New Jersey’s Top Wedding Venues (2016 Edition)
Through the years, we have had the opportunity to provide wedding DJ entertainment in many of the finer banquet halls located throughout the state of New Jersey. In this article, we share our top wedding venue selections. This is our third consecutive year counting down the top 25 wedding venues in New Jersey! While our company is based in the Princeton area in central New Jersey, we perform across the state, from Cape May to Bergen County. With our referral sources and advertising programs scattered across New Jersey, we tour the Garden State heavily (it’s a lot of fun!) and you never know where Ambient DJ Service will pop up on any given weekend.
New Jersey offers an incredible array of quality wedding reception venues that are as diverse as the state itself. From rustic farm weddings to summer celebrations in the heart of the Jersey Shore to luxurious banquet halls with the most decadent Viennese spreads to romantic wineries, the Garden State is a great place to celebrate a wedding! We recommend couples to find a venue that suits their personal style. Do keep in mind that outdoors celebrations in unique venues can produce the most memorable parties, but that New Jersey’s weather is unpredictable. You are well-advised to select a venue that offers a quality indoor alternative should the weather prove uncooperative.
What Makes an Exceptional Venue?
Factors that impress us:
- Natural beauty and ambience (how does the venue look both inside and out?);
- Friendly and service-oriented staff (preferably with long-term staff retention);
- Delicious food (DJs are often provided an entree);
- Venues that strive to deliver a personalized wedding experience for the bride and groom, and are not ‘wedding factories.’ The fact that a venue has multiple rooms doesn’t make it a wedding factory; rather, wedding factory refers to a mechanical approach to service.
- Well-maintained facilities – are the lobby, bathroom and parking lot clean and well-maintained? If a facility doesn’t care about its appearance, will it care about the details of your once-in-a-lifetime celebration? As DJs, we possess a behind the scenes perspective that factors into our opinion of venues.
A bonus factor is a venue whose staff treats the DJ as a valued member of the wedding “team” and not as some jerky DJ. As DJs, we feel that love from the staff, and channel the good vibes back to the wedding guests. Conversely, a difficult banquet manager can present a barrier to us entertaining guests to the best of our abilities. For ideas on how DJs can work better with wedding venues and other event pros, see our blog on this topic by clicking here.
Tips to Engaged Couples in Selecting a Venue
- Research your venue on WeddingWire (www.weddingwire.com), the Knot (www.theknot.com) or Yelp (www.yelp.com). See what past clients had to say about their experience. WeddingWire, for example, rates vendors on the factors of 1) Quality of Service, 2) Responsiveness, 3) Professionalism, 4) Value, and 5) Flexibility. You can bet that a bride who spent tens of thousands of dollars on a reception venue will be eager to rave about a wonderful experience or rant about a venue that fell short.
- Take special note of venues that won a recent “Knot Best Of” award. The Knot Best Of Award is a respected industry award based on online ratings/reviews from real wedding couples. It is more difficult to win than the WeddingWire Couples Choice award.
- Don’t underestimate the factor of service; try to look beyond the decor of the room and the food. A poorly trained, lackadaisical or apathetic staff can dilute the guest experience, even at a beautiful venue.
- Ask your wedding planner, DJ company or other wedding vendors for recommendations.
The Top 25 List
Here’s our list, presented in countdown fashion. Drumroll, please…
New Jersey has a wealth of excellent wedding reception venues. Our selected venues are based purely on personal experience. Our list is by no means all-inclusive. Any business relationships that we have with a banquet hall and the ease of load-in were NOT considered in compiling the list. From year to year, our selections change as we discover new venues.
As a cross-check to our ratings, we’ve listed in parentheses WeddingWire’s average aggregate star rating (maximum 5 stars) and number of WeddingWire reviews as of mid-January.
(25) S.W. Bowne Great Hall (at Drew University in Madison, NJ) – Modeled after Oxford’s Christ Church hall (which was also replicated for Harry Potter’s Hogwarts), Drew’s Great Hall boasts a dramatic stone staircase and magnificent wood-paneled hall with leaded-glass windows. This unique and stunning venue left an incredible impression on us for Christopher and Annie’s 2015 wedding. However, Great Hall is currently only available to Drew alumni and staff. This policy may change in the future according to Drew University’s event coordinator, so interested couples are encouraged to inquire. Website: www.drew.edu/calendar/event-rentals/ (unrated on WeddingWire) (photo below courtesy of Ed Hafizov of Zorz Studios (click on the Zorz Studios link for more photos of Great Hall)
(24) Hotel Icona Diamond Beach (Diamond Beach) – For lovers of beach weddings, this contemporary, upscale all-suite hotel overlooks the ocean and is located on one of New Jersey’s only private beaches. The 3,000 square foot luxury tent “The Pavilion” is located on the beach and available from May through October. The Lani Rooftop is found on the hotel’s 3rd floor and open year-round. Friendly and attentive management and staff. Website: www.iconaresortdiamondbeach.com (4 reviews, 4.9 average rating)
(23) Minerals Hotel (Hamburg) – The Minerals Hotel at Crystal Springs Resort offers a rustic pavilion for wedding receptions with beautiful views of the golf course below and mountains of the Appalachian Valley in the background. The 175 room Minerals Hotel offers an array of year-round amenities, including its Elements Spa. Friendly staff. Website: www.crystalgolfresort.com/stay/minerals-hotel/ (4 WeddingWire reviews, 4.9 average rating)
(22) The Hotel Alcott (Cape May) – The Hotel Alcott is a restored Italianate-bracketed villa located a block away from the Atlantic Ocean in the charming town of Cape May, NJ. No need to settle for mass-produced banquet hall food – Hotel Alcott’s chef serves delicious entrees with artistic flair. The lobster bisque soup and filet mignon are must tries. Website: www.hotelalcott.com (20 reviews, 4.8 average rating)
(21) The Prallsville Mill (Stockton)– The Prallsville Mill is a historic grist mill located on the Delaware River in Stockton NJ. This unique and intimate venue is particularly well-suited for rustic Fall weddings. The dance party action occurs downstairs, where historic mill equipment and whirlpools add to the ambience. Website: www.brillmansrentalbarn.com (4 reviews, 3.5 average rating)
(20) Triumph Brewery (Princeton) – Located directly across the street from Princeton University in the bustling downtown area, Triumph Brewery is a unique space that can be reserved for your wedding. Imagine guests enjoying craft beers brewed onsite with huge metal beer tanks looming in the background. Triumph’s professional management team is very well-regarded. Website: www.triumphbrewing.com (5 reviews, 5.0 average rating)
(19) The Barn at Perona Farms (Andover) – The newest addition to the Perona Farms estate (under family ownership since 1917) is its newly-renovated rustic barn. The barn has been transformed into a modern facility and possesses a visual “wow factor” both inside and out. The house uplighting is particularly striking. Website: www.peronafarms.com (146 reviews, 4.8 average rating)
(18) The Sunset Ballroom at Jack Bakers (Pt. Pleasant) – Located on the Point Pleasant side of the Manasquan Inlet, the bride can arrive for an onsite ceremony by boat. The venue offers beautiful views, delicious food and a friendly staff. Pt. Pleasant offers many fun options for the “afterparty” and is also a family-friendly town for visiting guests. Website: www.thesunsetballroom.com (44 reviews, 4.8 average rating)
(17) The Shadowbrook (Shrewsbury) – We love the Shadowbrook for its beautiful gardens, perfect to host an onsite wedding ceremony and cocktail hour. Indoors, its wood-paneled Oak Room and adjacent Horseshoe Bar inevitably host lively dance parties. In February 2015, Robert Zweben who had been the sole owner for 20-plus years retired and sold the mansion and its surrounding 18 acres of property to the current owners of the renowned Venetian in Garfield and Seasons in Washington Township. Upgrades to the interior of the mansion are currently underway. Be sure to ask about the Shadowbrook’s caviar/vodka bar option for cocktail hour! Website: www.shadowbrook.com (102 reviews, 4.9 average rating).
(16) The Inn at Fernbrook Farms (Chesterfield) – The spacious grounds include beautiful seasonal gardens, a cottage and water tower. Tented wedding receptions are the norm here. Max Hansen, the recommended caterer, provides a delicious ensemble of gourmet food. The Inn at Fernbrook Farms is particularly well-suited for a rustic Fall wedding. Website: www.innatfernbrookfarms.com (14 reviews, 4.2 average rating)
(15) The Merion (Cinnaminson) – The Merion is a grand, majestic complex offering numerous magnificent European-designed ballrooms. The Empire Ballroom is a particular favorite of ours, sporting the perfect environment for a Great Gatsby/Roaring Twenties party. Many couples opt for the Skylight Ballroom (with its distinctive dome) on the third floor. The Merion’s Viennese-style cocktail hours and desserts are over the top and may leave you in a state of food intoxication. We also enjoy their special “Rose Parade” (at the beginning of a reception) and “Sparkler Entrance” (for the unveiling of the desserts). Website: www.themerion.com (192 reviews, 4.8 average rating)
(14) The Lake Valhalla Club (Montville) – The Lake Valhalla Club is a building of Tudor-style architecture, rich in character with a dark, classical interior. The Lake Valhalla Club is the antidote to large, impersonal banquet halls. Great food and service. An onsite ceremony with the beautiful lake in the background is highly recommended. During warmer months, newly married couples can enjoy a boat ride on Lake Valhalla and capture some epic photos in the process. Website: www.lakevalhallaclub.com (62 reviews, 4.9 average rating)
(13) The Conservatory at The Madison Hotel (Morristown) – The English-style Conservatory is the top attraction at this historic and well-appointed hotel. The glass Conservatory, with its hanging plants is beautiful for either a daytime reception or evening celebration dancing under the stars. Website: www.madisonhotelweddings.com (106 reviews, 4.8 average rating)
(12) Reeds at Shelter Haven (Stone Harbor) – A recent entrant to the Cape May area wedding scene, Reeds offers a modern, luxury boutique hotel featuring sparkling views of the bayside harbor from its Sweet Grass Ballroom. The hotel is decorated in warm earth tones, richly inspired by nature and the sea. Delicious food and friendly management and staff. Website: www.reedsatshelterhaven.com (11 reviews, 4.7 average rating)
(11) The Liberty House Restaurant (Jersey City) – With a jaw-dropping view of the lower Manhattan skyline directly across the Hudson River and the most delicious Chilean Sea Bass ever, the Liberty House shines. Website: www.libertyhouserestaurant.com (109 reviews, 4.8 average rating)
(10) Laurita Winery (New Egypt) – New Jersey offers numerous vineyard options for weddings. Laurita Winery, located in Central NJ in New Egypt (not so far from Six Flags Great Adventure) is our favorite for its upscale and trendy environment. The picturesque grounds and venue are top notch. Website: www.lauritawinery.com (20 reviews, 4.8 average rating).
(9) Park Savoy Estate (Florham Park) – This recently renovated turn-of-the-century mansion features cozy fireplaces, an exquisite bridal suite and details only seen in the great mansions of Newport Rhode Island, and is enhanced with floor to ceiling windows. Take a stroll through the beautiful onsite gardens. Website www.theparksavoy.com (197 reviews, 5.0 average rating). Also consider Park Savoy’s sister property, Nanina’s in the Park in Belleville (www.naninasinthepark.com)
(8) David’s Country Inn (Hackettstown) – Outstanding food and service in a venue oozing country charm, David’s Country Inn is a stand out venue in Warren County. For an onsite ceremony, the bride can dramatically process down a grand staircase. Regarding staff longevity, three staff members have been with David’s for more than 25 years! Also check out the antique coffee maker in the cocktail hour space. Website: www.davidscountryinn.com (77 reviews, 5.0 average rating)
(7) The Hamilton Manor (Hamilton NJ) – The Hamilton Manor is a modern venue in the Hamilton/Bordentown area that can host a wedding of up to 500 guests. Its Grand Ballroom features 20 foot high ceilings, antique chandeliers, a dramatic staircase for grand entrances and beautifully-restored mahogany floors. The Salzano Family runs a top-notch professional operation and continues to expand the property, most recently with a covered outdoor patio barn (for cocktail hours, pictured below) and outdoor ceremony area. Many North Jersey couples are choosing the Hamilton Manor based in Central NJ for its North Jersey style amenities, but at a Central NJ price point. Website: www.thehamiltonmanor.com (105 reviews, 4.9 average rating)
(6) The Estate at Florentine Gardens (River Vale) – This newly renovated and expanded Georgian-style mansion features expansive gardens, a grand ballroom with views of the gardens (the gardens look striking in the evening with the trees lit up), world class cuisine (the Chateaubriand is incredible), and an attentive professional management team and staff. An in-house A/V company offers an exciting array of lighting and video options. Website: www.florentinegardens.com (336 reviews, 4.9 average rating)
(5) The Stone House at Stirling Ridge (Warren) – The architecture and design of the Stone House stand out, evoking a modern California lodge feel. As per their website, “this space is designed with classic, clean lines, patterned wood and stone floors, a neutral color pallet and an appreciation for the scenic beauty that is part of this secluded location.” The food is exceptional, utilizing vegetables and herbs grown on a local communal farm. Choose from either the traditional ballroom or the artsy “Gallery” – each with its own ceremony and cocktail areas. Banquet manager Frank always offers a warm smile to DJs and guests! Website: www.stonehouseatstirlingridge.com (51 reviews, 4.8 average rating)
(4) The Nassau Inn (Princeton) – Our company is based in the Princeton area, and the Nassau Inn, located in Palmer Square, has always been a favorite of ours, capturing the history of this great town. The Inn offers several classy, prestigious party rooms to choose from. In an industry where rapid staff turnover and transient workers are the norm, it is refreshing to see many of the same waitstaff and banquet managers year after year at the Nassau Inn. Be sure to check out its recently renovated Prince William Ballroom. Palmer Square, Princeton University and the iconic Princeton Record Exchange offer wonderful photo opportunities for wedding photos or an engagement photo shoot. The wintery photo below is credited to our friend Kyo from Kyo Morishima Photography. Website: www.nassauinn.com (33 reviews, 4.9 average rating)
(3) The Palace at Somerset Park (Somerset) – For those with champagne wishes and caviar dreams, the opulent Palace is the perfect venue. Located on a palatial estate, the Palace includes two magnificent ballrooms with separate entrances. The bridal suite, located upstairs, is a modern oasis of massive dimensions. Use the outdoor balcony for your own private fireworks show. Website: www.palacesomersetpark.com (196 reviews, 4.9 average rating)
(2) Clark’s Landing Yacht Club (Pt. Pleasant) – With a new luxurious ballroom with high ceilings and panoramic windows fronting the water, a top notch management team and sumptuous food (particularly for cocktail hour), Clarks Landing is a standout selection. An added plus is that DJs plug their mixing board into an in-house sound system with speakers built into the ceiling above the dancefloor. The result is that dancers enjoy louder music, while guests seated at tables are not blasted out of the room (a frequent complaint against DJs and bands at weddings). Regarding management, we’ve witnessed the intense and detailed staff prep meeting. Clarks Landing is clearly committed to superior service and the results show. Clarks also wishes past wedding couples happy anniversary on their Facebook page! Website: www.clarkslandingcaterers.com (215 reviews, 5.0 average rating)
(1) The Pleasantdale Chateau (West Orange) – Congratulations to the Pleasantdale Chateau for repeating this year as our top pick! The Pleasantdale Chateau is the ideal venue for those couples seeking an elegant, custom fairytale wedding. With a long and storied history dating back to the 1800s, the original building was constructed in an English Georgian architectural style in the early 1900s by industrial leader Charles Walter Nichols. In 1994, the Knowles Family acquired the estate and commenced a series of restorations that gave deference to the Chateau’s history, but also made the property more accessible to the public. This venue has that “wow factor” that is hard to describe with words but is impossible to miss when attending an event here. Enjoy your cocktail hour in the distinctive “Music Room,” chat with friends in the library and stroll through luxurious parlors. A hidden gem of the Pleasantdale Chateau is Maitre d’ Santiago Sevilla who makes each and every guest (and wedding vendor) feel like a VIP. Thanks Santiago! Website: www.pleasantdale.com (41 reviews, 4.8 average rating)
Comments are welcome. Please let us know what venues would be on your list of favorites! For any banquet managers interested in providing us an introduction to your venue, please contact us at email@example.com or p 609.672.1270
For More Information
For an alternate and humorous venue selection methodology, check out the blog of “Dad Needs Help” who evaluated wedding venues based on their bathroom amenities. Read the article by clicking here
Already booked a venue and need musical ideas for your big day? Then click here to view Ambient DJs’ “Wedding Music Master Class 2016” that contains over 1,800 song ideas spanning ceremony music, First Dance songs, Parent Dance songs, Cake Cutting Songs, Bouquet Garter Songs, grand entrance songs, grand finale songs, 65 themed cocktail hour playlists and 10 songs NOT to play at a wedding.
About Ambient DJ Service
Ambient DJ Service is a full-service mobile NJ DJ entertainment company based in Central New Jersey specializing in wedding DJ entertainment. Ambient DJ is a 2016 winner of the Knot Best of Weddings award as well as of the WeddingWire Couple’s Choice Award. As of mid-January, we had 160 WeddingWire reviews with an average rating of 4.9 out of 5.0 stars.
We have a deep passion for the music that we play and enjoy collaborating with our brides and grooms to create unforgettable parties! We would be delighted to perform at your wedding in the New Jersey / Philadelphia / New York Tri-State area, or destination wedding. For more info and to read our wedding reviews, visit us on the web at www.ambientdj.com.