A bride and groom pose with their wedding part during their wedding at Eolia Mansion.

Wedding Venue Feature: Eolia Mansion

Vibe and FeaturesOld world mansion, beach and water views, beach, stunning and unique garden features, one lighthouse on view
Guest Capacity150
Location275 Great Neck Rd.
Waterford, CT 06385
Similar VenuesBranford House, Inn at Mystic, Connecticut River Museum, Lion Rock Farm, Lord Thompson Manor, The Society Room of Hartford

Harkness Memorial State Park is known for being one of the best in Connecticut. It’s wide open and flat, has a beach as well as trees, lots of flowers, and is free to residents. But another reason for Harkness greatness is its beauty as an event venue. Here are some details on having your own Eolia Mansion wedding!

Eolia Mansion Video Tour

If you prefer to watch and listen, here’s a quick video tour of Eolia Mansion on my YouTube channel:

History of Eolia Mansion at Harkness State Park

Eolia Mansion was built in 1907 for the Harkness family. Around 20 years later, the beautiful gardens which Harkness State Park is known for were added. Eventually, both the mansion and the Harkness property came under the ownership of the state of Connecticut in 1950.

The groom awaits the bride for their first look at their Eolia Mansion wedding.
A bride and groom enjoy their first look together during their Eolia Mansion wedding.

Interestingly, Eolia Mansion is the sister property to Branford House, another CT wedding venue located about 12 miles away in nearby Groton. As event venues, both Eolia and Branford are owned and operated by the State of Connecticut.

The Dining Room is almost ready for guests to be seated for an Eolia Mansion wedding reception.

By and large, like other estate and mansion venues in CT, the interior of Eolia Mansion has old world charm that comes across in its aesthetics. The outside is what puts it in a class of its own (with sibling venue Branford House).

Venue Vibe and Features

Just like Branford House, Eolia is an awesome location for private parties and events, most notably weddings. Here are some details about why you should have your wedding at Eolia Mansion:

Harkness Memorial State Park

On the front lawn, a bride and groom hold hands and run through an arm tunnel created by their wedding party during their Eolia Mansion wedding.

Of course, Eolia is located in Harkness. Just a few words won’t do the sweeping lawns and beautiful gardens of this park justice. So, feel free to view my post about Harkness Memorial State Park engagement sessions for more info and photos.

One thing to note: Harkness is huge at 200+ acres in size. This alone sets Eolia Mansion apart from other wedding venues in the Mystic area!

Mansion Grounds

The mansion at Harkness Memorial State Park is located somewhat centrally. This is about a five-minute walk from the parking lot, then another 10 minutes or so to the water (by contrast, Castle Hill Inn’s water views are closer, all around). Some more features about the immediate area around the mansion are as follows:

The rear patio during a wedding at Eolia Mansion, complete with a white tent and guests enjoying cocktail hour.
A bride and groom celebrate together after the ceremony of their Eolia Mansion wedding.
  • Mansion front: The main entrance of Eolia has a huge grassy field in front of it. It’s the perfect location for wedding party photos with your closest friends or portraits with your guests. Honestly, the front of the venue is a very welcome sight for your Eolia Mansion wedding.
  • Mansion left: On the left-hand side of the mansion is the East Garden. Not too far from there are the famous Harkness water tower, Japanese maple tree, and carriage house.
  • Mansion right: Around the right-hand side of the grounds is where things get interesting for Eolia weddings. Here’s where the famous Harkness Memorial State Park gardens are located, the most popular of which is the West Garden. This side of the mansion also has part of the venue’s open patio.
  • Mansion rear: The back of Eolia is where this wedding venue really shines. Here, there’s a huge, flat field which opens up to Long Island Sound. This area is perfect for everything from pictures to mingling on your special day. This also where the mansion’s patio is, the open-air location (with a tent cover) for your reception.

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Layout Inside Eolia Mansion

A bride walks down the stairs of Eolia Mansion before her wedding.

There are two floors in the mansion at Harkness Memorial State Park:

  • First floor: Here, you’ll find a nice foyer with a staircase (the Living Hall) and three dining/serving rooms (Music Room, Breakfast Room, and Dining Room)
  • Second floor: Upstairs, there’s just space for the finishing touches of getting ready (the wedding suite, also known as the “bridal suite”), though the space is probably a little tough for full hair, makeup, etc.

Eolia and Harkness Ceremony Locations

There are two main wedding ceremony locations at Eolia mansion, making it a totally versatile Connecticut wedding venue:

  • Harkness amphitheater: This is the default ceremony location, included in the rental fee. The amphitheater is located about a 10-minute walk from the mansion (venue staff can help with transporting guests via golf cart). Long Island Sound is the amazing backdrop
  • Harkness West Garden: For a smaller gathering and for an additional fee, your ceremony can take place in the West Garden area of the park. Conveniently, this is located right next to the mansion.

(As a side note, I have a post which addresses eloping at Harkness state park, without the use of the mansion.)

Eolia Mansion Wedding Costs

The State of Connecticut offers weddings at Eolia between Memorial Day and Labor Day each wedding season (sadly, it’s not available for winter weddings). Here are some details about Eolia Mansion wedding costs and logistics:

  1. The mansion can accommodate weddings of up to 150 guests.
  2. During prime wedding season (i.e. spring through fall), weekend weddings start from about $5000. This rental fee drops to about $3000 for weddings after Thanksgiving up to spring.
  3. When you rent Eolia Mansion, the base period is seven-and-a-half hours of event time (with two-and-a-half hours of that dedicated to setup and breakdown). You can book additional hours for an extra charge of around $1000/hour, up to the reception curfew of 11:00 PM.
  4. A Harkness amphitheater ceremony is included with the rental fee; a garden wedding can be arranged for an extra charge.
  5. Your reception under a tent on the mansion’s rear patio is also included (this is also the ceremony rain location).
  6. Note that Harkness is open to the public during your wedding, up until sunset when the public is required to leave the park (this is not problematic, though it’s something to keep in mind).

Catering

At Eolia, the State of Connecticut has partnered with about six preferred caterers from which you have to choose. Based on my experience, Culinary Concerts is top notch; I’m sure the others are great, too.

Some more advice: more weddings should involve preferred caterers! By booking your food service through a vendor who is very familiar with your event venue, you’re almost guaranteed that this part of your experience will be smooth.

A guest holds a red cocktail with rosemary in it during a wedding at Eolia Mansion.

This freedom (to choose a caterer) and trust (i.e. one that is locked in with the venue) is one huge advantage over a country club venue, for example.

Hotels Near Eolia Mansion

A bride and groom walk with their wedding party during their wedding at Eolia Mansion.

The location of Eolia and Harkness is somewhat isolated in Waterford. Therefore, the immediate area has small, VIP-esque accommodations, including Granite House, Lighthouse Inn, and Inn at Ocean Avenue.

A little farther away, and still very accessible, are Inn at Harbor Hill Marina (East Lyme) and Holiday Inn New London (New London). Groton and Mystic are both nearby and offer plenty more accommodations.

Learn More

Here’s an Eolia Mansion wedding that I photographed recently. And if you’re ready to start the conversation about your own wedding there, then reach out to their staff today!

Sarah Hargis
sarah.hargis@ct.gov

Citations

I used the following references at different points in this post:

  1. “Eolia – The Mansion at Harkness State Park,” State of CT DEEP
  2. “The Mansion Rental Program,” Friends of Harkness

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