Prediction: Little weddings are the next big thing.
We’re not just talking during the months following the COVID-19 pandemic, either (although they certainly fit within the groups of 25 or fewer requirement at the time). There’s just something so romantic about small-scale weddings that prioritize unforgettable experiences and, above all, lasting love.
That’s what Anthony and Dana Bonarrigo thought.
After meeting on MySpace as teenagers in 2009, the couple hit it off immediately after their first date to get hot chocolate. Seven years later on their anniversary, Anthony decided to propose.
At first, everything was going as planned. The pair savored dinner at one of their favorite restaurants, and Anthony looked forward to proposing along the waterfront in Red Bank, New Jersey later in the evening. Unfortunately, that February night was a cold one, so Dana turned down Anthony’s suggestion to take a walk in order to go home instead. Anthony had to scramble, so, spur of the moment, he pretended he wanted to go for hot chocolate at the same spot that they had their first date.
As soon as they got out of the car, Anthony proposed.
“I was completely surprised, especially when I saw that my engagement ring was the 1800s flower-shaped diamond ring that I had been eying for years,” Dana reveals. She said yes, and the pair, who recently purchased a home together in Catskill, began planning their upstate wedding in the Hudson Valley.
From the start, both Dana and Anthony knew they wanted their day to be fun and low-key to reflect their relationship as a couple. They also wanted the ceremony to be held outdoors with an emphasis on experience and a little tradition thrown into the mix.
“We wanted to host an intimate weekend event where we were able to spend quality time with a small group of loved ones rather than being spread thin at a huge event that took place over the course of just a few hours,” Dana explains. With guests arriving everywhere from Florida and Staten Island to Germany, the couple opted to host a small ceremony at a home in Catskill that they rented for the weekend. Not only did the decision give them the chance to spend quality time with friends and family, but it also helped them curb their overall cost while creating an unforgettable celebration.
“Having a small ceremony helped us save money in some areas while allowing us to really splurge on things that were important to us, like picking the perfect venue for the weekend, creating large, personalized welcome bags, purchasing lots of games, and much more,” Dana says.
In regard to the venue itself, the Bonarrigos found the perfect location in Catskill via HomeAway. With a picturesque, private exterior, along with a pond, indoor pool, game room, and wraparound decks, it had all the makings for a fun-filled weekend at one attractive address. Thanks to its abundance of explorable areas, guests were able to spend their days walking along the pond, swimming laps in the pool, or simply lounging by the fire pit.
And then there was the wedding.
Because Anthony and Dana had been together for a number of years before their marriage, they wanted to recognize the significance of the relationship they had built up to that point while making a nod to their future together.
“By the time out wedding took place, we had been together for nine years, so, when it came time to write our vows and put together our ceremony with our officiant, it was important for us to not only honor our future as a married couple, but celebrate the life we had already built together,” Dana notes.
The day before their September ceremony, she and her friends arranged all the flowers, while Anthony and his best friend prepped the ceremony area and built the birch arch under which the couple planned to say their “I dos.” The following day, the day of the wedding, they watched as guests experienced the grounds for themselves and savored the beauty of the occasion. By the time the ceremony hour arrived, everyone was ready to pay witness as Dana and Anthony exchanged their vows.
Heavily inspired by vintage designs, Dana made an ode to her love of the 1920s and 1970s with tiered BHLDN gown in a striking dusty champagne rose color. With a subtle sparkle and a soft design, the dress, which Dana found on OnceWed.com and later had altered, felt straight from the pages of a fairytale. With the addition of a flower crown from Adams Fairacre Farms, she looked right at home in the enchanting wilderness of the Catskills.
By the time nightfall arrived, the Bonnarigos were happily wed and reveling with their close-knit group. With sparklers in hand, they wound down the evening surrounded by happiness and loved ones in the Hudson Valley.
Dana and Anthony adored their intimate wedding for the chance it gave them to custom-fit every detail to their relationship while spending additional time with friends and family. To do a small ceremony right, Dana recommends focusing on what you can do with a tinier celebration instead of what you can’t do.
“Think about doing things you might not be able to do if you had a larger wedding,” she advises. “For you, that might mean splurging on extra-special desserts, buying gifts for your guests, renting a venue for a full weekend rather than a night, or planning lots of games and activities.”
Along those lines, she notes that many vendors are able to customize packages to cater to fewer guests, while rental owners can assist with venue visits to scout potential ceremony spaces in advance. No matter what, she notes that asking for help is essential.
“No matter how small your wedding is, it will be a lot of work (especially the day of), so it is imperative to have a plan and ask for help if you need it,” she emphasizes. “Take advantage of the low-stress nature of a smaller wedding to really fine-tune the things that are important to you.”