Grounds for Sculpture

Sayen Gardens

Prallsville Mill

Chimney Hill Estate


Wedding Planning/ Catering

Wedding Showcases


It’s All About the Food

Corrections or additions?

This article by Jamie Saxon was prepared for the February 8, 2006

issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Cover Story: I Do

In Sophie Kinsella’s hilarious novel, "Shopaholic Ties the Knot," the

protagonist, Becky Bloomwood, a young British woman working as a

personal shopper at Barney’s in New York, is torn between her own two

weddings – the over-the-top society showstopper her

mother-in-law-to-be is planning at the Plaza Hotel, with an enchanted

forest and birch trees imported from Australia, and the suburban

backyard wedding her mother in Oxshott, England, is planning, sure to

be a bit on the tacky side but full of the kind of immeasurable love

that comes with the word "homemade." (Mother-in-law-to-be, mother, and

fiance are all kept carefully in the dark – only best friend, Suze, in

England, knows the horror.) That the author spins out an entire novel

based on this premise comes as no surprise. Planning a wedding is

filled with enough drama to propel a new daytime soap or reality


As I read about Becky’s travails, shuttling madly between tasting

$3,000 cakes in Manhattan and trying to figure out a way to

accidentally spill coffee on her mother’s fru-fru wedding dress

hanging in the closet so she won’t have to wear the monstrosity, it

occurs to me there has to be another way. What about a wedding that’s

neither in a hotel nor the backyard, but something deliciously


"Ninety-five percent of the weddings I do are non-hotel weddings,"

says wedding planner Mary Harrison, owner of Euphorbia in

Lawrenceville. "That’s where people need help." According to Harrison,

hotels generally provide all the support and planning needed on-site,

but if you get married at another location, say, an historic mansion,

you will generally have to arrange all the details yourself. "It gets

more complicated. You have to bring in everything – tent, chairs,

caterer, linens, china, flowers, a band, valet parking, even

generators and toilet facilities."

To plan a wedding from A to Z for 100+ guests, Harrison’s fees run

from $4,500 to $6,500. She calls herself "the support system" for the

bride, holding the reins on the entire planning process, typically six

to nine months, and of course she’s there for the whole wedding day

right up to the very end. But for $250 Harrison can do just a location

search for a bride-to-be. "I have a series of questions I ask. I want

to make sure they are OK with the outdoor factor, since non-hotel

venues are typically outdoors. I ask them the date, what is the size

of the wedding, what is important to them, and how far are they

willing to go geographically – as you go closer to Philly you’ll find

more historic homes." After researching sites Harrison gives the bride

a list of venues with contact names and numbers.

One of Harrison’s favorite venues is Cairnwood in Bryn Athyn,

Pennsylvania. Secluded behind high stone walls, Cairnwood, the former

private estate of John Pitcairn, is a breathtaking 19th century

architectural masterpiece from the Gilded Age. Only one event is held

per day so the house, with its balconies, grand staircase, lush lawns,

and gardens, are the bride’s for the day.

Harrison also likes the James Ward Mansion, a grand three-story

townhouse in Westfield. "It’s very deceiving because it’s in a

shopping district, but it’s a really unusual space." Built by Irish

immigrant James Ward, who established a highly successful construction

business in northern New Jersey, the mansion is drop-dead gorgeous.

The crimson-hued Grand Salon boasts 24-foot ceilings, and is adorned

with 18th century appointments including gilded molding. The fireplace

and mirror above it reach to the third floor, while a walk-around

balcony looking down into the Grand Salon surround the other walls.

But if a big old mansion is not your cup of tea Harrison has a bevy of

other choices up her sleeve. You can get married in a vineyard, such

as Hopewell Valley Vineyards in Pennington (which holds its annual

Valentine’s wine and chocolate weekend, Saturday and Sunday, February

11 and 12, from noon to 5). Rose Bank Winery in Newtown, Pennsylvania,

situated on a subdivision of land originally deeded by William Penn to

his daughters, includes a 1719 manor house constructed of dressed

stone, a three-story barn for parties of up to 75, a tent that can

accommodate up to 300 people – and a field full of grazing Southdown

Babydoll sheep.

Harrison says it can be great fun to include a wine tasting as part of

the reception. Jenny Hartshorne, owner of the Catering Company in

Blawenburg, which holds its annual bridal showcase this year on

Saturday and Sunday, February 11 and 12, recommends La Folette

Vineyard in Belle Mead. "You can have a tent right in the vineyard and

use the indoor space where they make the wine for a tasting,"

Hartshorne says. If wine’s not your thing Harrison recommends the

"utilitarian and unusual" River Horse Brewery in Lambertville on the

banks of the Delaware River. "You have to look at these spaces in a

different light."

You can get married in a museum. Harrison recommends the Newark

Museum. In addition to spacious galleries, the Newark Museum has the

elegant Engelhard Court, with marble floors, 17-foot ficus trees,

natural light, and access to the galleries, so wedding guests can tour

the galleries before or during the reception. The landmark Ballantine

House at the museum can be used for smaller weddings and includes the

grand yet "clubby" oak-paneled Trustees Room and the charming Helen S.

Meyner Room. The Alice Ransom Dreyfuss Memorial Garden is a beautiful

courtyard sculpture garden, perfect for outdoor tented receptions.

Hartshorne recommends the Hunterdon Museum of Art, housed in a 19th

century stone grist mill, on the National Register of Historic Places,

situated on the banks of the South Branch of the Raritan River. It

also has a patio and flower garden overlooking the Clinton Mills Dam.

You can rent just one gallery or the whole facility.

Harrison has also held weddings at the Hopewell Train Station, which

can accommodate about 50 guests. "It’s quirky and inexpensive," she

says. "Technically you have to be a Hopewell resident to use it, but

we can help you with that."

Harrison says the upside of unusual venues is that it’s typically

easier to get a wedding date at these places and a special location

really makes a wedding memorable, but it’s also important to bear in

mind that your costs will be about 25 percent more than for a hotel

wedding. The cost for using a venue such as a museum or mansion,

before bringing in catering and so on, range from free or a nominal

donation to $10,000 and up.

We picked Harrison’s brain and did some sleuthing on our own to find

five venues that fit our criteria for "great places to get married

without a DJ." (To find other unusual venues, Harrison suggests

brainstorming with friends and colleagues. One might say they can

sponsor you at their club or one may have attended a wedding at a

memorable venue. She also recommends the bi-annual Elegant Wedding

magazine, published by Philadelphia magazine, as well as two websites, and, which catalogue locations

geographically – she suggests searching on Philadelphia and Bucks


Top Of PageAndalusia

‘If I were going to get married anywhere, I would get married at

Andalusia," says Harrison. Andalusia, considered the finest example of

Greek Revival domestic architecture in the United States, was the home

of Nicholas Biddle, the young nation’s most powerful early 19th

century banker. At Andalusia, on the banks of the Delaware River in

Bensalem, Biddle entertained President John Quincy Adams, Daniel

Webster, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Joseph Bonaparte, former King

of Spain.

"You turn down the drive and you’re back in time; the harshness of the

new world is gone. It’s just a peaceful, serene place," says Lori

Hogan, assistant to James C. Biddle, head of the Andalusia Foundation,

which oversees the property. "You can get married either down by the

river or in the walled rose garden behind the pool. Most folks want to

be down by the river." Hogan says brides must have a tented reception

outdoors on the property but the home can be open during the cocktail

hour – but no food or drink is allowed inside the house – and there

are guides present to show guests around.

Andalusia doesn’t come cheap. It’s $10,000 just to get in the door for

a six-hour affair (on top of that you have to bring in everything).

"We won’t do more than six weddings a year," says Hogan. "We don’t

want too much wear and tear on the property."

One bride who ante’d up in 2004 was Kelly Croce, daughter of former

Philadelphia 76ers president-turned-motivational-speaker Pat Croce. In

a feature on the Kelly Croce-Jeff Borg wedding in Modern Bride

magazine, the bride is quoted as saying that despite the grand venue,

"a formal event with the huge dress and candelabras just wasn’t me."

Working with wedding planner Melissa Paul and caterer Peter Callahan,

Croce kept it low-key but elegant – she chose not to have a wedding

cake; rather guests were offered a choice of mini mango sorbet and

chocolate chip ice cream cones, Key lime pie, and sour cream chocolate

chip cake. (Croce, who has since joined her father in a new

enterprise, a pirate museum called Pirate Soul Museum in Key West,

just gave birth to her first child, a girl, on January 9, named

Pascale, a nod to her father, whose first name is Pasquale.)

Top Of PageGrounds for Sculpture

There are two best-kept secrets in Hamilton for weddings and Grounds

for Sculpture is one (see Sayen Gardens for the other). A mesmerizing

sculpture called "Nine Muses" is its own kind of altar. A grouping of

several components carved from Vermont granite, it took artist Carlos

Dorrien, a faculty member of the art department at Wellesley College,

seven years to complete.

According to a written description of the work provided by Grounds for

Sculpture, "Through its title, medium, appearance, and arrangement,

‘Nine Muses’ is suggestive of ruins and triggers association with

statuary from Egypt, Greece, pre-Columbian sites, and other past

civilizations." I just want to get married there. Oh, shoot, I already

am married.

Roxanne Klett, corporate and private events marketing manager at

Grounds for Sculpture, says there is a flat fee of $1,500 to have your

ceremony at "Nine Muses" and a per chair charge of $2. "You can bring

in flowers, chuppahs, whatever you want, but because it’s technically

a museum whatever you bring in you take out. Nothing can be nailed or

stuck in the ground." The site is booked typically between mid-May and

October – Klett has booked 18 weddings for 2006 so far.

While Grounds for Sculpture used to rent out the Domestic Arts

Building and water garden for receptions, it no longer does that.

"It’s important that people realize that the reason we are not having

events in the Domestic Arts Building and the water garden anymore is

because people come from very far away (to see Grounds for Sculpture),

and if they come and see it’s closed (for a wedding), they’re

disappointed," Klett says. "The board of directors and Seward

(Johnson)’s idea was to have a very specific space for events, so that

the museum exhibit areas can always remain open to members and the


On Thursday, February 9, Grounds for Sculpture will host an open house

to showcase its newest building, the Seward Johnson Center for the

Arts. It will maintain a museum atmosphere housing many works of art

including "Capriole" by Lin Emery, a fabricated aluminum sculpture

that comes from a building that was destroyed on 9/11; "Time for Fun,"

a painted cast aluminum work by J. Seward Johnson, Jr.; "Dream a

Little Dream," a polychromed steel sculpture by John Martini; "Sigh

(The Morning You Left)," a poplar wood and steel piece by Jesse Moore;

and "Moon Song," a work of Belgian black marble and Italian marble by

Harriet FeBland, among others.

Another popular wedding venue on the property is Monet’s Bridge, a

three-dimensional interpretation by Johnson of Monet’s 1899 painting

"Le Bassin aux Nympheas," depicting the Japanese foot-bridge over the

water-lily pond at Giverny, the original of which hangs in the

Princeton University Art Museum. It is a picture-perfect setting.

Chris Carrell, catering manager at Rats Restaurant, which is adjacent

to the bridge, explains that during the ceremony guests are seated on

the terrace right outside the restaurant, and they can look across the

water just a short distance to the bridge. "I give the officiant a

wireless microphone, so everyone can hear. Sometimes we’ll have a

(classical music) trio on the terrace. For the processional, the

bridal party walks along the water and because of the greenery, they

appear, then disappear, then reappear. It’s really beautiful."

Ceremony fees run from $400 to $800 depending on the time of year

(it’s less expensive in less popular months), says Carrell, and brides

are required to have their reception at Rats Restaurant. Adjacent to

the terrace is the dance pavilion, a covered octagonal building that

can be open for live entertainment and cocktails. "Everybody just

really enjoys the atmosphere," Carrell says, "What’s really nice about

the weddings here, is allowing the guests to make choices."

Instead of the standard chicken or salmon choice of wedding fare,

guests at Rats are given a limited menu that changes with the season.

"There’ll be a warm or chilled soup, depending on the season, a choice

of three appetizers, a choice of three entrees – last summer one of

our entrees was seared sea scallops with corn risotto, cherry tomato

salad, and a red wine reduction – and a choice of three different

desserts plus the wedding cake."

Prior to coming to Rats, pastry chef Peter "Max" Dierkes worked at the

Pink Rose Pastry Shop and won Best Pastry Chef in Philadelphia for

four straight years, awarded by the readers of Philadelphia City

Paper, and he has also won a pastry championship in the Cayman


Carrell, who has organized weddings for 14 to 185 guests, says another

plus of the restaurant is that brides don’t have to bring in flowers.

"There is already so much color here, great vibrant colors, from the

blue water goblets to the hand-painted show plates that frequently

change. Mr. Johnson changes things to keep people on their toes."

Carrell suggests that instead of numbering the tables, the bride might

name the tables after special places they’ve been, such as the Grand

Canyon, and place a framed photo of herself and the groom on vacation

there. "Or, for a spring wedding, you might name the tables after

herbs such as rosemary, and have a terra cotta pot with each fresh


Top Of PageSayen Gardens

Frederick Sayen was an avid gardener and world traveler who purchased

a 30-acre parcel of land in 1912 not far from the family rubber mill

in Hamilton Square. His wife was Anne Mellon, scion of the renowned

Philadelphia Mellon family. Sayen built a bungalow-style home on the

grounds, reflective of the Arts and Crafts movement but with a strong

Victorian-inspired motif, and surrounded it with plants and flowers

acquired from his world travels. The collection includes species from

China, Japan, and England. According to Harry Robinson, Sayen Gardens’

master horticulturist, the grounds are home to more than 1,000 azaleas

and nearly 500 rhododendrons, as well as more than 250,000 flowering

bulbs along walking trails, fish ponds, and gazebos.

"Many plants, grown from specimens Sayen brought back from Europe, are

approaching 100 years old," says Charlene Thompson, coordinator at

Sayen Gardens and a board trustee. She says wedding ceremonies can

take place on many parts of the property but the most popular is the

temple garden gazebo, which requires that the reception take place in

Sayen House. For Hamilton residents, the fee is $495 for a five-hour

event; $800 for non-residents. The six-room house includes tables,

chairs, linens, china, crystal, and silver, as well as a bar with

regular barware. Also included in the fee is a parking attendant

guard. The capacity is 110 for a sit-down dinner and the property uses

an exclusive caterer.

An alternative is just to have your wedding photos taken at Sayen

Gardens. Thompson will arrange for a permit, and the fee for Hamilton

residents is $75 for one hour; $100 for nonresidents. For a garden

ceremony and photos but no reception, the fee for Hamilton residents

is $100 for one hour; $150 for nonresidents. It is $50 for every

additional half-hour. Thompson says that the monies earned go back to

the maintenance of the gardens and programs such as scholarships for

Hamilton high school students.

Top Of PagePrallsville Mill

If you want rustic, you’ll want to look at Prallsville Mill in

Stockton, a circa 1720 wooden grist mill, later changed to a stone

grist mill by John Prall in 1794, at the juncture of the Wickeckeoke

Creek and the Delaware River. Placed on the National Register of

Historic Places in 1973, the entire property became part of the D&R

Canal State Park in 1974.

"We started doing weddings 10 to 15 years ago," says Edie Sharp,

executive director of the Delaware River Mill Society, which was

formed 30 years ago to fund the property’s restoration. "When we

started we might have done 10 weddings a year, now we do about 52

weddings a year; we can do one Friday, Saturday, and Sunday." She says

the mill offers an "amazing photo opportunity. Inside everyone marvels

at the acoustics in the mill. It’s a site that is very special; people

will always remember it. You do have to embrace it; it is a historic

site. I do want people to realize the historic significance of the


Sharp says the venue, which has brand new heating and air

conditioning, is "a blank slate that adapts itself to very modern and

rustic decor. The interior is very simple and plain, so it can really

work for all ranges of tastes. We’ve had an Oriental wedding, very

spare and dramatic, with just one long table and a specially woven

panel down the center, and a Colonial theme, with pumpkins. We have an

album of weddings that people can look through." The fee for a 10-hour

rental is $1,675.

The newly-renovated carriage shed, available for small weddings up to

50 guests (the fee is $1,000), can also be an upgrade for the bride

who is having a tented wedding on the lawn or inside the mill. For an

extra $300, the carriage shed can be used as a private enclave for the

bride or bridal party to dress or it can be used in a Jewish wedding

for the groom to sign the papers before the ceremony.

Top Of PageChimney Hill Estate

OK, museum, sculpture garden, stuffy old mansion, whatever. What if

you want to just bag the whole Martha thing and elope? Your mother

will kill you but so what – isn’t she the whole reason you’re eloping

in the first place? But the more you think about it, the more you

think, "Gee, it would be swell to at least wear a way fabulous dress

and maybe just have my best friend and her boyfriend come. And then, I

don’t know, maybe it would be kind of cool to have a cake to cut. But

the rest of the nightmare? Forget it." How do you do it?

"We’ve done weddings through the years," says Terry Anderson, who with

her husband, Richard, has run Chimney Hill Estate in Lambertville

since 1994. "But we started to get calls from people looking for a

more intimate wedding, people who didn’t want to spend all that money

and have all that pomp and circumstance. Then over time people started

to call and would ask if they could just have four or six people. We

had nothing in place for that."

So Anderson, who is president of Preferred Inns of New Jersey and vice

president (and past president) of the Bucks County B&B Association,

devised an elopement package. "Our first elopement was just the

couple, Richard and I, and the mayor. The bride wore a wedding dress

and the groom wore a tuxedo." The package, which starts at $1,595

($150 more on weekends) is strictly limited to the bride, groom, and

up to four guests. It includes a ceremony on the grounds, a wedding

officiant, bridal bouquet and boutonniere, photography for the

ceremony and bridal portraits, a gift certificate for dinner for two

at Marsha Brown in New Hope, champagne and a small wedding cake for

bride and groom and up to four guests, one night accommodations for

the bride and groom in the luxurious Ol’ Barn Inn Suite, and breakfast

served to the newlyweds’ room in the morning. There are various

add-ons such as a carriage ride through Lambertville and in-room


Anderson knows that weddings can spiral out of control. "Your average

big wedding costs $45,000. You could have bought two cars or put a

down payment on a home for that. People get caught up in the spin.

Your wedding is no longer about you and your love. It’s supposed to be

about you and your commitment. An elopement is for people who enjoy

the purity of the moment." Elopements at Chimney Hill Inn are "really

private," says Anderson, and take place between noon and three p.m.

(check in time for regular guests is 3 p.m.), so no one else is


If an elopement sounds too small and a regular wedding too big,

Chimney Hill also offers an "intimate wedding" package. Anderson is

strict about the definition. "It is absolutely limited to 25,

including the bride and groom. Anything over that is a regular


The package, starting at $1,995 ($150 more on weekends) includes all

the same elements as the elopement package, as well as a reception in

the carriage house (assorted hors d’oeuvres can be added for $35 per

person). From start to finish, including the ceremony, it’s a two-hour


Chimney Hill Estate, formerly owned by the Hunt family, has been

featured in Country Inns magazine and Country Living. "Many people who

get married here have already stayed here previously – they often want

the same room. Couples are so at ease here. People have always been

attracted to Chimney Hill as a picture postcard kind of place. They

come in here and feel warm and fuzzy."

Note: The following listings include only venues and vendors mentioned

in this article, with the exception of wedding showcases.

Top Of PageVenues

Andalusia, Andalusia, PA, 215-245-5479,

Cairnwood, Bryn Athyn, PA, 215-947-2004,

Chimney Hill Estate and Ol’ Barn Inn, Lambertville, 609-397-1516,

Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, For

information on wedding ceremonies at "Nine Muses," call 609-689-9134.

For information on wedding ceremonies and receptions at "Monet’s

Bridge" and Rats Restaurant call Chris Carrell, 609-584-8576.

Hopewell Valley Vineyards, Hopewell, 609-737-4465,

Hunterdon Art Museum, Clinton, 908-735-8415,

James Ward Mansion, Westfield, 908-272-2929,

La Follette Winery, Belle Mead, 908-359-8833.

Newark Museum, Newark, 973-596-6068,

Prallsville Mills, Stockton, 609-397-3586,

River Horse Brewing Company, Lambertville, 609-397-7776,

Rose Bank Winery, Newtown, PA, 215-860-5899,

Sayen Gardens, Hamilton, 609-587-7356,

Top Of PageWedding Planning/ Catering

The Catering Company, Blawenburg, 609-466-4022.

Euphorbia, Lawrenceville, 609-896-4848,

Main Street Fine Catering, Rocky Hill, 609-921-2777, ext. 2,

Top Of PageWedding Showcases

The Catering Company, Blawenburg Market, Routes 601 and 518,

Blawenburg, 609-466-4022. Sunday, February 12, noon to 4 p.m.

Featuring the Catering Company’s foods, Shop Rite Liquors, music by

John Bianculli, flowers, photos by Kevin Birch, wedding cakes by Annie

B’s Confections, Adams Party Rentals, location information.

The Nassau Inn, 10 Palmer Square, Princeton, 609-688-2634,, Sunday, March 12, 1 to 3:30 p.m. Fashion show,

bridal exhibits, door prizes, DJ and band entertainment, hors

d’oeuvres, and cake sampling.

Holiday Inn Monroe, Forsgate Drive, Jamesburg, 609-655-4775, Tuesday,

February 21, 7 p.m.

Marriott Trenton Hotel, 1 West Lafayette Street, Trenton,

609-421-4000, Sunday, March 12, 1 p.m.

Top Of PagePhotographers

Lewis Kassel Photography, Lawrenceville, 609-466-0267,

Patten Photography, Hightstown, 609-426-9689,

Phil Kramer Photography, Philadelphia, PA, 609-497-1600 or


Top Of PageIt’s All About the Food

We couldn’t do an article on weddings without including something

about food, so we asked Mary Harrison, wedding planner and owner of

Euphorbia, and Teri Lands from Main Street Fine Catering in Rocky

Hill, for their top 10 food tips right now.

1. As an hors d’oeuvre have waiters pass tomato soup in shot glasses

with mini grilled cheese sandwiches on the side (consider a gourmet

cheese like Gruyere).

2. Serve French fries in paper cones with Tabasco ketchup.

3. Offer mini hamburgers, even mini BLTs.

4. Put a twist on the dessert portion of the reception with an ice

cream tasting, such as from Bent Spoon on Palmer Square.

5. Another fun dessert idea is to have waiters pass milkshakes in

martini glasses.

6. Offer an "old school" candy bar: serve a buffet of your favorite

retro candies from your childhood like candy necklaces, Sky Bars,

Necco wafers, Good & Plenty, candy cigarettes, Smarties, and Pixy


7. Hold a wine tasting with an attendant during the reception as an

interactive activity for guests.

8. Put an upscale twist on the current chocolate fountain craze by

offering every imaginable dipping item – pineapple, strawberries,

bananas, marshmallows, pretzels, and graham crackers.

9. Entertain the kids with a

frost-and-decorate-your-own-wedding-cake-shaped cookie station.

10. At the end of the reception, near the valet parking, offer to-go

coffee in personalized cups with cookies in simple paper bags.

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