Planning Outside the Box

Dean Johnson on January 20th, 2017

Unique Reception Ideas To Make Your Wedding Unforgettable.

In the long, twisted history of civilization, there have been few absolutes, but here is one: Weddings have always been big stuff.

For example, the New Testament tells us that Jesus’ first miracle was performed at a wedding. He turned water into wine, because, well, it was a wedding, and they had run out of wine.

Miracles are hard to come by these days, but with a little forethought and imagination you can make your wedding a fun, unique and long-remembered event. Here are a few suggestions to give your upcoming nuptials a special flair.

Have a food truck reception.

And now you are saying to yourself, “Perfect. If I want a ‘redneck’ wedding.” Not at all, and if done right it’s a grand time for everyone. A longtime Boston newspaper columnist recently had a food truck wedding, and it was a huge success. The before-dinner stroll among the trucks allowed guests to get to know each other. Dinner, consisting of a variety of choices, was delivered to each table. Dessert included the wedding cake, of course. But a visit to the Ben & Jerry’s truck enabled guests to get their own ice cream with toppings.

It also can be a memorable day for the food truck crews. “It’s a big deal,” says Raymond Gonzalez, whose CocoRays food truck was a big hit at The Lowell Food & Wine Festival last September. “It’s the most important day of your life for the bride and groom, and we get to cater it.”

Photos by Adrien Bisson and Kevin Harkins.

Photos by Adrien Bisson and Kevin Harkins.

Stage your reception at a local winery.

There are a surprising number of so-called hip-pocket wineries in and around the Merrimack Valley, and many host wedding receptions regularly.

Zorvino Vineyards in Sandown, N.H., has ponds, waterfalls and a gazebo on its premises, and it hosts weddings and receptions. Other area options include the Flag Hill Winery in Lee, N.H., Willow Spring Vineyards in Haverhill and the Nashoba Valley Winery in Bolton. Smaller wineries, such as Jewell Towne Vineyards in South Hampton, N.H., may not be able to stage full-blown receptions, but are ideal for unique takes on rehearsal dinners and bridal showers.

Local Museums.

Museums … they’re not just for browsing anymore. The Currier Museum of Art near downtown Manchester, N.H., holds wedding receptions with access to a courtyard accented with outdoor art. Guests can even tour the rest of the museum.

Or, step back in time with a wedding at the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, N.H., which offers a variety of spaces to suit nearly every wedding need. And you won’t even have to dress in era-appropriate garb … unless you want to.

Anyone who has toured the Whistler House Museum of Art in downtown Lowell, the house where acclaimed artist James McNeill Whistler was born, knows that it has terrific grounds and is a smart space for smaller weddings

The Seacoast Science Center in Rye, N.H., has a spectacular, outdoor tented oceanfront setting for weddings of up to 200 guests.

Photos by Kevin Harkins.

Photos by Kevin Harkins.

Local Estates 

Because central New England has a long and fabled history — and also has been populated by more than its share of eccentrics along the way — the possibilities here are almost endlessly fascinating.

Have you always fantasized about a castle wedding? No need to go to Europe or the British Isles. Searles Castle in Windham, N.H., or Gloucester’s Hammond Castle are superb settings. Winnekenni Castle in Haverhill may also serve the purpose on a smaller scale.

And you don’t have to head down to Newport to enjoy a truly Gatsby-like estate wedding. The Crane Estate in Ipswich has multiple options ranging from “The Great House” and a private inn to a rustic barn, tavern, secluded beach and more.

The Stevens Estate in North Andover offers weddings for up to 180 guests inside the impressive mansion, or weddings for up to 220 on the tented cobblestone terrace.

Other area options range from the Willowdale Estate in Topsfield and The Herb Lyceum at Gilson’s in Groton to Fuller Gardens in North Hampton, N.H., which offers four separate garden wedding options.

Farm to Table 

During the appropriate season, a farm-to-table wedding is a guaranteed success because it usually mixes a rustic-chic outdoor setting with locally grown and prepared food. Many local farms stage outdoor weddings with tented receptions. And meals prepared on the premises utilize much of the farm’s produce whenever possible. Farm-to-table wedding options include Moraine Farm in Beverly, Timber Hill Farm in Gilford, N.H., and Gibbet Hill Grill in Groton.

A word of caution here. There is often a temptation to trim wedding expenses by getting the bride and groom, and/or their families, to dive into do-it-yourself mode and take on many wedding chores themselves. But there can be a fine line between DIY and D-U-M-B. The New York Times recently took note of a couple and their families who indulged in a two-day marathon to make 400 chocolate and green tea macarons for their upcoming nuptials. We’re guessing that wasn’t fun for anyone. If you decide to go the unique wedding route, it may be best to hire a wedding planner to handle all the details so the event will be more fun than exhausting for the bride and groom and their families.

Even back in Jesus’ day, there was a “director of the feast” who handled that wine crisis. The last thing a bride and groom want to do on their wedding day is deal with a food truck’s flat tire or late-arriving jugglers, or non-dancing bears, or … you get the idea.

“Falling in love was the easy part: planning a wedding — yikes!” So said comedian/actress Niecy Nash. But just a little advance planning and creativity can make any wedding the sensational event it should be.



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