Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Middletown: The Little City with Big Selections - Part II

Middletown: The Little City with Big Selections

As part two of our exploration of Middletown, CT as a local wedding destination; we’re going to take a look at a seaside venue with New England appeal.

The Canoe Club sits on prime real estate in Harbor Park, in Middletown. Harbor Park is one of those places you and your family can go on a lazy weekend afternoon to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Mattabesett River flowing into the vast Connecticut River. According to the Canoe Club’s website, the restaurant was built in 1915 and is still the only restaurant open year round on the CT River.

The Club would host your wedding on their second floor banquet room, which would include a cocktail hour on their balconies. Talk about a beautiful view of both sky and sea! The shoreline and plush landscapes of trees are more than enough beauty to draw you to this venue. If you’re into Nautical style, without overdoing it, this is the spot for you! The best and only feature of this facility is the view. But wow, what a view! You won’t have to wait until the summer to get that “Cape Cod” or “New England” feel you want for your wedding…you can get that here year round! You can be on the water, without the unpredictability of pending bad weather.

The Club can host up to 125 guests in their upstairs room, a manageable size crowd for any budget. The menu selections listed on their website are pretty standard, with a typical array of chicken, beef, and fish entrees. What I do like is that you get Wine Service with Dinner at no extra charge. Most venues add on fees for that.  I absolutely adore the Chilled Martini or Frozen Drink Station that you can add on for just $8 per person. A fab idea for that is to create a signature drink that fits your wedding theme! You seem to get a lot of bang for your buck with their menu and add ons at the Canoe Club. Banquet prices are only $89 or $99 depending upon the weekend day you select. Plated service is $25 more, but well worth it if you’re just not into buffets. So the Canoe Club would work well with a budget of $30,000 and up, since you’ll be spending about $15,000 on the reception.

The only negatives I can see with this place, was my brief interaction with the staff member who handles the online banquet inquiries. When checking out the website, at first glance it wasn’t obvious that their prices were anywhere on the site. So I sent a query and was told in a kurt tone, and grammatically incorrect text, to click on the word “Wedding” and the listing would come up. So I’d just recommend a user-friendly update to the website to fix that misunderstanding. The staff member informed me that the prices listed were 2015 prices, and the 2016 prices would increase by 10%. Pretty standard practice to increase the pricing year to year, so if you’re watching your budget closely, do the calculations and make sure the increase doesn’t affect your bottom line. The staff member also proceeded to advise that if you book The Canoe Club, you’d have to rent place settings and glassware! What the what?????!!!!! I have to wonder why the second floor room is unable to use the plates, glasses, and silverware that the downstairs restaurant uses? Or do they not have enough to accommodate an event while serving customers in the restaurant? As a coordinator, a whirlwind of questions are spinning in my brain about that. But the staff member mentioned they use CT Rental Center for their rentals…who I absolutely LOVE and am a repeat customer of. So if you should choose The Canoe Club in Harbor Park as your venue, you’ll be getting a standard meal, a great rental company, and fabulous view!

Check out The Canoe Club:

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And stay tuned for more info on the other locations! Just in time for your 2016/2017 Wedding!

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Middletown: The Little City with Big Selections

                                       Middletown: The Little City with Big Selections

As an event planner, I’m always advising my brides to do something unique at their wedding. Whether it be to use a hot new location, add a trendy décor element, or personalize the ceremony program to suit the couple’s quirky character. I’m always saying have your wedding stand out from the rest! So this blog is a tad unconventional for me. I am going to go outside of my own box and recommend a not so unique little city like Middletown, Connecticut for your wedding location.

Middletown, CT is definitely no mega-metropolis like New York City or Los Angeles. There’s no bright lights or celebrity presence. No broadway stages. No glitz and glamour. It probably won’t be on anyone’s tourist map because there are no tourist attractions whatsoever. But what Middletown does have is home-town appeal, a breath-taking harbor park, and a great selection of wedding venues. This little city of just under 50,000 residents, packs a punch when it comes to the variety of places to have your wedding.

If you’ve decided to stay local for your nuptials, Middletown is the place to be! From a grand scale to an intimate setting, there are six incredibly beautiful locations to choose from. We love finding the best choices and best bang for your buck for you! That’s what we do! So we’re dedicating our October blogs to giving you the scoop on each location in regards to: Style, Features, Menu Selections, Cost, and any Negatives that might go along with using that facility.

First up on the venue roster, is the scenic Pavilion on Crystal Lake. One of three venues owned by the Connecticut Wedding Group, the Pavilion on Crystal Lake has the more “traditional” style of all of the venues. It features a lovely outdoor ceremony site with a scenic view of the lake. Your photos will definitely capture the beauty of any season! Inside, the banquet area is pretty standard, but includes a huge dance floor and large windows to enhance the view for your guests. And a gorgeous chandelier adorns the high ceiling. According to their website, the facility offers a specific menu for each of the four seasons. So there is plenty of selections to choose from within each menu. Wedding banquet costs range from $89.95 to $139.95 per person depending upon which menu you select. A great budget can handle that cost, a more modest budget may make you cringe at anything above $75.00 per person. Either way, it’s a pretty standard cost for such a nice venue. The only negatives I can think of are: What happens when weather prevents an outdoor ceremony? And what if you don’t want the menu selection that corresponds to the season you’re having your wedding in? The best feature The Pavilion has is the lake side ceremony site. It does not have a designated “Plan B” space to accommodate an indoor ceremony. In the event of bad weather, per their sales staff, the main banquet room would be set up for the ceremony to take place literally on the dance floor, while your guests sit at their reception tables. Not sure how I feel about that. Thank goodness the wedding I decorated and coordinated there back in 2010 had perfect weather! In terms of the menu selection, say you’re getting married in the Spring, but you want the Summer menu. Can you choose the Summer menu??? The website doesn’t suggest you can. I’m hoping the sales staff will work with you on that. When I did that wedding there, the staff was very helpful and accommodating to my client’s needs. So it doesn’t hurt to ask! But overall, The Pavilion is a quaint and lovely location that would appeal to anyone’s tastes. Great pics, good food, plenty of space for dancing and mingling….definitely a winner!

Check out these pics of The Pavilion on Crystal Lake:


Next, another venue owned by the Connecticut Wedding Group, The Barnes at Wesleyan Hills. The Barnes is totally “rustic chic”. It features an authentic barn, outdoor ceremony sites, and sings of southern charm in New England. The photos on their website are to die for! OMG, the weeping willow trees, the pond, and white wooden bridge, are a MUST for photo opportunities! The barn is a haven for nature enthusiasts and simplistic tastes. Of course being owned by the same corporation, The Barnes offers a seasonal menu. And banquet costs range from $109.00 to $129.00 per person. Your budget would have to be $30,000 and above in order to pay for 120 guests. OUCH! Kind of pricey for the average DIY Bride, but if you set your wedding date out one year, it’s possible to save up enough if you keep your guest list to a minimum. But that’s the least of your concerns! The negatives that I see upfront for the rental of The Barnes, is a $4,000 - $6,000 site rental fee. What this means is, you have to first rent the space to use The Barnes THEN pay for the meals. That’s a huge expense added to your budget. So if you’re working with anything below $30,000; The Barnes may not be the place for you. Another negative is an 11pm curfew as noted on their website. That means the festivities will have to be over before or by 11pm. There’s probably a noise ordinance in the area, I’m not too sure. Definitely something to inquire about if you’re interested. Regardless, as the saying goes, “You ain’t got to go home...but you have to get the heck outta there!” Something to think about if your family loves to party. You could always plan an “after party” at a hotel, a place for the party animals in your family to go to once the clock strikes 11pm. But that’s an added cost that may not be worth the trouble. All in all, The Barnes is an amazing venue. Definitely a place you’ll remember for a lifetime.

Check out The Barns at Wesleyan Hills:

To round out the Connecticut Wedding Group’s holdings, is the Lyman Orchard Golf Club. Situated on a serene and well-manicured golf course, this venue is mobile! Having your wedding at Lyman Orchard means doing a tented reception. Talk about outdoor ambience and romantic style! A tented reception on the course features pretty views of the orchards, and amazing landscaping; a buffet of perfect pictures! Tented events are HOT right now! With the open space and blank canvas of a tent, you have the opportunity to create a world of your liking underneath the big top. Although everything has to be brought in…tables, chairs, dance floor, lighting, heating/air conditioning; all the work is well worth the effort. The corporation offers the same seasonal menu selections. Lyman Orchard does have a Plan B room in case of inclement weather, so that’s a plus. But let’s face it, with a gorgeous setting like that, who wants to be inside? LOL So if you choose Lyman Orchard, definitely select a Spring or Summer date, and keep your eyes and toes crossed for no rain. If you love the unique experience of a tented wedding, this is the place for you.  I must admit, your wedding costs accumulate to a hefty sum when you begin factoring in all the fees. There is a $1,000 ceremony fee, chair rental prices of $3.50 - $6.00 per chair; and your meal prices begin at $119.95 per person and go up in the Fall months. The only negatives are again, an 11pm curfew, and of course the costs. As a DIY Bride, your calculator will get in a full work out when totaling the fees involved with the rental. You could easily spend $19,000 on meals for the 125 minimum with tax and tip, and that doesn’t include the ceremony site rental and chairs for your guests! In the infamous words of Shia Lebouf in the Transformers movies…”Don’t freak out, don’t freak out!” Lyman Orchard is completely doable! If a tented wedding at this location is your one true MUST HAVE, then let the creative spending begin!  Your budget will have to be atleast $40,000 and you’d have to skimp and save on everything else…your gown, rings, transportation, décor, honeymoon, etc. No pain, no gain, right? So don’t let the price tag scare you! If you want it, go for it!

Pics of Lyman Orchards:

Stay tuned for more info on the other locations! Just in time for your 2016/2017 Wedding!

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Mill 1 at Open Square: A Diamond in the Urban Chic Rough

Mill 1 at Open Square:
A Diamond in the Urban Chic Rough

Our continuous hunt for all things fabulous and budget friendly, has led us on a new journey to locate wedding venues that will give DIY Brides that “something special yet affordable” vibe you’ve been longing for. I mean let’s face it, no matter what you do in life, sometimes it really is all about location, location, location. We select our homes, our jobs, our coffee shops, our fav hang out spots; based on a location that we’re near or an area that we know and love. And that same idea also takes effect when shopping for a wedding venue.

One might be surprised to discover beauty and upscale excellence in the midst of an industrial and urban landscape in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Yet, that’s exactly what we’ve uncovered at Mill 1 at Open Square! 

Long gone are the functioning paper mills that dot Lyman and Dwight Streets. All that stands are the historic buildings built originally in 1848, now ingeniously restored to accommodate office space for fifty businesses. Open Square opened fifteen years ago, providing a canopy of character for retailers, a café, and a bridal salon. When we sat down with Sales & Communications Director, Maggie Bergin, we learned a tremendous amount about the event space nestled inside of the urban exterior.
Mill 1 is the brainchild of Maggie’s husband, John Aubin. It was developed four years ago to take advantage of a particular niche that the Holyoke area lacked as far as event space goes; uniqueness.

Like most cities, there are tons of venues that have probably been in business for forever, providing services many times over to you and your family for every celebration under the sun. But that’s the problem! They all look alike, the food tastes alike, and they’re all priced alike! And most people you know have been there, done that! Who wants “been there, done that” for their wedding??? Uh, no one! If your Great Aunt Helen remembers your christening taking place at the neighborhood venue, it’s time to broaden your search for your wedding. So look no further!!!

Mill 1 is the epitome of urban class, and industrial chic. John Aubin is a master craftsman, having designed the space. He refurbished the original milled maple floors and returned the exposed ceiling to the grandeur of 1848. During our tour, I asked Maggie, what was the best physical feature of the space; basically, what did most brides fall in love with. One step through the door and I knew…..brides fall in love with everything!!!


An elegant bar made of recycled cyprus wood greets you at the entrance. Amazing windows and views give way to a rustic interior of brick and maple wood beams. Modern lighting adds dimension, while chiseled spots of time and history are exposed on some of the doorways and surfaces to add character. 

And although its beauty is what hooks you, Mill 1 is also smart! Winner of Wedding Wire’s Brides Choice Awards for Best Ceremony & Reception for the past two years, the staff strives to excel in customer service, professionalism, and to go beyond expectations. When I asked Maggie what makes this venue stand out from the rest, she simply responded, “We love working with people, we love working with our vendors, we love working with couples.”  They pride themselves on loving all couples, no matter the race, religion, sexual preference, or physical ability. They make sure everyone receives the care and attention they require for an amazing experience at Mill 1. Bottom line, Maggie stated, “We just love love, and we’re honored to host so much of it in this space.” 

From a DIY Bride perspective, Mill 1 stacks up on the affordability scale as well.  Rental of the space varies between $1,200 and $2,100 depending upon the day of the week that you select. Most brides who rent the space are “Pinterest brides” according to Maggie, so they’re on a budget. That means, if you work your DIY planning magic right, you can afford to rent the space as well as everything else that goes along with getting a blank canvas and having to bring everything in…caterer, linens, décor, etc.

They are definitely flexible in terms of scheduling set up and decoration time, as long as their rental hours permit. And for your protection, they require that your caterer is licensed and insured. I mean, you gotta love the care and concern that’s placed even in their regulations and restrictions!

And now down to the nuts and bolts of DIY Bride planning: the Amenities. What else can Mill 1 offer the DIY Bride in addition to a fabulous rental space? Rental includes a Ceremony/Cocktail Hour space, so you can have the much desired one location wedding that most budget brides need to save money on transportation. Their website offers an extensive Preferred Vendor List, which is priority number one! At your finger-tips info on vendors that have worked the space before is priceless! Amazing photo ops is high on the list as well. The place screams trendy urban chic from wall to wall and everywhere in between! Using the building’s character as your backdrop, eliminates the need & expense required to travel to a different location to capture the memories of a lifetime. Mill 1 is also very close to major highways for convenience, and we spotted a few hotels in the area for your guests to recover from their “love” hangover.


When asked what improvements or changes are in the future for Mill 1, Maggie mentioned possibly adding an outdoor space, like a balcony, in the next year or so. But their primary focus right now, is securing an exclusive caterer for the space. Since we all know bundles are king, Mill 1 plans to incorporate a caterer into the rental price of the space! Can I get a Amen from all my DIY Brides?! A caterer that you don’t have to find yourself! What?! That saves you time, effort, energy, and money!

All in all, I knew I loved Mill 1 just from seeing pics online, but now that I’ve toured it, I completely adore it. As a decorator, I’d give up my tablet and clipboard for a chance to deck this hall! LMBO! But its beauty can’t ever compare to the people behind the scenes that enhance your experience to the fullest.

If you’re shopping venues in the CT and Western, MA area, you NEED to take a look at Mill 1 at Open Square! The hour drive from Hartford is well worth the trip for a unique, affordable, mind-blowing wedding space. A discovered diamond in the urban chic rough.