Best of the New

By Janice O'Leary | Boston Weddings |

The Liberty Hotel


Celebrating a wedding in the former Charles Street Jail gives new meaning to the phrase "the old ball and chain." When the prison building was converted into a hotel in 2007, the architect added a new tower of luxe guest rooms but, fortunately, omitted the cell doors. The hotel has a cleverly named lounge, Alibi, and two restaurants-celebrity chef Lydia Shire’s Scampo, and Clink, run by executive chef Joseph Margate, who also offers a catering menu. The lobby bar, an extension of Clink, provides plenty of seating for elegant lounging and surreptitious star-gazing.

Standout Features: Undoubtedly, its award-winning architecture and two world-class restaurants make the Liberty a choice wedding destination. The original brick walls and enormous period chandeliers decorate the hotel’s five-story octagonal atrium, and most guest rooms offer rare Charles River views. Cocktails are typically served on the fifth-floor catwalk overlooking the atrium, where wedding guests can savor sushi and tapas. A dinner in the Liberty Ballroom, whose three-tiered chandeliers mimic the larger lobby fixtures, can include entrées like short ribs and veal osso bucco, and desserts such as truffled rice pudding and panna cotta. From the ballroom floor, you can gaze through enormous windows that afford views of Beacon Hill. Outside, the hotel’s courtyard functions as another swank ceremony location.

Capacity: 180 seated; 300 for cocktails

Catering: Must be provided by the hotel, except for wedding cakes from outside bakers

Food and Beverage Fee: Starts at $20,000

Find it: 215 Charles St., Boston, 617-224-4000,



The Ritz-Carlton, Boston Common

While the hotel itself has reigned supreme on the Boston Common for seven years, the Ritz-Carlton has never been content to rest on its laurels: Construction was just completed on a ballroom (occupying the former Loews movie theater bar). The new venue overlooks the Common through a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, giving revelers an unobstructed view of the Boston sunset. And though the décor is contemporary, the event space has lovely art deco touches, including carefully reproduced 1930s chandeliers and tufted wall panels. The rich, silk gold-toned drapes provide a great backdrop for any wedding color scheme. Located on the edge of the Theater District, the hotel also shares the building with the Sports Club/LA, so groomsmen can rent a court while the ladies hit the spa-or sip strong martinis at the adjacent upscale bar and restaurant, Blu.

Standout Features: There’s no beating the Ritz’s park view-especially when the Common’s trees are in spring bloom, awash in bright fall color, or sparkling with holiday lights in December. Inside the hotel, the private event wing-replete with a dedicated coat check for guests and its own set of restrooms-is pleasantly secluded from the property’s public areas. It includes the high-ceilinged ballroom and chic-looking cocktail area (think mother-of-pearl tiles and ostrich leather wall panels). And in true Ritz-Carlton fashion, French-trained executive chef Clayton van Hooijdonk’s cuisine dazzles, too, particularly the risotto station and creative seafood entrées like sole roulade stuffed with lobster. The hotel is also pet-friendly-just in case you happen to have a best dog in the wedding ceremony.

Capacity: 200

Catering: Must be provided by the hotel, except for cakes from outside bakers

Food and Beverage Fee: $30,000 during high season; low-season prices vary

Find it: 10 Avery St., Boston, 617-574-7100,







The Mandarin Oriental, Boston


Thanks to all the breathless hype surrounding the construction of this Back Bay behemoth, the Mandarin Oriental delivers more than a little scene-y buzz. Just opened in October, the enormous hotel encompasses 148 plush guest rooms, a 380-person-capacity ballroom, and a 16,000-square-foot spa. The building also showcases three of the city’s most talked-about dining destinations:
the relocated L’Espalier, the region’s third Sel de la Terre, and Asana, featuring Chef Nicolas Boutin’s American and Asian cuisine. (Boutin also oversees the catering menu for weddings.) Combined with the new minimalist-chic Mizu salon, located inside, practically all your prewedding needs (rehearsal dinner, pedicure, updo) can be met without setting foot off the property.

Standout Features: The Mandarin’s design is as up-to-date as hotels get. The second-level ballroom, where weddings are held, has walls paneled with blond satinwood and inset with buttery silks; floor-to-ceiling windows let the daylight pour in. A high-tech audio system and customizable LED uplighting behind panels combine to create theatrical effects. Couples should be sure to stroll through the garden, which makes a superb backdrop for photographs, as well as the grand marble staircase. (Can’t you just picture your train trailing down the steps?) As an added bonus, a private suite just off the ballroom gives brides and grooms a place to escape. And in keeping with the Mandarin chain’s rep for over-the-top service, couples getting married here can expect a ton of little extras, like moist hand towels for guests after dinner and midnight morsels for postreception munching.

Capacity: 175 to 380 guests

Catering: Must be provided by the hotel, except for cakes from outside bakers (though the hotel’s pastry chef can also whip one up)

Food and Beverage Fee: Begins at $30,000

Find it: 800 Boylston St., 617-535-8888,





The Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel


Love the water and want a modern hotel that won’t plunge your family into serious debt? Head for the freshly developed Fort Point and Seaport area. The Marriott-owned Renaissance hotel opened in February 2008 and offers Boston-level services at South Boston prices. Wandering through the spacious property, guests can gasp at views of Boston’s harbor and skyline. Foodies, meanwhile, will appreciate the first-class restaurant, 606 Congress, whose menu is a collaboration of celebrity chef Michael Schlow and executive chef Toby Hill. (Check out its private rooms for your rehearsal dinner.) For the main event, choose from two spaces, the Atlantic and the Pacific ballrooms, both located on the second floor. The property’s décor was designed to evoke the sea, with subtle wave, bubble, bird, and fish patterns woven into the carpeting and designed into the light fixtures. Which, if you think about it, makes perfect sense: In a brand-new hotel, it’s a safe bet that a wedding will go swimmingly. &nbsp

Standout Features: One advantage to being on this side of the channel is that the hotel has room to breathe and light to spare. Huge windows in the cocktail area frame the sunset, and four in the Atlantic ballroom give the space depth and big views. The Pacific ballroom boasts a removable wall near a freight elevator so you can drive the honeymoon getaway car right onto the dance floor (if that’s your thing). Bands and DJs will like the ballrooms’ high-tech sound and lighting systems. And the spiral staircase, with its etched glass detail, is great for pictures, as is Maritime Park across the street.

Capacity: Atlantic ballroom: 80 to 230 with dance floor; Pacific ballroom: up to 600 with dancing (couples can rent half or quarter of its full size)

Catering: Must be provided by the hotel, except for cakes from outside bakers. It will also work with a kosher or Indian caterer if necessary
Food and Beverage Fee: $5,000-$30,000

Find it: 606 Congress St., Boston, 617-342-5420,





The Colonnade Boston


This independent Back Bay hotel first made the scene in 1971 and has been undergoing a $21 million renovation slated to be completed in December 2008. Finishing touches include upgrades to the Huntington Ballroom on the first floor, a fully redone lobby, and a major gut of all 285 guest rooms. Overnight visitors can now enjoy perks like flat-screen televisions, pillowtop mattresses covered in fine linens, and windows that open to let in the breeze. There’s also a new 24-hour fitness center (ideal for sweating off prewedding jitters). Set across Huntington Avenue from the Prudential building, it’s well located for wedding guests seeking the full-on urban experience-Newbury Street’s spas, the Back Bay’s plentiful shopping, and Symphony Hall are just a few steps away.

Standout Features: The Colonnade has the only rooftop pool in the city, which can be reserved for a cocktail hour. (Staff will even float flowers and candles in the water, if you like.) The lobby just outside the ballroom is also a stunner, with its Italian harlequin marble tiles, coffered trompe l’oeil ceiling, and hand-loomed area rug from Ireland. New carpets, updated chairs, and table linens grace the renovated ballroom, and a sophisticated Bose sound system makes for pitch-perfect music and wedding-day speeches. Foodies who dread the typical wedding meal needn’t fret; chef Nicholas Calias is known for creative touches like a cocktail-hour "lobster bar," inspired entrées like truffled chicken with sweet corn flan, and his sinful dessert bar.

Capacity: 270 to 400, depending on dance floor and room setup

Catering: Must be provided by the hotel, except for cakes from outside bakers

Food and Beverage Fee: $20,000 minimum

Find it: 120 Huntington Ave., Boston, 617-424-7000,




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