Emily Barbin & Matt Seaton. Photos by Torches Together.

Sparks Fly: Summer camps are the hottest wedding venues

Campfires at summer camps across the country are no longer reserved just for hoards of singing children. Increasingly, the facilities, with their scenic views and connection to nature, are being utilized as wedding venues.

Baton Rouge native Emily Barbin tied the knot with fiancée Matt Seaton last April at The Retreat at Balcones Springs just outside of Austin. “I had an idea early on in the planning phase of our guests hanging out around a campfire and enjoying nature together,” Emily explains. “We wanted the wedding to feel authentic to us first and foremost. We kept thinking about our priorities: celebrating nature, spending time with our loved ones, and feeling relaxed.”

Connecting nuptials to nature is no new craze. But the idea of bringing guests for a prolonged stay in a place that prioritizes the beauty outside is something that more and more couples are opting for. Back in 2022, actress Lily Collins married now-husband Charlie McDowell at a rustic, log cabin-filled resort in Colorado. And, more recently, actress Beanie Feldstein had her wedding at Cedar Lakes Estate, a summer camp in Hudson Valley. For Feldstein, the venue was sentimental, as she spent her childhood summers away at camp.

The nostalgia of getting away for the summer and enjoying carefree time in nature is perhaps one of the draws to a summer camp wedding venue. The destination is not just the place itself, but the mindset that it affords both guests and the couple themselves.

“We loved seeing our guests enjoy the property and activities throughout the weekend,” Barbin says. “I got ready in one of the cabins overlooking the property and could see my friends swimming in the lake and my cousins playing pickleball. It was really sweet to watch our families coming together and connecting.”

Don’t worry, though. Venues like these don’t imply that your guests will be roughing it out in tents all weekend. Rustic charm is key to these facilities, but they are complete with all of the modern amenities that guests could ask for, including air conditioning. Many also utilize their regular staff of camp counselors to staff the facility for these weekend-long celebrations, giving guests an authentic experience complete with the people that bring it to life each summer.

“There was more work and planning, but it was worth it for us,” Barbin notes of bringing in florists and more to transform the summer camp throughout her wedding weekend. “We had people travel from all over, which was a big ask for our guests. You won’t be able to make everyone happy, but being true to yourselves will shine through and be what people remember at the end of the day.”