Along with a date, a venue and a gown, photography rates pretty high on many couples' wedding to-do lists. Howard County has no shortage of picturesque spots for portraits. The staff of Howard Magazine shares our favorites:

Location: Howard County Conservancy
Why we love it: More than 200 acres at Mt. Pleasant farm and nature preserve in Woodstock offer a rustic, earthy setting.


Location: Turf Valley Resort
Why we love it: This Ellicott City golf course and resort boasts vibrant greens, a wedding gazebo flanked by weeping willows, and a pond with a fountain and resident swans.

Location: Savage Mill/Bollman Bridge
Why we love it: The juxtaposition of something old — like a 19th century truss bridge and cotton mill — with a fresh white gown is nothing less than striking. Bonus: The Little Patuxent River flows there for natural beauty.

Location: Patapsco Female Institute ruins
Why we love it: This Ellicott City landmark is romantic, enchanting and haunting.

Location: The lakes — Centennial, Elkhorn, Kittamaqundi and Wilde
Why we love it: It's hard to go wrong with water and foliage as a backdrop. These are popular destinations, so stake out a secluded spot ahead of time or plan to be there during non-peak hours.

Location: Nixon's Farm
Why we love it: This West Friendship farm has simple, country beauty in its rolling hills and white picket fences.

Also consider:
Historic Ellicott City, for its red brick charm
Thomas Viaduct, in Elkridge, for its architectural beauty and historic value
Bon Secours Spiritual Center, in Marriottsville, for its peaceful gardens, trails andpond

Note: Some locations are private property and require permission. Whether private land or a public park, always make arrangements ahead of time and respect rules and hours.