A Tale of Two Weddings

Sure, the Finger Lakes Region is beautiful and if you’re from here, it’s a logical place to get married. But for the Brongos and the Zellers, this area was more than just a setting for their weddings; it was the overarching theme of their events. Both couples were married at different spots on Keuka Lake, but the awesome lake views were only the beginning of their weddings’ Finger Lakes theme.

Dave and Margaret Brongo incorporated the regional flavor into their invitations, place cards, centerpieces, goodie bags and guest book. Jef and Tricia Zeller turned their wedding into a four-day event featuring local hotspots and activities that would make out-of-town guests want to come back for a visit.

Here are some creative ways they played out the Finger Lakes theme.

Great grape invitations
Because Margaret and Dave were getting married at her mother’s vineyard, they decided to use pictures of grapes to decorate their invitations. Their invitations were handmade and featured a close-up photograph of grapes from her mother’s vines.

Good goodie bags
When Dave and Margaret’s guests checked into their hotels, they were given goodie bags from the couple. The bags were actually Wegmans’ reusable shopping bags with grapes on them, and inside each were homemade cookies, Keuka (QKA) magnets, mints, travel brochures, and a copy of Life in the Finger Lakes magazine.

Cork place cards
Because Dave and Margaret are wine lovers, they have collected plenty of corks, including many from local wineries. They had seen professionally made cork place card holders online but were shocked at the price. To save money, they decided to make their own by shaving off one side of each cork and cutting a slit in the opposite side. A card with a guest’s name was then slipped into each cork.

Lake-loving centerpieces
Instead of having a fancy floral arrangement at each table, the Brongos chose to have their centerpieces feature specific Finger Lakes, including the smaller ones. Each table had two clear plastic frames: One held a picture of a lake, and the other frame had a list of facts about that lake and reasons why it was special to the couple. For example, Dave and Margaret’s first date was on Hemlock Lake, she went to summer camp on Owasco Lake and her husband lived on Conesus Lake.

Gorgeous guest book
Rather than opting for a plain-Jane guest book, the Brongos used Kristian Reynolds’ Finger Lakes Panoramas book for guests to sign. Many friends and family members chose to sign pictures of lakes that held special meaning to them. For instance, on the picture of Honeoye Lake, Dave’s cousin drew an arrow to where the Brongo family has its picnic. Another guest wrote, “This is our lake,” on Reynolds’ picture of Cayuga Lake.

Pre-wedding wine tour
Because many of Jef and Tricia Zeller’s guests were from out of town, the couple decided to introduce their visitors to the area by hosting a wine tour two days before the wedding. “We rented SUVs and went to some wineries around Keuka Lake,” explained Tricia. “We even stopped at a brewery on that lake, too.” Their guests enjoyed the outing so much that afterward some of them booked their own wine tours.

Rehearsal dinner with a view
These days, the rehearsal is not just for the ceremony, it’s like a practice for the reception as well. It is essentially a pre-party party. With that in mind, Jef and Tricia wanted a place that would impress guests, and Esperanza Mansion filled the bill. The stately rooms combined with the bluff-top view of Keuka Lake made it a perfectly intimate and romantic precursor to the wedding.

Stunning ceremony site
Since Tricia works at Keuka College and her mother is an alumnus, the family feels a connection to the school. Therefore it was a logical choice to hold the wedding ceremony at the college’s Norton Chapel. But family connections weren’t the only reason they chose that site. “You’re not going to find a chapel like that with the beautiful woodwork and exposed organ pipes,” said Tricia. “Plus Keuka Lake is right across the street, so we were able to take pictures with the lake in the background.”

Lakeside reception
Because they wanted to expose their guests to another lake besides Keuka, the Zellers chose Ventosa Winery on Seneca Lake for their reception. The winery overlooks vineyards and the lake, making it a scenic setting for a wedding gala. It also offers great vistas for wedding pictures. The couple was even allowed to take pictures in the winery’s cellar, which is normally closed to visitors. Another advantage to choosing a winery for the reception site is this: plenty of good wine!

After-party at a castle
Just as the party doesn’t start with the reception, it doesn’t end there either. Jef and Tricia decided to move their party to Belhurst Castle when the reception ended. Since they were spending their wedding night there anyway, it was a logical choice for continuing the festivities in a cozy, intimate and elegant setting.

For these couples, putting the focus on the Finger Lakes meant they were able to share their favorite locales with their loved ones. It also gave their out-of-town guests an opportunity to learn about an area they may never have discovered. “Where some of my family lives is very flat, so they don’t see hills and that type of beauty,” said Tricia. “This was like a mini-vacation for them.”

Tricia recommends the Finger Lakes as a great place to get married no matter where you’re from. “This would be a great place for a destination wedding!”


by Kari Anderson Pink