As more and more bridal couples decide on having a destination wedding, the locales are getting more and more exotic. Not necessarily more extravagant; more ‘farm chic’ is the trend. Shabby chic. Organic. Beautiful combinations of rustic and elegant, mixing nature and gourmet/luxurious/simple/real/homey.
While I was in Riga, Latvia, I was taken on a day-long tour as part of WITS (Women in Travel Summit Conference) and Magnetic Latvia. Two of the stops were at recently upgraded/renovated/re-fabbed farm houses that have been turned into rustic country escapes that have a few unique, artistic rooms for sleeping, eating, hosting intimate gatherings, and places where people visit for art classes, or wine tastings. These two places and undoubtedly others in the Latvian countryside are becoming popular for destination weddings and events. I’ll show you why.
Abgunste manor is a cultural monument of national significance. It was built around 1780, but burned down in 1905. Reconstruction completed in 1931 turned the manor into a school that later closed. The building remained unused for years.
Janis and Ilze’s artistic flair shines through in every detail of this abandoned-country-estate-turned-manor. The couple bought the place sight-unseen in an auction. They immediately envisioned a multitude of possibilities for all the space and continue to bring their ideas to life.
Restoring Abgunste Manor has been a labor-of-love. Janis and Ilze decided to turn the expansive manor into a creativity residence for all kinds of arts, culture, contemporary design, other creative processes and interdisciplinary experiments. The day I visited, we did a craft project into one of the basement rooms, learning silkscreening from a master artist. In an upstairs room, other people were weaving silk flowers into garlands. We all came away with beautiful mementos from our visit to Abgunste.
Rooms in Abgunste Manor
The manor house continues to add unique apartments for overnight stays with various levels of convenience. We wandered through some of the completed guest rooms. Each was absolutely charming; shabby chic and completely inviting.
(Available: 45 beds + 15 extra beds. Accommodation price from 15.00 EUR /person.)
We climbed to the top levels and were surprised to find a dormitory-style space with beds tucked into nooks and corners all over the floor. I can only imagine what a fun atmosphere this would be for a large group. Most of the beds have privacy curtains, but you certainly wouldn’t want to close yourself off from all the artwork and precious touches decorating the space. You could spend days there without ever seeing them all.
There are currently two outbuildings, or halls, to rent: a large hall (70 sq.m.) and a small hall (35 sq.m.). Abgunste Manor provides furniture, projectors, screen and sound solutions, but the rest is up to you. The possibilities are endless! Twinkle lights, hay bales, elegant table settings, or any other theme you can dream up can be done there. I, personally, would leave the magic to Janis and Ilze. I’m not nearly as visionary as they are, and I know whatever wedding setting they created would be simply spectacular.
What I loved about this space is that you and your guests would have it to yourselves. The manor is surrounded by four ponds and a park which is slowly coming to life. This would be the ideal place for a small, wallet-friendly wedding of close friends or family. No one else (besides the owners) would be on the property. It could be your personal oasis. A wedding like no other.
Similar to the rustic appeal of Abgunste Manor, the Mazmežotne Manor is a little more polished. Located on the hill of Lielupe river valley, it includes an expansive setting in nature that feels more like a resort.
Accommodations at Mazmežotne
Guests can stay in either the House of Lords, the Great House of Servants, or the Little Servant House. I’m not sure which I’d choose. Every single room is exquisitely unique.
Guests can relax in their rooms, enjoy meals in the restaurant, or enjoy the great outdoors. This is the place for recreational enthusiasts and nature lovers to enjoy cycling, boating and walking through the nature trail and the surrounding walkways. Deciding on Mazmežotne for a destination wedding would be charming vacation getaway in the Latvian countryside.
On our visit, we enjoyed a catered lunch inside the Event Stable. Like the space at Abgunste, there was a rustic feel inside this antique barn that we adored. Twinkle lights, tableclothes, and gorgeous table arrangements and decor dressed it up so that we could imagine what it would feel like to hold an elegant wedding in this one-of-a-kind space.
The stables, barns and other buildings on the property date back to the 18th century. As restoration took place, Mazmežotne Manor continued to pay homage to its roots. The work has been extensive:
- the old stone stone bridge and paved stone ramp were restored;
- the driveway and courtyard paving work was completed;
- a nature trail was created and a bridge over the ravine was built;
- information boards were installed on the nature trail;
- walkways with lighting lanterns were created;
- the reconstruction of the old bathhouse, cheese factory, barn, stables and both servants’ houses was completed.
In addition to the three manor houses that include guest rooms, there is a stable, a cheese house, a sauna, and a guest house. Did I mention that Mazmežotne also offers a Spa & Bath?
If I were a bride looking for a unique setting for a small destination wedding, I would definitely consider Latvia. Unlike many other locales in Europe, prices in Latvia are relatively low. Traveling to the Latvia countryside would undoubtedly be a unique experience for most people, and the intimate settings of each of these manors offers an event that feels inclusive for everyone. You’re not going to find other strangers onsite, and you’re not competing with space that can accommodate several events at once. For special, attentive care and service, either one of these Latvian manors would be my choice for the destination wedding of my dreams.
Now I just need a groom…
How do you feel about destination weddings?
I love the idea of a destination wedding as well as a vow renewal (i.e. 25 years married, etc.). When I was planning our wedding I found it challenging to have an outdoor ceremony (i.e. rent bathroom trailers, chairs or have guests just stand, walking on grass or even wood chips, etc.). We had to shave the guest list as is (one of us has 90 immediate family members and the other 120). It all worked out in the end and we had a beautiful day with each other as well as with family and friends. I will be dreaming of Latvia now while working the day away – beautiful manors in the countryside – ahhhh. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂
Wow! Those are huge families!! I had an outdoor wedding, too, and had to take into consideration all the things you mention: porta-potties, tent, etc.. Something like these manors would be so much easier to manage.
…. if I ever marry again …..
Lol. Me, too. Wedding venues are the easy part. 🙂
I’ll have to share this with my friend who insists that when she gets married it will be a destination wedding! I think she would love something off the beaten path.
Her wedding guests might like an off-the-beaten path destination, too!
The last sentence had me laughing, Julia. Admittedly a beautiful place. Can’t imagine what it cost to bring that place up to where it is now! –Curt
I know! The manor houses are like Latvia’s version of Scottish castles. Gorgeous!
This looks like a beautiful venue and exactly the kind I love – one that’s rustic and has character and is connected to nature, rather than these giant resorts in Michigan that we call “wedding farms.” I imagine a destination wedding in Latvia would be great for someone who is connected to their Latvian heritage… I might mention this to one of my good friends whose parents are from Latvia. She’s not engaged yet but any day now… 😛
Yes! This would be fantastic for someone with Latvian ties. I would definitely prefer this to the popular “wedding farms” or beach weddings that are what I usually hear about. If I’m going to travel to a wedding, I want to go somewhere interesting.
The Abgunste Manor is magical, love all those little touches that make it unique!
Destination weddings work for some, I guess they can be hard though for some guests to make it who would otherwise love to share the special day with you. No matter where you have your special day it’s often a little stressful!!
I agree. Weddings can be stressful, though I feel like the smaller and more intimate, the less stressful it can be. That’s what I’ll aim for if I ever get married again. 🙂
This is gorgeous! I’d love a manor-style wedding at a place like this. For anniversaries, I’d love to do a renewal ceremony at different places around the world, Riga would be perfect – I love the city!
Renewal ceremonies would be perfect. Such pretty venues.
What romantic wedding venues in a country that has its own allure!
I agree. They were absolutely charming.
I don’t really plan on having a wedding but I do love this venue. It’s so beautiful. Being from Tennessee, lots of people have beautiful chic barn weddings so this actually feels very familiar which is cool considering Latvia is nothing like Tennessee.
The most beautiful wedding I’ve ever been to was in a barn on a horse farm in the state of Georgia.
Latvia is just icing on the cake.