Nestled in the heart of the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas waits Eureka Springs. The town offers the small-town charms you might expect from a city with just more than 2,100 residents: Victorian shops and homes, plenty of hiking and nature opportunities, treehouses, and the entire downtown area listed on the National Register of Historic Places. What you might not expect are award-winning dining, arts, and entertainment venues on par with much larger cities.
The Ozarks are incredibly beautiful, and there's plenty to do there. Whether you like being in the outdoors, architecture, shopping, or history - there's a little of everything here! We chose it for several reasons, mainly Thorncrown Chapel and its significance to me/my family. I'm so glad that we did, it was a dream wedding!!!
In this post, I will share what we did to plan a destination wedding in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, plus more about our day. It took us over a year to plan our wedding, and this is a destination you should plan ahead for if you are not doing a small elopement or if you want to get married at Thorncrown.
Why Choose a Destination Wedding in Eureka Springs, Arkansas?
Thorncrown Chapel is often ranked as one of the most unique wedding venues in the United States and is incredibly beautiful. Fay Jones to design the project. Jones said he was inspired by his design of Thorncrown Chapel by Sainte-Chapelle, a Gothic church in Paris, France. It is known for its jewel-like interior, resulting from its many narrow, stained-glass windows and different types of glass that allow light into the structure.
Eureka Springs has also long been a popular vacation spot gaining notoriety in the 1800s for its springs which were said to have "healing waters." Its unique architecture downtown and funky spirit live on to this day, making it a popular vacation spot for people in the area.
Eureka Springs is a very special place for many people, but for me and my family, it was really special. Growing up, my family visited Eureka Springs many times, and it became one of our favorite spots for a family vacation. My Granny and Grandad on my Dad's side lived just an hour away from Eureka Springs while I was growing up. I spent many summers hiking, canoeing, fishing, swimming, and exploring the Ozark Mountains. Thorncrown Chapel was a highlight and stop on the trips. My granddad on my Mom's side was inspired by the architect to go on to design buildings throughout Tulsa, Oklahoma as an architect himself. We also chose his birthday as our wedding date.
Please note these are 2022 prices we booked in 2021. Prices are likely to change.
Wedding Venue: $1200
Reception Venue: $3000
Hair and Makeup (for 8 people): $1000
Rentals: $800 (Sweetheart table, champagne glasses, 80 chairs, delivery)
Rehearsal dinner: $400
Wedding Venue: Thorncrown
Reception Venue: Melonlight Ballroom*
Catering: Carmelita's Catering*
Alcohol: Walmart (allows free returns in Missouri close by)
Photography: Neverland Photography*
Videography: Byrd Creative*
Coordinator: How Eventful
Dress: Modern Trousseau (during a sample sale, custom sleeves added during alterations)
Alterations: Tang's Bridal in Manassas, VA
Hair and Makeup: NWA Occasions*
Shoes: Vintage Chanel and Gucci from TheRealReal
Rentals: Randal Events*
Rehearsal dinner: Sauced BBQ*
Photobooth: App called LumaBooth, stand, and my iPad
Desserts: Goldbelly (cake - Walmart, call ahead and ask for a plain two tier cake with the flavor of your choice, add fresh flowers for decor)
* = fantastic to work with and would highly recommend.
Where to have your reception
Since Eureka Springs is a small town, options are limited. We found only three places close to downtown that had space for over 80 guests. We chose Melonlight Ballroom because it was centrally located, had so many excellent BYOB policies, had a great vintage vibe, and after a walkthrough, we absolutely loved them. The other two options we found are Basin Park and the Crescent Hotel, which are owned and operated by the same people. There are other options outside town, but we wanted to keep our reception walkable with windy roads and drinking at the event.
Melonlight Ballroom provides not only the venue but a day of liaison, bartender, plates/cutlery, lighting, furniture, and screen for displays. This made bringing decor in our car so much easier! They also have no vendor restrictions, which made it easy for us to choose whoever we wanted to help with our day. This saved us a lot as well.
We struggled to find a few different vendors that fit our needs. What helped us the most was finding a few vendors we loved and getting their recommendations. We started with our venue and catering since those are two of the most important things you need for a good wedding! They were able to recommend so many people to us after that.
I also found social media extremely helpful. I looked through other real weddings and scrolled many vendors' feeds before deciding who to contact.
I initially didn't find The Knot particularly helpful and found almost no vendors in Eureka Springs. Instead, try looking at the surrounding areas of Bentonville, Springfield, and Fayetteville. We had a lot more luck using this method!
The closest airport is Fayetteville Northwest Arkansas (XNA) (32.71 mi). Other nearby airports are Branson (BKG) (31.3 mi), Harrison Boone County (HRO) (33.84 mi), and Springfield Springfield-Branson (SGF) (61.34 mi). You should fly in and rent a car to get to Eureka Springs. While Uber is available in the area, drivers can be sparse, and getting around is best with a car.
October is the most popular month for travel to Eureka Springs, so if you choose that month, as we did, the recommendation is to book early! We also had to budget more money for our hotels as we opted to cover one night of the weekend for our whole wedding party and families. It was double the average price. Something to consider for you and your guests as you plan!
Getting your stuff there could be a challenge. The roads are winding, and you will likely need to bring things with you from the larger surrounding cities. We rented a car and brought everything with us in a big van from DC. It took us two days to get there and two days to return. This saved us a lot of money but was a lot of work. Something to consider but is much more expensive is using a company to decorate everything for you.
Where to Take Photos
Besides the obvious inside your venues, consider taking photos around Lake Leatherwood, Beaver Lake, and downtown Eureka Springs.
We did our first look, private letters, and my family's stay at a beautiful Airbnb overlooking Beaver Lake.
We were able to have our photographer come to our rehearsal dinner instead of doing an engagement shoot (we did those photos in DC) at Lake Leatherwood.
We took photos before our reception in downtown Eureka Springs by Sweet Springs.
Other Tips for Planning a Wedding in Eureka Springs
Plan far ahead, with few options, and the best vendors are booked far in advance.
Allow extra time between things for driving; while places are nearby, the winding roads add time to the drive.
Everything closes early in Eureka Springs (between 10–11 pm) except for one or two bars. If you are a partier, consider renting your venue for additional hours.
Thorncrown Chapel is stunning, but the time there is limited. Arrive on time and ensure you're clear when you have the chapel. They usually have multiple weddings a day and will make you leave!
If you have a reception in downtown Eureka Springs, prepare for limited parking. Most areas are paid parking with limited street spots. Leave plenty of time between the wedding and reception for people to find a spot and get to your venue.
Consider scheduling some fun outdoorsy event for your guests! Eureka Springs has tons of outdoor activities at the lakes, mountains, and rivers. Plan something fun for your guests to do the day before. We chose to have our rehearsal at Lake Leatherwood, which had beautiful views.
Lake Leatherwood is a public park; you don't need reservations for a pavilion. If you'll have more than a few dozen people, make sure you bring extra chairs for people! They also offer kayaks, small boat rentals, hiking, and great facilities. Recommend it!
Consider not DIYing your flowers. Eureka Springs is far away from other cities. You cannot just pick up more flowers quickly if something goes wrong. It will take you or someone else driving a few hours to get them.
Add personal touches from home through your gift bags, food, and more. We enjoyed bringing little pieces of DC and Texas (our home states) to our wedding and helping our guests get to know Eureka Springs. We put something from each place in our welcome bags, catered local bbq for our rehearsal, shared things to do in Eureka Springs on our website, and hyped it up to people so they'd want to come! We also added a black and white sketch of the venue to our invitations I ordered through Etsy to get them excited too.
Getting your marriage certificate can be done in Eureka Springs or anywhere in Arkansas. The County Clerk's office hours in Eureka Springs are 8:30 am - 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, and on Saturday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, except on holidays, weather permitting. They take cash only. We found this a bit restrictive and ended up getting ours further in advance before getting to Eureka Springs in nearby Bentonville. Do what works for you, but make sure you don't miss their hours!
Consider making a trip to book all your vendors. We found this to be extremely helpful. We did a tasting, trial makeup and hair, and toured venues. This made the planning process less daunting because we had a whole vision for what it would be like. Minimal photos of Eureka Springs wedding receptions exist online that are not at the Basin Park or Crescent Hotel!
Most people do a buffet-style wedding in Eureka Springs. Many caterers and vendors we contacted assumed we'd do a buffet, but we wanted full service during dinner. This worked out perfectly, but be clear with your inquiries to vendors!
Our Rehearsal Dinner - Lake Leatherwood
Before the Wedding, at an Airbnb on Beaver Lake
Wedding at Thorncrown Chapel
Downtown Eureka Springs
Reception at Melonlight Ballroom
I hope this helps you consider planning a destination wedding in Eureka Springs, Arkansas! We loved our wedding and hope this helps you think through your special day too.