- Hayfield in Maplecrest, Greene County
In the past decade, the Hudson Valley has become a hot destination for weddings, offering venues in every flavor from American pastoral to industrial chic. The industry has become a huge driver of economic revenue for the region, with the average Hudson Valley wedding costing $57,501. In addition to the money that the bride and groom spend on the venue, caterers, florist, and other vendors, the festivities bring droves of out-of-town guests to the area. These visitors often turn the wedding weekends into a getaway, staying in local hotels, shopping with small businesses, and eating out at restaurants. With the lion’s share of 2020 weddings postponed or cancelled, the local economy is poised to take a hit.
While venues are precluded from reopening for onsite nuptials until Phase 4, they are preparing to come out of their months-long hiatus in other ways and working to consider what the future of weddings will look like.
Lambs Hill in Fishkill and Hayfield in Green County are the only two venues we spoke with that are scheduled to move forward with weddings in August, while the rest have put off events till winter or the coming year.
“If we’re legally allowed and we feel like it’s safe and a couple is super eager then we’re always eager to accommodate our couples and their desires and wishes,” says Christiana Arnold, owner of Hayfield, which had 12 weddings postponed and three canceled.
Across the river, Lambs Hill has postponed five weddings, one of which switched from spring to fall. “We know how important that day is for couples that plan months, sometimes even years in advance, and we would never want them to cancel if we could accommodate other options,” says Kristen Caputo, director of marketing and communications at Lambs Hill. "We have created different packages for our couples to accommodate their needs and still remain safe and healthy through the whole process. We also have the flexibility to use many of our beautiful outdoor spaces."
While these venues have postponed nuptials, many are pivoting to use their spaces for alternative events that comply with social distancing protocols.
The cozy Forsyth B&B in Kingston, which usually hosts 10 to 12 events between May and October, has postponed most of this year’s weddings to 2021, with only one outright cancelation. "We will of course be following all recommended guidelines in order to host the safest events possible," owner Tamara Ehlin says. "Our space is a more intimate venue so we may require that the host limit the guest list if social distancing is in effect."
This year, the dual purpose bed & breakfast/venue will focus on its roots as an inn. The Forsyth is just a block from the historic Rondout waterfront and guest room has a mix of modern chic and vintage styling. The venue has re-conceptualized their barn to be a guest lodging, which allows them to focus on longer stays of two weeks or more while being safe for both guests and staff. The barn is completely self contained with a private entrance as well as a small kitchenette.
Similarly, Millbrook Vineyards and Winery, which has postponed six weddings to the spring of 2021, will return to a focus on wine sales and tastings this year.
“When tastings resume, the loft will be used in this capacity,” says Kelly Holliman, marketing and customer relations manager at Millbrook Vineyards. “We will of course, limit the number of people in the loft at a given time, and we have protection shields installed at all the tasting bars.”
At Lambs Hill in Beacon, the Equestrian Suite is usually included in event packages as lodging for newlyweds, but with no weddings taking place, the guest room is being rented out through Airbnb. The venue is also using this time off to spiff up the grounds and undertake some construction projects, like increasing the size of their poolside deck and building a pavilion.
“We also created two additional stone patio areas and created a swing garden with cedar swings and concrete bistro tables made by the owner,” says Caputo. “We also have a full time gardener who is constantly cultivating her babies (plants and flowers).”
Hayfield is a rustic venue that offers pastoral field and barn weddings with charm in the Catskills, with magical views of the mountains. Arnold describes the venue to be more of a passion project rather than a main source of income, so they have been able to withstand the closures.
"We are in a more flexible situation than many of the other venues I've talked to. That's why we were happy to give any 2021 to 2020 couples," she says. "We're just really lucky we never max out our season anyway. We always leave some wiggle room, which served us really well this year because we didn't have every weekend to think about, just a handful of events."
Holliman, Caputo, and Ehlin believe that future events will likely stray from the average wedding size of 131 people in favor of more intimate events. “The pandemic and social unrest has certainly made all of us re-evaluate our priorities,” says Ehlin. “So many people are and will be planning smaller, less costly events for just family and close friends, from elopements to weddings for a few dozen people.”
Arnold, on the other hand, actually believes that guest lists are likely to get bigger as a response to months of social distancing and self-isolation. "I really believe people are going to be eager to celebrate and to get together to see each other and be a part of joyful situations as much as possible," she says.
Though it’s been a hard season, venues owners feel hopeful about the future.
“Unfortunately, there are people that have had the worst experiences in the last six months, and illness is never something to be taken lightly,” says Arnold. “I’m very hopeful. I believe in science and a vaccine will be developed and hopefully people will be respectful of the community and take precautions.”