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!”