Rachel Topfer, events coordinator for Tower Grove Park, says a love of quaint surroundings is the most frequently cited reason for scheduling nuptials in the 134-year-old park. "Many times," she says, "I hear, 'It's the garden setting I've always wanted.'" The Piper Palm House, situated near the famed lily pond, certainly fits the bill. Nearly 100 nights a year, the oldest greenhouse (1878) west of the Mississippi hosts a wedding. The going rate of $700 for a two-hour time slot by day and $500 for a two-hour evening time slot buys a verdant backdrop of well-tended exotic and fragrant flora -- massive palms, flowering olive trees and fruit-bearing citrus trees. And although the bride and groom may not be affiliated with a place of worship, the Palm House tends to have a hallowed effect of its own. The quiet dignity of the interior and the high stained-glass windows put one in mind of a church.
The ceremonies don't necessarily conform to Emily Post. Says Topfer, "We've had same-sex commitments, some very interesting African weddings and even a Renaissance wedding with guests all wearing period costumes." Also available is a horse and carriage, which may be rented to convey the bride and her father to the site in style. "It lends a Victorian feel to the wedding," says Topfer, "and this is a Victorian-style walking park, so it fits."