Rustic country barns, historic landmark inns and homesteads on the National Register litter the Genesee Valley. That scenery, combined with a convenient driving distance from Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, make it an ideal area to host a wedding.
More and more couples seek venues that encourage guests to visit together comfortably, and share in other group activities besides the actual ceremony and reception. The venues here encourage exactly that, featuring overnight accommodations, restaurants and bars, open spaces like porches and lawns, and much more. Here’s what the Genesee Valley has to offer.
NIGHT ON THE TOWN AT BIG TREE INN
The Big Tree Inn is a landmark brick building on Main Street in Geneseo, with 125 years of history and hospitality. The charm of the surrounding small village makes it inviting and convenient for a wedding. Socializing on the expansive porch is a Big Tree tradition.
The Tavern – a full bar and grill – features cozy dining areas situated near the front of the building for lunch and dinner. There are eight guest rooms upstairs and ample onsite parking in the rear.
Restored in the past few years, the interior space reflects much of the elegant, ornate detailing of an earlier period. With the addition of the event center, it continues to maintain its charm and intimate feeling of the main building, while providing seating for up to 150 guests. There are two side rooms for small functions.
The garden provides a place for an outdoor wedding ceremony of 75 guests or less. The photo opportunities are endless with the greenery, grand staircase and front parlor.
The event coordinator, along with the Big Tree’s chef, plan with the couple, suggesting dinner options from standard fare to ethnic or contemporary meals tailored specifically to their needs. Bridal couples celebrating their wedding reception at the Event Center are invited to spend the first night of their honeymoon in a complimentary luxury suite at the Inn.
Location: 46 Main St., Geneseo
Contact: Dan Mullin, general manager
Phone: 585-243-5220 Website: bigtreeinn.com
BEHIND THE SCENERY AT THE GLEN IRIS INN
The Glen Iris Inn, originally the home of William Pryor Letchworth, has welcomed guests since 1914. The stately inn is within the 14,350-acre Letchworth State Park in Castile, which is often called the “Grand Canyon of the East” by tourists. There is a winding park road to the inn and a waterfall pool garden upon arrival.
The wedding ceremony may be located a short distance outside the inn, overlooking the Middle Falls of the Genesee River. Guests are seated in chairs on the lawn for the service, and the reception is held in a cathedral tent on the side of the inn away from the public.
Letchworth Park provides numerous scenic overlooks, wooded spots and historic areas for photography. There are accommodations at the inn, The Pinewood Lodge, park houses or camping in the cabin area. A historical museum is also across the road.
There is a wedding coordinator for the entire event. Rafting, hiking, hot air ballooning and horseback rides may be planned in advance for groups. Casual rehearsal parties with a barbeque meal may be arranged at the picnic pavilion.
The Glen Iris Inn has a full dining room that serves three meals a day, as well as a gift shop, front sitting rooms and a spacious porch that is also open to the public.
Location: 7 Letchworth State Park, Castile
Contact: Denise Coffey, assistant general manager
Phone: 585-493-5803 Website: glenirisinn.com
EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ROSES AT SWEET BRIAR SPA AND RESORT
The Sweet Briar Spa and Resort is on the National Register of Historic Places. This homestead just outside the village of Geneseo offers five guest rooms, spacious and clean gardens for a wedding ceremony, and a heated tent.
Sweet Briar Farm is the name Horatio Jones gave to the land he was given by the Seneca Nation in gratitude for his part in helping to negotiate the Big Tree Treaty. Jones gave the name to the property because, even today, sweet briar roses grow abundantly across the fields.
In 1906, Winthrop Astor Chanler, an avid sportsman and foxhunter who had fallen in love with the Genesee Valley, bought the house and property overlooking serene rolling hills with magnificent sunsets.
Sweet Briar can seat up to 60 people inside in three adjoining rooms. For larger parties, there is a 60- by 90-foot white tent that will accommodate up to 250 guests. The tent is on a level, hard, carpeted surface and is connected to the house by a meandering flagstone sidewalk that was installed in 2006.
The event planner personally handles the details and catering. The facility provides the bridal party and guests with a private setting for their special time, including spa appointments. Weddings are required to rent the second floor accommodations for the night of the event.
Location: 5126 Mt. Morris Rd., Geneseo
Contact: Will Wadsworth, event coordinator
A WEDDING FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS AT WADSWORTH HOMESTEAD
Without losing the charm and history of the historic Wadsworth Homestead at the south end of Geneseo’s Main Street, it is now opening its doors to weddings and parties.
Built by James Wadsworth in 1800, the restoration and addition of conveniences to make a venue include the rental of the downstairs and five guest bedrooms. The south porch overlooks the virgin oak trees of the Genesee Valley, providing a view similar to the pastoral lands from 200 years ago. Spacious walkways to a tented reception area lit with lanterns in early evening hours provide a wonderful backdrop for photos.
The downstairs contains artifacts of the past and rich stories of family events, guests and galas. No new elements have been brought in from the modern world. The stairway turns 180 degrees in its ascent to the second floor, its elaborate, hand-carved railings and posts blending architectural elements from various eras.
A wedding planner is onsite to arrange catering and all other details. Downtown Geneseo is in walking distance. Activities for guests that include trips into the Finger Lakes wine country are suggested.
The fact that the Wadsworth family wishes to share this landmark site with the public makes for an unusual wedding venue that has only recently become possible.
Location: 4 South St., Box 127, Geneseo
Contact: Will Wadsworth, event coordinator
KICK IT IN THE STICKS AT WINGATE BARN
In the neighboring town of Livonia, a Wells barn built in the 1920s with an open-style high ceiling, wide plank board floors and large doors can be utilized for a wedding venue of up to 220 people. The red barn overlooks a working cornfield, and is an area landmark for parties in the community. The new owners (they’ve owned for the past five years) enjoy sharing the barn, so the site has become an ideal wedding venue in the area.
The barn can be rented for the weekend and includes full electrical service. The sprawling chandelier inside is a focal point that can be worked into any decorating theme, from burlap to lace, from Mason jar table decorations to silver candelabras.
The owner provides a suggested list of services including catering, and can be hired as the event coordinator if so desired. The couple, friends and family decorate with a theme, working together on the process. Cleanup is part of the renters’ responsibility.
There is ample space on the lawn for games, an outside deck area for bar services and an archway for a wedding ceremony. There is a bride room for preparation, as well as general restroom facilities.
There are no accommodations on the premises. However, there are motels in nearby Geneseo and Mount Morris, as well as in Rochester. Shuttle services can be arranged.
Location: 6653 Big Tree Rd., Livonia
Contact: Dolores Cicero, owner
by Kay Thomas