PHOTO BY MARK WEBB PHOTOGRAPHY AND COURTESY OF ADVENTURES ON THE GORGE.
Learn from this writer’s mistakes and don't get married in jail.
You read that right. My wife and I got married in a western North Carolina jail.
But I promise it’s not what you think.
You see, Ashley and I are frugal. And not in the trendy, thrifty way. No, our frugality is extreme-couponing-level crazy. I mean, we don’t have 400 bottles of discounted mayonnaise in our basement, but we do reuse tea bags, darn 20-year-old sweatpants, and only order water at restaurants.
I would like to say our pathological cheapness is a calculated response to our respective parents’ complete lack of money management. But I think we both came out of the womb tight-fisted. One of my earliest memories is walking around the toy store, staring at price tags, and begging my mom to take me home because everything was too expensive. Meanwhile, Ashley spent her pre-K years hoarding change in a 1.75-liter Tito’s Handmade Vodka jug labeled “4 Adult Stuff” in pink puffy paint.
All this to say, when Ashley and I decided to tie the knot two years ago, we didn’t entertain the idea of a lavish wedding. Instead, we donned our least tattered clothing, recruited our two best friends as witnesses, and headed for the county courthouse.
Upon arriving, we were directed to a low-slung building less than a block away. “That’s the magistrate’s office. Them’s the ones who do weddings,” the courthouse receptionist said gruffly between bites of a McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish. “Just let ‘em know you’ins there to get married — not bail nobody out.”
WEDDING GIFTS THAT WOW
That should’ve been our first red flag. But we were so enamored with the idea of consecrating our love that we paid her last comment no mind and headed straight for the magistrate’s office where we were buzzed into a narrow, windowless hallway and instructed to walk through a metal detector. From there, we were funneled into a tiny waiting room. And that’s when reality hit us like a ton of bricks.
This wasn’t your average waiting room with pleather chairs and gossip magazines. No, this was a holding cell with three cinder block walls and a flimsy sheet of plexiglass separating us and 40 grisly men in orange jumpsuits.
“Wait, wait,” I whispered, giving Ashley’s hand a nervous squeeze as prisoners played card games at cafeteria-style tables. “This is a jail? We’re getting married in a jail?”
But before she could answer, a burly government worker named Gary burst into the room with a clipboard in one hand and a plastic Big Gulp in the other. “Alrighty, let’s get you’ins married,” he said, shoving paperwork in our faces.
A bit shell-shocked, we robotically signed on the dotted line and nodded in agreement while Gary read from his nuptial script. As we said “I do,” an inmate with tobacco-stained facial hair licked the plexiglass and ran away giggling. Both Ashley and I looked on in horror as his saliva dripped down the clear divider, leaving a spitty snail trail.
Needless to say, many lessons were learned that day. One being that the magistrate’s office does, in fact, double as the county detention center. But we also learned that some investments — i.e., a wedding venue that doesn’t reek of urine and institutional injustice — are worth the money.
If I could go back in time, I would order a Chantilly cake, don a mermaid gown, and marry my best friend someplace stunning in the mountains. Any of the five venues below would do just fine.
(And, in case you were wondering, they all welcome couples of any religion, romantic orientation, or gender identity.)
PHOTO COURTESY OF The HORSE SHOE FARM.
155 Horse Shoe Farm Drive, Hendersonville, North Carolina
Nestled on 85 acres of verdant pastureland in the French Broad River Valley, this bucolic holding is the perfect place to profess your love. Even better, The Horse Shoe Farm offers a variety of event packages, from intimate micro-weddings to 250-person blowouts.
PHOTO COURTESY OF SUNDANCE GALLERY.
200 North Main Street, Unit 104, Greenville, South Carolina
Not everyone wants to get married in a field. And that’s OK. Luckily, there are contemporary venues like Sundance Gallery for those of us who prefer indoor affairs. Located in downtown Greenville, this industrial-chic space sports exposed brick, shiny hardwood flooring, and space for up to 275 people.
PHOTO BY Mark Webb Photography AND COURTESY OF ADVENTURES ON THE GORGE.
219 Chestnutburg Road, Lansing, West Virginia
If you and your better half bond over adrenaline-packed activities, you’ll love the wedding options at Adventures on the Gorge. Say “I do” on the rim of the New River Gorge and then spend your honeymoon rock climbing, ziplining, paddleboarding, and basking in your newfound matrimony.
PHOTO COURTESY OF JULIETTE CHAPEL.
497 GA-52 West, Dahlonega, Georgia
For a more traditional nuptial ceremony, book Juliette Chapel. Surrounded by lush forest in the mountains of north Georgia, this light-filled sanctuary affords a church-like experience without the gauche velvet curtains and wood paneling of your childhood parish.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SCHOOLHOUSE HOTEL.
125 Schoolhouse Way, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
If you think you’re too cool for school, The Schoolhouse Hotel will make you think again. Situated in the old White Sulphur District High School, which was built in 1912, this local landmark exudes loads of historical charm. The venue also boasts an onsite restaurant for all your catering needs.