Rock Island Lake Club - Sparta, NJ - Garret Torres Photography - Northern NJ Wedding Venue Spotlight

There is no carpet at Rock Island Lake Club.

When I spoke to Jamie from Rock Island about this blog post, that was one thing she mentioned that was important to her. While it was funny to hear, I think it says a lot about the overall mood of the venue. Like Jamie, I’m not the biggest fan of “wedding factory” venues with gigantic, gaudy ballrooms (not saying I hate them, they’re just not my top choice.) Rock Island Lake Club has been creating a unique, personal wedding experience for their couples since 2014, and they’re always improving. The focus of their weddings is their couples, which is one reason they only do one wedding per day, and the venue and property are there to accent the overall experience.

If you’ve never been to or seen photos of Rock Island, let me introduce you.

First of all, there’s obviously a lake.


Outdoor ceremonies happen right here on the lakeshore. Being tucked away in the woods allows for a quiet, uninterrupted wedding ceremony experience. After your “I dos” you are led just a few yards away into the indoor/outdoor cocktail hour area, and let me tell you something. You’ve never experience a cocktail hour (hour and a half, actually) like the one at Rock Island Lake Club. Here’s just a taste of what’s included in their cocktail hour package: top shelf open bar, 30 beers on tap (craft, local, ciders, IPAs, gluten free, and more), a bacon station, guacamole station, Friendsgiving, gridiron grub (decorated in the theme of your favorite sports team), fresh mozzarella station, 8 different butler-passed hors d’oeuvres, 2 butcher blocks, your choice of music, and more. All this happens, as I mentioned, in their indoor/outdoor cocktail hour area. Guests can enjoy the lake view from an open-air balcony above the lawn, or they may choose to hang out by the newly renovated bar inside.

If you’re into portraits like I am, Rock Island has you covered. The lake is just the beginning of the opportunities for great photos. If you’re up for it (and I hope you are), you’re able to take out a row boat that the venue provides you! I’ve been dying to get some great drone photos of a couple in the boat on the lake, so let’s make that happen! Rock Island also has a great section of woods that’s not far off from everything else. There’s a cute little swing hidden back there along with some trails through the trees that make for great cover on even the sunniest of days.


On the way back from the woods, you can hit up the walkway along the lower parking lot (I promise it’s prettier than it sounds. See the next photo for proof.)


Some days the sky just comes through for us photographers. The last time I photographed a wedding at Rock Island Lake Club was one of those days.


Even when it rains, Rock Island has provided me with some of the best portrait opportunities.

Alright, alright. I could go on and on about the great photo locations at this place, but let’s get into more of the information you came here for.

Your dinner and reception takes place upstairs on the main level. Windows line the wall facing the lake to continue providing guests with spectacular views of the water and wilderness. The room is big enough to fit 150+ guests, but it’s not so big that you feel like you’ll get lost. When guests work up a sweat from dancing all night, they can step out on to the balcony to get some fresh air, or head over to the bar for some refreshments.

While many people talk about dinner being one of the most important parts of a wedding, Id argue that Rock Island’s dessert and late-night options are possibly even more appealing. Donut board? Got it. Milk and cookie station (with edible cookie dough)? Yep. Churro bar? Check. S’mores by the bonfire? You know it. McDonald’s station? Wait, McDonald’s station? Yes, Rock Island will literally provide your guests with actual McDonald’s burgers, fries, nuggets, all that good stuff. I love a good filet, but I also love a greasy cheeseburger every once in a while. Imagine the buzz you’ll create when people find out that they can grab some Philly cheesesteaks or a classic New Jersey breakfast sandwich before they leave. No need to order food to their hotel room when they get back! They’ll probably be pretty exhausted from a killer party anyway.


Remember when I told you that the staff at Rock Island treats everyone like family? One morning I was shooting a wedding there and the bride mentioned that she couldn’t enjoy mimosas with her bridesmaids due to the acid in orange juice. The bride was fine with it and told the bridal attendant not to worry about it. Without skipping a beat, the attendant sent someone out to a local store to purchase acid-free orange juice, and minutes later, the bride was enjoying an acid-free mimosa with her girls. If that isn’t supreme service from a venue, I don’t know what is. On top of that, most of the staff are in the same age group as their couples which makes it easy for them to relate and get along with each other. I don’t know about you, but if I’m planning a wedding, I want to work with someone who understands that a boomerang photo booth that can text you your photos is more important to me than the traditional “look at the camera and smile while you cut your cake” photos.

Some other great offerings from Rock Island include a roomy bridal suite with tons of natural light and a great view of the lake, a groom’s suite with a shuffleboard table, popcorn machine, and PlayStation 4, a cigar & whiskey bar, and the ability to go fishing off the dock before guests arrive.

If you’re interested in learning more about Rock Island Lake Club, or to schedule a visit, reach out to Emma at