IT'S NOT EXACTLY HEAVEN, BUT FOR people planning a wedding, Maryland must seem pretty close. The state offers a wide variety of wedding and reception sites to suit almost any budget or taste.
Following is a partial list of the locations at your disposal. Surely there are others we haven't uncovered yet. If you find one you'd like to share, let us know.
BABE RUTH BIRTHPLACE AND BALTIMORE ORIOLES MUSEUM, 216 Emory St., 727-1539. Reserve one month in advance. Accommodates 125 people. Available evenings only. Cost: $200 for hall rental, plus $2 each person.
Whether it's kismet or just good luck, baseball fans have one more reason to consider the Babe's birthplace as their reception site: It's just two blocks away from the new ballpark in Camden Yards. It still contains all the near-and-dear memorabilia that draws the sports-minded, such as displays on Maryland baseball and Orioles uniforms dating to 1954.
B&O RAILROAD MUSEUM, 901 W. Pratt St., 752-2463. Contact: Stacey Eagan. Reserve as far in advance as possible. Accommodates 950 seated, 2,400 standing. Available Tuesdays to Sundays after 4 p.m., Mondays any time. List of approved caterers available. Cost for basic rental: $2,100 for the first 200 guests, $6 per person over 200. Basic rental includes security, on-premises staffing and secure parking for 240 cars.
The museum roundhouse, located on the site of the first railroad station in the United States, is a 22-sided building, 123 feet high and 240 feet across; just shy of an acre inside.
BALTIMORE GRAND, 401 W. Fayette St., 727-5678. Contact: Patrice Hooper. The Loyola Ballroom accommodates 160 seated with dancing, 250 standing. The Chesapeake Ballroom accommodates 400 seated, 530 standing. There are three fully equipped kitchens, one kosher. List of approved caterers available.
Baltimore Grand has turned business into pleasure by renovating two of Baltimore's turn-of-the-century bank buildings -- Western National Bank and the Eutaw Savings Bank -- into ballrooms suitable for receptions. The Chesapeake, the larger of the two, boasts 5,861 square feet of space, stained-glass windows and a 55-foot vaulted ceiling. The Loyola Ballroom offers a more intimate atmosphere, with crystal chandeliers, sconces and warm tones of champagne and beige.
BALTIMORE MUSEUM OF ART, Art Museum Drive, 396-6078. Reserve three to six months in advance. Accommodates 500 seated, 800 standing. Available every evening except Mondays and Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. List of suggested caterers available, with firm subject to museum's approval. Cost: $3,000 to $5,000.
Two areas are available for receptions. Schaefer Court, with thAntioch Mosaics, surrounds a glass-enclosed atrium. Classical Fox Court is a large space with a rosette-laced coffered ceiling. On either side of the court are the museum's modern and American art collections, which can be opened for receptions at an additional charge.
THE BALTIMORE ROWING AND WATER RESOURCE CENTER, 3301 Waterview Ave., 396-3838. Reserve six months in advance. Accommodates 115 seated, 250 standing. Caterers must be licensed and provide their own insurance. Cost: $600 for eight hours.
With its location on the Patapsco River and its state-of-the-arboathouse decor, the center is an ideal choice for couples who enjoy the water. Winter wedding guests can warm themselves by the fireplace, while spring and summer guests can stroll the outside deck.
CARROLL COUNTY FARM MUSEUM, 500 S. Center St., Westminster, (301) 848-7775. Contact: Dottie Freeman. Reserve three months in advance. Accommodates 100 under a covered pavilion. Music and caterers subject to museum's approval. Alcohol prohibited. Ceremony must be performed elsewhere. Cost: $25 for pavilion rental and $2 per person for 20 or more. For fewer than 20, $3 per adult, $2 for 6- to 18-year-olds and those over 60. No charge for those under 6.
The Carroll County Farm Museum may be the ideal place for lovers of the outdoors to celebrate their marriage, with its 142 acres and 19th century rose and herbal gardens. Wedding guests are invited to tour the 1852 farmhouse decorated with Victorian furniture.
CHEF'S EXPRESSIONS AT HUNT VALLEY, 909 Shawan Road, Hunt Valley, 561-2433. Contact: Rebecca Curtis or Jerry Edwards. Accommodates up to 350 seated, 450 standing. Cost: $600 Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays. Call for weeknight rates. Catering by Chef's Expressions only.
This just-built 4,000-square-foot ballroom features 18-foot-higceilings and 10-foot-high arched windows overlooking the rolling hills of Hunt Valley.
CHESLEY PLACE (formerly the Overlea North), 6908 Belair Road, 668-6060. Reserve as early as possible. Accommodates 150 seated. Cost varies. In-house catering only. This self-contained banquet facility, located one block north of the main building, is decorated in a formal Victorian style with a mauve and gray color scheme.