Four unique ceremony spots offer variety, charm and history.

The after party gets all the attention. In fact, most of the planning details focus on the reception, from the music to the food to the favors and on and on. But the ceremony, of course, is why we're all at the party to begin with. Without the exchanging of "I dos," there'd be no cake, no Champagne toasts, no chandeliers and lights and sparkles.

We think the vows deserve their time in the spotlight, so we've rounded up some of the city's premier ceremony venues, for both religious and secular affairs.

Downtown Elegance: Trinity Episcopal Church

Throughout his 30-year career-16 of those years spent at the 19th-century Trinity Episcopal Church in Downtown Columbus-the Rev. Richard Burnett has performed more than 300 weddings. But don't say he's married anyone-other than his wife, of course.

"I don't marry anyone! The bride and groom marry one another," Burnett says. "That's an important distinction."

What Burnett is talking about is "solemnization," when he blesses a bride and groom's marriage after the vows have been shared. There are three parts to a Christian ceremony, Burnett says: the betrothal and the public declaration of marriage, when the bride is presented (after walking down one of the longest aisles in Downtown); the reading of the scripture and gospel passages; and, finally, the blessing from Burnett. This third part, he says, "answers the question 'Why a church?' "

At Trinity, the typically 27-minute ceremony is about life and love at the deepest of levels. "And it's about listening, trusting and respecting one another … both the couple and us, the church," Burnett says.

Couples do not need to be members of the church to get married at Trinity, but Burnett does ask they join the congregation after the wedding. Additionally, couples will need to meet with him three times before the wedding, the first about four months prior. To get to know them on an intimate level, Burnett takes couples to a post-service Sunday brunch at nearby Latitude 41.

"Then, about a month later we'll get together for two uninterrupted hours of conversation," he says. It's during this session that couples will discuss conflict-management styles and what it really means to get married. A final session-the "rehearsal before the rehearsal"-takes place the week of the wedding.

If you're looking for a gorgeous Downtown spot, you'd be in good company. "We marry the coolest people here," Burnett says.

Rural Glam: The Darby House

Ceremonies at the Darby House, located about 20 minutes west of Downtown, are often summed up as "country chic," but that doesn't tell the whole story.

"It's a sophisticated yet natural experience. It's high-end but still casual. It's a destination wedding without having to go too far," says Mike Redcay, general manager of Cameron Mitchell Premier Events, which owns the Darby House. Ninety percent of brides who choose the Darby House host both their ceremony and reception at the location.

"The biggest appeal is obviously the elements," Redcay says. "The water, the wood, the stone."

Also appealing is the history behind the Darby House's 2,000-acre property and gorgeous stone buildings, once owned by John Galbreath, a notable 20th-century businessman and philanthropist.

"[Galbreath] was a big deal for Columbus, and to have a bride become a part of that narrative is pretty cool," Redcay notes.

Couples who choose this spot in the country are treated to an outdoor ceremony with the Big Darby Creek as their backdrop. It's a stunning sight in late afternoon and early evening, as the sun sets behind the couple and their attendants. If it rains, plan B is a good one: Floor-to-ceiling windows in the hall offer their own outdoor vibe in the indoors.

Though the setting is all elegance (and paired with Cameron Mitchell fare), Redcay says the Darby House doesn't come with a luxury price tag. "It's the third or fourth most reasonable venue in town. You get a lot for your value," he says.

"It's a unique space, especially for the guests," he continues. "Once they enter the gates, they're transported to a different place."

Collective Commitment: Congregation Tifereth Israel

You don't have to be a member of Tifereth Israel to get married there, "but everyone ends up joining [after their wedding] because this is just such an awesome community!" Rabbi Eric Woodward says. And ceremonies at Columbus' largest synagogue are truly about community.

"You have these two people that love each other, and the ceremony is about the community being there to take care of them," Woodward says. "This is what a Jewish wedding is about. When you get married beneath the Chuppah [a wedding canopy that represents the home], the idea is that you have a relationship that's both personal and intimate, but you're also opening up your home-and your relationship-to the community."

The congregation celebrates about 20 weddings each year, and the three rabbis and a cantor make sure each couple gets an intimate experience.

"You get a lot of personal interaction with the clergy," Woodward says.

It's also a congregation that's open to all Jewish couples.

"We just had a wedding here two weeks ago for a same-sex couple. That was very exciting," Woodward says. "Their vibe was much more informal. But I've seen black-tie weddings here, too."

Most weddings take place in the main sanctuary, but there are also smaller spaces available, including a small chapel.

Woodward notes one of the most special aspects of modern weddings is the fact that they're true verifications of a couple's love. "In the old days, people used to begin the relationship with a wedding," he says. "And now the ceremony today is an affirmation of that relationship.

"This is a place where you take your relationship and begin to grow the narrative into one

that is really a communal one," Woodward continues. "It's a place where you get a true sense of what it means to belong to a group … and to Judaism."

Urban Oasis: Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Each year, about 150 couples choose one of Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens' stunning spots for their wedding ceremonies. But despite the high numbers, each day is distinct.

"[Each wedding] is truly unique. They tend to be pretty personalized," says Colleen Tassone, client services manager at the conservatory. "I've seen people mix in [to the ceremony] family and religious traditions and also things that are completely different."

The West Terrace (with the Palm House as a weather backup) is a popular ceremony spot, while the Zen Terrace rooftop garden is more contemporary (and is paired with the Grand Atrium). The Brides Garden is gorgeous and, with an 80-person maximum, quite intimate. And if you're looking for something a bit more coastal, the Grove rooftop garden has a Mediterranean vibe.

Green thumbs? The Community Garden campus is also available for ceremonies.

Most conservatory ceremonies are not affiliated with any religion, Tassone says, but there are typically religious readings and, often, customized music.

"We get urban brides … brides who are looking for something really unique," Tassone says. "We're a museum, a historical space, something outdoors-that's what draws couples to us."

Tassone also notes that, thanks to Mother Nature, brides don't need to do a ton of decorating. And a day-of coordinator and one-hour rehearsal (included if you do your ceremony on site) keep things convenient.