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bride and groom getting married
Courtesy of Elite Weddings

Your Guide to Getting Married in the Hudson Valley

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From finding your dream venue to figuring out a budget, local experts offer their top tips and creative ideas for tying the knot.

If stunning scenery, customizable party spots, and first-rate guest amenities top your list of wedding must-haves, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more fitting locale for your big day than the Hudson Valley. “I can’t think of another region in New York that offers more,” explains wedding planner Angela Christoforo, owner of Kingston-based Elite Wedding & Event Planning. “You can get everything you desire for a wedding weekend in the Hudson Valley—the farm-to-table dining experience with all the food being sourced locally, beautiful mountain or river views for ceremony and reception backdrops, venues with modern and cozy accommodations on site, and lots of activities for guests throughout the weekend.”

Still—just like finding the love of your life—planning a wedding can be tricky. Not sure where to start? You’re in luck: Packed with advice from Christoforo and other seasoned local pros, your guide to throwing the ultimate Hudson Valley bash starts here.

drinks

Photo by Lisa Woodward/ Courtesy Main Course Catering

Set Your Budget

First things first: Before you begin touring those venues you’ve been swooning over online, you’ll need to know how much money you can spend. “A lot of times, couples think the first step is to run out and find a venue, and they don’t really sit and think about what the wedding costs or their overall budget,” says Christoforo. “Finding a venue first and then establishing a budget based on the venue can become a roadblock.”

Another important budget consideration? Figuring out who’s contributing to it—and what that means for the planning process. If multiple people are chipping in, Christoforo recommends setting some ground rules about who the ultimate decision-makers will be. “If there are other people making financial decisions, you need to set up the boundaries or roles for everyone ahead of time, otherwise it can get really stressful,” she cautions.

table setting

Photo by Forever Photography

Make the Guest List

Whether you’re interested in an intimate celebration with 50 or even fewer guests—an option that, Christoforo notes, continues to appeal to Hudson Valley couples post pandemic—or a grand soirée for 300 of your nearest and dearest, compiling your guest list is a crucial early-stage step. “Start discussing your guest list and how many people you ideally want to invite,” the pro explains. “You might go looking at venues and find one that can hold 150 people maximum, but then when you book it and you write your guest list, you realize, ‘Oh my god, we have 250.’”

flowers

Photo by Monika Eisenbart

As for who to include on your list of VIPs, Christoforo recommends consulting with people who are contributing financially to the big day. “It might be a good idea to sit down with those family members and have them write out who they would envision inviting to the wedding,” she says, adding that a couple should make their own guest list, too. “Once you see everyone’s lists, you can come together and say, ‘OK, let’s set some standards for how we’re going to create the master guest list.’”

Pro tip: After you’ve finalized your roster of invitees, start collecting addresses for everyone who made the cut. Chasing down up-to-date address info and ensuring each guest’s name is spelled properly “seems to be one area that really stresses our clients out,” says custom stationer Caitlin Henderson, who co-owns Warwick-based Paper Heart Company with Tomai Maridou. The sooner you can begin compiling and confirming these details, the better, she adds.

Consider Hiring a Planner

Of the many pros you’ll enlist to bring your wedding-day vision to life, a planner—should you choose to work with one—is the expert you’ll want to hire first. In addition to helping you fine-tune the look and feel of your event, these wedding whisperers often take the reins on everything from managing schedules and timelines to coordinating with your extended vendor team on (and in advance of) your big day. From a vendor’s perspective, “It’s nice to have a planner involved from the beginning,” says Tammy Basten, catering coordinator at Accord-based Fig & Pig Catering, which specializes in weddings throughout the Hudson Valley and beyond.

bride and groom

Courtesy of Elite Weddings

Christoforo, who has been dreaming up local celebrations for 10 years, agrees, noting that a planner can also prove very helpful during the venue selection process. “I always say you should hire your planner before you book your venue,” she explains. “It’s like searching for a house; you’d hire a real estate agent to help you. So when you go to scout a venue for your wedding, you would want a professional planner to help you.”

Choose a Venue

From bucolic estates and farms to converted industrial spaces, there’s no shortage of Hudson Valley celebration spots. So how can you narrow the field? Along with practical considerations like date availability, budget, and head count, think about your guests’ needs, says Christoforo. Are there enough onsite restrooms, for instance? And are they—and the venue in general—ADA-compliant for guests with mobility challenges? “You don’t want to choose a venue where you have to hike a mile into the woods for this beautiful, wooded ceremony and Grandma’s in a walker,” she says. “You want to make everyone around you feel comfortable so that they can enjoy the day together.”

table setting

Photo by Trisha Keeler / Courtesy Main Course Catering

Of course, a venue should reflect your tastes as a couple, too. “Think about weddings you’ve been to” and what you did (and didn’t) like about them, suggests Christoforo. “The more I know, the more I can narrow the search and [eliminate] the venues that are not a good fit.” The pro also recommends beginning your venue search 12–18 months before your wedding to ensure you have your pick of the lot. “Venues book their prime dates (June, September, and October) sometimes up to a year or more in advance. Those dates are first to go,” notes Christoforo. “Usually if you are seeking a summer July or August wedding, those dates are a bit easier to book on a shorter time frame.”

Line up Your Vendors

When it comes to ensuring a stress-free walk down the aisle, the vendors you select to play a part in your wedding day can make all the difference. “I think a lot of times our generation is thinking, ‘I’m going to do it all myself,’ and you don’t realize the [strain] it can have on you,” explains Henderson. “Leaning on the experts in the field is a huge help.”

In terms of the hiring process, Christoforo cautions against relying on reviews or enlisting a company merely on the cost of its services, recommending instead that couples take the time to interview potential vendors about their portfolio and process instead. “When couples reach out to vendors, they don’t know what questions to ask or how to approach them, so their first question is always, ‘What is your pricing?’” she explains. “It’s more important for you to understand the way that vendor works and to interview them—whether it be on the phone, Zoom, or in person—to see if you match. That person’s going to spend a lot of time with you, so you want to make sure that you have a good connection.”

Fig + Pig

Courtesy of Fig + Pig

Christoforo also recommends hiring your vendors in a particular order, beginning with your caterer, which typically accounts for the largest portion of the budget. (Fig & Pig’s Basten suggests that Hudson Valley couples book a caterer 12–18 months in advance.) Other “essential vendors” (i.e. your photographer, videographer, and DJ or band) should come next, the planner says, followed by designers, like the florist. “The reason we suggest you wait for all design vendors until you have catering is because your dining style is going to impact your floor plan,” explains Christoforo. “Once you have your floor plan, you can start thinking about things like rentals and the florals that are going on the tables.”

Book Your Band

Want to kick off your ceremony with an assist from a trendy string quartet or tap a brass band to help you lure your guests to the dance floor? Start by asking your venue and other trusted vendors for their recommendations, says Jill Prince, who co-owns Bedford Hills-based Hal Prince Music & Entertainment with her brother Jay. Chatting up potential performers helps, too, she says, adding that couples should inquire about everything from a group’s ability and willingness to learn new songs to whether a band “provides continuous live music or pipes music in on breaks,” she notes. It’s also important to make sure you and your musicians are on the same page about the soundtrack for the big day. “You are hiring a band that specializes in weddings and knows how to read the crowd,” explains Prince, who says her company offers 3- to 14-piece ensembles in addition to “production elements” like stages and uplighting. “But we do suggest that you provide us with a special requests list and, sometimes more important, a ‘do not play’ list if there are any artists or songs you don’t want to hear.”

Set the Tone With Stationery

Sharing the news of your forthcoming fete isn’t just a major wedding-planning milestone—it’s also a chance to get your loved ones excited about what they can expect on the big day. “Stationery is a beautiful first impression,” says Henderson, noting that she and Maridou incorporate everything from illustrations of a couple’s venue and florals to vintage postage and wax seals in bespoke paper goods. “It’s one of the first glimpses your guests get into your day.”

stationery

Photo by Here North

As for timing, the pro recommends sending out save-the-dates up to one year in advance, and mailing invitations six to eight weeks before a final head count is due to your venue. “I know sometimes couples are hesitant to invest in stationery. We often hear, ‘Oh, but it gets thrown out,’ but everything about your day gets thrown out. Guests might actually save your invitation,” says Henderson. “It’s a keepsake for a lot of people.”


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Hudson Valley Restaurant Week is back this April 8-21!