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Hudson Valley Destination Weddings

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Photography by Dennis Becker & Ulysses Photography

Michele Cirone is a woman who knows what she wants — and never more so than on her wedding day. After all, she and her now-husband Eric had been “inseparable” since the first weekend of their freshman year at UMass Amherst in 2001. She quickly okayed the very first wedding dress she tried on (a sand-colored Demetrios stunner). And she opted to hold the nuptials at Catlin Gardens — the Slate Hill, Orange County spot she had chosen nine years earlier when she spotted it from I-84 while driving to college from her New Jersey home. “I used to pass it all the time and I knew that it was the place where I wanted my wedding,” says Michele. “I never changed my mind about that. The gardens, the house, everything was just so beautiful.”

Of course Michele (née Passafaro), now a pharmacist, could not have known back then that Catlin Gardens would eventually add a 40-room inn, which opened just days before her September 11 wedding last year. It ended up being a stroke of good luck: having many of their 115 guests stay with the couple on-site transformed the bride’s dream day into a “whole weekend event.” The fun kicked off Friday night with a rehearsal dinner at the pub and didn’t stop until the casual brunch wrapped up at 1 p.m. on Sunday. “It was like a three-day party,” says Michele. “It was exciting to always see people we loved around the inn; there was always somebody to catch up with.”

Catlin Gardens is just one of the Hudson Valley venues cashing in on the hot matrimonial trend du jour: destination weddings. “Brides and grooms often complain that they spend all this time and money throwing the event of their life and then they don’t get a chance to see everyone,” says Stephanie Stack, event director at Catlin Gardens. “A weekend wedding is the answer to that problem.” Throw in the gorgeous Hudson Valley scenery, and a nice mix of cultural activities, and suddenly you don’t need to cruise to the Caribbean for a memorable matrimonial getaway.

The new inn at Catlin complements the 1860 Victorian manor house, as well as the picture-perfect five acres (with cascading waterfalls, beautiful blossoms, and the like), that have been attracting brides for almost 20 years. While maintaining the old-world charm, all 40 rooms — including several 750-square-foot king deluxe suites — are equipped with modern features like gas fireplaces, Jacuzzi spa baths, and flat-screen TVs. Also located at the inn is Jack’s Pub. Centered around a gorgeous mahogany bar with onyx accents, the eatery holds up to 100 guests, who can dine on upscale pub grub prepared under the direction of chef Mark Glielmi.

Michele and Eric’s wedding day was warm and sunny. Eric, a software engineer, and his groomsmen set out for an impromptu adventure and ended up at the Castle Fun Center in Chester where they rode go karts and played a round of laser tag; the ladies spent the morning taming their tresses at Creative Hair Design in Middletown. Photos were taken first, at around 3 p.m. The 6 p.m. ceremony was fairly traditional (she’s Catholic, he’s Protestant) except for the inclusion of the officiant who came their way via Rent-a-Priest. “All our guests loved him,” says Michele. “He was funny and told embarrassing stories about us.”

The party went on late into the night, spilling over into the pub until almost 4 a.m. But Michele dragged her groom off close to 3 a.m. “I wanted to go back to the room so we could eat some dessert,” she says. “I asked the staff if they would put a plate together for us and they were more than happy to oblige. They were so helpful the entire weekend.”

Now, long back from their honeymoon to France and Spain, the couple, who resides outside of Boston, still consider their weekend wedding ”magical.” Says Michele: “Really, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

D.J.: Bob Scott from Golden Note Entertainment, Wayne, NJ
Florist: Flowers by David Anthony, Monroe

For more photos from other Catlin Gardens weddings, visit www.hvmag.com.

Over-the-Top Romance: The 1900 Belvedere Mansion provides the perfect backdrop for a one-of-a-kind wedding. At left, Nate Brown admires his stunning bride Michelle, who found her Lazaro gown at Kleinfeld Bridal in New York City. “Nate really, really liked my dress,” says Michelle, who had previously gotten a great endorsement. “I met Lazaro at a trunk show and he saw the dress on me. He told me that it looked beautiful.”

Michelle Brown, a federal prosecutor living in Manhattan, grew up in Kingston. So when it came time to plan her wedding, the Hudson Valley was already on her radar. She had been struck by the beautiful setting and charm of the Belvedere Mansion in Staatsburg after eating Christmas Eve dinner there with her parents long ago. Her groom, Nate, wanted a destination-type feel to their celebration. So when they learned there were accommodations on the property — 31 guest rooms — they were sold. Planning began for their July 3, 2010 nuptials.

Many of the couple’s 200 guests arrived on Friday. Michelle (née Parikh), who is half Indian and half Italian, took part in the Hindu mehendi ceremony, in which the bride decorates her hands with henna. “All of my Indian family was there, as well as my bridesmaids, and I borrowed a beautiful sari from my mother,” she says. Dinner was held at Starr Place in Rhinebeck, and at 10 p.m. “we opened the party up to everybody, and they were doing karaoke until two or three in the morning.”

The actual ceremony the next day was a hodgepodge of different traditions. “It was very personal,” says Michelle. “One of Nate’s professors from Exeter married us. We did a garland exchange (which is traditional for Indians), and we also ‘jumped the broomstick,’ which is an old African-American tradition. We basically used traditional vows, and yes, I did cry. The ceremony was my favorite part of the day.” The party went into the wee hours, finally culminating at a brunch for 100 the next day. “Everybody loved the property; even though it is big, it feels very intimate and people told us they felt like they were on vacation.” The couple left for their Turkish honeymoon Sunday night. “It was very gratifying to see an event like that come together,” says Michelle. •

For more photos from Michelle and Nate’s wedding and other Belvedere Mansion wedding stories, visit www.hvmag.com.

Victorian Splendor: The charm of the 1860 Victorian Manor House, combined with award-winning sunken gardens, has been attracting romance-loving brides and grooms for almost two decades. At Michele and Eric Cirone’s September wedding, guests dined on a choice of Salmon Provencal, Chicken Catlin Creek with pesto cream sauce, or Chateaubriand with a merlot butter sauce.

Michele Cirone and her husband, Eric, described their three-day affair at Catlin Gardens as “magical.” Jack’s Pub (above left) is open to the public. All the rooms in the new boutique inn are oversized and offer modern amenities like WiFi and flat-screen TVs.

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