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The time has finally arrived. You found your soul mate and you are getting married! So, how do you even begin planning? First, take a breath and remain calm. Decide where you would love to come together with friends and family to celebrate. Then, once you’ve chosen your location, work on the details that will make your day extra special. A luxurious wedding is not hard to achieve. You just have to focus on the details.
A TOWN TO TREASURE
The first step in wedding planning is choosing a location. Luckily for Bostonians, one of the most luxurious locations in New England is only about two hours away: Newport, Rhode Island.
Newport is known for its picture perfect combination of gorgeous nature and historic architecture all throughout town. Magnificent trees and beautiful beaches make the area quite pleasing to the eye, but the local businesses and activities are what really make Newport a great option for celebrating with friends and family. “Everyone loves that they can walk, take a trolley, drive a moped, boator pedal around town,” says Newport resident and wedding photographer Cheryl Richards. “I feel guests have more of a wedding experience when they enjoy the whole weekend together.”
The city by the sea is also great for destination weddings, says Sales Manager Maura Ryan of Castle Hill Inn, because of its plethora of available hotels. More hotels means more options in regards to personal desires and price points, so more guests may be inclined to attend the ceremony if it can work within their own needs.
A LUXE LOCATION
Castle Hill Inn, located on Ocean Avenue, is one of Newport’s premier wedding venues. The Inn sits on 40 acres of property that includes 33 guest rooms, a spa, a private beach, and luxury gardens—all popular amenities often searched for when planning a destination wedding. The hotel is also a Relais & Chateux building, so the team ensures that quality of cuisine and service are top-notch for each celebration. “Our chef sources from local farms for fresh produce and creates a menu that features unique and delicious options that stand out to wedding guests,” says Sales and Event Manager Emily DiBello.
A wedding at Castle Hill Inn will undoubtedly be extra special because you will be the only focus for the entire day. “We only host one wedding per day to ensure that each couple has a unique and special experience,” says Ryan. The hotel has just less than 20 years of experience in the wedding department, having been hosting ceremonies since 1999.
Just 10 minutes away on Bellevue Avenue awaits Hotel Viking, a part of the Historic Hotels of America portfolio. Aside from offering the “quintessential feel of a Newport mansion as a backdrop,” says Event Sales Manager Linda Ferguson, the hotel is known for its attentive staff, high service standards, outstanding food, and financial flexibility. “We welcome couples from all walks of life and would love to make their wedding memorable and special, no matter what the budget,” she says.
Perhaps the most special feature Hotel Viking has to offer, however, is its chapel. The hotel is the only venue in Newport to offer a non-denominational chapel as an on-site ceremony location, says Event Sales Manager Nancy Rusiloski. This makes the Viking quite a great choice for couples who want everything in one place. “The convenience of having one location for all components is very attractive,” she says.
Another luxurious wedding venue is Gurneys Resort. The company has been hosting weddings for over 40 years, and is considered one of the best in regards to guest experience. “We offer a variety of experiences for our guests,” says Michael Oakes, Area Director of Sales and Marketing at Gurneys. “Imagine having a massage in the spa overlooking the water, or enjoying the pool in one of our elegant cabanas.” He also adds how the venue prioritizes quality over quantity. “Since the beginning, this property has been a popular wedding destination for many couples. On average, we host approximately 40-60 weddings a year. We try not to over commit ourselves because we find it’s important to focus on each couple exclusively, which allows for a more memorable event for everyone.”
Once you have chosen your dream location, it is time to figure out who you trust to make your memories last forever. A photographer is responsible for capturing your special day on camera, and you want to make sure you choose someone experienced, talented, and trustworthy.
Richards, a five-time winner for Best Wedding Photography by Boston magazine, has been in the business for more than 25 years. She has photographed celebrations around the world, but one of her favorite places to photograph is Newport, where she currently resides. Richards loves photographing weddings, she says, because no two are the same. “Love sets the scene for an amazing wedding,” she says. “All of the choices in flowers, venue, music, food…are truly unique to each couple. I’m always inspired.”
Due to her love of weddings, Richards recognizes how many emotions can be experienced throughout the day. This is something to be respected and enjoyed with no intrusion, she says, so she often photographs prior to the ceremony. “So many emotions are to be enjoyed after they walk down the aisle and after the vows,” she says. “I feel [couples] should enjoy every minute of that and not have to run away for posed photos.”
Kat Hanafin, who has been in the wedding industry for about 10 years now, also specializes in Newport, a place that is quite special to her. She has access to some private locations, which gives clients amazing opportunities for unique wedding images. Hanafin says she limits the number of weddings she takes to a mere five per year, to ensure that her clients receive the best possible service.
Aside from ensuring your wedding is the best it can be, another focus of Hanafin’s is bonding with the couple prior to the big day. Hanafin’s clients receive a complimentary engagement photo shoot and a round of cocktails on her! “I feel trust is one of the most important aspects of our relationship,” she says of her clients. “I want my couple to feel confident they will enjoy having me alongside them on their special day, and not only will I make the photography portion of the day go smoothly (and quickly!) but also, I will capture images of their day that they will always treasure.”
PRIORITIZE WHAT’S MOST IMPORTANT
Once you have made the important decisions of venue and photographer, the time to plan the rest of the day has arrived. There are features in particular that can make or break the day, experts say, and they are transportation, the bar, and food. “A wedding is a luxury item,” Hanafin says. “Come up with a budget, and decide which items are most important to you, then allocate the funds accordingly…it would be far better to have an exquisite party for 50 people, than a ‘meh’ party for 300.”
In Hanafin’s experience, she recommends providing your guests with transportation between the hotel, ceremony site, and reception site. This will give your guests comfort of knowing they will not get lost attempting to find any of those places as well as making them feel like they are VIP.
Also, food is king. Every guest at the wedding will undoubtedly eat something—whether it be the entire meal or just a piece of cake—and that will most likely influence their time at your celebration. Be sure to do your research on what cuisine each venue has to offer. “The culinary experience that your guests enjoy at your wedding will be what they remember the most,” Ryan says. “Customize a menu that is unique to you as a couple, and features local and seasonal items that are specific to where you are getting married.”
As with all events, there are always details you may incorporate into it that can make all the difference. Oakes stresses how couples should ultimately do whatever will make them happy. “These days, there is nothing considered out of the ordinary for a wedding,” he says. “We encourage couples to create fun and unique wedding experiences.”
IN THE END…
Planning a wedding can certainly be a stressful endeavor. Having a clear vision of all the details you want throughout the day is very important, Ferguson says, so be sure to communicate your desires clearly with your professional team.
However, DiBello says to not get too caught up in these aspects. Be sure to focus on the atmosphere, which will really make the wedding stand out. “From the service details like synchronized service and passed champagne as guests arrive, luxury weddings feature a level of service where the culinary and catering teams go above and beyond to create an atmosphere that guests will remember,” she says.
Ryan also says to take time to remember what is the most important part of the day: you starting a new life with your love. “The week of the wedding, remove yourself from the stress and take time to appreciate the fact that you’re about to marry your best friend,” she says. “The best weddings are when the couple is smiling, relaxed, and excited to enjoy their special day with friends and family.” Plus, getting married in a glamourous location like Newport can make your wedding go from beautiful to truly unforgettable to not only you, but your guests as well.
Contact one of these Newport wedding experts today to begin your planning!
CASTLE HILL INN
CHERYL RICHARDS PHOTOGRAPHER
KAT HANAFIN PHOTOGRAPHY
This post is a sponsored collaboration between City Studio and Boston magazine's advertising department.