Wedding in a Timeless Place
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The mountain we wanted for our wedding was in Wilmington, New York. While most people think of Little Whiteface as a ski mountain, it's just as gorgeous, and for our purposes, even more useful, as a location for our summer marriage vows. Because...

He'd done it. He'd gotten down on one knee, right outside the jewelry store where we had picked out my amethyst engagement ring, and proposed. Again. (He thought his first attempt, blurted out in a charmingly spontaneous way the week before, could do with a re-take.) Then he said those words every bride can't look forward to hearing. "We need to do this soon."

I asked him, "Is this your way of telling me you're expecting or something?"

"It's just that my three grandparents are getting on in years, and a lot of your family is living around here right now... but things could change. If we want everyone there, we need to get started."

He was right. That was a good reason.

the need for theme

Every wedding winds up with a theme of some kind, even if it's favorite colors or the kind of feeling the couple wishes to evoke. We wanted something relaxed and informal, with a casual, cookout-style reception to take advantage of the lovely August weather.

We had a number of places to choose from, from rustic camping pavilions that would have resulted in literal cookouts to banquet rooms on beautiful grounds that would give us the nature backdrop we wanted. But only one place really fit all our criteria: the Cloudspin Lounge at the Whiteface Ski Center. Here was the right combination of timeless, rugged, wilderness that was still accessible to our elderly grandparents and our new nephew.

Every couple makes tradeoffs based on what is important to them.  We chose a buffet of classic grilled entrees and summer sides. The money we saved with our simple catering choices went to getting group tickets. All of our guests had the option of riding the gondola to the top of Little Whiteface Mountain. And most of them did!

No matter their age or hiking abilities, all of our guests could join us on the scenic lookout with its breathtaking views of the lakes and mountains. The Scenic Gondola also worked as a way of managing our receiving line.

Since its carrying capacity was 6-8 guests, and the cars spaced themselves on the cable going up and down the mountain, our wedding party, parents, and siblings went up first. Then, we had small groups of guests rotating up to the lookout deck. We could chat, have pictures taken, and visit amidst the glorious splendor. People could sit down at the picnic tables, look for landmarks through the telescopes, and stay up there with us for as long as they liked.

Getting Medieval on it

The rest of it fell into place when I mentioned I wanted an old-fashioned wedding dress. My husband-to-be, an amateur medieval scholar, perked up. "How old-fashioned?" After falling in love with my possibilities, our medieval theme was settled with much enjoyment on both sides. A good thing, too. For a while there, the groom was highly susceptible to random suggestion.

"What about medieval Vikings?"

"You know I don't wear fur."

"You said your Dad loves big band music..."

"Stop right there. I'm not wearing a zoot suit."

Once I had ordered my dress and he decided we would cut the cake with a sword, these suggestions would wind up more likely to solve themselves. I could tell he enjoyed imagining different scenarios, though.

"It's too bad we don't have a 1980's theme, because I like so much of that music."

"Create any kind of playlist you want with the DJ, but I'm not wearing a big-shouldered wedding dress with leg warmers. That's not a good look for me. And now I've decided you aren't watching 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' until after the wedding."

We ordered classic costumes for the groom and the two attendants. Mindful of just how rudimentary our time period was, we settled on medieval from the waist up, and black trousers and other modern alternatives from the waist down. My history-minded brother, my Man of Honor, was relieved that we were not insisting on period underwear. I pointed out that if we had, I'd be the one who suffered the most.

It was highly enjoyable visiting the local bakeries to taste-test all the cakes. We went with a chocolate cake (chocolate arrived in Spain in the sixteenth century -- we barely made our time period) that was leavened with buttermilk (makes for a light fluffy cake and also historically accurate -- baking powder wasn't invented until the early 1800's.)

My mother, from whom I inherited my trademark brand of wild enthusiasm, was thrilled to have a new project. She arranged a pre-wedding party. That morning her place was full of friends helping me dress and doing my nails. We made our own table decorations, boutonnieres for the attendants, and my wedding bouquet with bulk flowers we had ordered from a local florist. My mother organized all the materials, served snacks, and unveiled the jester costume she had gotten for our oldest nephew, the ring bearer.

Uh oh. Speed bump. He was game all along and had agreed to it, but upon seeing the costime he was obviously not enthused. At this point, he wouldn't say why, either. But like the sweet little guy he is at heart, he suited up and helped us pile everything into everyone's vehicles.

We continued to keep things simple by dispatching everyone to place flower arrangements on the tables. The groom and I would look over our dining area and couldn't stop smiling at each other, but it was more than just happiness that our special day had finally arrived.

We were remembering a memorable exchange with my mother-in-law, who loved having things Just So and had been a bit thrown by our non-classic approach. She had accepted our plans like a good sport, and had been drawn into a conversation when the two of us were showing her our costume choices.

"People attending don't have to dress medieval, do they?"

I tilted my head to derail my groom's obvious plans to pull his mother's leg... because I had an even better idea. "Oh, no, our guests can dress any way they'd like. We are having fun with it though. We aren't having any place-cards, people can sit anywhere." She nodded. "We're going totally in period for the refreshments."

"I know!" she said. "Beer and wine are very old."

"Not just that, but we aren't having any silverware, just knives and plates of salt. Then, everybody wipes their hands on dogs."

The horrified look on her face was utterly priceless.

a delightful day

It all turned out wonderfully. Our sole disappointment was that, with such a short time frame, the caterers couldn't get the giant turkey legs we wanted. There went our dreams of a banquet photo like the days of Henry the Eighth. But it was a small thing when everything else went so smoothly.

As I had feared, my dance-minded brother talked the DJ into a disco section. At least he had enough time to shape the letters YMCA with his body before the groom, a musician who had added modern choices to the lutes and harpsichords, called a halt.

All our guests agreed it was highly enjoyable. While no one else dressed in period, my father got to dance with me to big band music, my dancing-brother got a few songs to show off his jiggy moves, and we cheered up the ring bearer when he confessed that, "Because I'm wearing this, everyone laughs at me."

"That's okay! People are supposed to laugh at jesters. You are doing a great job!"

Thus reassured, he perked up, began having a good time, and was front and center for the sword-cutting of the cake. We let him touch the handle and he became the happiest boy on the mountain.

It was sunset by the time it all wound down, another mark of a great celebration. Our friends and family bring it up to this day. So even though we didn't have giant turkey legs, or dogs to wipe our hands on, we were thrilled with how everything turned out.

We'd do the same thing again... except I promised my husband that, come the renewal of our vows, he can have that Zoot Suit Event of his dreams.

Plan your special event in the Wilmington Region and we'll provide the beautiful backdrop, local eateries that will happily cater to your needs, and a variety of lodging options from private upscale rentals to mountainside campsites, motels to bed and breakfasts, inns to cozy cabins.  Find out more about how delightful it is to get married at Whiteface... and Get Close!

Pamela Merritt

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