Yours for the Picking
Buying this hill formed by a glacier with 360-degree views overlooking the Connecticut River “was not a rational act,” says Bob Jasse, a 75-year-old retired CEO and owner of Alyson’s Orchard in Walpole. “It’s an active passion.”
This passion drives he and his wife Susan, a well-known chef, to do only one wedding a weekend — maybe 25 total each year — at their orchard. Because they are not driven or constrained by rules (“except by what my wife tells me,” says Bob) they can create “joyous, happy events with enough latitude to give brides comfort.” This means they can accommodate more offbeat requirements or honor idiosyncratic requests of brides, and tend to be more flexible — other words, as their Web site states, “Not just your garden variety wedding.” There is a function room on premises, as well as on-site lodging. Hundreds of acres of land include not only spectacular views but also ponds where guests can go swimming or fishing. “It’s gloriously beautiful,” says Bob. “I am told repeatedly that the people are inspired by the breathtaking beauty of the place.” Alyson’s Orchard, Walpole
A Mountaintop Retreat
For three weeks in June, acres and acres of purple lupines create a stunning backdrop in the land-scape surrounding Sunset Hill House in Sugar Hill. Called LupineFest, it’s the reason why June is one of the first months to sell out for weddings at Sunset Hill House. But other seasons offer their own advantages at this grand inn surrounded by majestic views of five mountain ranges: fall’s foliage is spectacular, and the winter wonderland found in the colder months is also magical. This is the fifth year for owners Nancy and Lon Henderson running the inn. Before that Nancy worked in army protocol, welcoming guests up through presidents and heads of states. She says two things make their inn a unique setting for a wedding: views of the surrounding mountain ranges, and the ability to welcome large groups up to 300 while maintaining a small environment. “The bride is the queen with her magic wand, we do her bidding and make sure everything’s perfect,” she says. From the welcoming and rehearsal dinner right on through the good-bye brunch, the couple and their guests have the entire inn for the weekend. In between there’s hiking, golf, and all the other amenities the inn and its environs offers.
Sunset Hill House
Room with a View
Built in 1874, the Wentworth By the Sea was, in its heyday, was considered one of the state’s grand dame establishments. But 25 years ago it closed and fell into disrepair, until this magnificent lady was rescued and reopened again almost a year ago. “It was restored to much better than what it was when it closed, so it is spectacular in design and decoration — and absolutely beautiful,”
says Kelly Soucy, catering manager for the hotel.
All of the hotel’s guest rooms have views of the water, whether it’s cove or harbor or ocean. And although the ballrooms don’t have direct views of the ocean, that doesn’t stop guests from enjoying the water vistas. The Garden Ballroom is on the lower level of the hotel and actually has door to a veranda which loops around to the front of the building and the harbor. “That way you can be outdoors in the summer for cocktails and in and out throughout the evening,” says Kelly. The Wentworth Ballroom has a view of the front foyer and solarium where the harbor and ocean sides are located. And if you’ve had enough of the water views from your room, the atrium area for the Grand Ballroom also offers spectacular views overlooking the garden.
The Wentworth does about 60 weddings a year for 50 to 220 people, and summer is by far their choicest season, peaking from June through September. “We are definitely a resort destination,” says Kelly. “We have three pools, three hot tubs, a full spa, and we’re right down the street from golfing.” In addition, the hotel often books boating excursions for wedding parties. One thing that sets the Wentworth apart from other hotel wedding venues is the different style of service it offers. “We use the presidential style service,” says Kelly. “So the servers actually take a plate in each hand, form a line over to the table and make a circle around it. At the signal, all plates go down at the same time, and then the servers line up to go out.” Kelly says it’s quite impressive to see. “People love it. It’s like a show stopper.”
Wentworth By the Sea Hotel
Most people choose to get married at a country inn because they want their family and attendants to stay with them, says Cyndi Cobb of the Colby Hill Inn in Henniker. “In a lot of ways families and friends can come together for longer periods of time than just the wedding and reception, so it’s more like a destination as opposed to just going to a wedding.”
The inn usually does a mix of a lot of smaller weddings that tend to be under 50 people from the area who want a small, intimate ceremony and dinner to larger events under tents in their garden. “Our guests have had a lot of different ways to have their weddings,” says Cyndi. She says she’s done a casual poolside buffet with volleyball, badminton, bocce and lawn chess. But she’s also done smaller, more formal sit-down dinners inside the inn. Last year they hosted an English couple who had lived in Hong Kong for a time. “They had an eclectic group of friends from all over the world staying at the inn for the weekend. At the wedding reception they had 100 Chinese lanterns in the tent, specialized flowers, and pence baked into the cake for good luck.” Plus, the couple had taught swing dancing, so Cyndi and her husband arranged for guests to have swing dancing lessons on their back lawn during the weekend.
“We can’t do everything perfectly, but we know what we’re good at,” she says. And what they’re good at is adapting to their guests’ needs, especially when it counts. For instance, when Cyndi and her husband first starting running the inn there was a wedding where the bride forgot the cake knife. So Cyndi ran home, dug around in her hope chest and got the cake knife from her wedding day. “I cleaned it up and shined it and used it for that wedding. Well, that knife has now cut hundreds of wedding cakes through the years. I hope that’s good luck; after all, we’ve been married after so many years.”
Colby Hill Inn
Pick up your copy of BRIDE for a list of some of the top reception sites in New Hampshire.
This article appears in the December 2004 issue of New Hampshire Magazine