At the mention of caves we immediately conjure mental images of crystallized stalactites, reaching-for-the-roof stalagmites, and dark clouds of bats hanging upside down from stone ceilings like tiny circus performers. We don't often conjure the image of a bridal altar. Yet caves have been hosting extraordinary wedding events for generations.
Aside from the obvious "unique" appeal of holding a wedding in a cave, there are benefits that can't be reproduced at any other wedding venue. There's the pleasure of a constant temperature, (no matter what heat or cold snap is happening outside) and that special, otherworldly reverberation of cave acoustics. Each cave also boasts its own individual identity, such as an array of unusual inhabitants, breathtaking, spontaneous water streams, or million-year-old formations unable to be viewed anywhere else in the world.
Some caves remain as primitive as the day they were first discovered, while others have been fitted with stairs, walking paths with safety railings, and a myriad of decorative lights and man-made altars. Plain or spruced up, caves offer a pretty spectacular backdrop for a wedding.
Cave weddings are often cost savers as well. With fewer decorations required, no need for sound equipment for the ceremony, and no particular seating for guests, less cash outlay for the ceremony means more wedding budget dollars to spend on the reception and the honeymoon.
While multiple caves throughout the country offer wedding services, a lesser number permit receptions in underground areas. Fortunately, most cave venues are prepared to recommend nearby reception facilities that make moving from the inside-the-cave wedding to the outside-the-cave reception a seamless progression.
Some wedding services offered at caves are extraordinarily inexpensive but also limit the number of guests you can invite. If you're planning an intimate wedding or an elopement, these caves provide a magical experience that doesn't require annihilating every piggy bank in the house. For weddings with larger guest lists, a bigger price tag may accompany the bigger cave space. Yet, cost for cost, when compared to traditional wedding venues, cave weddings frequently prove to be a bargain on many levels, and the wow factor for you and your guests is pretty high.
A cave wedding does have its challenges. Every cave venue must be vetted for parking, disabled accessibility, and walking distances. If some of your guests would be adversely affected by entering and navigating the cave, such limitations will have to be considered at the onset of wedding planning.
One of the more inventive cave wedding perks can be enjoyed at Luray Caverns in Luray, Virginia, home of the Great Stalacpipe Organ, an organ that uses naturally formed stalactites as its "pipes." At Longhorn Cavern State Park in Burnet, Texas, full table-seating receptions are held right in the cave, and at Bridal Cave at Thunder Mountain Park in Camdenton, Missouri, wedding packages include a gift of lifetime passes to the cave for the bride and groom, a gesture that provides plenty of over-the-years opportunities for revisiting the wedding site and rekindling the romance. The Lost River Cave in Bowling Green, Kentucky grants its wedding parties exclusive use of the Cavern Nite Club at the cave's entrance, which still houses the club's original 1930s bandstand and bar. And California's Napa Valley combines its wine country mystique with weddings and receptions at a variety of cave venues where guests may find themselves surrounded by hundreds of bottles of wine aging to perfection amidst the stone walls. Or, if you've always dreamed of a faraway destination wedding, the rest of the world boasts some pretty amazing cave wedding venues as well.
Caves that host weddings dot the countryside from coast to coast, and just a bit of dedicated digging unearths each cave's particular treasures, with no spelunking tools required. A thorough computer search will do the trick. And if the Internet doesn't produce the finds you're hoping for, contact your state parks department. Many caves are on public land and are maintained by the state. The parks office of any given state may be able to steer you in the right direction.
Like the cave itself, a cave wedding is worth exploring. As evidenced by the 1908 "Bridal Altar at Mammoth Cave, Kentucky" postcard depicted below, cave weddings are not new, but they are surely as special in the 21st Century as they were in centuries past. As a bonus, many of today's cave weddings are enhanced by modern amenities that transform ordinary stone caverns into wonderlands. Whether you prefer your cave organic, or technologically enhanced, the perfect one is out there, somewhere.
Bats and the lovable Fred Flintstone aside, when it comes to weddings, caves definitely have potential.