Sometimes joy can be too great to hold within. Four walls simply cannot contain our happiness; we must bring it out of doors and into the light for all the world to see. Such is often the case for brides who long for an outdoor wedding — of which the options here in Connecticut are plentiful. Beach, park, garden, vineyard, farm or field … always choose joy!
speak for the trees
The Geer Family has made its home on the land that is now The Overlook at Geer Tree Farm since the 1680s. In fact, Bo Geer, who manages The Overlook portion of the family business, is the 13th generation to work this same tract of land in Griswold, so trust him when he tells you it’s “an incredible spot” for a wedding. The Overlook is just that: a scenic lookout at the 140-acre farm’s highest point that has been artfully hardscaped to host ceremonies and tented receptions for up to 200 guests from May through October. “You can see pretty much the whole farm from up here,” says Geer. Fraser firs, white pines, blue spruce … and not much else. It’s that tranquil. That pristine. A lower patio for ceremonies and cocktails faces due east, and there’s a fire pit and grassy area for lawn games (cornhole, anyone?) close by the majestic Sperry sailcloth tent surrounded by still more trees. That being said, you do know where your new fam will be cutting down its Christmas trees from here on in, right? Tradition is big around here.
Partial to French Country? So is Carole Winer-Sorensen. So much so that when the celebrated interior designer opened Country Loft Antiques back in 1982, she chose to specialize in authentic French Country antiques — and has been attracting devotees from around the globe ever since. In 2011, Winer-Sorensen, who was by then centered at Woodbury’s historic Samuel Bull Homestead, added still another facet to the business when she opened the 19-acre homestead, its 19th-century barn and a seven-room, circa-1706 bed-and-breakfast to brides and grooms interested in fine country living. “There’s a spirituality that draws people here,” says Winer-Sorensen. The history behind the property, its beauty, the privacy it affords couples … “It’s like your own Shangri-La.” Ceremonies followed by cocktails are generally set up on a gorgeous expanse of green overlooking a pond, while a tent for up to 300 is set up in the handsome riding ring. The barn itself, which doubles as a showroom, is warm, bright and filled with European antiques and artwork, and plans are in the works to add a cafe and bar. C’est la belle vie.
The artists of the Lyme Art Colony liked to paint en plein air. Indeed, Childe Hassam, Willard Metcalf, Matilda Browne and their peers spent much of the early 1900s interpreting the glory of the Old Lyme landscape in their own Impressionist style. Their hostess/patron was Miss Florence Griswold, who ran a boardinghouse for artists that is known today as the Florence Griswold Museum, Home of American Impressionism.
Henry Ward Ranger was the first to arrive on Miss Florence’s doorstep in 1899; he described the surrounding area as a landscape “waiting to be painted.” The museum, set upon 11 acres along the Lieutenant River, takes advantage of the natural beauty of that same landscape for weddings. Guests can explore the grounds as they like: Miss Florence’s restored “grandmother’s garden” blooming with masses of perennials like hollyhock and iris, phlox and cranesbill, the marshland seemingly composed of a thousand shades of green, the serenity of the river along which most ceremonies are held.
From April through September, tented receptions for up to 175 guests may be set up on either the Adrian P. Moore Garden Terrace that overlooks the river from its position by the Krieble Gallery and Marshfield house, or on an open lawn on the north side of the property that is even closer to the river. Tours of Miss Florence’s 1817 late Georgian-style mansion, with its permanent collection of more than 40 panels painted directly on walls and doors, can also be arranged for wedding guests.
860-434-5542, ext. 118, florencegriswoldmuseum.org
land of plenty
Weddings on the Farm in South Windsor are all about the farm-to-table experience. True, farm-fresh organic produce and locally sourced meats are quite the talk these days, but this is something different. This farm has been in the same family for more than 90 years: the Maffuccis, the very same family of chefs behind Vito’s Pizzeria in Wethersfield, Vito’s by the Water in Windsor, the new Vito’s To Go Café and Bakery in Hartford and the soon-to-debut V’s Trattoria, also in Hartford. “Farm to table may be a trend, but as an Italian family, it’s what we grew up on,” explains Ally Maffucci Brown, event coordinator for the farm. “It’s what we’ve always done.”
“It’s important to know what you’re eating and where it came from,” adds Brown — and if you visit you will see just that. All of the farm’s organic veggies (tomatoes, escarole, broccoli rabe…) are grown from seed in a garden overseen by none other than 84-year-old patriarch Vito Maffucci (Brown’s grandfather). Chef/dad Rob Maffucci sees that the meats, seafood and cheeses used are also locally sourced. Aunt Carol Maffucci even grows flowers on site for brides to use in their bouquets and arrangements. “It’s a true family effort,” says Brown, whose wedding was one of the first on the farm back in 2014.
Interested? Farm-fresh ceremonies and receptions for up to 300 guests can be held from the end of May to late October. “We follow the growing season,” explains Brown. “We want to treat the land well.”
Superstorm Sandy was not exactly kind to in Fairfield. In fact, the main pavilion (known as the Penfield Pavilion) was forced to remain closed for more than four years after suffering Sandy’s wrath. As of this writing, however, it was being readied to reopen in January 2017 after a $7.4 million renovation, and the town had already started booking wedding dates for the next two years. (Hear that? That’s the sound of brides-to-be up and down the Connecticut shoreline rejoicing.)
Yes, it’s all about the beach here, and brides are justifiably “thrilled to be right on the water,” says Joan Ryan, office manager for the Fairfield Recreation Department. Both bright and shining Penfield Pavilion (which can host 225 guests utilizing seating both indoors and on an outdoor deck) and the slightly more rustic Jacky Durrell Pavilion (which can host 125 doing the same) put you right on the sand facing Long Island Sound with bluesy views as far as the eye can see.
Ceremonies get a bit tricky because, as a town-owned property open to the public, no area of Penfield Beach can be cordoned off to seat guests. Brides and grooms can, however, say their vows with toes in the sand as their guests watch from seats on the deck. Rental of the Penfield Pavilion is open to both residents and non-residents year round, while the Jacky Durrell Pavilion is available from mid-April to mid-October.
The Garden House at the Keeler Tavern Museum on Ridgefield’s historic Main Street was built by celebrated architect Cass Gilbert, who purchased the circa-1713 Keeler Tavern and its surrounding acres as a summer retreat in 1907. Gilbert — best known as the architect of Manhattan’s landmark Woolworth Building and the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington — designed his garden house specifically for elegant entertaining, which, lucky brides-to-be, makes it ideally suited for weddings.
An idyllic setting that has much to offer both indoors and out, the Garden House proper can seat up to 100 guests, has 20-foot ceilings framed with detailed crown molding, hardwood floors and a fireplace. It also happens to be surrounded on three sides by French doors that open wide to a sheltered brick terrace with marble steps that lead down to the absolute magic that is the garden house’s brick-walled sunken garden surrounded by rose-covered arbors, flower beds bursting with seasonal plantings that line its quiet pathways and an open swath of green with a reflecting pool and fountain. You will, of course, hold your ceremony amid such blooming beauty. “The only hard part is deciding where in the garden to have it,” says Garden House manager Mary Ann Connors — there are that many splendid options.
The folks at Jonathan Edwards Winery in North Stonington pride themselves on being what Director of Marketing and EventsErica Cyr calls “authentic.”
“We are a working winery,” says Cyr, and as such “we’re not just set up to appear ‘rustic’ or ‘simple’ because it’s what’s popular right now; we actually are rustic and simple,” and have been since general manager and co-founder Jonathan Edwards bought the 48-acre hilltop winery back in 2000 and began hosting weddings. In that time, “we’ve really mastered the art of the outdoor wedding,” says Cyr. Wedding ceremonies take place along a natural “aisle” formed by rows of chardonnay and cabernet franc vines. Cocktail hour meanders between a covered back deck with French doors that lead into the tasting room, the handsome tasting room itself and a stone patio that takes in the winery’s rolling hills, meandering stone walls, pond and vines in all their glory. A tent can be set up between May and October to accommodate up to 200 guests for a seated reception surrounded by the vineyards. Might we suggest kicking off the festivities with a nice estate-varietalpinot gris?
When Paul Goulekas retired from Wall Street, he had some time on his hands. Did he take up golf? Set off sailing? Nope. He, along with wife Dale, decided to bring the historic Granite House in the Jordan Village section of Waterford back to life — and then some.
The Granite House of yesteryear was built in 1877 as a private home by a president of the Millstone granite quarry. The new and improved Granite House, which debuted in 2015, is a luxury venue available to rent, whether for an extravagant getaway, a family reunion or (here’s where you come in) a one-of-a-kind small wedding. “There’s almost nothing else like it,” says Goulekas. “If you want intimate and high end, this is it.”
Rental of the property, which sits on 8.5 acres abutting Jordan Brook, includes exclusive use of not only the house itself (which boasts three bedrooms, three baths, a loft, gourmet kitchen, formal dining room and a sunroom), but also a separate tavern with floors and walls of white pine, maple, hickory and black walnut cut and milled from the property, a vintage copper-topped bar and the original 1877 pantry from the Granite House galley kitchen. The tent for up to 60 guests for an outdoor reception is set up between house and tavern.
When it’s time to get cozy, guests gather by a huge fire pit whose center is the hand-cut granite fireplace hearth from the original 1700s house on the property. Must we ever go home?
Weddings at Holiday Recreation Center in Mansfield Center include full use of the 25-acre facility. So, yes, there is a classic twin-peaked wedding tent that can seat up to 400 guests from May to mid-October and even a rustic post-and-beam barn should your outdoor ceremony need to be moved indoors. But there are also basketball courts with adjustable-height backboards, a miniature golf course, softball and soccer fields, volleyball and badminton courts, pickleball and four-square courts, a playground and even a ropes course complete with a zip line. And here’s the best part: They’re all yours for the day!
Founded in 1960 by Lloyd and Gwen Duff, Holiday Recreation Center is also known as Holiday Hill Day Camp, which is now run by the Duffs’ son-in-law, Dudley Hamlin. The main gig remains a fun-for-all summer day camp for kiddos, but in the 1980s the center began hosting group outings and in the past few years an ever-growing number of weddings.
Casual or formal, free-flowing or carefully scripted, flip-flops or heels (or both!), a big part of the attraction is that “you can shape your day here however you like,” says Hamlin. Count us in for horseshoes!
Roseland Cottage in Woodstock has always been pink. Seriously. Several years ago, Historic New England, the nonprofit that owns the Gothic Revival-style masterwork, undertook a scientific analysis of its exterior and identified 13 (!) different shades of pink that were used since the cottage was built in 1846 as a summer retreat for Woodstock native and pink-thinking New York businessman Henry Bowen and his family. Its current shade, a vibrant coral pink, reflects the cottage’s color in the 1880s, a period consistent with the decorative details of the museum’s first floor, which curious wedding guests may tour during the reception — the indoor bowling alley always gets them.
The true beauty of a Roseland Cottage wedding, however, is centered around a boxwood-edged parterre garden restored to look as when the Bowens first planted its 21 beds with 35 varieties of perennials and thousands upon thousands of annuals. Ceremonies are held here from May through October, while the South Lawn is used to accommodate a tented reception for up to 150 guests. And, rest assured, they know how to throw a party here: Henry Bowen used Roseland to entertain friends and political connections, including four U.S. presidents. His Fourth of July bashes were so legendary that in 1876 Bowen purchased an additional 60 acres (now Roseland Park) in order to accommodate more guests!
“We’ve been doing parties here for 170 years,” says Laurie Masciandaro, site manager for Roseland. Thus, “a wedding here means you become a part of history, just as Roseland becomes a part of your [newly formed] family’s history.”
This article originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2017 edition of The Connecticut Bride.