Over-the-top wedding venues

The average amount spent on an American dream wedding (not counting the honeymoon) was $28,427 in 2012, according to The Knot/Wedding Channel.com. New York City, not surprisingly, tops the list, at $76,687.

Rhode Island, perhaps largely because of its to-die-for Newport mansions that host weddings, rolls in at an average of $48,000. Pretty seaside Santa Barbara also appears high on the price list, at $42,319.

These lavish, over-the-top wedding spots might not rank as high in cost as Michael Jordan’s $10 million nuptials earlier this year, but they do deliver lots of bliss for lots of bucks:

Bacara Resort and Spa,
Santa Barbara, Calif.

Bacara Resort and Spa graces cliffs high above the Pacific waves, backed by the Santa Ynez Mountains, and on the edge of the pretty city of Santa Barbara. It is all about white-washed, red-tile roofed Mediterranean architecture, long walks along the cliffs above the sea, a 12,000-bottle cellar, and superb service. How superb? Food and beverage minimums for the Bacara Ballroom start at $70,000. Celebrity weddings here include singer Fergie and actor Josh Duhamel in 2010.

The hotel’s premium “Five-Course Dinner and Reception Package” prices out at $350 per person, and it includes a five-hour premium bar, tableside wines, a sushi station, a huge range of entrees, the wedding cake, and a bevy or other desserts. Add a setting that is every bride’s dream for photographs, and it’s worth every penny -- for those who can afford it.

The Museum of Natural History,
New York City

Imagine having your first dance together on an oak floor beneath a 94-foot blue whale. Picture yourselves toasting one another in the new Rose Center for Earth and Space, a dramatic glass cube, beautifully illuminated at night, and able to host 2,000 for a reception, or 450 for dinner. There are even more lovely settings in New York City’s Museum of Natural History, an unconventional but wildly dramatic wedding venue.

It doesn’t come cheap: The wedding website racked.com reports a $3,500 Patron Membership, an additional room rental fee of $11,000, plus catering costs that may exceed $300 per person. But when will you ever waltz beneath a whale again? Call 212-769-5350 for a specific quote.

Newport, R.I.

Picture Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby, entertaining guests at his utterly elegant mansion home—which in the 1974 film version of “The Great Gatsby,” was the fabulous Newport mansion called Rosecliff. Built to be the home of Nevada silver heiress Theresa Fair Oelrichs, the Stanford White-designed Rosecliff is now the perfect setting for ultra-romantic wedding receptions.

It can accommodate as many as 220 guests for dinner in the ballroom. To book, you must become a member of the Preservation Society of Newport County. Rental costs can range from $25,000 to as much as $80,000 depending on food, beverage, and music choices, plus wait staff, police, and firefighters.

Las Vegas

It isn’t hard to find a place to get married in Las Vegas. But then there is the Bellagio, which provides genuine elegance and five-star fare, along with its iconic dancing fountains. Best bet: The hotel’s “Cosa Bella Package,” for 30 guests maximum, at a price of $25,000. That includes two hours of “Chapel Time” with photography, flowers, a harpist, an officiant to perform the ceremony, and even a “live broadcast” on the Internet.

For $2,000 more, the couple can host up to 30 guests in the chapel’s reception area for chilled seafood, hot hors d’oeuvres, champagne and wedding cake. Extras like limo service to the marriage license bureau and a $1,000 credit for salon and spa help to sweeten the deal.

The Ford Plantation,
Richmond Hill, Ga.

Southern belles who want to get married in Henry Ford’s former winter retreat, just half an hour outside of the pretty city of Savannah, can book the Ford Plantation’s Main House (where Henry lived), for an elegant wedding for up to 250 guests. The National Register of Historic Places-listed mansion offers a lovely view of the Ogeechee River, and exquisite gardens and grounds.

The mansion, complete with reflecting pool, can be rented for a $7,500 site fee, along with a $10,000 minimum (plus a $2,000 service fee, and tax). For groups over 50, the minimum rises to $15,000, plus a $3,000 service fee. The site also requires that couples hire a professional wedding planner, so you’ll want to budget an extra several thousand dollars.

Ko Olina Resort,
Oahu, Hawaii

Ko Olina, not far from Honolulu, offers a lush oceanfront ceremony site. This resort is known for pretty beaches, glorious gardens, and good brand-name hotels. Its premier wedding offering, the $25,000 Kupio “Sweetheart” package, includes a week in an oceanfront, two-bedroom beach villa and even lets couples take up to 45 wedding guests out in a private sunset catamaran sail after the ceremony. The package includes a champagne toast and a one-layer wedding cake, a conch shell blower (very dramatic), and orchids galore. It also includes two hours of photography and three hours of videography.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens,

Imagine getting married in a posh 34-room Venetian palazzo, complete with 10 acres of lush formal gardens, on the edge of Miami’s Biscayne Bay. This exquisite waterfront mansion was once the home of industrialist James Deering, who lived there all alone, surrounded by his vast collection of European art and antiques.

At Vizcaya, you bring in, and pay, your own caterers, musicians, and everything else. The rental fee for use of this lovely mansion on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday is $12,500, which covers 125 guests. Required catering permits range from $375 to $750. Daytime garden ceremonies are more affordable: $1,500 for up to 25 guests, then $25 per guest, but there is no access to the mansion.