North Fork wineries tend to have people at Merlot. The bucolic setting and burgeoning wine trail make it a popular destination for Islanders and tourists alike to eat, drink and even get married.
But say you’re considering a North Fork vineyard wedding and everyone from Greenport to Greenpoint will warn of exorbitant costs and an impossible planning process that includes bringing “EVERYTHING in.” The truth is, each vineyard has different price points and inclusions, and so many aspects of the day can be customized to a couple’s taste and budget.
I know because I’ve been there, planned that and eaten that buttercream-frosted wedding cake. My husband, who also had me at Merlot (OK, Riesling), and I tied the knot inside the Raphael Vineyard & Winery tasting room on April 27, 2018.
Before deciding the wine glass is half empty, consider the notes I took while planning my own fête and while speaking with event professionals at other Long Island wineries.
Do Your Homework
Yes, vineyard weddings can be costly and require more rentals than a catering hall, but couples should do their own research. Raphael’s had a site fee, but it included the works—use of tables, chairs, china, catering, top-shelf bar and cake. In other words, other than the site fee, the process wasn’t any different than getting married at a catering hall.
Site fees, which cover rental of a space typically used for wine tastings and purchases, depend on the day of the week and time of year. Fridays usually cost less than Saturdays, and each vineyard prices its months a little differently. But it’s safe to say couples seeking a June Saturday will pay a higher site fee than a couple getting married on a Friday in March.
Do More Research
Unlike traditional halls, vineyards that require outside catering and rentals cannot give an exact price per head. Couples will have to send a few more emails to get it. Most event managers provide a list of approved caterers to the couple early on.
Several factors go into determining the price per head, including whether dinner will be a buffet or sit-down and the number of passed hors-d’oeuvres. Caterers will also either provide or help the couple rent tables, chairs, linens and china.
Sparkling Pointe, for example, has tables and chairs for up to 100 people for either the reception or an onsite ceremony.
Though more work, working closely with a caterer has its perks, such as being able to put more of a unique spin on the day and building closer connections with vendors.
A bride’s walk down the aisle is not only one of the most special moments of her wedding day, but one of the most memorable moments of her life. Tripping won’t ruin the moment, but let’s face it: she’d probably prefer not to. Keep in mind not all vineyards have concrete aisles outside. “Wedges are big here,” says Sparkling Pointe Private Events Manager Amanda Czartosieski. As for setting a dress code for guests, that’s entirely up to the couple. Just because it’s on a farm doesn’t mean it can’t be black-tie! But keep comfort in mind—if you’re doing an outdoor ceremony and reception at the peak of summer heat, cocktail or black-tie optional might make for a happier party.
Think Outside the Mason Jar
Mason jars and burlap and lace are Pinterest-popular elements for a vineyard wedding, but couples aren’t limited to the look. Not to mention, Sparkling Pointe’s whitewashed walls and Raphael’s old-world look complete with monastery windows are made for elegant affairs. I played up Raphael’s Tuscan-style, romantic setting with table garlands and tons of candlelight. We worked the wine theme in with cork details on the sweetheart table, escort cards and even my husband’s boutonniere thanks to my florist Ryan at Flowers by Rori.
Czartosieski loved when a couple paired naked wooden farm tables with clear ghost chairs. “It brought in the natural vineyard side with the naked wood table, but the modern clear ghost chair was so chic],” she says. “The juxtaposition really worked.”
Other vineyards have more of a barn feel, but couples can think of the space as a blank canvas (or plow ahead with a ho-down). Think splashes of rose gold on tablescapes and glassware and statement ceilings.
Weddings go by in the blink of an eye, but photos and videos last forever. Given how beautiful vineyard settings are, drone footage is a worthy splurge if a couple can swing it. “It adds a special memory to your day and something you see from a different perspective,” Czartosieski says.
No matter how great an on-site event manager is, it’s not his or her job to coordinate final payments or arrival times with vendors. Add in the need to stay in touch with an outside caterer, and it can be more stressful. Czartosieski suggests couples look into getting a day-of coordinator. “Especially if you’re not local to the area, it’s always good to have someone buffering calls from vendors,” she said. This way, if the guest shuttle is running behind or the caterer needs a last-minute confirmation, the coordinator can handle it without anyone knowing, allowing the couple to focus on the real reason for the day—starting a marriage (and having fun!).
It Will Always be Your Place
Raphael’s was a favorite of ours before we got engaged, and it’s been even more special each time we’ve been back since getting married. And I think this is one of the biggest draws of saying, “I do” at a winery. It’s a place that may already have happy memories. Post-wedding, it’s somewhere you can always go, look around and know, “We became one right by that door and waltzed around on that hardwood floor.” My day was beautiful. The staff at Raphael’s made us feel like family starting on our venue tour and still welcomes us back with open arms. And the man I married? Well, he’s the best.
Whether you have a vineyard wedding or not, I hope you can say the same thing.