Tuesday, May 21, 2024

News and Ideas Worth Sharing

HomeWeddings in the BerkshiresBerkshire Wedding Guide:...

Berkshire Wedding Guide: The people and places that make it happen

As we head into prime engagement season (Thanksgiving through Valentine's Day), we offer a guide to Berkshire wedding vendors and venues.

Just as a marriage is a union of two people as one, a wedding is an ensemble, with each component playing off the other to create a result that is grander than its multiple moving parts. 


Editor’s Note: This article comes from the November-February issue of our print magazine Out & About with The Berkshire Edge, which is available for free at high-traffic locations throughout the Berkshires and beyond. For more wedding information and a complete directory of Berkshire wedding venues and services, please visit our online wedding section here: PerfectBerkshireWedding.com

At least that’s the rose-colored-lens description. A certain pro paints a more realistic picture: “A wedding is loosely organized chaos,” says (half-jokingly) Taylor Garrett of Taylored & Thyme, a new wedding and event planning service that’s been garnering strong reviews. “You can’t control 150 other people or the weather. You can only control yourself and the circumstances that put you into that situation.” 

Her advice? Go with the flow. Enjoy the journey. And lean into the warm embrace of the uber-talented pool of Berkshire-based vendors whose collective purpose is to make your “I do!” day match your vision—even if that means sending you to fellow pros should their own calendar be full. No kidding: With a projected 2.6 million couples tying the knot nationwide, 2022 has seen a wedding boom unlike anything since 1984! 

That palpable close-knit comradery is, beyond the breathtaking scenery, what sets the Berkshires apart from other top wedding destinations. “All the vendors here are about community over competition,” says photographer Rebecca Castonguay of Moments with Ada, who along with Taylor has built her nascent business primarily through peer referrals.

Being in a group that works together consistently—and greets each other with high-fives—makes the day of the event that much more seamless, according to Casey England of CRISP Catering. “It puts the clients at ease too—they know they are in good hands with people who are colleagues and friends.” And now more than ever, couples are “striving to create a space where the setting, food, and florals work together to create a cohesive atmosphere that honors the beauty of the Berkshires.” 

Or as Luke Franco of Tiny Hearts Farm puts it, “Taking a step back and imagining the room filled with your people is when it starts to be special. A wedding is just a big celebration. You have to make sure you are able to enjoy it. Find the right people to plan the day and then trust them to do their best work.” 

Herewith is your guide to trusted planners, photographers, venues, caterers, florists, and cake artists in the region. Congrats, mazel tov, and felicidades!

 

Planning by Danecca & Co.; florals by Daisy Stone Studio. | Photo Elaina Mortali

PLANNERS

You don’t have to work with a wedding planner, but by matching you with the right vendors and prioritizing your budget on what matters most, a point person can end up being a smart investment. 

That’s true even (especially) if you are marrying at a private space—you have to replicate what a staff would normally do. If you are planning a weekend-long celebration, do note that event coordinators at specific venues generally don’t help with other than on-site set-up and logistics Their primary client is the location, too, for which they are stewards of the property.

That’s why Oskar Hallig and Mike Zippel of Only in My Dreams Events call themselves the glue that keeps everything together. “Sometimes you end up with a mix, where couples have picked their caterer and venue but maybe not the rentals or flowers and we are able to fit those elements into the overall design,” Hallig says.

Some planners, including high-end ones like Magdalena Events, offer both full and partial services. But book in advance—most no longer take “month-of” clients 

Taylored & Thyme, for example, requires all contracts to be signed and the preliminary details figured out by May 1 of the preceding year. “It becomes too hectic after that. Even trying to book 2023 clients during the 2022 season was hard enough,” says founder Taylor Garrett.

She offers tiered packages with varying degrees of oversight that each couple can customize. “Ultimately it’s about what level of stress I can take off their plate. For some it’s handling the transportation and hotels, which is usually a pretty big task, whereas others say they’re just going to book a block of rooms and provide numbers for local cabs.”

Danecca & Co. also offers a la carte packages for design (website, invitation, and overall event), planning, photography, floral, and specialty bar in addition to its Grand (full-service) Package. The dynamic duo behind this in-demand business is Rebecca Daly and Danielle Pellerin—both Berkshire natives with a combined 20-plus years of experience. 

Jessy Turner of Birdhouse Events only offers full coordination (for a base fee of $5,000), either at her own spectacular hilltop venue, Ice House Hill Farm, or other locations. She is also the designated planner for the Norman Rockwell Museum. 

 

Bloom Meadows. | Photo Dear Edith & Lily

PHOTOGRAPHERS

Even if you can plan and design your wedding, you simply can’t capture it—well-intentioned nephews and camera-wielding friends aside. The Berkshires boasts established pros—Christopher Duggan, Tricia McCormack, Elaina Mortali, Eric Limón—that rival any big-city shutterbug.

“It’s more than just showing up and taking photos,” says Jocelyn Vassos of Dear Edith & Lily, another highly regarded photographer. “I always do a site visit with the couple to walk through the flow of the day and then work with them on a timeline to keep things flowing, whether or not the couple has a planner.” She recently raised her fee to $4,900, which she says is in the middle of the road for the area, and which will help limit the number of weddings she works on to a more sane 25 per season—and allow her to fit in more family portraits. (“I love, love, love taking those!”)

Christina Michelle, who often seconds Vassos on shoots, Sadie Elizabeth, and Amy Inglis of Avida Love are making names for themselves, while Christina Lane (among others) is an established name in the community. 

Rebecca Castonguay of Moments with Ada had her first full slate of weddings in 2022 in addition to her high-end editorial work and boudoir portraits (a way of giving back to the community, as many of the subjects are victims of domestic violence). She offers three packages: Engagement, Elite Wedding, and Deluxe Wedding, with optional add-ons for videography and photo albums.

Her big takeaway from this season is that “people have gotten back to the point of the ceremony, and that’s really beautiful. As a photographer it’s my job to tell that story, to tell everyone why they are getting married.” 

 

The Clark. | Photo Dear Edith & Lily

VENUES

Wedding spaces befitting destination status run the gamut, from Gilded Age mansions to world-class cultural spaces (MASS MoCA, The Clark, Jacob’s Pillow, Tanglewood’s Linde Center for Music and Learning) and everything in between—including Berkshire Botanical Garden and exclusive spas Canyon Ranch and Miraval (for smaller gatherings). Many, including Roeliff Jansen Park and TurnPark Art Space, have jawdropping views. 

“We are very proud of hosting weddings at The Mount,” says Susan Consolati, wedding coordinator for Edith Wharton’s historic landmark. According to Kelsi Polk, director of food and beverage, weddings in 2022 ranged from 70 to 200 people. “About 40 percent of couples have planners, up from previous seasons.” The Mount only hosts one wedding per weekend, so no surprise it is booked for 2023. September is booking first for 2024 along with holiday weekends and June. New this year: “We’ve introduced putting a tent in the courtyard of the house rather than on the lawn, based on client requests,” Polk says. 

Other turn-of-the-century cottages include Ventfort Hall, Chesterwood, The Wheatleigh, Gateways Inn, The Kemble (now part of Shared Estates Properties), Seranak and Highwood (both at Tanglewood), and Blantyre (currently closed for renovations with an unannounced reopening date). 

Rustic-yet-refined barns—including at Bloom Meadows and Crissey Farm—are a cornerstone of the Berkshire brand. At Gedney Farm, the Event Barn can accommodate up to 250 people all year long (it’s got A/C and heat); larger gatherings can happen under a tent on 50 acres. Plus on-site lodging is available in a renovated dairy barn, complete with granite fireplaces and large-tile hot tubs. 

Stonover Farm, which holds weddings in late May, throughout June and September, and in early October, has a soaring 130-year-old barn for 175 guests (or larger weddings can be accommodated by renting tents). Lodging for 12 to 14 people is also available at the luxury inn. “All weddings are catered by Mezze or a combination of an approved caterer who works with an approved wedding planner,” says owner Randy Grimmett.

Quaint New England churches are also yours for the taking, or opt for a secular ceremony at Saint James Place, a former church that’s now a state-of-the-art performance space. All are welcome too at Hancock Shaker Village, where its iconic Round Stone Barn and historic village provides a stunning backdrop. 

Or check out North County hot spots TOURISTS, a retro–chic hotel, and recently updated The Williams Inn. Looking for a post-industrial vibe? Greylock Works inhabits a rehabbed mill; The Stationary Factory is in the former Crane & Co. paper plant.  

Set on three wooded acres, John Andrews Farmhouse Restaurant hosts (and caters and plans) tented weddings for up to 220 people or 70 people (plus 32 on outside terrace) in the renovated 18th-century farmhouse-cum-eatery. Interlaken Inn and Race Brook Lodge are more rustic locales 

Speaking of farms: Cricket Creek Farm (known for award-winning cheese) and fourth-generation Holiday Brook Farm (where couples get to stay in the Cottage farmhouse) both roll out the welcome mat—complete with cows grazing on verdant pastures.

A new crop of venues has also sprung up to meet the wedding boom. 

Winbrooke, a 1915 manor on 33 lush acres overlooking Tyringham Cobble, opened (softly) in the summer of 2022—and is generating lots of buzz. The name is a nod to Brooke Astor, who lived there for a period of time. 

Owners Amy and Nick Felix completely restored the property over three years, replicating original details that weren’t reparable and otherwise preserving original architecture. Their focus is on luxury weddings with a maximum of 120 guests. Inside there’s a ballroom and adjoining bar that’s “100 percent period authentic.” Outside is a gravel courtyard and plenty of lawn space for tents. They are holding weekly tours and booking for 2023 from May through October. 

Also new on the scene, Cottage Farm of the Berkshires offers full-weekend or one-day packages at its tucked-away location, where the four-season pavilion barn seats 50, or you can have up to 250 guests under a tent on the ceremonial wildflower field. Lodging is also available in the three-bedroom cottage for up to six guests. (Pricing is provided on the website.)

The Lakehouse Cottages of the Berkshires. | Photo Dear Edith & Lily

The Lakehouse Cottages of the Berkshires is a weekend venue that can sleep 50 to 60 guests and accommodate a total of 150 guests for the event under a tent from end of May through mid-October. Couples are required to rent the entire property and guests pay for their space like a hotel blocking. For a one-day event, The Proprietor’s Lodge is under the same ownership and a boat ride away. It can hold 250 with the dance floor or 100 during winter in a beautiful room overlooking the water and upstairs in the ballroom. Catering is provided at the Lodge but not the Lakehouse. Events coordinator Nicole Andrus says about 80 percent of couples do not have planners, with more this season than in the past. 

Even ski resorts are getting in on the action. Turner and Castonguay, who collaborated (as planner and photographer respectively) on a last-minute wedding at Bousquet (the resort’s first ever) when another venue fell through, had high praise for the spot. “It’s on-site catering was great at helping us copy and paste that vision to the new location,” Turner says. 

Besides having a brand-new lodge, Bousquet (now owned by Mill Town Capital) is landscaping the top of the mountain for ceremonies with views of Greylock Mountain (currently they take couples up there for photo ops only). “Our niche market is 75 to 150 guests and as the fifth oldest continuously operating ski resort, we get people who want to marry here because there’s a strong sentimental attachment,” says general manager Kevin McMillan. Prime season is May through June and September through early November, but you are welcome to inquire about other months.

Catamount events coordinator Victoria Wright says they are hosting one wedding per weekend in 2023 from May through October. On-site catering is in the plans for the future. Venue options include brand-new Catamount Lodge, which holds 300 guests plus another 100 on the mezzanine, and smaller Berkshire Lodge, which holds 200 people and includes The Fat Cat Tavern, a taco and tequila bar that holds 90 and can be rented on its own.

Lodging is available at the resort’s two buildings, which have a total of 10 rooms that open to a pond and a fire pit—and where couples can continue their party after the reception as there’s no noise ordinance. Plus more lodging is available at the Little Cat Lodge at the foot of the mountain.

Jiminy Peak also offers ample accommodations in addition to four scenic venues at its Hancock resort. 

CRISP’s England has noticed a shift toward non-venue locations, be it an historic estate or private property. “While logistically challenging to create something from the ground up, this offers couples complete freedom to carry out their vision.” (And CRISP and other vendors are there to help you realize that vision.)

Note that some venues have their own tents while others require you (or your planner) to order rentals. Mahaiwe Tent and Classical Tents are your trusted options, but order early as they are in high demand. 

 

MASS MoCA; flowers by Crocus Hale. | Photo Love & Perry

FLORISTS

Of all the line-items in a budget, flowers can often cost more than couples expect. But it’s hard to put a price on these natural beauties, which transform even familiar venues and provide brides with an eye-catching accessory—even though tossing the bouquet is now passé. 

They’re also a symbol of new beginnings dating back to ancient Rome when brides wore flowing garlands. Thank Queen Victoria for birthing the modern bouquet in her 1840 royal wedding to Prince Albert, when she was seen round the world carrying a clutch of flowers. 

Botanicals—and their of-the-moment installation incarnations—play an even bigger role in ceremonies today, replacing the religious altars of yore and bringing life to blank-slate tents and post-and-beam barns. Sylvan is in.

According to Crocus Hale, bridal party bouquets and centerpieces could range from $5,000 to $10,000 depending on the design. “However, I have only done one wedding at those price points in the last year. Everyone wants installations, which drive the cost closer to $15,000 to $20,000!” (Carolyn Valenti is in the same league and has three decades of experience as a preferred vendor at Tanglewood and other major venues.)

Tanglewood; Carolyn Valenti Flowers. | Photo Elaina Mortali

Chalk that up to the popularity of massive overhead floral-designed chandeliers and “clouds,” which have been having a lingering moment. (“Thanks a lot, Instagram,” Hale laughs.) 

In a sign of the times, Susie Hanna of Daisy Stone Studio is shifting from full-scale services to specialty rentals (arbors and chuppas, lanterns and votives) and larger-scale floral installations. “It’s all about collaboration and working together with other wedding vendors to create a spectacular design. The large-scale installations add the wow factor, and the specialty rentals provide the design touches that take it to the next level.”

Hanna likes how these installations help fill large spaces—and create grand entryways for guests. For example, she created five-foot-tall tree centerpieces for a reception in the soaring-ceilinged Studio E at Tanglewood; at The Mount, she placed votives and large urns just outside the tent entrance for a statement welcome.

If budget is an issue, Hanna suggests using fewer flowers and more votives and lighting on the tables and repurposing urns or trailing aisle pieces from the ceremony to the reception. “While guests are at cocktail hour our staff will relocate those pieces, and it’s nice for the client to get double-duty out of them.” 

Hale is also a proponent of repurposing: “Yesterday we did two big stands of local hydrangea to frame the ceremony; after that we hauled them into the van and up to the tent to create an entryway with large lanterns. It was lovely.”

Luke Franco of Tiny Hearts Farm says his operation (which he runs with his wife Jenny Elliott) is a little unconventional in three ways: “We’re a big cut-flower farm in Copake and don’t buy-in any flowers that aren’t part of our production.” Secondly, although they don’t do full-service design, they do have a robust webstore with photos, descriptions, and pricing for available arrangements, which include by-the-piece bouquets ($75 to $225), personal flowers (crown, wristlet, boutonniere from $25 to $125), and ceremony/reception arrangements ($15 to $450). “We want everyone to feel like they can get what they want and can afford.” 

And they offer bulk buckets ($105 to $185) for DIY arranging. “A lot of couples want to arrange the flowers themselves. It’s a great way to stay on budget and spend time with family and friends making fun arrangements.” (He recommends having Elliott make the more technical pieces like bouquets.)

Chesterwood; flowers by Gabriela Salazar (Mexico City). | Photo Elaina Mortali

Ashley Davidson of Thistle & Thorn has also done two DIY flower bars, including for a bride and friends of honor at Bascom Lodge at Mount Greylock, who made their own bouquets and hairpieces. Another bridal party made boutonnieres for the men. “A lot of brides are more relaxed and want it to be fun and informal.” 

Davidson is a one-stop shop (literally: find her at the Lanesborough Local store) for flowers as well as larger installation pieces, with no minimum fee. Recent projects include “trees” made with branches cut from her own property to hide tent poles, a horizontal piece (using a broom handle) that hung behind the head table at the Berkshire Botanical Garden, and a giant floral chandelier at Bloom Meadows. 

To help streamline the process for clients, Davidson has created visual “menus” with photos for different categories—ceremony, bouquets, wearables, arbors, chandeliers, plants—so they can see the different options. Then, as they work together over the months, she creates Google slideshows for those same categories. “Couples can remove and add items without all the back-and-forth emails.”

And in recognition of the cost factor, Davidson plans to preserve bits of flowers in resin candles and jewelry as keepsake gifts for bridesmaids. She also encourages the bridal party to put their bouquets in vases at the reception and then to take them home. “They’ll last for days in a vase!”

Township Four Floristry & Home, owned by Jed Thompson and Nathan Hanford, is another shop (now in The Red Lion Inn) that offers custom arrangements or full-scale, on-site wedding work (with a minimum fee of $5,000) throughout the year; check the online calendar for weekend availability. 

The Rose Thief is a full-service floral design studio (weddings begin at $3,500); Ruby Farm Florals has packages ranging from $2,000 to over $6,500. 

 

Bloom Meadows; CRISP Catering. | Photo courtesy CRISP Catering

CATERING

The farm-to-fork spirit spills over into weddings in the Berkshires—it’s often a primary reason people want to get married here in the first place (having come here for the food scene and stayed for the scenery). And creative caterers are making food prep an interactive part of the whole experience. 

Take Heirloom Fire, which cooks seasonal and often foraged food on-site over open fires—and owner James Gop and team wear dapper attire that suits the bespoke, back-to-the-land menu. The Swell Party by Tom Ellis offers its own take on this theme.

For more live action, SoMa Catering offers your choice of food truck with custom-designed menu, a professional pit smoker for Southern-style barbecue, or hand-tossed pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven. 

CRISP Catering, run by Casey and Matthew England, is known for open-air, fire-focused cooking with a commitment to using sustainable, farm-sourced products. “Allowing people to see what we are cooking lends to the overall experience but also lets them appreciate all the local offerings” Casey says. She’s the “hands-on” partner who responds to the initial inquiry, provides the general method and pricing breakdown, and works with couples to customize its seasonal menus. 

Although they’ve done more floating food stations after cocktail hour this past season, with heavier hors d’oeuvres moving through the space, England says most couples want that moment where you are sitting and sharing food at tables before going into the end-of-night portion. She estimates that 80 percent of clients choose family-style rather than plated service. “This goes hand-in-hand with our interactive model and keeps everyone connected.” 

Kate Baldwin Food. | Photo courtesy Kate Baldwin Food

Kate Baldwin of Kate Baldwin Food on the other hand says most of her clients still opt for plated meals. “Family style seems like a convivial idea but I’m not sure how relaxing it is when you don’t want to interrupt the flow of conversation to ask for the salmon across the table.” She was, however, planning a family-style first course, with a passed salad and boards of cheese and bread and olives, followed by pre-selected entrees. 

Buffets are not always the most budget-friendly option either. The cost of food per person is higher but labor is less than plated and vice versa. “I find plated much more efficient because we have a better handle on how much we need to prepare, with much less waste,” Baldwin says.

The groundwork for her menus starts with the client’s vision of the day and food preferences, but what’s in season locally is equally important. “Then the adventure begins for me with inspiration coming from those parameters. I try to push couples a little bit beyond their comfort zone. They worry about pleasing everyone but you can do that without thinking too much about Uncle George’s strictly meat-and-potatoes diet.” 

With the surging popularity of signature drinks and batch cocktails, she has been working with bartenders to make infused herbal and botanical elements with an eye toward the season. (She provides juices and mixers but not the alcohol.) Case in point: For a wedding at the Berkshire Botanical Garden, she made a thyme-honey-lemon simple syrup for a drink called Nectar in the Garden, featuring a special-made gin by Berkshire Mountain Distillers and topped with Cava and bee pollen, “which is pretty and gardeny.” 

For a full-service option, the accomplished team at Mezze Catering (offshoot of Mezze Bistro & Bar) focuses on mid- to large-scale weddings and offers soup-to-nuts planning on top of its Mediterannean-inspired menu. KJ Nosh Catering (offshoot of the Greenock Country Club restaurant) also offers an event planner in addition to banquet-style menu options. 

Other restaurants that specialize in large-scale catering include Naji’s Mediterranean and Number Ten (for 20 to 100 people). Be sure to ask your favorite haunt to see if it caters, too—planner Hallig says a couple who loved Zinnia’s Dinette did just that and got their wish. (And Zinnia’s has its own spacious lawn.)

Brennan’s has been catering weddings and other events for over three decades—and is a preferred vendor at The Lakehouse and other venues. 

 

Mamie Brougitte Cakes. | Photo Marion Attal

CAKES

Showstopper cakes adorned with exquisite hand-crafted sugar flowers and other details are the specialty of Mamie Brougitte Cakes, where artist Marion Attal also makes her own butter, buttermilk, and vanilla extract for the layers inside. Seasonal mix-and-match cake, soak, filling, and frosting flavors are listed on the website, which are all customizable; she ships tasting boxes to non-locals and does virtual consultations. Large cakes are her stock in trade, but she is happy to make smaller ones (with a $2,000 minimum). She also walks you through the structural and environmental elements—temperature, humidity, sturdy tables. “Make sure the cake is well-lighted, too!” 

Attal notes a current fascination with the wonderland world and a shift away from lush peonies and dahlias toward stalky snapdragons, lavender, and foxgloves—”flowers that propel movement and dimension and tell more of a story.” Lately she’s been incorporating cardinals, hummingbirds, and other winged creatures “because they are so elegant yet add a touch of enchantment and whimsy.”

For a sweet touch, Attal will mount the sugar details into a glass dome as a display-worthy keepsake (which lasts a lot longer than a cake slice stashed in the freezer).

Simply Sweet. | Photo courtesy Simply Sweet

Sydney Casino of Simply Sweet (and Culinary Institute of America alum) makes custom cakes of all sizes as well as full dessert bars. “Over the years I’ve had a lot of couples skip the large tiered cake and opt for a smaller cake to cut accompanied by a dessert bar. I still have many couples who opt for a large cake, but design-wise they keep it pretty simple for the most part. White icing with fresh flowers and eucalyptus is my most requested design.”

Cakes with pressed flowers is her favorite trend to date along with caramel, chocolate, or gold “drip” cakes 

Popular dessert bar options include doughnuts, especially for fall, cookies, cupcakes, cake pops, cheesecake bars, and mini pies. Cannoli and macaron towers are also trending. Or you can have your cake and macarons too, in one striking dessert. 

spot_img

The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.

Continue reading

Traditions Old & New

For starters, the micro wedding is not as sticky as pros thought it would be. Elopements have also ebbed this year. The sweet-spot guest list falls between 90 and 150.  

Wedding Bliss, Berkshires Style

Now more than ever, the Berkshire hills are alive with the sound of “I do.”

Weddings Across the Seasons

Editor's note: This article also appears in our print Berkshires Calendar Magazine, which every November includes a special wedding section.  You can find a hard copy of this magazine at about 140 locations in Berkshire County, Litchfield County, Columbia...

The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.