Friday, January 2, 2009


When Josh and I were engaged, we briefly entertained the idea of a semi-destination wedding for ourselves and our guests who would be traveling largely from the New York and Boston areas, with the exception of Josh's immediate family traveling from the mid-west. We booked the Eisenhower House in Newport, Rhode Island and local church for August 14, 2003.

The tented-wedding-in-high-summer scenario got the best of me and I lay awake for three nights fretting over the caterer's stories of outdoor wedding mishaps. Then we cancelled in Newport and began the search anew, here at home in the Hudson Valley. My Brother went on to have the wedding and tented reception at the Eisenhower House in 2007; they have stronger entertaining nerves than I did then. It was lovely, not a drop of rain in site.

I would not change the places at which our wedding events occurred for all the world. I still find the majestic architectural beauty, unparalleled views, and the staggering power of all the history that has occurred, been educated, and have yet to arrive at West Point, a singularly moving and nearly otherworldly experience. We were blessed, truly, to have been welcomed at West Point even as we were to become a Navy family, and our friends there facilitated a perfect compromise: The West Point marriage of a daughter of this commanding and resplendent river valley and a military man of a now rare and dignified order. In the fall - as bespoke all my favorite Hudson River School paintings. No. I would not change a thing. That is my valley, no better place on earth for me.

But weddings and what drives them to individual perfection are as different as snowflakes. And my capacity here is to consider all manner of entertaining, all brand and stamp of beauty. I promise to do so, however, I am bored to tears with beach wedding photos, and not even for you, my prized compatriots, will I conduct any even half-interested cataloging of places where one must struggle on sand with wispy hair-do's to get to the ceremony. I cannot even point you to the hostess who will review this for you at this point; I think many have had their fill for the moment. It will come back around one day soon, but, for now, let's go some place else, shall we?

Say... Yorkshire? United Kingdom. One could be married at Carlton Towers. Sounds modern, yes? Reminds me of the new residence tower in Boston but it is nothig like it, obviously:

This is a marvelous place for horsey and hunt types: Equestrian events, falconry,
heliocopter trips...

The Picture Gallery, Carlton Towers, Yorkshire, UK

There are fifteen guest rooms or so (5 ready in 2009), and the Carlton family continues to live in house as well. You might care to stay in the The Old School Room
"A capacious four poster bedroom with four windows overlooking both the park and rose gardens."

City kitty? Florence has to be one of my favorite cities in the world, while I cannot say enough good about the Hotel Lungarno, it is not set up for weddings of more than a few guests. The Grand Hotel Firenze, on the other hand...

And what an enchanted place for breakfast the morning after your Florentine wedding.

Lake Geneva, Switzerland, possibly? This is the singular Chateau de Chillon

The roof deck of the glittering Four Seasons Singapore, cosmopolitan and exotic all at once:

Finally, and in finale, one of the most beautiful hotels in the world and a place I haunted mightily not long ago, and will again:

The "gentle breeze", the magnificent Raffles Hotel Singapore.

In the course of my professional and personal travels, I've been in more hotel rooms than the Gideon bible in more towns than I could name without a globe before me. I am here to tell you, you will live a long life packing and unpacking as I have and never find a hotel which is as aesthetically pleasing, historically relevant, architecturally dominant, or as adept at the "gentle breeze" of hotel service, perhaps invented at, but certainly perfected by, Raffles: Naturally, they know your name and are expecting you, but somehow, visit after visit, they have observed and quietly learned your preferences and tastes for all things: I only ever had to waive cream and sugar away from a coffee service once over five years of breakfasts there, and only had to mention just once that I preferred to sit on the sunny side of a room, and stay on the Palm Court side of the hotel. "Hotel magic," the hospitality schools call it. Call it magic if you want to, but it is one that is not shared by all five star hotels and which eludes the Four Seasons and Ritz hotels. If you choose to have an event at the Four Seasons Singapore because the roof is so amazing, it is still best to secure rooms at Raffles. For accommodations, the two are not in the same, or even neighboring, leagues.

While there, you should visit the Long Bar Steakhouse where Frank Cavendish the Malaysian planter and British national, one of so many notable guests, came to Raffles to find a bit of peace and luxury every weekend. At the hotel, where he relaxed with a Whiskey Stengah (a British colonial favorite of half whiskey, half soda water) and the Long Bar Steakhouse menu remains dedicated in part to his preferences (Dilly Bread, aged steaks, Lyonnais potatoes among others); Cavendish, said to be a notoriously handsome and reclusive chap, met a young woman with whom he had a brief fling while she visited Raffles. To this day, it is mentioned with a sense of sadness by the staff and guests alike that the young woman, a novelist, went on to write a book about their affair at the hotel. Thus bringing both Cavendish and Raffles a seeming endless stream of curiosity seekers until the end of Cavendish's life. He hardly had a peaceful weekend at his sanctuary again.

If you know the hotel, you can surely see how our young novelist must have been taken with her surroundings and the gentleman planter with a regular weekend suite. The spot has lost none of the romantic glow she found there at the turn of the century.

While it would be lovely to have a wedding ceremony outdoors in the Palm Court, incase of inclement weather, there is a lovely alternative: Juliblee Hall.

You'll have some talented stylists for help with your event. This is some of their work:

The hotel is entirely suites. This could be your parlor, I can almost feel Cavendish's spirit lingering in here:

And you can lay your head in the bedroom of the same room. What an enchanting place to awake on your wedding day:

Drop by the spa, for a treatment and a nap here - you'll need your rest:

Before you leave, be sure you have a Singapore Sling and a Stengah in the Long Bar where they were both invented. While there, you can throw peanut shells on the floor because unlike the rest of Singpore, you will not be fined $500 for doing so. And then move on to the Steakhouse for an outstanding meal with a decidedly masculine appeal or to Raffles Grill:

I love a good destination-hotel wedding. Makes everything seamless for those of us traveling a great distance.

Congratulations to all those newly engaged this season. Your grandest host and hostess moment lay squarely before you. I know you'll be fabulous. But should you feel challenged, you can always refer to these outstanding wedding blogs for inspiration:

What Junebug Loves

Snippet and Ink

Modern Vintage

Style Me Pretty


Bart Boehlert said...

Wow, what a thorough post! Many good ideas. I am enjoying your blog, and your might like mine too:
I also live in NY and toil in the fashion biz...

pve design said...

Inspiring for any bride or any wife to reminisce of her wedding day. Our wedding was in Kentucky, 20 plus years ago and I loved the fact that so many traveled to be there, while my immediate family (which is large) felt right at home. I think destination weddings will become harder for those to finance, given the current economy as well as all the airline snarls and security.

Blushing hostess said...

BB - already a dedicated subscriber!

PVE - oh if only! The exhausted and massivly pregnant Hostess has already rec'd warnings, er, I mean, Save-the-Date cards for both DC and Central America! From your typing fingers to God's ears, however! :)

Be well, Catherine