06/11/2013 12:19 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

5 of the Best Wedding Ceremony Locations in the Hudson Valley, N.Y.: Part Two: The Inside Scoop

As promised in Part 1 of this article last week, here are the top 10 common themes and words of wisdom gleaned from my interviews about wedding ceremonies in the Hudson Valley. Remember these folks have the inside track on what does and doesn't go well in wedding ceremonies. So, even if you are not getting married in the Hudson Valley, there's lots of wisdom here for you to think about as well. Enjoy!

1. There's a trend towards one-stop shopping with couples having their ceremonies onsite -the common exception is Catholic ceremonies that take place at local churches.

2. All five venues welcome same-sex marriages. As Christina Latvatalo of Mohonk Mountain House says, "we are here for everyone!" On this note, if you are a same-sex couple looking for friendly vendors - look for this symbol on a vendor's site:


This image is the wedding industry's universal symbol to show support for same-sex unions. When you see this symbol, you know this wedding professional supports same-sex marriage. It's just now making the rounds, so if you find a friendly vendor who doesn't use this symbol on their website -- please do tell them about it.

3. When selecting a wedding officiant:
  • Most couples want a spiritual but not religious tone to their ceremony and many incorporate traditions from their respective religious or ethnic heritage.
  • Think twice before having a friend or family member officiate who obtained ordination credentials online. These individuals, while usually very special to the couple, don't know how to design a ceremony ritual, or run a rehearsal and ceremony. As a result, rehearsals tend to be a bit chaotic and the ceremonies are often missing many of the professional touches of seasoned officiants.
  • Most officiants are not giving couples as much support as they need. Couples need to be careful in choosing an officiant -consider asking venues to recommend someone from their preferred vendor list.

4. Choose only those things that are deeply meaningful to you. Jeremy Hudler, Onteora's Event Manager, had this advice for couples, "be calm, be yourself, be with each other, and have fun." Todd Smith of the Garrison said, "Couples have to prioritize - come up with what is important to them and be true to themselves. They can't afford to let the static that is coming to them from friends and family, and the bridal industry dictate what is important to them." And Laurie Hicinbothem of Diamond Mills added, "It's their day and it's important to put a lot of thought into the ceremony to make it meaningful to the couple and not just recite cookie-cutter vows."

5. All but one of these locations takes a "hands-off" approach to the ceremony itself - leaving the ceremony entirely to the couple and officiant unless the couple specifically asks for their assistance and recommendations. As Nikola Rebraca of the Belvedere Mansion said, "We offer a location, food, and staff, but beyond that it's all their decision based on their budgets and their needs."

6. A note of caution to couples who want their ceremonies to be short and sweet. Nikola Rebraca cautioned couples against opting for a quicky 3-5 minute ceremony saying "they miss the point. Marriage and your life together are much more meaningful than that. The whole day is about your commitment in marriage." As an officiant, I find it is possible to create a very beautiful and meaningful 15-20 minute ceremony - beyond that people tend to get fidgety - especially if the ceremony is outdoors on a hot day.

7. Wedding planners hired by couples are the exception not the rule at these locations
- on average they see only 1-2 wedding planners each year.

8. Couples are visiting more venues before choosing which one to book. This is partly due to a major increase in the number of options in the Hudson Valley over the past 5+ years.

9. The ceremony rehearsal is a must to put the couple and wedding party at ease. All my interviewees mentioned the importance of a rehearsal - even for the simplest of ceremonies.

10. People are simplifying. As Todd Smith of the Garrison noted, there has been "a trend toward less décor over the last few years in part due to economic considerations."

The typical couple choosing these premiere venues is sophisticated and in their late 20's to 30's. As Bob McBroom of Onteora characterizes them, "most have been living together for a few years, are accomplished professionals who are used to some responsibilities, and they don't have a lot of fairytale expectations."

I'll be interviewing other wedding professionals for upcoming articles - photographers are next. If you have any specific questions or concerns, write to me and I'll address them in a future article.

I hope this is helpful to you. There is nothing like getting the inside scoop from the folks behind the scenes. Best wishes for a beautiful wedding ceremony that resonates deeply with the two of you. Come to the Hudson Valley - we'll take great care of you!

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