By Caroline Shively Sucher
Photos Courtesy of Bohemia Overlook
Photographs taken at Bohemia Overlook are nothing short of stunning.
From catching the couple in that first blissful kiss along the beach to exchanging vows atop the bluff or dancing under tulle and fairy lights, each and every photo tells a story.
“When you look at the photos, they evoke feeling,” says owner Denise Novak. “You don’t just say, ‘Oh, that’s pretty.’ You look and say, ‘Oh, they’re so in love!’”
As gorgeous as those photos are, Denise says when potential brides come to Bohemia Overlook for the first time, they almost always tell her, “It’s even more beautiful in person. The pictures just don’t do it justice.”
Bohemia Overlook is a 160-acre estate in North East, MD, an hour southwest of Philadelphia and an hour northeast of Baltimore. Every corner offers a breathtaking view, from the Elk River running along the edge of the property to the Blue Elk Vineyard at the center. There are three unique wedding venues on the grounds, known simply as the Manor, the Beach, and the Barn.
The Manor is the largest of Bohemia Overlook’s wedding spots, spread over 25 acres. Weddings can be held outdoors on a bluff overlooking the expanse of the Elk River, and for the reception, up to 300 people can fit in a tent covered in sheer white draping, with crystal chandeliers lighting up the dance floor.
“It’s a complete blank canvas. The tent is white, the floor is a neutral color, and you can make it anything you want,” says Denise. “There are two concrete pads, which is another bonus, because most tented venues are in the grass.”
The bride, groom, and their friends and families can spend the day getting ready at the Manor House, a stately old home with white columns and a formal front porch. Inside the Manor, there’s enough room for the groom and his party to take over the ground floor while the bride and bridesmaids spend the day preparing and relaxing upstairs.
“The Manor House is stunning. It was built in the 1930’s, and we kept the integrity of the house when we painted and decorated. We kept that Old-world feel, and people love that,” Denise says of her most popular venue.
The Beach has a more casual feel than the Manor but also offers a panoramic view of the Elk River and borders the property’s vineyard.
“I’ve been to places that, when you take pictures, you have to make sure that you point the camera in just the right direction to get the pretty background, but at the Beach every angle is perfect because you are surrounded by beauty,” says Denise.
Those photos can be taken in the sand, along the pier, or inside the large white tent that seats up to 300. Like all of the venues, the Beach has a location for the bridal party to spend the day, a Nantucket-style house with a beachy vibe and vaulted ceilings, just right for those candid shots.
The Barn is a perfect combination of rustic charm and romantic elegance, with Amish-made barnwood tables and wooden beams that bring a country vibe to the party, while a showstopping chandelier adds sophistication and style.
“It can be seriously rustic or barely rustic,” Denise explains. “It all depends on your décor, whether you use lanterns and burlap or sequins and large, elegant flower arrangements. It’s all how you make the feel of the barn yours.”
The Barn can host a wedding ceremony and reception for up to 120 guests. It sits atop Bohemia Overlook’s tasting room, which has been fashioned out of a former racehorse stable.
“You get the tasting room for your cocktail hour. They can serve our wine or have a mobile bar service that provides a licensed and insured bartender,” Denise says.
The Farmhouse is included with the Barn venue. It’s just steps away from the Barn and has a lovely bridal suite, a second bedroom, and a main living area.
At many wedding venues, the groom and his party are an afterthought. They come rolling in at the last minute after jumping in their tuxes at home or a hotel room or perhaps a bar. Not at Bohemia Overlook. Grooms here have the option of the Barracks, named in honor of the Elk River’s role in the Revolutionary War.
“When people tour our venues, the brides and the moms usually ask the questions,” Denise says. “The grooms usually are pretty quiet until I tell them about the Barracks. Then they keep saying, ‘Are we going to see the Barracks? When are we going to see the Barracks?’ Then we go in there and the guys just light up!”
This charming house is decorated with an American theme and divided into two sides. There’s room for 22 on the large side, where the men can work up a sweat playing ping pong, cornhole, Kan Jam, football, baseball, or soccer, with equipment already on-site; or they can take it easy playing chess or cards. If all that fun makes them hungry or thirsty or works up a sweat, there’s a kitchen, bar, and showers. The smaller side of the Barracks is equipped with the same games and a half bath, while both sides have outdoor patios.
Whichever venue her brides and grooms choose, Denise says her goal is for the couple to relax and leave stress behind.
“You are here all day. Everyone comes to you; you don’t have to worry about getting to different places, about traffic. You don’t have to allot an hour to get to the church and then the reception, to go get your hair and makeup done. You sit there and enjoy yourself,” she says.
That leaves just one stress facing the happy couple – whether to choose the Manor, the Beach, or the Barn.