After two years of weddings scaled down or put on hold, couples are eager to express all that pent-up anticipation with bigger, more creative nuptial celebrations. We’ve found more couples are opting for earthier colors and unique table settings to reflect their personalities. And they’re not afraid to break from tradition, evidenced by the growing number of same-sex marriages.
Emerging as a hot wedding trend: weekend fantasias with multi-day events at domestic destinations. What better destination for that idyllic matrimonial experience than Vermont? And Okemo Valley offers it all, with venues hosting intimate chapel gatherings to 200-plus guests for black-tie shindigs, all in the beautiful surroundings the Green Mountain state is famous for.
Like a dream come true, weddings are bounding back for couples at every budget. Here are 10 top choices, all distinctly Okemo Valley.
Echo Lake Inn: Cakes are out. Cupcakes are in
Echo Lake Inn innkeeper and wedding coordinator Tom Gianola touts his inn’s unique location in Ludlow as a romantic lakeside getaway set in the heart of Okemo Valley’s sprawling finger lakes area. Gianola says one thing setting Echo Lake Inn apart from the pack is that it’s not corporate-owned, and therefore not obliged to hike prices — even though demand is up and fewer venues are operating post-pandemic.
The inn sleeps up to 100 and includes a full (not Continental) breakfast as part of the package weekend events. Oh, and s’mores at the firepit the evening before the wedding? Heck yes.
Here, wedding packages celebrate the bride, whether the couple is eloping or throwing a bash to be cheered on by 200 guests under the tent. Executive chef Phil Lewis and his culinary staff — of the inn’s 4 ½-star-restaurant — offer three choices from an extensive menu in support of the farm-to-table movement. Gluten-free options are available, kids’ meals are half-price, and tots under 3 eat free. For adult libations, choose from bottomless beer or wine, an open bar, and a complete cash bar.
Gianola says welcome receptions are trending over rehearsal dinners; formal entrance lines are gaining over receiving lines; traditional cakes are out, cupcakes are in; and signature drinks are a hit at the bar.
Echo Lake Inn is booking for 2024 and hosts winter weddings, but as they are indoors only smaller weekday weddings are available. Visit Echo Lake Inn at echolakeinn.com/weddings-in-vermont, check out their virtual tour, then call 1-800-356-6844 to take the next steps.
Jackson Gore Inn at Okemo Mountain Resort: Do-overs done right
The base of Jackson Gore Peak at Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow offers incredible vistas and landscapes where wedding parties of 25, or up to 275 during summer and fall months, are accommodated in quintessential Okemo style. They are seeing weddings on the upswing, with a sweet, romantic flourish: many couples who tied the knot in pared-down ceremonies amid the pandemic now are throwing grander do-overs to enjoy, with family and friends, what they couldn’t share the first time around.
The resort boasts two great wedding locations. Couples exchange vows either among birch trees wrapped in twinkly lights, for a romantic and festive vibe; or at the gorgeous Toll Gate Garden, on the estate of an 1800s-era house, surrounded by stone walls and adjoining gardens where the gazebo makes a great, grand entrance. Receptions follow at the Roundhouse.
Banquet facilities are provided by Coleman Brook Tavern, all farm-to-fork cuisine. MacPherson says the nourishing menu flows not from set packages but rather the tastes of the couple.
And she says the resort hosts a lot of destination weddings in an atmosphere of inclusion and equity, in keeping with all aspects of the business. “In that sense our weddings are no different; we’re always open to ideas with celebrations for everyone.”
For guests staying over, luxurious Jackson Gore Inn, including the Adams and Bixby houses offering a wide variety of on-site amenities, are pure Okemo living as home away from home. Families with young children, and other guests, might choose the original Inn; those looking for more privacy — and space — can choose Adams House or Bixby House. For more information call 866-706-5366 or 802-228-1835 or go online at okemo.com/explore-the-resort/about-the-resort/groups-and-weddings/weddings.aspx
Magic Mountain: Where the magic happens
Make lifelong memories amid Magic Mountain’s great views. This favorite, laid-back destination in Londonderry hosts wedding ceremonies at the T-bar, just above the base with its spectacular vistas and an easily accessed walk; and mid-mountain, at Sunshine Corner, where guests take a chairlift for unparalleled views of the Green Mountain State. Celebrate with drinks inside or on the new deck at Black Line Tavern on Magic Mountain Access Road.
Magic weddings can be as informal as a cookout or as formal as a black-tie affair at the Black Line Tavern with up to 220 guests, who might appreciate your option of buffet meal service. The tavern rocks a premier sound system and stage, so bands can easily set up to entertain.
Inside-operations director Kerry Mara, who handles events at Magic Mountain, tells us weddings at Magic are flexible. Staff are happily aware that this is the bride and groom’s day; there isn’t a package they’re told they have to fit. Rather, the couple is free to picture their special day and the venue will help make it happen — by providing the catering, bar services, and, of course, gorgeous setting. From outside the area? Don’t worry, staff can recommend everything from florists to bands.
Mara says couples she works with have ben opting less for formal and more for fun, where they often choose a buffet meal, raise traditional toasts, and then head straight into “party mode.” Weddings are among the few cherished occasions that bring family and friends together, and Mara says they’re happy to have the nuptials of their dreams at Magic Mountain. For more information, write firstname.lastname@example.org, call 802-824-5645, or visit magicmtn.com/weddings.
Castle Hill Resort & Spa: Destination weddings a specialty
If a luxury resort with old-world charm is a couple’s desire, then it’s got to be the Castle Hill Resort & Spa in Proctorsville, surrounded by elegant lawns and colorful gardens that provide romantic locations in which to exchange vows. Following the ceremony, guests enter the 100-year-old English Cotswold-style mansion, mix it up for cocktail hour, then wend their way through the gardens to the reception tent.
As it hosts only one wedding at a time, Castle Hill provides exclusivity for the wedding party and guests in the inn’s 10 rooms. (These are required bookings for a weekend to-do.) As for the wedding itself, the inn helpfully offers a variety of packages to streamline planning — and accommodations for up to 250.
All packages include a cocktail hour with choices for hors d’oeuvres and plated dinner service. Libations are yours in several packages: Classic Elegance provides a champagne toast; Champagne and Lace includes a one-hour open bar and traditional champagne toast; the Royal Celebration delivers a five-hour open bar, a champagne toast, and wine with dinner. A number of culinary and beverage enhancement options may be added to suit guests’ tastes.
Sales director Lisa Cormier tells us the trend this year has “not been totally casual, nor have they been black tie,” and that 95 percent are parties from New England, New York, and New Jersey — so it’s a true destination wedding venue for those making their home near and far. For more information, visit castlehillresortvt.com/weddings.html, or call 802-226-7361 and ask for Lisa.
Grafton Inn: ‘A storybook setting,’ says USA Today
Grafton Inn as a full-service wedding venue offers an authentic Vermont weekend fantasyland experience for the bridal party and guests. Tie the knot within the inn, where antique furnishings recall a rich 200-year history, or in the great outdoors, next to a babbling brook — or maybe where the Green Mountains are yours as a majestic scenic backdrop.
USA Today raved about it. The inn offers the whole package, with first-class service and creative cuisine. The inn’s wedding team is there to assist couples every step of the way with planning, coordination, and delivery of the perfect day and night.
Enjoy a cocktail hour in the Phelps Barn Pub. After the meal in the main dining room, head back for the reception in the carriage-house-turned-pub — complete with a dance floor and two bars twirled in delightful bistro string lights.
The Grafton Inn features 45 comfy rooms, and your guests can enjoy wedding weekend amenities such as morning coffee service, seasonal activities at the outdoor center, use of the fitness center, and afternoon refreshments in the main lobby. Call 802-843-2248 or go to graftoninnvermont.com/southern-vermont-weddings.
Golden Stage Inn: Intimate weddings in a romantic venue
Dreaming of a cozy, low-key wedding? Golden Stage Inn in Proctorsville is the perfect homey venue, a private Vermont getaway focused on your comfort and relaxation.
A stagecoach stop built in 1788, Golden Stage Inn is steeped in historic country charm thanks to 5 acres of lawn, fruit trees, gardens, and a grand bridge over a brook — all romantic settings for everything from marriage proposals to elopements to vow renewals. Warm, friendly hosts help the couple create their own Vermont Elopement Package with options to include any number of extras to make it as simple or as traditional as they like. There’s a two-night minimum stay, which includes a hearty breakfast (different every day). Staff are happy to accommodate dietary requests. And one mustn’t miss the Saturday night specialty: Michael’s chocolate cake.
Rent all eight rooms, and moreover have your lunches and dinners catered from local businesses. Or check out the countryside and dine out. Alcoholic beverages are BYOB. For more information visit goldenstageinn.com or call 802-226-7744.
Fullerton Inn: Wedding planner to the rescue
The Fullerton Inn, on the common in historic Chester, known for the Stone Village, hosts weddings at its charming 102-year-old property surrounded by colorful gardens and quintessential Vermont views. Plan for up to 150 guests at the reception. The inn has 20 rooms accommodating up to 40 guests staying over.
Owner Rob Ambrose says the inn’s outstanding chef cooks for the wedding reception from the regular menu — casual American fare that’s innovative, delicious, and locally sourced. (He boasts that, with its outstanding service, the staff at Fullerton Inn can offer anything beyond American fare as well.)
Trust Fullerton Inn’s wedding planner to help you make the most of the venue, its setting, and its Okemo Valley environs.
When asked what he saw different coming out on the other side of COVID, Ambrose says there is a high demand to try to get back to normal, but with a more casual and relaxed celebration than before. For more information call 802-875-2444 or visit fullertoninn.com/weddings.
Farm & Wilderness: Fall outdoor weddings on working farm
In Plymouth, the Farm & Wilderness Foundation manages a summer camp for kids, but few know that it also hosts rustic weddings in its beautiful little valley. Keeping it simple, Farm & Wilderness facilitates lovely outdoor weddings in the fall, working with local caterers for the reception. Tamarack Farm Lodge’s indoor dining hall overlooks a working farm with animals and crops growing in the fields, surrounded by untouched forests. This is the Okemo Valley, and it makes for the perfect country vibe for bride, bridegroom, and guests to treasure.
Fresh air activities such as hiking, campfires, and swimming make this a great venue as a destination for a laid-back celebration back in nature. For more information on wedding options call operations director Melanie Gander at 802-422-376. For more information on the camp, visit farmandwilderness.org.
Sugarbush Farm: Chapel in the woods
For a really low-key wedding ceremony, with six to eight party members but offering more ambiance than the town clerk’s office, for $150 you can rent Sugarbush Farm’s chapel in the woods in Woodstock. The farm supplies the chapel, the rest is up to you. A perfect choice for elopements and second marriages. For reservations call Betsy at 802-457-1757 or visit sugarbushfarm.com/wedding-chapel.
Jasper Forest: Wellness & holistic health sessions
Although bachelor and bachelorette parties are traditions that made it through the pandemic just fine, how the bride and bridegroom are honored nowadays is not necessarily traditional. At Ludlow’s Jasper Forest — a portal to your “peace” of paradise — owner Jennifer Esposito provides revelers an attractive alternative to an evening at a bar.
Esposito customizes retreats at her Main Street studio for bride, bridegroom, and both, ranging from one hour to a few hours, a weekend, or a week of holistic health and wellness sessions. Each retreat is personalized for a one-of-a-kind experience that might include yoga (try goat yoga, if the calendar allows), guided meditation, chakra balancing, integrative energy therapy, crystal healing, singing-bowl sound baths, intuitive readings, hair feathering, hula-hooping, or simply communing with the abundance of nature in the valley.
Health, healing, and well-being looks different for everyone, says Esposito, who encourages her clients to make their celebration uniquely their own in this safe, sacred space. Naturally, cocktails are on the table as well. Better still, Esposito is happy to bring the retreat to whichever area venue the wedding party prefers, if not her own.
To inquire about creating a custom retreat, visit jasperforest.com, call Jennifer at 802-975-0844, or find her at her retail crystal shop and wellness center, which features local artisans, fair-trade gifts, Vermont CBD, and more.
This was a taste of what’s possible. We hope you’ve made note of a few good ideas. Congratulations on your special day. For more information on the wedding venues and services Okemo Valley chamber members have to offer, visit yourplaceinvermont.com/weddings.