June is the perfect month for getting married in beautiful southwestern Vermont. Except this year, of course – which figures to be the worst in memory for the area’s numerous wedding venues, as the Covid-19 pandemic has imposed restrictions on public gatherings and deterred people from traveling.
Most of the weddings normally taking place at four popular local venues are “destination weddings,” with the couples and most of the guests coming from out of state. Right now, Vermont requires a 14-day quarantine for out-of-state visitors, which makes the classic weekend wedding trip an impossibility.
According to Lindsey Leichthammer, president of the Vermont Association of Wedding Professionals, Vermont hosted 5,665 weddings in 2019, 46% of which involved couples “from away.” The Association estimates that the average wedding package in Vermont is $30,000, for the venue and other services surrounding the ceremony.
Not only have the venues lost business, but the ripple effect of cancellations extends to local caterers, bakers, florists, photographers, musicians, DJs, and lodging establishments. Leichthammer quotes a figure of $164 million as the economic impact of Vermont’s wedding sector in a normal year. This year, that figure will plummet.
Hubble Homestead at Colgate Park, Bennington
Not a single wedding is still on the books for 2020 at the Hubbell Homestead, located on West Road two miles from Old Bennington, which has been in the wedding business since the 18th century.
The story goes that when the frame of the house was raised in 1769, the Rev. Jedediah Dewey, knowing a match when he saw one, proposed that Joseph Rudd marry Sarah Harwood without further delay. The couple is said to have kneeled “at a rude altar” while he performed the ceremony.
The Homestead, with stunning mountain views, can accommodate up to 350 guests under its own 60 x 90-foot tent. The good news is that most couples that had to cancel this year have reserved for next.
Mount Anthony Country Club, Bennington
That’s also the case at the Mount Anthony Country Club, located on the rolling green slopes below the Bennington Monument.
The Country Club, which has just opened its restaurant, the Grille, for the season under Vermont’s firm safety protocols, is suffering from many event cancellations in addition to weddings.
But Maru Leon, Director of Marketing, Creative Services & Special Events, sees a silver lining in Vermont’s much-praised response to the coronavirus (the state was recently rated among the safest in the nation). “That’s both an attraction for those beyond our borders and a danger for all of us unless protective measures are taken. We are doing our best to adapt. We have lots of space, and we’re finding that people are quite happy to have their socially distanced dinner at a table on the lawn.”
Park McCullough House, North Bennington
A third standby for weddings and special events is the Park-McCullough Historic Governor’s Mansion in North Bennington. The elegant 1865 mansion, the carriage barn, and four acres of grounds at the edge of the village have made it a local favorite for ceremonies and receptions.
This year, one smaller wedding is still scheduled for later this month, but others have canceled or postponed. The Mansion is bending with the times, and events involving music, wine, and movies (on a new outdoor screen) are on the books in regulation-compliant forms.
The Henry House, North Bennington
The latest entrant to the local wedding scene is the 1769 Henry House in North Bennington, whose new owners took possession one year ago. Anyone who has passed by lately may have seen what a little TLC has done to a historic building, now open as an inn with a capacity of 13 guests.
A tent for as many as 300 guests can be pitched in the spacious backyard, but the premises are especially well scaled for smaller weddings, with lodging for the principals available (and a small barn is being repurposed as a groomsmen’s cabin).
A couple of smaller weddings are still on for later this summer. How many wedding destinations feature an old covered bridge across the street?
The good news is that 2021 figures to be big year for Vermont weddings, at least if the current health crisis abates. Reserve now before all weekends are taken!
Start planning your wedding today by visiting our Vermont Wedding page.
Did you Know?
Robert Frost, who moved with his family to nearby South Shaftsbury in 1920, wrote a sonnet, “The Master Speed,” to celebrate the marriage of his daughter Marjorie in 1933. “No speed of wind or water rushing by/ But you have speed far greater,” it begins. The speed Frost imagines for the couple lies simply in their remaining steadfast against “the rush of everything to waste.” They know, the poem concludes, “That life is only life forevermore/ Together wing to wing and oar to oar.”
Frost’s own marriage to his high school sweetheart (and co-valedictorian) Elinor White was such a partnership, ending only with her death in 1938. The poem’s final line now serves as Elinor’s epitaph on the tomb she shares with her husband in the Bennington Centre Cemetery in Old Bennington.
To celebrate the centenary of the Frost family’s move to Vermont, the Bennington Museum will be opening a special exhibition on Robert Frost’s life in Bennington County on August 15.
— Phil Holland, a resident of Pownal, is the author of Robert Frost in Bennington County.