Where To I Do

The natural beauty of the Adirondacks is tough to ignore, so it’s no wonder that many non-traditional wedding venues in the area are using the inspiring landscape to their advantage.

Story by Emmalie Vance
Whiteface photos courtesy of Todd Bissonette Photography.
Yaddo photos courtesy of Lesley Leduc.
Balloon photos courtesy of Phil Jackson.

Your wedding day. An experience that will be (hopefully) a once-in-a-lifetime event. So why not host this special moment in a special place? Here in the Adirondacks, several memorable, non-traditional wedding venues wait to capture the hearts of sweethearts looking to exchange vows in an unconventional style.

Yaddo Castle

Nestled deep in the woods of Saratoga Springs is a 55-room castle with four large fountains, a rose garden, a pergola, and more statues than the bride will know what to do with. Although the castle is available only as a backdrop to the ceremony, Yaddo's rose garden, fountains, pergola, and statuary are open to all.

A winding driveway leads from the main road deep into the wooded property of Yaddo, a not-for profit artists' colony housed on a 400-acre estate. A fork leads either to the castle at the top of the hill or to the gardens below, where visitors are welcome. The walk from the parking area is short and guests soon come upon the largest of the four fountains. Turning around, the castle is visible high on the hill overlooking a large green lawn, the fountain, and the rose garden.

A marble entryway engraved with the initials S.T. and K.T. (for Spenser and Katrina Trask, Yaddo’s late owners) leads into a magnificent rose garden complete with four separate rose beds. Overlooking the garden is a large statue representing Katrina’s four children set back into the trees, along with four evenly-spaced statues representing each of the four seasons. To the right of the garden is a magnificent pergola flanked with rose bushes.

“Spenser planned the gardens as a 50th birthday present to his wife in 1899,” explains Lesley Leduc, public affairs coordinator at Yaddo.

Some couples choose to get married in front of the main fountain on the large lawn. Others prefer a walk through the rose garden and pergola. Another site option is located behind the pergola: a collection of stones surrounded by a moat featuring another working fountain. The looming trees and dirt path provide a more natural and outdoorsy feel than the open garden and its stone path.

Yaddo offers several locations on its 10 public acres to host a wedding. Although there is no official reservation fee, Leduc says that a donation of at least $250 for the wedding and $100 for a photo session is recommended. Large parties are asked not to exceed 75 guests due to limited parking and ground space, but some exceptions may be made. Tents and other large pieces of furniture are not allowed due to setup and takedown times.

An artist's haven, Yaddo has housed many famous guests including Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife; Amy Tan, author of The Bonesetter’s Daughter and even Edgar Allen Poe.

“Poe is alleged to have written a good portion of The Raven at Yaddo,” Leduc says.

Adirondack Balloon Flights

Traditional weddings in a garden or a church are usually the way a couple ties the knot, but for those who would like to try something a little different, a hot air balloon flight is both scenic and memorable.

Phil Jackson has been flying hot air balloons in the Adirondacks for over 30 years and can boast more than 3,000 passengers on his trips. His balloons have hosted about 10 airborne weddings, some taking place on the ground with a flight afterward and some right in the balloon itself with a natural, scenic Adirondack backdrop.

Passengers may choose between the 4- or 8-passenger balloons, depending on how many people are in their party. For weddings on the ground and a flight to follow, the ceremony takes place in a grassy field adjacent to the take-off spot. Guests are asked to keep it small as decorations are not permitted. Passengers are also required to meet Jackson at the scheduled take-off point where the balloon will follow a specific route once in the air. This arrangement is non-negotiable.

Passengers should also be aware that weather could be an issue on the day of the scheduled flight, in which case Jackson recommends having a back-up plan to hold the wedding at an alternate location or at some other time.

Adirondack Balloon Flights are offered from April through October and are $275 per person. Summer is usually the most active season because of tourists but autumn is the most beautiful with the foliage.

“For what people are spending on a wedding for a sit-down meal, a band and so on for a large party,” says Jackson, “I’m dirt cheap, comparatively.”

Lake George Steamboat Company

Enjoy the soothing water, the wind in your hair and a picturesque wedding as you float down Lake George aboard one of Lake George Steamboat Company’s steamboats.

Four different dining rooms to choose from affords a small party the privacy it needs, while a large party is able to rent a deck at a time or even charter the entire boat for several hours.

“We only do one wedding at a time on a regular lunch, dinner or brunch cruise because we want that bride to feel like it’s her day,” says Steamboat Company Director of Sales Lois Robinson. “There could be an anniversary couple on there or a corporate party but there’s only one wedding and one bride because we don’t want any competition for her.”

Wedding packages include a cake, champagne, the bride’s bouquet, the groom’s boutonniere and a wedding photo. Menus are available before the date for the couple to decide what will be served; there are seven choices of wedding cakes to choose from and local vendors and businesses are utilized.

Customization is available for the cake, as well as for decorations such as the centerpieces for the tables, at an additional price. For example, Robinson says some couples bring in a photograph of a certain cake they would like made. The Steamboat Company’s baker of choice will then make a cake as close as possible to the one photographed.

Another option if the couple already has a cake in mind is to allow the bride and groom to bring their own. In such situations, the price will be deducted from the package. The bride’s bouquet, the groom’s boutonniere, and the centerpieces may also be supplied by the couple and the price will be deducted accordingly.

Restrictions include no outside alcohol, no confetti, no candles, and small flower arrangements on the tables so the guests can converse comfortably. Additionally, a short train on the bride’s dress is recommended.

“We do a tremendous amount of weddings a year because they are unique,” says Robinson. “95 percent of the guests will say yes because it’s on a boat; it’s different.”

Saranac Lake Ice Palace

The chilling winters of the North Country are not the highlight of everyone’s year. The word ‘winter’ usually carries thoughts of twelve layers of clothing, early mornings shoveling a path through several feet of cold, heavy snow to get the morning newspaper and the inescapable chill that blows effortlessly through those twelve layers and right to the core of the bone.

For some, though, especially for those in the Saranac region, winter also brings the Winter Carnival, complete with the century-old tradition of the Ice Palace. If you don’t mind being outside in the dead of winter, surrounded by large chunks of ice and strangers, a marriage at the Ice Palace is for you.

 “Most weddings that I’ve been aware of have involved at least one local person who grew up with the Winter Carnival and it’s been a part of their history since forever,” says Jeff Dixon, Chairman of the Winter Carnival Committee.

The Ice Palace was first constructed on the shore of Lake Flower in Saranac 113 years ago and has been a tradition ever since. Using large blocks of ice cut from the lake, the 2400-square-foot palace is then pieced together by volunteers over a span of two weeks.

Today, he says, “There are lots and lots of local families that make it a tradition to work on the ice palace every year and who generate a certain amount of loyalty to the project.”

Although there are no reservations needed and no real rules about getting married in the annually-themed palace, there is one condition Dixon stresses: If you conduct a wedding ceremony at the Palace, it will be public, with no exceptions. If you don’t mind a few strangers weaving in and out of your wedding party, then Dixon doesn’t either.

Whiteface Mountain

A balloon ride is one way to experience breathtaking scenery. For those looking for beautiful vistas while keeping their feet somewhat on terra firma, however, imagine the view at the top of a mountain. For skiers and hikers looking to exchange their vows, Whiteface--one of the highest peaks in the Adirondacks--is a popular wedding destination.

Lauren Garfield, sales manager at Whiteface Mountain, says it’s the perfect place for couples who “want their wedding in a mountain setting, but know their friends and family will not hike or ski to a ceremony.  They want their friends and family to experience the outdoor mountain setting that they normally wouldn’t be able to without a road or gondola.”

Averaging about 20 weddings during the summer and up to two in the winter, Garfield says that she’s not sure how the trend of mountaintop weddings began, but adds that it is growing immensely in popularity.

The wedding couple must understand that because Whiteface Mountain is a public place, there may be people around during the ceremony. Also, a mountaintop location means limited space, so parties under 60 guests are preferred.

As if a wedding at the top of a mountain wasn’t odd enough, Garfield says, “We have had dog ring bearers, brides in white ski suits skiing down the mountain after the ceremony and couples sitting on the chair lift for their wedding photos.”

Where did you hold your wedding?