Weddings are beautiful.
They’re also a headache. During the COVID-19 crisis, they’re more akin to a migraine that refuses to go away. After the initial chaos of canceling reservations, changing dates, and rescheduling with vendors, the lingering stress of wedding plans continues to linger for all those couples impacted by the shutdown of the industry.
Even as weddings become possible(-ish), they’re still nowhere near available at the scale they once were. Instead of the fairytale-esque celebrations typical of the Hudson Valley, local ceremonies are downsizing to backyard occasions or – in the case of the particularly creative – vow exchanges at the drive-in.
They’re also turning into pop-ups.
Wait, a pop-up wedding?
Unconventional as they may sound, pop-up weddings are a thing in the Hudson Valley. They make sense, too. For couples who crave some sort of ceremony, pop-ups have the potential to check the basic boxes of family, friends, catering, and celebration without the hassle of working with vendors and venues whose calendars resemble tic-tac-toe boards of canceled and rearranged bookings. Plus, with the help of a service like Lani Events, they’re as close to one-and-done package as it gets.
“There’s so much uncertainty about what the future is going to be like,” says Lani Events founder Indira Rajan. “Micro weddings give people the opportunity to celebrate and take that stress out of it.”
Indeed, short-notice, stress-free ceremonies are precisely the point of the Westchester-based business, which launched just as the COVID-19 crisis put an abrupt halt to the wedding industry at large. “Lani” means heaven in Hawaiian, and the service is exactly that for brides- and grooms-to-be. Recognizing the continuing need for ceremonies of a kind, Rajan debuted Lani as a riff on the micro wedding concept she first tested during her time in the hospitality industry in Hawaii. She saw the parallels between the farm-to-table scenes and support for local businesses in Hawaii and the Hudson Valley, so she knew that micro weddings would be the perfect way to make the most of all the region has to offer while providing a solution for couples in search of an alternative for their canceled or postponed “I dos.”
Lani Events can offer all the glamour of a high-end venue right in a couple’s backyard. Ornate hand-crafted tents provide the perfect mobile event space. They are elaborately designed and available in a wide variety of colors. For an upscale look, these tents are able to replicate a ballroom outside. Specialized lounge furniture ups the ante for extremely personalized outdoor weddings.
For Rajan, a Westchester County resident for the past 30 years, there was no better place to root Lani Events than Rivermere on the Hudson, her renovated Hudson Valley estate. The property is a project she acquired at the end of 2016 and one that required extensive work to transform. When she first toured it, the space had not been functional for seven or eight years and lacked basic necessities like water and heat. Yet because of its unique location on the waterfront in Croton-on-Hudson, it was worth the extensive undertaking to revitalize it to the picturesque Mediterranean-style estate that it is today.
Since premiering Rivermere on the Hudson, Rajan has kept the venue’s focus primarily on weddings, corporate retreats, meetings, fundraisers, and galas. With Lani Events, she opens the private, 11,000-square-foot abode to intimate ceremonies with strong roots in the Hudson Valley. In addition to Rivermere, she offers pop-up wedding locations in Bedford, Hudson, and at residences throughout the Hudson Valley.
So how does a micro wedding work?
To start, interested couples can reach out to Rajan for a virtual or in-person consultation, along with a list of vendors and samples of their work. Because wedding industry vendors took significant hits to their businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, Rajan makes a point to support them as much as possible. She recommends two to three vendors in each category (catering, flowers, etc.) to give couples variety without overwhelming them. The whole point, after all, is to keep things simple to minimize stress and maximize celebration.
“What Lani wants to do is make it a one-stop shop,” Rajan notes. “We want [couples] to dream and plan, then give them one package price that includes everything from a photographer to a videographer to flowers to chefs and local ingredients. They can have the whole experience and not worry about the nitty gritty.”
To her point, she eliminates the burden of one vendor contract on top of the next by taking care of all the pre-planning. Working with vendors like In Thyme for catering, Kathryn Cooper Weddings for photography, and Koat Floral for arrangements (along with an in-house florist), she brings wedding visions to life for parties of up to 50 people. She’ll be expanding this number to 75 at a maximum soon, but she plans to keep her cap on the small side to adhere to the micro wedding concept.
“The whole shift is it’s going to be luxurious, it’s going to be high-end, but it’s not going to be big,” she says. “With smaller events, we’re able to listen to what people want. They’re able to customize those little things that make a difference.”
Just as Lani’s streamlined process sets it apart, so too does its short timeframe. Rajan allows couples to select a date as close as two weeks in advance, since she recognizes that planning too far into the future introduces all sorts of uncertainties. Plus, if couples need to change the date of their wedding, Rajan ensures that they’ll still have access to vendors to fulfill all their needs.
“Our vendor pool will accommodate that because we stand behind them,” she explains. “We’re very excited about that.”
Looking ahead, Rajan plans to continue with the mobile micro wedding concept in the Hudson Valley. If and when ceremonies return to larger-scale offerings, she admits that she thinks smaller events will ultimately prove more popular in the long run.
“It’s elopement with a slightly bigger feel,” she says. “You don’t need to travel 4,000 miles to have [that destination wedding] experience. [The Hudson Valley] is such a beautiful place that we don’t need to travel.”