For an elopement steeped in all things artsy and architectural, prioritize Providence. Rhode Island’s “creative capital” (it isn’t called that for nothing!) is decked out in murals, thanks to public-art initiatives like The Avenue Concept and a Rolodex of emerging talent spawned by the Rhode Island School of Design. You’ll want to pose for elopement snapshots in front of the multi-colored wings near Trinity Square or with the empowering Clemence Street creativity-justice-equity mural by Shepard Fairey, creator of Barack Obama’s 2008 “HOPE” portrait.
The city’s captivating eye candy doesn’t stop there, though. History buffs will revel in a stroll down Benefit Street, a showcase of striking 18th-century architectural gems, like the Georgian-style John Brown House and Greek Revival-style Providence Athenaeum (more on marrying inside this stunner below). Round out your rendezvous with the event that captures Providence’s vibrancy at its finest: WaterFire. This singular art experience—when the Providence River is set aglow with the light of 80 bonfires in rhythmic displays—happens at sunset from May to November. Plop yourselves in the center of the action with a romantic Venetian gondola ride on the river, and let your elopement blaze on brightly into the night.
Best Time of Year to Visit
September - November
Fall in New England is unbeatable when it comes to mild, breezy weather and gorgeous foliage, and Providence, in particular, delivers on both fronts. Highs in the 60s make exploring the city’s green spaces and historic thoroughfares all the more glorious. Not to mention the refreshing vibe of Providence’s red-brick college campuses, with students returning for the fall semester. You’ll also be just in time to catch one of the final lightings of WaterFire for the season—which summons fewer crowds in the fall than at the peak of summer (when hotel prices are typically higher, too). Winter is frigid and flurry-filled, so it’s best to avoid it unless you’re cool with a snow-capped elopement, and looking to score major deals on lodging (see: RI’s new winter Hotel Week, in January) and dining (see: Providence Restaurant Week, also in January).
Pro Tip: Steer clear of eloping in Providence in May or June. Although Rhode Island is beautiful in the springtime, its plethora of college campuses (Brown, Johnson & Wales, Rhode Island School of Design, to name a few) brings crowds and high rates for commencement season.
As the saying goes: If the quickest way to your heart is through your stomach, fill your wedding with great food (or at least, that’s our mantra). And at downtown Providence’s Plant City—a mini metropolis of plant-based restaurants, from a pizza joint to a Mexican cantina—that’s an easy thing to do. All seven of its eateries serve up dishes so tasty, you won’t miss the meat (think: jackfruit tacos, walnut-mushroom bolognese, and practically every type of veggie-and-grain bowl you can imagine). Brick walls, high ceilings, and mod-industrial décor make this spot a natural stunner for elopers in search of chic, urban vibes. And for those looking to celebrate with a small group, Plant City’s event venue, The Annex, is a peerless choice. A fully equipped bar and flexible dining area can fit up to 50 standing and 28 seated; custom catering can, of course, be arranged via any of the food hall’s standout spots. Submit an inquiry at least one week in advance to receive a quote.
One of the most glorious things about Rhode Island is its proliferation of coastline: Almost all of its prominent towns border water, and Providence is no exception. For a quintessential New England ceremony setting, drive a half-hour south along the Providence River to the town of Warwick, and pull over at Conimicut Point. This narrow peninsula juts out dramatically into Narragansett Bay, and at low tide, connects with a sandy spit stretching farther into the water (traverse it at your own risk). From the beachy shoreline and grassy field of the park, you’ll have views of the Conimicut Light, a postcard-perfect lighthouse that appears doubly dramatic when the sunset casts it in silhouette. If you’re gathering a small group of loved ones, or looking for something a bit more formal, arrange for a ceremony at the next-door Chapel by the Sea, a quaint church with sweeping floor-to-ceiling windows designed to let in the breeze drifting off the bay. To schedule a virtual consultation or inquire about rates, call 401-739-1620.
A prized address at the heart of Providence’s downtown historic district—listed on the National Register of Historic Places—gives boutique Hotel Providence its ritzy reputation. And its elegant, upscale furnishings and luxe amenities (e.g. room service, concierge, nightly turndown) make any stay as sumptuous an experience as you’d expect. Weddings here used to be restricted to things of great size, with all the accompanying fuss and fanfare, but recently, the hotel launched a microwedding package: You get all the accoutrements of a typical HP affair, but with a guest list that tops out at 10, and at a fraction of the traditional price. For $500, the package includes a ceremony on the rooftop tented terrace (along with an officiant to perform it), a champagne toast, and an overnight suite for the couple where a whirlpool tub awaits. Reach out to Kate Heemsoth at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a tour or reserve your microwedding.
Despite the fact that Lincoln Woods State Park is a quick 15-minute drive north of downtown Providence, locals often label it a hidden gem. Trek its tree-lined 2.5-mile loop around Olney Pond, and it’s easy to see why: Sprawling forests punctuated by climbable boulders, ample picnic tables, and fireplaces make it a park equally suited for rest as it is for recreation. (If you’re an active duo, turn your elopement into a full-day affair, and you’ll find opportunities for everything from kayaking and fishing to snowmobiling, mountain-biking, and even horseback riding.) What really sets it apart from other area parks, however, is its two glistening, swimmable freshwater beaches. Tie the knot with your toes in the sand, and a canopy of trees for a natural backdrop, then take a load off, and satisfy the post-wedding munchies with a picnic at a beachside table. (To reserve one of the larger picnic zones for a group, you’ll need to reach out to the park’s regional manager Anthony Paive at email@example.com.)
Bookish elopers, take note: The Providence Athenæum is a bibliophile’s heaven on Earth. This independent library dating back almost two centuries houses a vast array of books arranged in floor-to-ceiling stacks lining cozy alcoves. Interspersed between nooks and propped on pedestals are historical sculptures and stately busts, adding to the quaint, Euro-like ambiance. Reserve it after hours, and exchange vows in a quiet spot between bookcases, or retreat to the garden-level Reading Room to do the honors beneath rows of string lights. Or, head to the mezzanine-level Art Room to bask in the beauty of the Athenæum’s collection of oil paintings, and pose for portraits with a backdrop of the entire library below. For parties of 10 or fewer, the elopement fee is $500, which allows access to any of the above spaces for up to two hours.
If you thought eloping at city hall was too obvious or ordinary a choice, let Providence’s municipal masterpiece change your mind. The result of a design competition in the 1870s, the five-story, block-long building drips with architectural magnificence: Colored-marble corridors, wood wainscoting, and polished granite columns adorn the main level, while a grand staircase with brass handrails rises upward, showered in natural light from a large skylight above. You can reserve the building on a weekend for 4 hours for a $125 fee, plus an additional $250 to cover security costs. Though the staircase and surrounding landings are stunning spots for “I do’s,” you can also choose to host your ceremony in the Alderman Chambers, where chairs can be arranged for up to 60 guests. In this case, you’d also need to provide an insurance certificate at least 1 week prior; contact Jesenia Fajardo at firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
You won’t have to leave the city of Providence to find yourself immersed in 435 acres of green space. Roger Williams Park, named after the city’s founder, is an urban oasis where you can just as easily spend an afternoon lost in the quaint rose or Japanese garden as you could wandering its zigzagging trails or paddling its rivers in a romantic swan boat. Perhaps the most idyllic spot in the park for couples’ photos is the aptly named Lovers’ Retreat, a covered bridge next to the Casino that has the benefit of Roosevelt Lake for a rippling backdrop. As for tying the knot, you’ll want to do it at the stunning Temple to Music, a Parthenon-esque structure constructed of Vermont marble in 1924. Its elevated platform and striking columns make it a regal setting for “I dos,” while the extensive manicured lawn surrounding it ensures privacy and quietness. Because permit requirements vary, it’s best to contact Heather Manning at 401-680-7240 for information about applicable fees.
The validity of a Rhode Island marriage license varies based on whether at least one of the applicants is a Rhode Island resident; if either one of you is, you can apply for the license from the city or town clerk’s office of your residence, and it’ll be valid anywhere in the state. If both of you are non-residents, you’ll have to get the license in the city or town where your ceremony will take place for it to be legally valid (i.e. be sure to get it in Providence proper if you’re planning to marry within the city).
You’ll begin the application process online via this worksheet and will each need to upload scans of your birth certificate; a government-issued photo ID; and a final decree of divorce, death, or dissolution for any former marriage. Once you do so, you’ll be contacted to schedule an appointment for both of you to report to City Hall to sign and receive the license for a fee of $24 (bring the originals of all the documents you submitted with you). You can then have your ceremony anytime over the next three months, so long as it’s officiated by an ordained clergyman or civil servant. You’ll also need the signatures of two witnesses (each at least 18 years old) in black ink on the license, which the officiant will need to register with the city clerk where it was issued within 72 hours of your ceremony. For more information on getting a marriage license in Providence, visit the City of Providence website.