the package includes free admission for you and up to ten guests, Cheekwood’s many pristine acres also become one big beautiful backdrop for endless pictures and portraits.
Wild card! Thanks to one pioneering couple in 2017, you might be able to snag a bit of private time—just long enough to tie the knot—inside legendary Historic RCA Studio B, the very “temple of sound” where stars including Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, and Willie Nelson recorded many of their top hits. Since the end of its golden era in the 1960s and ‘70s, this Music City studio has changed hands a few times, most recently landing with the Mike Curb Family Foundation, which leased it in perpetuity to the non-profit Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. As a result, it’s been restored to its prime and renovated inside and out to serve as a classroom and cultural attraction to the public. If you’ve got rock ‘n roll roots, give them a call and see what options are currently available for getting hitched.
Archetypal Nashville—cowboy boots, Stetson hats, a never-ending stream of country music pouring into the streets—springs to life in a big way on Lower Broadway, home to the not-to-be-missed Honky Tonk Row. If your vibe is neon and you don’t mind the ambient noise (plus a crowd of onlookers), choose a corner on this street or any of its ancillary avenues and do the damn thing. Your photos will capture the city at its most energetic, no matter the hour, and as a bonus, you’ll be just a few steps away from live music and a shot and a beer when you’re ready to toast your newlywed status (just don’t forget to tip the performers—they rely solely on tips!).
Stretching over the Cumberland River and connecting downtown to East Nashville, the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, built in 1909 as the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge, was closed to traffic in the late ‘90s before reopening as a pedestrian bridge in 2003—a boon to those who frequent it on foot for the panoramic views of the city skyline. Because of its unique steel- and concrete-truss construction, it was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. The bridge doesn’t have much in the way of seating, so it’s best suited for a quick ceremony and too many photos. And be prepared for a good bit of walking, too. At 3,150 feet, or slightly more than half a mile, it’s one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the country.
To marry in Tennessee, you’ll need to obtain a marriage license within 30 days of your desired date via an application that requires proof of age (e.g., a government-issued ID) and social security number (from a social security card or tax document). Completing the online pre-application will speed you through the process; both of you would then visit the County Clerk’s office together—and with relevant identification in hand—to seal the deal. If you’ve been married previously, you’ll also need to provide a copy of your divorce decree.
The fee for the application varies by county (Nashville is in Davidson County, where it’s $99.50), and may be reduced by $60 in some cases when both parties either demonstrate completion of the state’s premarital education course or, if non-Tennessee residents show proof of residency elsewhere. The state only allows ordained clergymen and a handful of public officials to officiate marriages (and per a new law in effect in July 2019, this list does not include those ordained online), so you’ll also need to choose an officiant in one of the specified categories. For more information on marrying in Nashville, visit the Davidson County Clerk’s website.