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Downstate Road Trip Round Up: Where to say “I Do!”

Regional road trips are all the rage right now. Many folks feel most comfortable hopping in the car with their loved ones and exploring sights that are off the beaten path. Some of those sights may even be in your own backyard! For plenty of regional travel ideas, check-in every Wednesday for a Downstate Illinois Road Trip Roundup on themed topics showcasing several destinations across the southern portion of the state. This week’s topic is all about wedding destinations, and there are several terrific places to celebrate that very special day all throughout our region!

Weddings, in essence, are about bringing people together…which can be difficult when family and friends are scattered across different cities, or even states! Located off I-57 and I-70, Effingham is the perfect centralized location for Midwest weddings. Vetted by the city’s very own wedding association, ‘Weddings in Effingham: A Destination’ or ‘the WED Association’, our venues exceed expectations when it comes to aesthetics, experience and service. Additionally, no two venues are alike, here in Effingham, which allows for brides and grooms to choose a space that reflects their own personal style or taste. For example, in 2021, outdoor spaces are coveted for their rustic charm, as well as the ability to socially distance guests.

For brides or grooms seeking a blend of casual, yet sophisticated, Tuscan Hills Winery might be the perfect place for your upcoming nuptials. The stucco exterior and sprawling vineyard adds European flair to an otherwise laidback, Midwestern wedding. Perhaps you’re looking for full glam – spacious ballrooms, larger than life installations and white glove service?

Book your big day at the Thelma Keller Convention Center, where there is no shortage of decadent food, courtesy of their in-house caterer, or stylish décor, curated by the venue’s on-staff wedding coordinator.

If you’re planning a more intimate affair, we highly recommend booking your wedding at Firefly Grill. This modern roadhouse sits lakeside and specializes in an eco-friendly approach to farm and table fare. Say ‘I do’ under the weeping willow and follow up with gourmet cuisine and a night of mingling with your guests under a beautiful Midwest sky.

On the flip side, if the wedding of your dreams looks like a packed dance floor and a fully-stocked bar, you’ll want to visit the Effingham Event Center, where the party often carries on into the wee hours of the morning. With decades of experience, connections to the very best local DJs and generously-sized rooms, the Effingham Event Center is an easy choice for the celebration of a lifetime.

For more information on why Effingham is the ‘perfect spot to tie the knot’, follow the WED Association on social media at @effinghamweddings.


There are a TON of different wedding venues throughout our 22 county territory. Of course, each one has a different flair, depending on your taste. A few of the biggest in our Western Region are Seasons Event Center in Sparta, the Fountains Conference Center in Fairview Heights, and the Regency Conference Center in O’Fallon.

The Fountains is attached to the Four Points by Sheraton and offers nearly 10,000 square feet of flexible function space. The main ballroom can seat up to 500 people with a dance floor! The Regency Conference Center has a 20,000 square foot convention center that can be used as a whole, or broken down into smaller rooms. There are also other areas that can be used for cocktail hours, breakout rooms, and more.

Columbia is home to two unique wedding venues – Main Street Abbey and The Falls Reception and Conference Center. Main Street Abbey has been a staple of Historic Main Street in Columbia for 130 years. It is beautifully renovated, and hosts all celebrations of love. The Falls features a 25-foot cascading waterfall that is the perfect backdrop for the big day!

Another extremely unique venue is the Olde Wicks Factory in Highland! This amazing space was originally the Wicks Pipe Organ Company. There are three different halls, a cocktail area, and suites for brides and grooms, as well as a very large patio.

The newest venue in ILLINOISouth can be found in Centralia. Castle Ridge is an amazing lakefront facility that is designed in the shape of, you guessed it…a castle! When it’s completely finished, it will feature three on-site restaurants, with outdoor and rooftop dining. There are also different setups for outdoor and indoor wedding ceremonies and receptions!

Another great place for a celebration in our Central Region is Mariner’s Village Banquet & Conference Center. Located just steps away from Carlyle Lake, and right across the street from a resort – this venue is prime for weddings, with seating for up to 400.

In our Eastern Region, there are a couple of barn-style venues that attract people from hours around. The Big Red Barn in McLeansboro offers up a lovely country atmosphere and rustic charm that is perfect for weddings, with seating for up to 250 guests.

Meanwhile, The Barn at New Leaf in Lawrenceville boasts hardwood beams, wine bottle chandeliers, and has indoor seating for up to 150 folks, but there is a phenomenal outdoor area connected to the Barn at New Leaf as well.


Mt. Vernon

Mount Vernon has several wedding venues to choose from, making your “I Do Day” customizable and special for you. Whether artsy, rustic, indoor, outdoor, historic, or full-service hotel and banquet centers are your style, when it comes to wedding venues in Mt. Vernon, you have options!

Cedarhurst Center for the Arts is a magnificent choice for indoor/outdoor combination weddings and receptions. Their beautiful buildings and picturesque 85-acre campus create the perfect setting for all types of events ranging from 10 to 400 people with an event team helping to ensure your day comes to life just the way you planned.

If a one stop event, lodging and banquet center is what you desire, look no further than DoubleTree by Hilton Mt. Vernon. DoubleTree offers a convenient location just outside the city center and an array of thoughtful amenities. Step into their large atrium with a 30-foot water feature and plenty of natural light. Their modern guest rooms boast contemporary décor –some suites even offer an oversized balcony with atrium views and a dining area. Ideal for large conferences and events, DoubleTree by Hilton Mt. Vernon offers a 6,000 sq. ft. banquet room making your wedding a breeze to plan at our hotel with an events space for up to 400 guests and a dedicated events team.

The Granada Theatre is a newly renovated venue in downtown Mt. Vernon. This unique venue can accommodate up to 750 in theatre style seating and up to 500 people in a cabaret style arrangement and is great for a wedding/reception in one space. A former movie theater, The Granada Theatre was born to entertain. Elegant ambiance and ample space provide a multitude of set up options for your day.

Upscale rustic chic describes A Pocket Full of Sunshine, located just north of Mt. Vernon off of Highway 37. Built specifically for weddings and other events, A Pocket Full of Sunshine appears to be a large barn, but once you enter you realize it is anything but! With high class amenities and professional services available for every aspect of your big day, A Pocket Full of Sunshine will leave you and your guests feeling like you lived a fairytale.

For information about additional venue options, caterers and hotel accommodations in Mt. Vernon, contact the Convention & Visitors Bureau at 618-242-3151.



We are gathered here today to talk about wedding in Williamson County. As many of you have probably guessed, planning a wedding ceremony is no small and simple task. In fact, on average people begin planning their nuptials a year or more in advance. So, clearly there is a lot of prep and planning that must take place before saying “I do”. Typically, the first decision the couple must make (besides deciding to marry one another) is the date and venue. These two decisions often coincide because of scheduling availability at the venues. It is important to consider the number of guests you intend to invite when deciding on a venue. Venue choice should be a reflection of the couples’ taste and style. Williamson County offers a number of stunning, traditional indoor and outdoor venues; Celebrations Event Center, Dragonfly Wedding Venue, Starlight Lake, Walker’s Bluff, and more! Additionally, intimate venues for rehearsals, receptions, showers and ceremonies are offered throughout the area; Dotty Event Center, Deliciously Ordinary, etc. If the traditional route isn’t for you or you want a personalized setting, we do have a few unusual venue options; Mandala Gardens, Southern Illinois Raceway, Hartley Art Gallery, and Rent One Park! The next step in the process is choosing vendors. Vendors include the catering company, the bakery, the photographer, the florist and decorator, and the DJ or music service. Each of these elements combine to create the overall vibe of your celebration. Thankfully, all of these vendors can be found locally! With almost a dozen local floral and décor shops, half a dozen bakeries, and a myriad of local photographers, your big day can be both delicious and picture perfect. If you like coloring outside of the lines, try using a local food truck in lieu of formal catering or ask your baker about alternatives to the classic wedding cake. With everything you need for a remarkable wedding available locally and conveniently, we invite you to fall in love with Williamson County for your big day.