Going micro on the big day

Couples are increasingly moving weddings outside the big ballroom.

Move over, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” In the wedding-friendly Hudson Valley, along with the rest of the country, an increasing number of couples are thinking small when it comes to one of the most important moments in their lives. 

While extravagant weddings in large ballrooms are still a staple of the region’s wedding scene, many couples are choosing more intimate gatherings, often in nontraditional venues such as barns, historic homes, farms and wineries. The industry has come up with a term for weddings with a tight circle of family and close friends — microweddings.

The wedding website The Knot talks to 13,000 brides and grooms in the U.S. each year for its Real Weddings study. The most recent survey found weddings had an average of 136 guests in 2017, down from 149 in 2009. 

Angela Christoforo, owner and lead wedding planner for Elite Wedding and Event Planning in Saugerties, said she has noticed an increase in weddings with between five and 50 guests in the past couple years. Her firm specializes in planning weddings in nontraditional venues in the Hudson Valley including Westchester and other parts of New York.

“When I started my business seven years ago, I would say I probably never did a small wedding. The average was around 120,” Christoforo says. “Now it’s becoming a split. Either they want very large or they say, ‘I’ve been to so many weddings, I just don’t like the whole vibe of having to go around and say hello to 200 people and not get to enjoy the day as much.’”  

For been-there, done-that couples, Christoforo says the smaller weddings offer a chance to skip wedding traditions they’re uninterested in and focus instead on a close-knit group of guests.  

The term microwedding doesn’t yet have an official definition — is it 50 guests? 25? But the term is a clear enough part of wedding lexicon that it made its way into The New York Times last year with the headline: “What to Know About Having a Microwedding.”

Microweddings offer the opportunity for cost savings, as most weddings are paid for by the plate. Brides and grooms in Westchester County and the Hudson Valley spent an average of $55,357 in 2017 on weddings, according to The Knot. That is fourth highest in the country, behind only the area’s neighbors in Manhattan, north and central New Jersey and Long Island. 

Christoforo said couples planning smaller weddings typically pay in the $30,000 to $40,000 range, whereas a wedding for 100 often reaches at least $80,000. Couples who opt for microweddings often forgo extra costs such as additional flowers or a live band or DJ. But, as The Knot data show, there are other ways to spoil guests. While the average number of guests per wedding may have decreased in the past decade, The Knot noted the $268 couples spent on the average guest in 2017 is up from $194 in 2009. 

One challenge for the microwedding, Christoforo says, is finding the right venue. Many venues have spaces that just aren’t quite right for the smaller group.

But venues have started to advertise themselves as microwedding destinations. Just outside of Beacon is Fishkill’s Lambs Hill, a mountainside estate that promotes  microweddings through its website. The rustic farmhouse style venue, with 180-degree views of the Catskills, can accommodate a maximun of 50 people.

“We have horses and donkeys. It’s meant to have the charm of an old farm from 100 years ago,” says Charlotte Guernsey, owner of Lambs Hill. “We have a French Normandy-inspired barn with reclaimed brick and stone to match themes from Beacon in the Industrial Age.” 

Guernsey, who is also principal broker for Gate House Realty in Beacon, started offering weddings at Lambs Hill in 2008, shortly after she was married there. “We really wanted to create a space for people who don’t want a lot of guests, who want just family and friends,” she says. 

The space hosts several weddings each year, Guernsey adds, but has “kicked it up a notch” recently in advertising as a wedding space. She has also opened a successful spinoff bridal boutique in downtown Beacon. Guernsey saw the term microwedding in an article in 2017 and recognized it as a way to explain her venue to potential couples. 

The idea of a microwedding “makes sense for me,” she says. “You’re spending less money and it’s more quality time with the people you really care about and you can give those people a really great experience.”

Also in Beacon, Roger Greenwald’s Inn and Spa at Beacon started promoting microweddings at his intimate 10-room hotel this year after being approached by several wedding planners inquiring about the space. 

“We serve a community that has a difficult time finding establishments to host their events,” Greenwald says. “Big wedding houses are often not as interested in weddings with under a hundred guests.”

The Inn and Spa’s intimate confines make the space ideal for weddings between 20 and 30 guests, he says, with a maximum of 50. The inn features a rooftop garden with a dance floor that commands views of the Hudson River and Mount Beacon. Inside, there’s an all-season terrarium and, of course, spa treatments.

Greenwald, an architect, opened the Inn and Spa in 2017. He said the space offers “a quality of intimacy. People come in and they feel they are in a warm and human-scale environment.”

For more, visit lambshill.com; innspabeacon.com; or elitewedevents.com.

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