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Thinking of tying the knot? Have you ever dreamed of hosting a destination wedding? Why travel half-way across the world, when the air is perfumed with romance on the North Shore? By Stacey Marcus

Hollywood producers think our little corner of the universe is ripe for filming romantic moments. Kevin James and Leslie Bibb enjoyed their horse trot across Crane Beach while recently filming Zookeeper. Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds’ romance blossomed in The Proposal when the backdrop of Rockport magically transformed into Sitka, Alaska. Cameron Diaz also got a glance of why the North Shore is an ideal wedding destination when filming The Box at Turner Hill.

Lucky New Englanders have oodles of options to revel year-round in the North Shore’s glory. Four spectacular seasons, a craggy coastline, quintessential New England charm, and inviting venues with inspirational menus are just a few of the reasons to celebrate in style here.

“The North Shore is an ideal spot for a wedding because of the seasons and the landscape,” says Maureen Allen, director of marketing at Harborside Catering. “We have the gardens and farm estates in the spring with lush landscape and history; the beaches and shoreline in the summer for those nautical weddings; the foliage and harvest in the fall that provides a rich and decadent menu; and the winter for its traditional feel and whimsy.”

In celebration of the bounty of the North Shore and your forthcoming nuptials, we’ve assembled a team of tremendously talented experts to host your wedding tour through the North Shore. Whether you need to master the merengue, customize an engagement ring, or find a 30DD bra, we’ve got you covered.

Experts and Excellence Abound

People from around the globe travel to the North Shore to get married and can find whatever they need. “Right now we are waiting for the arrival from Pakistan of a bride who needed a 30DD for her gown fitting in Andover; we’re ready for her!” says Merit Tukiainen of Night & Day.

Local businesses treasure customers and have gotten creative in developing ways to attract and reward loyalty. “We ran a high-profile promotion where a couple would get a full refund on their engagement rings, up to $25,000 if it rained on their wedding day. One lucky couple who won exclaimed, ‘We have the only jeweler who hand-made us gorgeous rings, then gave us the deposit to purchase our condo,'” says Richard Berberian of Elyse Fine Jewelers-Gemologist.

Tim Hopkins of Timothy S. Hopkins Catering recently was presented with an unusual predicament: a bride-to-be brushed up against a freshly painted red door, staining the train on her dress. “I found some white Rustoleum Garden Furniture Spray, sprayed it over the red paint, and the stain disappeared,” he says.

Jeanne Hennessey of Lorraine Roy Designer Collections and Bridal Boutique is up for any bridal challenge noting that several years ago, she had a bride come in on a Saturday afternoon looking for a wedding dress. When asked when the wedding was, the bride answered, “Tomorrow.” “We were able to find her a dress and have it altered to fit her perfectly by the end of the same day,” says Heennessey. “She also found shoes and jewelry that were exactly what she was looking for.”

We asked out experts to tap into their creativity and expertise to weigh in on the latest wedding trends and tips. Read on to learn what’s hot in happily ever after.

Who’s Getting Hitched?

According to Trisha Schott of Hamilton Hall the average couple who comes to the historic venue for a wedding is 30 years old, educated, and has a career. Most couples live together and a large percentage of them pay for all or part of the wedding expenses. “The couples plan together, instead of the old-fashioned way of bride and mother planning everything,” says Schott. “Weddings seem to be smaller, with close family and friends attending. Weddings in general have become more sophisticated, simple, and elegant.”

What’s New in Menus and Venues?

Customization continues to be a big part of today’s weddings. Caitlin Nagrocki, of L’Andana says there are many couples who are rejecting the typical, traditional wedding that you’ve been to a million times-the Chicken Dance, brass candelabras and Chicken Supreme. “They are looking for something that will stand out in the minds and memories of their guests,” notes Nagrocki, who agrees with Schott that sophistication and elegance create today’s wedding ambiance.

Couples add special details such as a specialty linen and uplighting according to Lori Barcikowski of Celebrations Gourmet Catering at Merrimack Valley Golf Club, where couples can preview cuisine  options at the permanent Boxwood Grill, the on-site restaurant run by the Celebrations team at the club. Celebrations has served the North Shore for over 25 years, but their installment as exclusive caterer for the club is recent and exciting.

Creativity is also a favorite menu selection. Gourmet Catering’s Paula Marrero sees a prominence of organic and green themes and lighter fare receptions, such as smaller passed plates, cocktail parties, and dessert receptions. Turner Hill’s Carol Travers has also seen menus becoming very creative, noting the popularity of signature cocktails and late night snacks such as mini sorbet ice cream cones and French fries. Couples are also expressing their cultures in the flavor of their wedding.

In terms of preferred styles, Jennifer Waitkus of Latitude 43 reports that for off-site catering, guests are tending to migrate towards buffet-style receptions instead of sit-down service. “Guests are also opting for larger menu varieties with “small plates” or tapas-style tasting menus,” says Waitkus, who notes that when it comes to in-house events, “guests are either opting for more relaxed cocktail receptions with passed hors d’oeuvres and signature cocktails, or a higher-end, three– to four–course sit-down dinner, with special menus, unique centerpieces, splashes of color to mimic their wedding theme, and romantic lighting.” She also sees guests migrating toward more seasonal menu choices with fresh and local ingredients.

Another trend in menu design is adding elements of the brides and grooms culture, or interests into the theme that make for unique events and endearing details according to Laura Gifford of The Stevens Estate.

Creativity Takes the Cake

Hilary Larson of Eat Cake sees clients incorporating design elements indicative of family heritage into the wedding cake and also notes that while the presence of color has been trendy in previous seasons, her 2010 wedding clients are favoring the use of textures and patterns in subdued colors and/or a monochromatic palette.

While Larson sees her clients favoring a subdued palette, Lina Ochoa Hunter of Cakes by Design Edible Art sees her batter requests trending towards brighter colors including shades of blue, like turquoise, along with greens, such as aquamarine. “If you want your wedding cake to be colorful, then bright blues and greens are the colors that you should opt for,” says Hunter. “A great idea is to have tropical theme for your wedding cake, with turquoise, aquamarine and sky blue as the base colors for icing. Silver, white, light grey, and lilac will act as complementary colors, bringing your theme to life.”

Hunter sees hexagonal squares and shapes like cubes and layered hexagons rather than oval or circular designs as in vogue. She also notes that the chic “black-and-white” wedding cakes, with their lace-style decorations, and intricate details that combine nicely with those of your wedding dress are in style. Other cake trends she sees include cupcakes and smaller cakes: square cupcakes, a tower of cupcakes, mini cakes in geometric shapes, and towers made of square cakes.

Make a Statement with Color

Event planners and fashion experts agree that color and customization continue to be huge themes in fashion and event design. Event planner Janie Haas of Janie Haas Event Consulting notes several trends she is noticing in the industry. First she sees the use of color, not only in the decor elements of the wedding (linens, floral arrangements, etc.), but also in the wedding dress and bridesmaid dresses. Gone are the days of creams and beige! Another trend Haas is noticing is that many couples are incorporating green components in the planning of their weddings by using environmentally sound linens, eco-friendly favors, and organic food selections.

Heidi Nicholson and Lisa Almeida of Bella Sera Bridal agree with Haas that color is making its way into bridal attire but note that most brides are still wearing shades of ivory; however, true white seems to be making a slow comeback. The pair says that is very trendy to wear colored shoes under the gown. “We’ve seen every color-red, blue, yellow, hot pink-anything goes,” says Nicholson. They also see that brides are taking their time when choosing a gown.

Unique floral design that fits the color scheme, as well as taste, style, ideas and budget of the bride is a top priority for Petros Markopoulos, owner of Flowers by Petros. “Every wedding is a wonderful story in its own right, but happiness of the bride is key.”

Along with color, brides are adding a little bling to make a fashion statement. “The look in bridal has been strapless for such a long time, and we still see a lot of strapless dresses: however, we are seeing beautifully shaped straps with crystal embellishments, as well as more off the shoulder and even one shoulder,” says Lorraine Roy’s Hennessey.

The color in jewelry is white gold versus yellow gold, according to Lisa Ferraguto of The Jewelry Vault. Other trends she sees are lots of micro-pave diamonds, hand engraving, and an antique look that resembles a replica. “Everybody wants their ring to be special. Custom designed pieces are in vogue and our specialty here at The Jewelry Vault,” says Ferraguto.

Color is also making a big splash in groomswear and bridesmaid dresses. Jeff Gibeley of Giblees Tuxedo sees lots of suit rentals in black, navy, tan, and light brown, while Gayle Polcari of Bridesmaid Galleria says the color “lipstick” is hot for bridesmaids dresses. She also sees user-friendly fabrics like taffeta, chiffon, and natural silks. Cocktail length is still popular. “Many of the brides are choosing one designer and having the bridesmaids wear different necklines,” Polcari says. “I see a lot of dresses with pockets sewn in the seams. Bridesmaids are also loving what I call ‘concept dresses,’ a formal dress where you remove the bottom layer and voila! You have a cocktail dress.” Polcari has been with Bridesmaid Galleria since 1981, taking over the business when her mother passed away. She now sees a second generation coming in to outfit their bridal parties.

In the circle of life, a wedding is a one of the most treasured times. Why would you venture away from the North Shore? “The North Shore has it all when it comes to planning and throwing the wedding of your dreams. From high-end venues with gorgeous scenery to the best wedding professionals in the industry,” says Hennessey of Lorraine Roy. Say “I do!” to exploring the myriad of opportunities to tie the knot on the North Shore.

Ten Expert Tips

1 Design your ideal wedding and then try to include key components at minimal cost-not the other way around! Virtually any wedding budget can be met with the right changes. -Paula Marrero, Gourmet Catering

2 Plan, plan, plan, and then relax and enjoy your special day. -Petros Markopoulos, Flowers by Petros

3 Immediately after the couple books a hotel, reserve the photographer and entertainment. These are important vendors to book early. The rest can wait. Also, send out save the date cards. It’s a great idea to get the date out for family and friends to mark immediately on calendar. -Karen Cotton, Hawthorne Hotel

4 Try to establish a budget. Imagine yourself ten years from now. If possible, make your decisions (guest list especially) by thinking of where you will be in ten years. Sometimes that saves you money and brings you down to earth a bit. -Lyn Mason, Bradford Country Club

5 Remember what the day is about and don’t get caught up in excessive spending just to inspire oohs and ahhs from your guests. Chances are, it will look more like excess instead of well-chosen touches. -Hilary Larson, Eat Cake

6 It sometimes makes it easier to do some shopping with fewer people to start and then bring the entourage once the choices have been narrowed down. Most importantly-have fun and enjoy the wedding planning process! It flies by! -Heidi Nicholson and Lisa Almeida, Bella Sera Bridal

7 Bring in your bridesmaids’ colors and photos of arrangements or bouquets you like as a starting point to selecting flowers. -Doris Leonhard, Leonhards’ Flower Shop

8 Carefully screen every supplier of good and services you are considering. Reputations are earned over years, and the people you work with will help create memories that are both timeless and will last a lifetime. -Richard Berberian, Elyse Fine Jewelers/Gemologist

9 Establish a budget and open a checking account so you don’t have to ask Dad for every check. -Tim Hopkins, Timothy S. Hopkins Catering

10 Relax and have fun. When it is all said and done, your wedding day is a day that you will remember whether it all goes perfectly or not exactly as you imagined. Don’t forget to smell the roses in your centerpieces and enjoy your day! -Kelli Carberry, Nancy Chippendale’s Dance Studio



The Bridesmaids Galleria offers gorgeous bridesmaids’ gowns in an array of colors and in every price range. 480 Broadway, Route 1, South, Lynnfield, 781.598.5003,

Bella Sera Bridal carries designer samples in a variety of sizes, so you feel beautiful on your big day. 85 Andover Street, 2nd floor, Danvers, 978.774.4077,

Lorraine Roy Designer Collections and Bridal Boutique, is well known for their personalized service and fabulous designer dresses. 30 Maple Street, Danvers, 978.774.0825,

Night & Day is a full-service lingerie boutique. Offers bra fitting, undergarments and bridal lingerie, as well as shower gift items. 63 Park Street, Andover, 978.475.0343,

Giblees Tuxedos is an upscale tuxedo sales and rentals business offering all styles in stock. 85 Andover Street, Route 114, Danvers, 978.774.4080,


Eat Cake! specializes in fantastically indulgent celebration and wedding cakes that are made-to-order for its clients’ happiest occasions. By appointment. Newburyport, 978.465.6057,

Cakes by Design Edible Art bakes cakes that reflect a bride’s individuality-a great way to complement your special day. By appointment. 65 Bear Hill Road, North Andover, 978.975.8877,


Celebrations Gourmet Catering at Merrimack Valley Golf Club offers Distinctive cuisine and flawless presentation. 210 Howe Street, Methuen, 978.683.7771,

Gourmet Caterers is a full-service caterer, providing the finest-quality food, service and presentation for over 35 years. 3867 Washington Street, Boston, 617.522.2820,

Harborside Catering creates personalized wedding events that reflect your tastes and dreams, including personalized menus. 19 Inn Street, Newburyport, 978.463.3301,

Timothy S. Hopkins Catering is a chef-owned and operated business. For over 20 years they’ve been the force behind some of the North Shore’s best events. 8 Scot’s Way, Essex, 978.768.9990,


Nancy Chippendale’s Dance Studios specializes in teaching dance lessons in all areas of dance, including couples’ dances. 110 Sutton Street, North Andover, 978.685.5533,


Janie Haas Event Consulting offers clients expertise with regard to securing a resource or planning an entire event! 125 Coachmans Lane, North Andover,


Elyse Fine Jewelers/Gemologist features over 150 unique engagement and wedding bands to suit any style or budget. 95 Main Street, Reading, 781-942-4565,

The Jewelry Vault, prides itself on personalized service, creative and custom designs and quality merchandise. 41 Lowell Road, North Reading, 978.357.8472,


Flowers by Petros is a full-services florist also featuring pastries and fine chocolates, for all tastes, styles, and budgets. 36 Central Street, Ipswich, 978.356.0003,

Leonhards’ Flower Shop, creates floral masterpieces for weddings and events. Featured in Better Homes and Gardens three times. 87 Corning Street, Beverly, 978.922.4295


Alchemy Cafe and Bistro can be rented for parties up to 100 while rooms can be reserved for smaller parties. 3 Duncan Street, Gloucester, 978.281.3997,

Bradford Country Club features beautiful function spaces adjacent to the first hole for receptions, showers, and rehearsal dinners. 201 Chadwick Road, Bradford, 978.372.8587,

Hamilton Hall boasts a beautifully appointed ballroom, large enough to seat up to 160 guests, including a large dance floor. 9 Chestnut Street, Salem, 978.744.0805,

Hawthorne Hotel echoes a lost age of grandeur and elegance that is unique on the North Shore. 18 Washington Square West, Salem, 978.825.4358,

L’Andana can be transformed into an elegant ballroom with dining room for receptions, bridal showers or rehearsal dinners. 86 Cambridge Street, Burlington, 781.270.0100,

Latitude 43 has stunning ocean views, beautiful architecture, and features classic New England dishes with style. 25 Rogers Street, Gloucester, 978.281.0223,

Turner Hill’s grounds host gardens, a mansion, and an outdoor chapel providing a romantic setting for your ceremony. 3 Manor House Lane, Ipswich, 978.356.7070,

The Stevens Estate is the perfect site for weddings, ceremonies, fundraisers, corporate outings and more. 723 Osgood Street, North Andover, 978 .682.7072,