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Once upon a time only the wealthy had the luxury of marrying in a beautiful, distant locale. But then the Millennial generation made the practice one of its distinguishing behaviors, often choosing exotic, tropical places for ceremonies on the beach. Now, destination weddings have come of age, appealing to couples of all ages and taking place in spots from Timbuktu to the Sullivan County Catskills.
In fact, a variety of factors have made domestic destination weddings the option of choice for couples seeking convenient, accessible, affordable and impromptu weddings. Soaring airfares, expensive and time-consuming passport and visa applications, marriage license residency requirements, language barriers and the often unpredictable nature of long-distance travel have conspired to make close-to-home destinations more attractive.
Add to the above the legendary natural beauty of the Catskills, the area’s long history of world-class hospitality and its proximity to the New York metro area, and you have the recipe for an unforgettable weekend destination wedding. Enter the instant ability of the Internet to show the public what the Catskills can offer today, and selecting the perfect venue is just a click away.
Here are three options to consider when planning a destination wedding, elopement and/or honeymoon in the Catskills.
The North Branch Inn
Beware all ye who enter here, you may never want to leave. Original tin walls and ceilings, genuine antique mirrors and chandeliers, transom windows, claw-foot bathtubs beside the beds and period furniture lend the charm of a bygone era to every room. Huge stall showers with rain showerheads in ensuite bathrooms and Wi-Fi throughout the inn balance that charm with the modern conveniences on which we rely. However, to keep the contemporary world at bay and promote social interaction among guests, there are no televisions or radios here.
The inn, located in the hamlet of North Branch, NY, and its companion property, The Arnold House in Livingston Manor, are loving restorations of native son Sims Foster and his wife, Kirsten Harlow Foster. They wanted to bring back to the Catskills the glorious hospitality that Foster’s family knew for five generations.
They kept the quaint oddities of the inn: a wooden bowling alley with a chef’s kitchen smack dab in the middle of it that lets diners bowl and observe a master chef in action while waiting to be served. Communal dining tables let guests sit down to dinner with strangers and retire as intimates. Wood-burning stoves and fireplaces in common areas draw guests together in warm, inviting conversation nooks.
Among the staff here are innkeeper Tess Grasso, wedding coordinator Megan Kinealy and events planner Justine Hoskins. All stand ready to assist wedding couples and their guests. The inn offers all-inclusive wedding packages with burlap and gingham linens, mason jars, flowers, decorations, food and drink. But Hoskins says that couples are also welcome to use their own vendors and decorate the inn and its grounds as they wish.
So picturesque is the creek behind the inn that Kinealy and the inn’s executive chef Eric will hold their own wedding ceremony beside it this June, followed by a reception at the inn. Contact: 845/482-2339 or www.northbranchinn.com.
Red Cottage Inc.
This online vacation home rental business headquartered in Grahamsville, NY offers the kind of insider information that comes only from longtime residents of an area. Rentals are broken down by region, each of which is well characterized, with particular attributes and attractions amply and accurately described.
Established in 2007, Red Cottage Inc. (RCI) sets itself apart from other online vacation home rental businesses by meticulous curating of host properties. Branding itself as the go-to company for discerning guests, it offers articulate descriptions of each home, interior and exterior, as well as grounds features and accessibility to local attractions.
Some RCI facts:
Pets are allowed on some properties with prior permission and the caveats noted.
Minimum stays may be several days in length.
Guest reviews are not posted.
The three regions encompassed by Sullivan County, NY are: Claryville/Grahamsville (10 properties); Jeffersonville/Callicoon (five properties); and Roscoe/Livingston Manor (five properties).
Most of these houses are large with grounds to match, some of them with considerable acreage, offering both the privacy and seclusion ideal for elopements and honeymooners. One such property is The Barn in Youngsville, NY. Below is the information, and at right, one (of many) photos accompanying it:
3 Bedrooms (queen beds)
2 Bathrooms (1 shower, 1 jacuzzi bathtub/shower)
Cell service: Yes
37” HD DVR (premium cable channels) • DVD/VHS • 50 CD player
Dishwasher • Washer/Dryer
iPod/iPhone players in rooms • Outdoor Speakers
Gas & Charcoal Grill
Dogs: Well-behaved dogs allowed with prior permission
Reasons to rent: Style galore, and Q-U-I-E-T.
Contact: 845/985-7153 or www.redcottageinc.com/contact.
Unlike most urban Airbnb listings where the host shares a portion of his/her home or apartment, rural listings are almost all whole-house rentals with absentee hosts.
The 18 listings for Sullivan County on February 10 ran the gamut from a $35/night wooded campsite (bring your own tent) in Hurleyville to a $300/night log cabin in Liberty, NY to a $175/night 160-year-old farmhouse on 16 acres in neighboring Milanville, PA to a cozy cabin in Eldred renting for $250/night.
Multiple-night minimum stays are frequently mandatory, but if the house accommodates a crowd, as most of these do, comings and goings fit more easily into two or more days anyway.
Plenty of guest reviews are posted for each property, most, but not all of them, testimonials. Owners’ responses to reviews both positive and negative are also posted.
Each of the above listings has its own unique appeal, as promised by Airbnb, but it’s the last listing that drew me in. Owner Claudia was quick to respond to my email query. (Phone contacts once offered by Airbnb have since been discontinued.) Be warned: photos of all Airbnb participants, hosts and guests, are required before email contact between any two can be established.
When I asked Claudia if her house had hosted any weddings, she said no, not to her knowledge. But she has had honeymooners. She left the house key for them with a neighbor who owns an ice cream store. The couple picked it up at the store, tried some of his wares, and were back for more every day of their stay.