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Choosing The Location
Country or Outdoor Wedding
Home Wedding
Small Weddings



Choosing Your Wedding Location

Begin by thinking about a the following questions regarding the locations you will be considering:

Would you like to attend a party there? 

How much traveling will people have to do to get there? 

Will there be accommodations on-site or nearby for out-of-town guests? 

Do you know anyone, or can the caterer provide 
names of people (references) who have already held affairs there?

There is a hotel ballroom to fit most bridal styles and budgets. 
The range varies from the more elaborate, plush ballrooms to those with a 
more simple design, and from the "old" style to new and contemporary. 
Hotels are practical venues because they can accommodate large groups 
and because the staff is trained to handle parties.
There is usually a banquet manager who can help to guide you through the process. 
Most hotels offer packages from which you may choose that cover your event 
from soup to nuts. 
Added advantages are ease of parking, 
a place for the wedding party to change comfortably, 
rooms (often at reduced rates) for out-of-town guests, 
temperature control, and often, extra "goodies" thrown in as an enticement. 

Rental Facilities vary greatly in size, decor, services, and cost. 
Local  halls,  and church and synagogue "back" rooms, 
have long been excellent, fairly inexpensive locations for weddings. 
Some of these sites are very simple, but can come alive with attractive decorations. 
Some are more lavish and need few if any accouterments. 
These are venues in which you can cut costs in such areas as food preparation. 
Often, these locations will allow you to prepare and bring in your own food. 
You will, in all likelihood have to provide your own linens, china, etc. 
Make sure to check in advance what you will need, 
so there will be no unpleasant, last minute surprises. 
The church or synagogue location is especially appealing 
to the couple who do not wish their guests to have to travel from the 
site of the ceremony to the reception site.

Banquet Facilities are designed specifically to accommodate wedding 
and other large gatherings and parties. 
The ambiance can make any event grand, and the experience level 
of the catering staff tends to make planning easier. 
The amenities are likely to include everything a party needs from 
a dance floor to a bar. 
Here too, the catering manager can supply or recommend 
the other services you will need to complete your wedding arrangements.

Country Clubs are a particularly delightful setting when 
the family or families have been members for a number of years. 
Such a venue offers a beautiful surrounding in a "homey," comfortable atmosphere. 
Some clubs make the facilities available to non-members 
who can also avail themselves of the advantages that such a site offers. 
A selection of wedding packages will allow you to create your own menu. 
Valet parking and coat check are often included. 
Best of all are the beautiful views that are typical at such venues. 
Make certain before you book that the club is well maintained 
and has a good reputation for the quality and service of food. 
Make sure you also check if there are any regulations or restrictions 
regarding, for example, the hour at which music must cease playing 
or restrictions on alcohol consumption.

Country or Outdoor Wedding

What attire is appropriate for a country wedding?
Many country wedding ceremonies and receptions take place outdoors, so, especially where there is no indoor temperature-controlled alternative, the key word is "comfortable." For the bride, a halter-top, short sleeve, or strapless gown in a lightweight fabric is ideal. A straight, or A-line skirt will be more comfortable that a gown with many layers of fabric. A short train, or none at all should be considered, particularly when the setting calls for you to walk up a hill, or across grass, or gravel terrain. If you are leaning to a truly informal country wedding, you can go to the other "extreme," and wear a sun dress, lightweight slack, khakis, or even jeans.

The groom, coordinating his attire to the bride, can wear a tuxedo, white dinner jacket, or, in the "extreme," a casual shirt and tie, with or without a jacket, khakis, or jeans.

Make sure that you know the grounds and determine where you will be walking, eating and dancing, and buy shoes that are appropriate. High heels, or flip-flops wouldn't work well if the terrain is at all rough, or if your shoes can "sink" into the ground. Keep in mind that too that hot summer days are often followed by cool evenings. Pashimas and sweaters will be welcome after a famous Hudson River sunset.

As always, it is the obligation of the bridal couple to inform their attendants, the moms and dads, and the guests about their choices for attire.

What kind of decorations works at a country wedding?
One of the advantages of a country wedding venue is that the location itself offers the "decoration." This frees you to do as much, or as little decorating as you wish. For an informal country wedding, once you have picked your colors, coordinating fabric tablecloths on picnic tables, quilts, lanterns, and flowers (in a variety of containers) may be more than enough. The more exclusive venues will offer a backdrop such as of a mansion, or manor house, and/or panoramic views. You still can decorate to your heart's content. Be careful not overdo it and, as the saying goes, gild the lily. The area's florists are familiar with, or can familiarize themselves with your setting, and will be happy to offer suggestions that will enhance, while not going "over the top." Formal or informal, everyone loves candles, but many sites have rules governing their use.

What about lodging for a country wedding?
The Hudson Valley offers a range of accommodations for you, the bridal party, and your guests, on and off the properties. All the proprietors will be happy to help recommend lodging. If all, or some of the wedding's participants stay in a small country property, it will add to the theme of your wedding.

What kind of invitations are appropriate for a country wedding?
There are any number of invitations that are country-specific, everything from a hand-embroidered sampler, to a photo of the venue reproduced as part of an invitation, to a graphic reproduction of a country theme. Of course, any other invitation works as well. Traditional engraved invitations compliment the many mansions along the River. Make your choices based on how much, or little you are committed to staying "in theme."

What type of music is appropriate for a country wedding?
If you will be emphasizing the informal and "celebrating" the outdoors, consider a square dance, contra or a bluegrass band. Jazz and swing bands conjure up the era of many of the more formal venues. That, or any combination of live, or deejay music will work, as long as you make sure to have the necessary support set-up. For musicians providing live music and/or deejays:
level ground to set up their instruments suitable shelter from wind, rain, excessive cold or heat, direct sun designated parking with close proximity to the playing site a place for the musicians to safely store their personal belongings something cold to drink in warm weather, something warm in cool weather For deejays, make sure they have easy access to electrical outlets with sufficient power.

It is important for you to evaluate the way sound will travel at your location to make sure that, for example, if you have a harpist play at your ceremony, you'll need to know that everyone will be able to hear and enjoy it. Conversely, many sites have noise ordinances that they have to comply with. In general, "loud" music is rarely permitted after midnight.

What party favors work with a country wedding theme?
Almost any party favor is fine, but, if you want to stay with a "Valley" feeling then consider local products, such as baked goods, maple syrup, even small bunches of fresh local produce. Do make sure that, if you are using edibles, that they are wrapped so that they will not melt in warm weather and that they will not attract insects.

What other preparations can you make to make everyone more comfortable at your country wedding?
Because you'll be outdoors for much of your event, consider the following . . . fans (electric, or hand held, perhaps with the wedding program printed on them), umbrellas (with your name and date, if you wish). As you plan your wedding, it's important to trace your steps in the venue and make note of anything you can do to further accommodate your guests. If you will have elderly people attending, golf carts, or other shuttle transportation may be very helpful in large, or hilly terrain.

What about the food for a country wedding?
When it comes to what and how food will be served at your wedding, you would do well to discuss your wishes with one, or more caterers. But, do remember that some sites work exclusively with only one caterer. It's always a bonus if a caterer has already worked at the venue you have chosen. If he, or she has not, it is important that they visit the location, preferably with you and the property manager, so you can all put your heads together and come up with the best-case scenario. You will want to rely, in large measure, on the advice of these two professionals, because an outdoor country wedding offers some interesting challenges that an indoor catering-hall venue does not. Be sure to discuss the impact of the weather (hot, cold, windy) may have on the food; its placement and how it will be served. The caterer's and manager's past experiences have taught them what will work best.

A country wedding can be anything from an easy, informal, down-home event to a day of magnificent, graceful elegance. No matter what part of the country wedding spectrum you choose, the Valley can offer you locations, vistas and views that rival the best in the world.

Home Wedding

An At-Home Wedding, by its nature, is more intimate. Your taste, your budget and your time will be the elements that form your day. If your budget is tight, it may be possible to use friends and non-professionals to help out. If you like the setting, but don't want to do the work, there are professionals who are familiar with the special requirements of an At-Home wedding. Take note of how much floor space you will need for the various aspects of your wedding, then base the number guests you invite on that calculation.

You will want your home to be in top condition and that may require some touch-up expenses. Start from the top of your house and work down. Does the house need painting or will high-powered hose-cleaning do? You will need to be really organized to pull this off and your home won't be your own for a while before and after the event.

Consider your yard as the canvas for your wedding celebration and pay some extra attention to your garden, lawn and flower beds. Check with your local garden shop about sprinkling mosquito repellant on your lawn or set off a chemical bomb several hours before the wedding. Instead of wearing sweet, insect-attracting perfumes, the bridal party can use natural, citronella-based oils which will help to repel the bugs. There are new products on the market to zap mosquitoes. They use heat, CO2, and octenol to attract and trap female mosquitoes. Most of the machines are odourless, environmentally-friendly and non-toxic. Some use propane, special lighting, and heat to attract the mosquitoes. Eliminating the female mosquitoes stops them from breeding and drastically reduces the mosquito population.

You will need to have room to park your guests' vehicles. Consider asking your neighbours for parking privileges and hiring several people to shuttle the guests and the cars. Set up your own valet service. If there's a local business or church with a large lot, see if you can have or rent the space. Also, make sure to alert the local police. Their drive-bys will keep an eye on your guests' vehicles.

Depending on the size of your house, you may have different options for a "rain date." If it should rain, is your home large enough to accommodate all your guests, or would a back up tent be the better solution? A tent should be considered not only as an in-the-rain option, but also because it provides shade on a sunny day and a cooler environment for the food. When calculating the tent into your budget, make sure your price includes delivery, set-up and tear-down. If you are planning a rain date, it should be indicated in your invitation. If you are going ahead regardless of the weather, you can ask guests to bring umbrellas for a "just in case," and it's a good idea to have large golf umbrellas available as back up.

It's a good idea to do a walk through of your site immediately after a downpour. In that way you can determine where the mud puddles and runoffs are and can make note of where not to position chairs and structures. Should it rain on your wedding day, it will have been well worth your time, so that you and your guests aren't knee-deep in mud.

You will also need adequate kitchen and bathroom facilities. Consider ordering portable toilet facilities, especially if you are on a septic system. Proper ventilation, heating, cooling and egress must be considered. Portable cooler trucks are available for rental, which even come with a beer tap on the side. Also plan, if applicable, for transportation to and from the location of the ceremony. If spaces will need to be multi-functional, there is nothing wrong with asking guests to fold and "stack" chairs. If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed, remember that there are professional party planners who will completely orchestrate an at-home event.

Check to see if your electrical system will carry the extra load of heaters, fans and other items which will be plugged into your circuit. If necessary, upgrade your electrical system, or arrange to run heavy electrical extension cords to your neighbours' homes. It's important to assess what lighting will be necessary, especially if you expect to carry through into the evening. Do an after-dark walk through to check for potential trip points and then place candles, lights or markers, to avoid accidents.

Should you wish to make your at-home wedding easier for yourself, think about hiring a caterer. There are a number of caterers in the area, experienced in the art of this special kind of event. Mary Anne Erickson of Blue Mountain Bistro in Woodstock, explains that "in some instances, couples choose to do a backyard or at-home wedding because they have budget restraints and are looking for a more affordable option." She adds that "in such cases, we suggest that couples consider preparing the entree themselves . . . grilled chicken, steak or even burgers, bought and cooked on the site will be a money-saver." She goes on to explain that under those circumstances the caterer can be asked to provide side dishes, which are usually much more time consuming to prepare than the main dish. Richard, the chef at Blue Mountain Bistro has "a host of fabulous fresh and delicious tapas platters as side dishes, which go great with main fare on the grill, like chicken. We call these ‘pasta salad busters' because they offer delicious, creative, different alternatives." Here are just a few of Richard's creations that he suggests: Zucchini agrodolce (an Italian sweet and sour zucchini), summer time Swiss chard with golden raisins and pine nuts, ratatouille, warm potato salad with fresh herb vinaigrette (which can be brought to the site, warm and served), tabouli, with fresh mint right from the garden, panzanella (an Italian bread salad that uses fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and other summer vegetables and has a light vinaigrette dressing), esclavida (grilled vegetables such as red and yellow squash).

Mary Anne Erickson of Blue Mountain Bistro, adds that "not all backyard or at-home weddings are planned because of budget constraints. There also are couples," she adds, "that choose their own or a friend's backyard for their wedding reception venue because they want a more casual, friendlier wedding. In those cases, Blue Mountain has been asked to cater the entire meal." She describes one main course that Richard prepared. It was a "barbecue beef brisket, that he sliced really thin and topped with a ‘killer sauce', in which the meat was left to soak." The main meal options can run the gamut of anything that can be made on a grill to poached salmon, which Mary Anne adds, "can be served at room temperature and holds really well."

Bear in mind that accidents do happen and you may incur some damage. A backyard wedding comes with its own set of stresses, but, when well organized and planned in advance, it can be a lovely, "homey" event that you and your guests will remember forever.

Small Weddings

When a couple announces plans for a small wedding, they well may get negative feedback. Being prepared is key. It will be easier to reverse people's criticism and assuage hurt feelings if the couple has discussed their "party line" and in what way they will respond to the unpleasant feedback. People will be more understanding if they "get it." So, if a couple is comfortable doing so, explanations may be helpful. The people who truly care about a couple should allow any disapproval to pass.

In deciding to do a small wedding, couples need know that it is just as tough to plan a small wedding, maybe even more so than an average-size one. Depending on the particular style of their small wedding, the couple may need many of the elements that are involved in planning a larger wedding, such as attire, a photographer, food, beverages, cake, attendants or witnesses, flowers, music, a venue, and so on.

There are many variations on the concept of a small wedding, of which an intimate wedding is just one. Planning an intimate wedding means inviting only closest family and friends. Such a wedding may take place in any number of locations, the most common being a private home or club. An officiant performs the ceremony and the couples quite often write their own vows and include any number of traditions and/or new rituals. The couple then hosts a small party at a restaurant, private home, or any other setting in which a small group can be "secluded."

Elopement is the smallest kind of wedding. Couples who chose to elope, may or may not follow up with a reception. An elopement is not only for people who want or need to keep their marriage a secret. It is also perfect for people who enjoy spontaneity, or for those looking for an inexpensive or quick way to get married.

Couples who choose to do a small wedding need not give up any of the beauty or the joy of a wedding, if they remember to focus on their guests and on their union as the centerpiece of the event.

The unique nature of a small wedding allows the couple to think out of the box. Here are a few suggestions to get them started.

"Small Wedding Suggestions"
1- Incorporate "new rituals" and design "new traditions" in every aspect of the wedding. Unusual, new and redesigned elements are much easier to incorporate into a small wedding. For example, write your own wedding vows and add "blessings" to members of your families.

2- Eliminate the formalities, such as the processional and recessional and instead, take advantage of the size of the group to allow guests to mix informally before the ceremony.

3- Have the bride and groom officially start the reception with the clinking glasses and a toast to their guests, in lieu of the MC introduction of the bridal couple.

4- When there is no bridal party and, therefore, no attendant flowers (and/or no flower centerpieces), as they enter, give every female guest a small corsage or wristlet.

5- When there is no bridal party have all your guests "stand up for you" during the ceremony.

6- "Run the room" and ask anyone who has good wishes and/or a toast for the bridal couple to speak.

7- Personalize and expand on the wedding program. Include individual messages to several or all the guests and explain the reasoning behind choosing a small wedding, or consider showing a "historical" slide show or video about the couple, including some of the family and/or friends in attendance.

8- Re-evaluate the typical wedding venues and choose one that will work for a small group but not for a large one (e.g., a restaurant, estate, museum, art gallery, restaurants, gardens, B & B, etc.)

9- Treat your guests as you might not be able to if the numbers were larger, e.g., provide hotel-to-ceremony to reception transportation (shuttle bus, trolley, limo, etc.) reception, have the photographer take photos of each of your guests with the bridal couple. On an even grander scale, couples may consider a Destination or Weekend Wedding, in which everyone travels to a particular destination where the wedding and any or all the before-and-after parties are held and where everyone stays over for a night or more. Some couples opt to extend the wedding festivities by incorporating them into an extended stay, or mini-vacation. Some or all of the guests may choose to stay on with the couple.

10- Provide your guests with special services such as spa treatments, historic home or museum tours, personalized part favors, etc.

11- Choose music soloists in lieu of groups.

12- Expand the theme wedding concept to include not only the couple and attendants (if any), but all the guests as well.

The key again is to remember that small and intimate can be translated and defined in any way which extends the joy and festivities and makes the couple the keystone of the event.