Ranked one of the top three “happiest cities” in America, Raleigh is an undiscovered jewel of a modern city that also packs the perks of comforting Southern charm.
As a Raleigh wedding venue, we aren’t surprised to see a unique trend on the rise: more and more couples than ever before are looking to have a North Carolina destination wedding.
Raleigh is one of those hidden gems that boasts just the right amount of youthful, vibrant buzz (thanks to its colleges and universities) and yet, manages to hold onto that distinct small-town warmth and connection that large metropolitan cities often lack.
If you haven’t yet considered an all-inclusive destination wedding in Raleigh, NC, this is your chance to do some digging. And if you already have your heart set on Raleigh for your destination wedding, here’s what you need to know when planning the ultimate Raleigh wedding.
Why Raleigh Is a Great Place for a Destination Wedding
You really don’t have to go all the way south for some of that famous Southern hospitality — and those chic, unique spaces perfect for exchanging vows. As a city, Raleigh packs all that in and more. It offers up a more historical and stately twist, thanks to its gorgeous rooftop bars, romantic skyline, lush parks, and alfresco settings that take advantage of the great weather all year round.
Plenty of out-of-towners venture here to take advantage of the Oak City-only attractions, restaurants, funky breweries, and incredible hikes at spots like Umstead State Park or the North Carolina Museum of Art Park.
There are also lots of students who end up remaining in Raleigh or neighboring Durham and start families — so Raleigh is an extremely kid-friendly city. If you’re planning a wedding and you know you have family members with children, you can rest assured that there will be plenty of memorable activities for them.
Recommended Destination Wedding Venue in Raleigh: Walnut Hill
Take a drive up to Walnut Hill, just 15 minutes away from downtown Raleigh, and you’ll be whisked away to another world, entirely: one filled with trees, quiet, secluded roads, and natural beauty all around.
If you’ve been dreaming of a lush, elegant, yet intimate estate wedding, Walnut Hill is unparalleled in its ceremony and reception options. Set on a sprawling 400 acres, this unique wedding venue is perfect for couples who want to blend traditional, rustic settings with modern details.
The grounds feature romantic, dreamy, tree-lined lakes, manicured gardens, the main estate house, a gorgeous white barn pavilion with capacity for 200 seated guests, lush lawns, covered patios with heating, prep kitchens, and the very special Lakeside Canopy.
Walnut Hill is right for couples who want to spend time bonding in a secluded, retreat-like property. Families looking for an opportunity to connect, meet, and celebrate prior to the ceremony and reception can take advantage of the weekend package, which includes accommodation for up to 13 guests. You’ll also have the opportunity to book a Sunday send-off brunch, as long as you book in advance.
Finally, Walnut Hill’s proximity to Raleigh’s downtown core also makes it the perfect option for couples tending to out-of-town guests. Your friends and extended family members will have plenty of options for things to do and see and places to stay while they’re in the city.
Common Questions About Destination Weddings in Raleigh NC
What is the best season for weddings in Raleigh?
The best season for destination weddings in Raleigh, NC is from April through June and from September through November. If you’re planning a fall wedding and you hope to capture the incredible fall color changes, book dates starting in the second half of October.
Dreaming of an outdoor wedding? Check out our guide to outdoor weddings in Raleigh!
When should I book my wedding in Raleigh?
Amanda, owner of Walnut Hill, recommends that you book your destination wedding in Raleigh, NC at least 18 months in advance for peak dates. If you’re marrying “off-season,” such as in the summer or winter, 12 months in advance may work.
To zero in on your ideal wedding venue, make sure to begin with a virtual tour video. If you’re local or within driving distance of Raleigh, you can always schedule an in-person tour once you’ve seen the event space virtually.
Should I hire a wedding planner?
If you’re out of state, plan to hire a partial or full-service wedding planner. This goes beyond just day-of wedding coordination and includes helping you to source your vendors, find a photographer who matches your style, secure a great caterer, and design all your details.
A local wedding planner can be present at your destination to meet with vendors on your behalf and provide helpful local knowledge. If you need recommendations for wedding planners, please let us know.
More about Raleigh, NC
Can you say, “perfect?” Granted, the summers are balmy and warm — visitors and out-of-towners who are used to the overcast skies of the PNW or the chilly winters of the Northeast could even call it “hot.” The temperature easily rises to well past 90 degrees.
If you are planning a wedding, Walnut Hill owner and proprietor Amanda recommends two seasons that are comfortable and make for incredible wedding photos in Raleigh: springtime, around April to June, and once again in the fall, from September to November. Temperatures hang out here at a lovely 70 degrees to the low 80s.
Pro tip: If you’re planning to capture those deep, brilliant oranges and reds of changing trees, the second half of October is when those hues come alive!
Things to Do for Out-of-Town Guests
Part of the beauty of planning a destination wedding is that you get to “get your travel on” even before the honeymoon! And so perhaps you and your guests want to enjoy and explore Raleigh before and after your wedding event. That’s a great idea and you certainly will be spoiled for choice as you tour the city.
After hosting plenty of destination weddings here at Walnut Hill, we’ve put together these suggestions for activities for out-of-town guests.
For guests with families, Raleigh offers an incredible number of city and country excursions year-round.
If you have little ones, here are some activities worth exploring:
- Visit Marbles, which is an IMAX children’s museum with live exhibits, the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, and the N.C. Museum of History. Then, enjoy an evening at the many Raleigh restaurants like Brewery Bhavana, Stanbury’s, or Poole’s.
- Catch a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse and let the kids run around in Moore Square.
- Enjoy a sunny picnic at Pullen Park, view planes at the RDU viewing deck, or check out the Wetland Center.
- This is a good one for adults, too — book a walking tour in the Warehouse District, checking out Dillon and Union Station, The Flourish Market, and all the incredible street art.
Okay, adults, listen up: Raleigh is your oyster when you’re in town, which is great because there’s tons to do. Besides the incredible local hikes and walking trails you can embark on, there is a smorgasbord of activities just for you.
- Pick up a Citrix bike and tour the city before hitting the Greenway, a sprawling network of parks, rivers, creeks, and streams.
- Go bar or pub crawling along Glenwood South, a street chock-full of bars and clubs.
- Take a walking tour of Historic Oakwood.
- Hop on a train to Durham and visit a score of breweries, including Ponysaurus, Fullsteam, and Hi-Wire.
- Grab an electric scooters and go wine-tasting at Wine Authorities, located at the Person Street Plaza. While you’re there, cool off with a cone from Two Roosters or shop for handmade clothes and kitschy souvenirs at Edge of Urge.
While your wedding is no doubt the “main attraction,” out-of-town guests still need a way to get around town.
First off, getting from the airport to downtown Raleigh is just about a 20-minute drive.
If you’re looking to hop around Raleigh’s downtown, there are several options. GoRaleigh is just one of the bus systems available and the R-Line is Downtown Raleigh’s free bus route. It runs every 15 minutes and puts you right in the hub of the best shopping, restaurants, and nightlife venues.
If your guests decide to spend some time in the greater Triangle area (but don’t want to rent a car), the GoTriangle is a reliable bus service that runs through the three cities. Uber and Lyft rides are also readily available.
Destination weddings in Raleigh, NC are the perfect way to celebrate your special day. Raleigh gives you a chance to skip the crowds, beat the lines, and experience premier, customized attention as you plan your wedding.
After hosting so many dream weddings at Walnut Hill, we know a thing or two about how to handle the day-of and streamline the details so that your time here is truly unforgettable.