My wife and I have a lot in common, a fact I like to think was a major contributor to our marriage. Besides things like a mutual appreciation of nature, art, and other cultures, we both like to do things ourselves. If something needs to be fixed, we try to fix it before hiring someone to do it for us. Part of that mentality comes from a desire to learn new things, and part of it comes from a sense of thriftiness.
Anna and I didn't meet until we were in our 30s, but I think we would have gotten along if we met when we were younger. Neither of us come from families with lots of money, which is probably why we both cringe at the thought of unnecessarily spending large wads of cash. It works out that we also love the one-of-a-kind items found in most thrift stores.
We wanted our wedding to be one-of-a-kind too, but we didn't want to drop a small fortune on it. Everyone warned us that that isn't possible, that a nice wedding always means an expensive wedding. There's another attribute Anna and I share — when someone tells us we can't do something, it makes us want to do it even more. And that's exactly what we did. Neither of us is the type to toil over numbers and bank statements, but rough estimates indicate that we just about broke even on our wedding costs after the generous monetary gifts of friends and family were tallied. Here's how we pulled it off.
What do you want?
The first step to planning our wedding was to figure out what we wanted. After talking it over, we realized most of the people we invited had never been to the Adirondacks, let alone to the top of a mountain. This was particularly true for a lot of Anna's friends, who live in New York City. We knew we had to have an Adirondack wedding.
As we explored our options, we began to realize that the most important things to us were good people, good food, good music, and good scenery. We wanted everyone to feel like they were a part of the wedding, and we wanted them to understand why we decided to make the Adirondacks our home.
Although we never said it, our wedding theme quickly became "Why we live here."
There are plenty of fantastic places to get married in the Adirondacks, but we wanted something that people wouldn't forget. We decided to forget about money and start with what our wildest dream wedding would look like, then figure out how to do it on a tight budget. I think I was the one who suggested the top of a mountain for the wedding site, but we doubted that was possible.
We were wrong. A quick call to Whiteface and we learned it's not only doable, it's quite affordable.
We covered the cost of getting our guests up the toll road and rented the venue, which was the east-facing deck that's on the mountain's summit. All our guests had to do was get there, which led to our next question: Where will people stay and where will the reception be?
We had our reception in the Whiteface Range Hall, a nice-sized building that was decked out in Adirondack decor and located behind the Little Super Market, which is at the base of Whiteface. Unfortunately, I can't recommend that spot anymore, as it's no longer available for renting. I can, however, recommend the facilities at Whiteface Mountain, where you'll find a restaurant, bar, and plenty of scenery and space for your guests to enjoy.
Anna and I have both been to weddings that required guests to spend a fair amount of money to attend. We didn't want that, so our Whiteface wedding offered several options. For those looking for solitude after the big event, there are several motels within walking distance of the range hall. And for those looking for an affordable Adirondack experience, the Wilderness Inn II's many cabins were the way to go. Some of our friends split the cost and ended up spending $40 for two nights in a cabin in Wilmington. It's idyllic, peaceful, and nothing like anything you'd find in New York City. The best part is, it's only a 10-minute drive from the hall.
Anna and I wanted good, local food, and that wasn't a problem.
Since we got married on top of a mountain, we kept the itinerary loose. We left about three hours between the end of the ceremony and the reception so we could get photos taken and our guests could enjoy the summit. The delight on everyone's faces was immeasurable. People scampered on rocks, carefully peered over ledges, and wondered aloud what the names of the surrounding mountains were.
Getting a mountaintop caterer would have been difficult, so we took a different tack. Anna and I gave everyone "hiker's lunches," a clever name for brown bag lunches we roped our friends into helping us pack the night before. Each had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, can of seltzer, piece of fruit, and a granola bar. No one was disappointed.
For dinner, we hired Villa Vespa Pasta and Sauce Company to provide several food options. The place is great, reasonably priced, and everything is made in-house.
For dessert, we bucked the wedding cake trend because neither of us really likes wedding cake, and instead went with a selection of homemade pies from Cedar Run Bakery in Keene. They were outstanding. For booze, we worked with people at the Wine & Spirit Shoppe in Lake Placid to supply the wine and champagne, and ordered two half kegs from the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery.
To decorate the reception hall we collected Adirondack wildflowers, ferns, and cattails and arranged them in mason jars.
I'm a musician and Anna loves music, so the last thing I wanted for our wedding was a DJ. I also hate 99 percent of the music people play at weddings, so there's that too. Luckily, Anna and I have a lot of creative friends.
My friend Mike, who is one of the best musicians I've had the pleasure of performing with, played the intro and outro music for our ceremony. The intro was particularly meaningful to me — it was a song Mike and I wrote together many years ago.
Anna's friend's husband, Matt, is an opera singer, and when I asked him how he'd like to sing on top of a mountain I immediately felt like we were doing him a bigger favor than he was doing us. He sang "Ave Maria" during the ceremony. It's a beautiful, haunting song that we both like.
Then there was the reception. My friend Greg's band, the Muprigs, carpooled up from Binghamton and put on an incredible, three-hour set that mixed originals with some of the grooviest, funkiest cover songs ever written. The dance floor was never empty — and what a delight it was to see people kick off their shoes and dance to actual musicians playing music.
At the end of the night, most of us ended up around a campfire, drinking what was left of the wine, playing music, and laughing under the Adirondack stars. The top of Whiteface was up there somewhere too, looking down upon us like a great, rocky beacon of love.
A few friends stayed the weekend, and we spent the days hiking to overlooks and the evenings cooking outside among the pines of the Wilderness Inn II. It was more than a wedding — it was a reaffirmation of everything that matters most. And to us, that's exactly how we wanted it to be.
For the ❤ of the ‘dacks: