Dream Wedding at an Ulster Estate

A bride and groom exchange vows on the lush grounds of a 19th-century farm

When Rachel Moskowitz and Julius Svoboda decided to tie the knot, they knew two things about their ideal ceremony: They wanted to get married in the Hudson Valley, and they wanted the venue to be super-special.

Although the newlyweds now live in Washington D.C., where they both work for the federal government, Rachel grew up in Woodstock, and her family still lives in the area. So the couple aimed to hold their nuptials locally.

Their search for the ideal venue was rewarded when they visited Cole Hill Farm Estate in Marbletown. “We wanted an outdoor wedding, and even though it was winter when we visited the estate, we pictured how the trees and grass and flowers would look in June,” says Rachel. “I knew right away that this was the place for us.”

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Even with spectacular surroundings ­­­— a picturesque 1827 stone farmhouse, 50-plus acres of lawns and woods, including 40 acres of trails, and a pond ­­— what really captured the couple’s imagination was the fact that the entire estate could be theirs to hold the celebration — for a whole weekend.

groom at door

“Cole Hill Farm Estate is a private home owned by a Manhattan family that uses it as their second home,” explains site manager Julie McKelvey. “When they’re not here, it’s available for weddings and other private functions.”

McKelvey adds: “Here in the Valley, we are fortunate to have quite a few estates and historic sites that can be rented for weddings. But you’re usually limited to just the outdoor lawn area, or maybe a room or two inside. But here at Cole Hill Farm, you really do have the run of the place.”

While the estate, near Kingston, oozes old-fashioned charm, it’s got plenty of 21st-century amenities, including a flat-screen TV, sauna and steam room, Web access, and zoned heating and fireplace inserts that make it cozy year-round. There’s even a nifty fireplace right in the main kitchen.

“What’s also great is that for a wedding or other event, you wouldn’t need to leave the grounds for the whole weekend unless you wanted to,” McKelvey adds. “You could have an afternoon barbecue in your jeans and then, a few hours later, change clothes, walk a few steps, and be at the wedding ceremony.”

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Summer Dreams Come True

Rachel and Julius’ June 6, 2009 wedding — the first-ever held at the estate — kicked off with a Friday rehearsal dinner in Woodstock.

bride, groom and ring bearer bride and groom
bride and groom reciting vows bride and groom by gate

The late-afternoon nuptials took place the next day on the lawn at Cole Hill Farm, under an arch festooned with blue and purple hydrangeas. The couple wrote their own vows, and added another personal element by inviting their parents to speak as part of the ceremony. The wedding party totaled 12 — the bridesmaids wore moss-green dresses that blended perfectly with the outdoor motif, while the men were attired in spiffy tan suits.

“As a guy, I hate to use the word ‘magical,’ ” groom Julius laughs. “But it was. The day was beautiful and there were a lot of cottonwood puffs floating in the air. We had the pond in the background, and a bullfrog was making his sounds; the birds were chirping, too.”

toast to the couple

The wedding party and their guests stayed in the eight-bedroom, four-bath main farmhouse (which sleeps 13) for the weekend, while the bride and groom had their own hideaway bridal cottage — it has a kitchen, bath, and sleeping loft. Prior to the ceremony, the 150 guests strolled the grounds munching on hors d’oeuvres and sipping lemonade, cocktails, and a micro-brewed beer brought in especially from Wisconsin, where Rachel and Julius first met as graduate students.

The reception took place in a tent near the beautifully weathered wooden barn. “We had lawn games like bocce and croquet, and even a trampoline — the kids loved that,” Rachel says.

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After sunset, candles and tiki torches lit up the lawns, and guests enjoyed a catered dinner (the ­­choice of caterers, entertainment, and other services is up to the client, says McKelvey, but her staff is glad to make recommendations — most are Valley businesses, ranging from florists to photographers). Music by a local DJ kept the party hopping — and everything was topped off by the silvery light of a splendid summer moon.

“We especially loved having the bridal cottage nearby,” says Rachel, “because during the weekend, Julius and I could take a breather and have some privacy. And we also didn’t have to kick out all the guests at midnight at the reception, like we would have had to do at some banquet halls.”

On Sunday, the couple bid farewell to their remaining guests with an informal brunch. “It was hard to leave because it felt so comfortable there,” Rachel says of Cole Hill Farm. “We loved everything about it — it was awesome to have the entire place to ourselves, to have the kind of wedding we wanted, on our own terms.”

Adds Julius, “It was neat, too, that it was actually somebody’s home; there were little things like bug repellant and a first-aid kit in the cupboards. It was like having friends say, ‘Here are the house keys, take care of things — and have a good time.’ We and our guests did, absolutely!

Cole Hill Farm Estate can be rented for a flat fee of $7,000 from Friday morning to Sunday night; the rate is $3,500 for one day, sun-up to midnight. For more info, go to www.weddingsatcolehillfarmestate.com.

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