Wedding ceremony Bliss, Berkshires Model – The Berkshire Edge

publisher’s Note: This article also appears in our print Berkshire’s Calendar Magazinewhich includes a special wedding section every November. A printed version of this magazine can be found at approx. 140 locations in Berkshire County, Litchfield County, Columbia County, and the Shires of Vermont. See also our online wedding directory from 300+ suppliers and venues to help you plan your “Perfect Berkshire Wedding”.

Boasting convenient proximity and rural sophistication, Berkshire County has been on the destination radar for over a decade, rivaling the nearby posh hotspots of Newport and the Hamptons. Nowadays, the refined patchwork of great culture and small-town charm – peppered with paddleboard-ready lakes, hiking trails, bike paths, orchards and ski areas – is particularly popular with millennials, also known as the “generation of experience”. “

The recent spate of “Best Places to Visit” reports is even attracting couples from countries as far away as California, Colorado (no less Aspen), Texas, and Wisconsin. Some newlyweds already have a connection to the region (i.e. parents with a second home), others are newcomers to the region.

Hancock Shaker Village. Photo love Edith and Lily

Then there is the opportunity in the area to meet “fiancés” where they are. “The Berkshires are booming with weddings right now – we can handle this stylized event on an endless budget, but we’re also kind to smaller, more affordable ceremonies,” said Rebecca Daly, founder of Whitlock & Cooper Events. It’s already fully booked until 2022 – an anomaly as the main engagement season coincides with the holidays. (Fear not: other planners and many venues are still available for 2022, though the general advice is to book ASAP – and consider the days of the week or mid-season to improve your options.)

The latest rash in engagements can hardly be traced back to the 413 area code. Industry research firm The Wedding Report predicts the number of weddings will hit 2.5 million in 2022 (up from 2.1 million in 2019) – a number not seen since the soaring 1980s. At the same time, couples are reportedly spending more on weddings, about $ 3,000 more than in 2020.

This influx of tourist dollars acts beyond the wedding sector to boost other local economies. “We bring in hundreds of guests who stay in nearby hotels, eat out at restaurants, and visit museums,” says Daly. “We generate a significant share of sales for school bus companies and keep them running all summer until autumn. Even local couples bring a lot of foreigners with them. “

And for all of these visitors basking in the glamor of a whimsical weekend, the Berkshires becomes an enchanted place to share with their own friends and family, and so on. Once bitten, beaten forever!

THE PANDEMIC EFFECT

The seismic effects of COVID-19 on the wedding landscape are now a familiar story. Prior to closing, 2020 promised to be a parade year for weddings in the Berkshires, and most couples have postponed their dates in order to achieve their dream wedding. All of these postponed events and a surge in engagements during the pandemic era resulted in a jam-packed 2021.

“It was wonderful to see family and friends partying together and it was busy!” says Kelsi Polk, wedding coordinator at The Mount. This popular venue hosted twice as many weddings last season, and even held a few after-hours during the week. (“And the interest in 2022 and 2023 is great. The dates go quickly!”)

The mountain. Photo love Edith and Lily

Also noticeable is the small percentage of couples who decided against the trend and decided to shorten and even honor their original date (it often had a special meaning) – and thereby give the intimate wedding more intentionality by not once let a global pandemic stand in their way of exchanging vows.

“We found that a lot of people never wanted the big weddings, their parents wanted them. So COVID paved the way for couples to do their own thing, “says Jessy Turner, who runs Berkshire Elopements (co-founded by photographer Jocelyn Vassos), Bird House Events, and Ice House Hill Farm, a wedding venue in Richmond, Massachusetts (Amazingly she also finds the time and energy to be the on-site wedding coordinator for the Normal Rockwell Museum.) Her largest wedding in 2021 had about 150 guests, and she continues to hear from couples planning elopements and micro-weddings for 2022.

Daly observed a similar recession: “The pandemic has made people realize what is important. You don’t have to invite every person you’ve ever said hello to. Smaller weddings can be just as much work, but they felt lovely and great. “

MICRO WEDDINGS GO MACRO

“Micro-weddings”, which are quietly gaining ground before the pandemic, have undergone a complete brand update and are now part of the regular lexicon. Town & Country Magazine defines them as having up to 50 guests, while local planners and venues have a cap of around 25. Couples accept these limited gatherings with the same enthusiasm as larger celebrations – often without cutting costs.

According to an industry study from 2019, the average cost per guest had increased, although the average number of guests declined. So if you limit yourself to 25 instead of 125 guests, you can afford to pamper your invitees – for example, by cordoning off an entire inn, enjoying the test dinner or treating everyone to a spa day at Canyon Ranch.

Nowadays couples plant their elopement flag too – only these aren’t quick elopements in Las Vegas, but a planned ceremony, with or without a few guests and at least some of the traditional regalia.

This is the Berkshire Elopements model, whose standard package starts at $ 3,000 and includes an hour of photography, the officer (Turner does the honors), and a meal. “Ultimately, this is for people who love each other and don’t want to deal with the family drama or the stress of planning. It also speaks for cost savings, ”says Turner. She often drives couples to the top of Mount Greylock or goes to Ashintully Gardens, where you don’t have to pay a fee. “It can save you thousands of dollars.”

Of course, the blowout wedding is still a must for many couples – especially after a lengthy shutdown. “People are definitely ready to celebrate,” says Magdalena Mieczkowska from Magdalena Events, who had a record season in 2021 and has twelve weddings (their maximum) for 2022 with around 200 guests each on their calendar. “The couples seem on budget and want them to be bigger than ever.”

A PLACE FOR EVERY STYLE, SIZE AND BUDGET

Whichever alley – uh, aisle – you choose, the Berkshires are jam-packed with unique locations to suit any ceremony. Even bastions for large weddings like Tanglewood, Blantyre, and The Mount have created price tiers for lower guest numbers. For example, in Blantyre, you can have up to 250 guests on the Upper Lawn (from $ 10,000 to rent the site), up to 70 guests in the Conservatory ($ 13,500), or two to 10 guests in the Dom Perignon Salon (for $ 2,000). . (As a full-service location, the prices for food, drinks, cakes and other details can be bundled as desired.)

Mass MoCA. Photo love Edith and Lily

Mass MoCA offers an all-inclusive micro-wedding package for up to 25 guests (or 35 for an additional fee of $ 120 per person). A short elopement package for up to four guests, which includes a photo session, is also available. “As soon as events were possible again, I thought about how I could make them smaller,” says Chris Handschuh, Tenant Operations and Events Coordinator for Mass MoCA. “We are still getting requests for micro-weddings, even though we have no capacity limits.”

Greylock works. Photo love Edith and Lily

Aside from these well-known forums, the Berkshires have an abundance of quaint inns, retro-chic motels (keyword: tourists), summer camps, and everything in between (think Greylock Works). You can also stop at gilded mansions (including Chesterwood), cultural outposts, and pastoral farms – Gedney Farm, for example, has 50 acres and two Norman-style barns that can accommodate up to 250 people.

The Berkshires also have modern “banquet halls” like Crissey Farm, which charge a fee of $ 1,000 and a variety of meal packages starting at $ 85 per person. In the northern county, a one-day event rental in the 75-acre Bloom Meadows is $ 10,000 (or $ 8,500 in the off-season); The weekend event price associated with a two night stay in the Silo Suite and a Sunday brunch is $ 16,000.

Blooming meadows. Photo love Edith and Lily

Would you like a non-denominational church wedding? Visit St. James Place, an episcopal chapel built around 1857 that has been restored to a secular (but sacred!) Venue in downtown Great Barrington, with its original limestone facade, triumphal arches and handcrafted stained glass.

There are no limits to elopements – waterfalls, ski slopes, private homes, public parks, charming main streets, whatever.

ONE-STOP SHOPPING FOR PROVIDERS

In addition, the Berkshires have an extensive entourage of vendors who take care of every aspect of a wedding – from planners and photographers to florists, caterers and cake designers, lighting and sound specialists, tent and furniture rentals to DJs and live musicians.

There’s even an upscale bridal salon opening in July – Kismet, available by reservation only – in the heart of downtown Pittsfield. This is where out-of-town brides can choose their dress while searching for locations, and local brides can stay on-site.

The farm-to-fork ethos is, of course, an important part of Berkshires history and can add a nuance to any wedding reception, with roving food trucks, pop-up pizza ovens, and even traditional open-fire cooking by the likes of Heirloom Fire and The Swell Party that round off top notch catering companies. (Or consider throwing one of the above options for a welcome party.)

Another mobile bar service from Round. Photo courtesy of Another Round

“It’s about reinventing spaces,” says Tom Ellis, founder of The Swell Party. “The first thing most customers say is they don’t want what everyone else has been up to – they want to use their own unique experience and the venue in a whole new way. We make it work by moving things around so that normal paths are thrown out of the window. “

This overriding ethos is pretty much the calling card of the local industry – “and the customers seem to appreciate the authentic atmosphere here,” says Danielle Pellerin, founder of 5 Senses Events & Design. “We put our blood, sweat and tears into these little businesses and it shows. And you don’t make any compromises – we can produce in the same quality as the suppliers from the city. Plus, you have this beautiful backdrop. I cry at every wedding; We really take care of our couples. “

She and other planners are also open to working with outside vendors – it’s just about getting the couple fit on their big day.

Turner, however, made it a point of only working with Berkshire dealers “and I have to say it was pretty magical!”

Extra money for native well being boards? Massachusetts lawmakers are engaged on it. | Central Berkshires

Local health officials in Berkshire County and across the state, which are on the forefront of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, could be standing up for an infusion of state funds. That is, if the statehouse legislators on Beacon Hill agree on a final version of the measure, as part of the $ 3.82 billion spending package Adopted by the State Senate last week.

Why it matters

According to the budget change tabled by Senator Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, who represents Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester counties, local and regional health officials would receive $ 95 million in grants aimed at cost-saving community services from small towns aim.

That would be on top of the $ 118 million earmarked for public health, according to Senate President Karen Spilka’s office. With the help of the American Rescue Plan Act and federal surpluses, the Senate bill provides more than $ 1 billion in total health care spending.

What’s at stake

Whether local health officials will see the public health reforms included in Comerford’s amendment depends on negotiations under way this week between House and Senate leaders. It is one of the few differences between the bills tabled by either side of the legislature that need to be reconciled in order to vote on a final draft ARPA spending before the winter break.

“The goal is to get the bill on the governor’s desk by Thanksgiving,” said State Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox. “I’m very optimistic that things will be ironed out. I am a great champion of Tri-Town Health. “

The regional agency has served Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge since 1929.

The proposal, approved by the State Senate, adopts reforms based on a 2019 report by the Special Commission on Local and Regional Public Health. The report called on state and local officials to pay to modernize the local public health system, standardize and ensure health reporting that all local health authorities comply with existing regulations and laws.

The commission found that 78 percent of the 105 cities in Massachusetts with fewer than 5,000 residents don’t even have a single full-time public health worker. As boards of directors are funded by local wealth taxes, they also reflect existing regional economic gaps, with poorer communities generally spending less on public health.

“In Massachusetts, where you live determines how safe and healthy you are likely to be,” the commission report said.

What’s the local influence?

“While we are fortunate enough to work in communities that value our department and public health, others are not as fortunate,” said James Wilusz, general manager of Tri-Town Health, which works with seven other cities in recently formed Southern Berkshire Public Health works collaboratively. “There are serious injustices and a lack of adequate resources and personnel. We need real dollars to build and maintain an even broader public health system. “

According to Wilusz, “the pandemic has exposed significant weaknesses in our local public health systems and now is the time to act and build better regional, smaller and more efficient systems.”

“The pandemic has shown all of us the importance of monitoring the health of local people, developing, implementing and monitoring programs to prevent the spread of communicable diseases, and identifying and supporting our most vulnerable community members,” said Amy Hardt, senior public nurse for the collaboration.

The additional government funding could also benefit the Berkshire Public Health Alliance, which is overseen by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.

As COVID-19 spread in Massachusetts, some cities lacked the staff and resources to efficiently contact and communicate with state and local officials on the Massachusetts Virtual Epidemiological Network.

Health inspectors juggled their local pandemic responses, rapidly evolving advice on public health and restrictions on Baker administration, changes in contact tracing, and their day-to-day work in monitoring other diseases in their communities.

The bottom line

Under the Senate bill, the state would annually channel funds to local health authorities and regional health districts based on population, social and economic data and the existing level of shared services. Local and regional health authorities that are slow to meet the standards set by reforms could experience lower funding.

The bill calls for grants to promote multi-city sharing agreements. The grants would complement, rather than replace, existing funding received by local and regional health authorities, and would be separate from the annual funding required by the bill.

The Senate plan requires public health professionals to develop statewide standards similar to national standards for inspection, epidemiology, communicable disease investigation and reporting, permits and other local public health responsibilities, along with standards for education, professional development and data reporting.

These experts include the local board of directors for health, health organizations, academic experts, and members of the state’s special commission on local and regional public health.

According to the Senate’s bill, health departments would have to submit a report to the country by December 1 each year to prove that they were in agreement with the new standards.

Information from the State House News Service, the Boston Business Journal, and the Boston Globe was included in this report.