Grounds for Sculpture
Chimney Hill Estate
Wedding Planning/ Catering
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
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
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,
theknot.com and partyspace.com, 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
"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
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, www.andalusiahousemuseum.org.
Cairnwood, Bryn Athyn, PA, 215-947-2004, www.cairnwood.org.
Chimney Hill Estate and Ol’ Barn Inn, Lambertville, 609-397-1516,
Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, www.groundsforsculpture.org. 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, www.jameswardmansion.com.
La Follette Winery, Belle Mead, 908-359-8833.
Newark Museum, Newark, 973-596-6068, www.newarkmuseum.org.
Prallsville Mills, Stockton, 609-397-3586, www.drms-stockton.org.
River Horse Brewing Company, Lambertville, 609-397-7776,
Rose Bank Winery, Newtown, PA, 215-860-5899, www.rosebankwinery.com.
Sayen Gardens, Hamilton, 609-587-7356, www.sayengardens.org.
Top Of PageWedding Planning/ Catering
The Catering Company, Blawenburg, 609-466-4022.
Euphorbia, Lawrenceville, 609-896-4848, www.euphorbiashop.com.
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,
www.nassauinn.com, 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, www.pattenphoto.com.
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
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.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.