Destination weddings are hot, but not every couple wants to fly to Anguilla or Aspen to tie the knot. Luckily, you can achieve any kind of wedding you could ever wish for -- from barefoot on the beach to ballroom black tie -- without the expense or hassle of packing up and flying off. To capitalize on Long Island's glorious views, vineyards, parks, farms, marinas and old mansions, brides and grooms are turning their local weddings into true destinations, even if it's just a drive east on the LIE. See how four couples celebrated the Island's best -- no passport needed.
Historic and bucolic
For Long Beach couple Kathleen Cotter and Christopher Tufaro, there was no doubt they would marry on Long Island. Kathleen, a 23-year-old pre-nursing student, is from Selden, and Chris, a 29-year-old software developer, is from Miller Place. But, Kathleen said, "I did not want the typical Long Island wedding." Instead, they decided to highlight the area's often-overlooked pastoral nature for their September 2010 party. "Chris and I both love all things old, vintage, and rustic, so we immediately knew we wanted to bring as much of that into our wedding as possible." The couple's winning combination: a ceremony at the historic Infant Jesus Church in Port Jefferson and a reception at the scenic Hamlet Willow Creek Golf & Country Club in Mt. Sinai.
"I thought having it at that church more than anything shows the true beauty of Long Island," said Kathleen, who decorated the 1911 chapel on a hill with simple Mason jars filled with hydrangeas. "It's set in such a historic town, and is historic itself. I knew our guests would appreciate Port Jefferson." After the ceremony, wedding-goers had time to explore the village's charming streets and quaint shops, while the bridal party stopped to take photos at a small farm in Mt. Sinai. Of course, country-looking details like watering cans and picturesque cottages made for ideal props. "It is owned by the sweetest couple that create handmade furniture in their barn," Kathleen said. "It was adorable and the perfect backdrop for our pictures."
At Hamlet Willow Creek, guests enjoyed al fresco cocktails (strawberry lemonade served in Mason jars) before the main event, an indoor party overlooking the golf course and lake. "It was very important to us that we incorporate our personalities into the wedding," said Kathleen. They choose Hamlet Willow Creek for its "beautiful woodwork, a vintage-looking stage for our DJ and beautiful big windows that looked out onto the balcony," she said. "We wanted every detail to match who we are as a couple." Accents, from a quilted guest book to moss table numbers to birch wood flowerpots, enhanced the rustic feel. So did dinner, which featured an autumnal mozzarella and tomato salad and a delicate ivory cake topped with a wooden bride and groom. The result? Rave reviews, said Kathleen: "Everybody loved the venue."
Though they met and live in Bermuda, where they both work in the insurance industry, Catherine Hall and Dominic Gallina swapped pink sand for salmon-colored brick for their May 14 wedding at the historic Glen Cove Mansion in Glen Cove. While Catherine hails from London, Dominic is from Baldwin, and they wanted to show off his Long Island roots to their 120 friends and family, who came from as far as Europe, Canada and California for the international-inspired affair. (Bravely, Dominic, 35, also floated the idea of wearing their respective garb, like kilts and Bermuda shorts.)
"Since so many people were traveling, I was excited for them to see where Dom is from," said Catherine, 33. And what could be more telling than a 55-acre estate rich in local history? Built in 1910 by oil executive John T. Pratt and his wife Ruth, the stately Georgian mansion was once central to Long Island's glamorous Gold Coast. And with 187 rooms, it's still perfect for jet-setters to stay the weekend and turn a local wedding into what Catherine calls "one big holiday."
The latter-day Gatsbys were greeted with Long Island-themed welcome bags filled with information about the area and places to visit. They also got the grand tour: golf for the men at Harbor Links Golf Course in Port Washington, shopping for the ladies at the Americana Manhasset before the group headed down to a casual rehearsal dinner at Nick's Pizza in Rockville Centre. "We wanted to expose them to as much of Long Island as we could," Dominic said.
On the wedding day, everyone gathered in Baldwin for a ceremony at Dominic's church, St. Christopher's, before being bused back for the reception in the mansion's garden ballroom.
"It's been fun merging traditions," said Catherine, who gave the chef free rein to create a mix of British and Italian food, plus a signature Bermuda cocktail called "Hibiscus Bliss." In British tradition, the groomsmen wore ties cut from the same cloth as the bridesmaids' clover Jenny Yoo dresses. Even the favors were a mix of cultures: American flag and Union Jack cookies tied with a Bermuda shorts-shaped tag.
Vineyard is a perfect fit
After getting engaged on Shelter Island, Sinead Huntley, 28, a special events coordinator, and Michael Brooks, who is 30 and works in finance, decided to return to the East End for their September 2010 wedding. Though the couple lives in Manhattan, their families have spent a lot of time on the East End. And since they'd gone wine tasting the day after Michael's proposal, the pair decided a vineyard would be the perfect fit for the relaxed wedding they wanted. Their choice: Macari Vineyards in Mattituck, which could handily accommodate 150 friends and family coming from Long Island, Texas, California and New Hampshire.
"We wanted the wedding to have a local feel, since Long Island is such a nice place to get married, particularly in September as summer winds down and the vineyards are harvesting," said Sinead, who set the theme with invitations featuring a map of the North Fork and a Macari wine cork.
The weekend celebration began with a dinner at Gardiner's Bay Country Club on Shelter Island, where acoustic guitarist Gerald Bair entertained amid stunning vistas. "It was great for our guests to experience another area on Long Island, to take the ferry over, and have the unique vantage point from one of the highest elevations on the island," Sinead said.
On their wedding day, the pair exchanged vows at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Mattituck. Then, the bridal party took off: Transported by the North Fork Trolley Company's festive wine-tour trolley, they stopped at Reeves Beach in Riverhead then continued to Macari, where they posed for pictures in the wine cellar and the vineyard. The reception was hyper-local too: decorations of local wildflowers; a menu of seasonal fare; locally brewed Blue Point beer, and a chocolate wedding cake by Marneycakes of Oceanside that featured champagne grapes and raspberries, all underscoring the festive vibe. "I think Long Island lends itself to that," said Sinead. "You're not just there for a wedding, you're there for a great party and atmosphere."
Weekend at the beach
Lots of couples kick off Fourth of July with a weekend at the beach. But for Brooklyn couple Sarah Taverna, 25, a graphic designer who grew up in Port Jefferson, and Timothy Cooper, a 24-year-old entertainment manager from West Babylon, last year's sandy sojourn wasn't just about the water, but their wedding. The spot: The Allegria Hotel in Long Beach, which combines striking modern details and stunning oceanfront views. "There are so many unique parts of the hotel," said Sarah. "You feel like you're in the city, but you're on the beach."
To make the most of the spot, Sarah and out-of-town invitees checked in the night before. Her mother welcomed them with totes filled with snacks like cotton candy that played off images of the nearby Long Beach boardwalk.
On her wedding morning, Sarah slipped off for a soothing walk on the beach, then slipped into her white Demetrios wedding gown. Her bridesmaids' flowing aqua dresses could have been borrowed from sea goddesses. "When the wind was blowing on the beach, you could see all the ruffles waving."
After an outdoor ceremony overlooking the water,the bridal party made a beeline for the beach, where they played on the sand, the boardwalk and on the picturesque jetty, capturing it all in glorious sunset photos. "While we were on the beach a little girl saw me and kept saying, 'Look Mommy, there's a princess!' It made me remember that this was a day I had been dreaming about since I was her age."