The Singular Sensation

An anything-but-off-the-rack celebration at Tarrytown Estate & Conference Center

The Singular Sensation

How one bride’s “outside-the-box” taste transformed her entire wedding

 

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By Catherine Censor

 

 

When 26-year-old Sara Gorfinkel first laid eyes on Tarrytown House Estate & Conference Center in Tarrytown, she had already looked at 14 other venues—in one weekend. “We live in Maryland,” Gorfinkel explains, “but most of my family is in the tri-state area and my fiancé’s family is from Israel. So we went looking for a venue close to New York City that was capable of accommodating people from all over.”

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Tarrytown House met their practical needs—the venue had the 100 hotel rooms that the couple needed for out-of-towners and it could accommodate a party for 215 guests—but not their aesthetic sensibilities. The bride-to-be “hated” the parquet dance floor, the burgundy décor (“my favorite color is orange”), the sound panels on the walls and ceilings, and, well, just about everything. “I never saw a single big space that looked good,” she admits. “How could any conference center or ballroom be appealing to anyone?” Still, she notes, she and her fiancé, Ron, adored Tarrytown House’s castle-like Biddle Mansion (one of several historic buildings incorporated into the conference center’s complex), its magnificent views of the Hudson River, and its beautifully landscaped grounds. They were also keen on Dave Smith, the venue’s wedding coordinator. “We instantly connected,” Gorfinkel says, admitting, “He was sometimes more marriage counselor than wedding coordinator.”

 

“I never saw a single big space that looked good. How could any conference

center or ballroom be appealing to anyone?”

 

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Gorfinkel eventually realized that she was holding Tarrytown House to an unfairly high standard. “It took a while to dawn on us that the place would look much better at night when you don’t see every little detail.” Nonetheless, the couple was determined to change the look of the room. “Our goal was to keep attention on things like tables and flowers and draw attention away from the sound panels and carpet.”

The pair hired A Most Creative Affair, an event-planning service based in Tarrytown, to help them transform the space and create a wedding that better reflected their “outside-the-box” tastes. “I kept pushing for quirky things,” Gorfinkel says. “I nearly gave Dave a heart attack.” What kind of “quirky” things? “I wanted to hang bunting from the ceiling—and that would require nailing it up. I also wanted fireworks, but it couldn’t be done because Tarrytown House is a historic site. Here’s a tip for other brides: if you want fireworks, do it on the water.”

In the end, Gorfinkel didn’t bother with the bunting. “We did spot-lighting instead and there were always stars and other things projected on the walls and ceilings. The lighting was,” she declares, “the best investment we made.” The couple’s lighting designer, Scott Funk of Lightworks Interactive, “really understood how we wanted to transform the room.” And although his services cost $4,500, they were worth, she says, every penny.

What Tarrytown House’s Dave Smith, however, couldn’t figure out was how to hold the ceremony outdoors, which is what the couple originally wanted. “Up until the last minute, we were meeting with vendors to find ways we could stick two-hundred people outside,” Gorfinkel recalls. “But eventually we realized that it was going to be too cold, so we decided to have it inside—in the room Dave had shown us on day one.” A key piece of the ceremony’s décor was the couple’s chuppa, designed by Michael George of Hybrid in Pound Ridge. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t the usual. “We used Michael George because he was the only florist who understood what we wanted. He got that minimalist look that we wanted.” The white gauzy fabric of the chuppa was lit from behind in light that gradually shifted colors to create an ethereal, warm feeling.

For the reception, a few clever tricks helped transform the décor. “We ordered chair covers that were sleek and white to take concentration away from the floor,” Gorfinkel says. “I didn’t want to see that burgundy carpet—it would have really clashed with the other colors I’d chosen.” The room got an additional dose of help from Michael George who installed “trees” of bittersweet around the dance floor and orange roses on the tabletops. “Orange makes me smile,” Gorfinkel says. “And my middle name is Rose, and my engagement ring is shaped like a rose, so roses were all around.”

Guests were seated at tables decorated with photos of the couple taken in places they had been together. “I tried to seat friends from California at the table featuring a photo of us in California. Sometimes, the person who took the photo was seated at that very table.” For dessert, in addition to wedding cake from Scarsdale’s Pâtisserie Lulu, a trio of sorbets, and crème brulee, guests helped themselves to the “make-your-own” sundae bar. The couple’s names were spelled out in light across the dance floor and Gorfinkel twirled in her dress by Ulla-Maija, a dress she accidentally designed herself. “I tried on the sample in soft white but I ordered it in ivory. I got a call from the bridal salon informing me that the designer had never made it in ivory before—only white. Did I still want it in ivory? I said, ‘You bet!’” Fittingly enough, she was married in a mass-produced dress made just for her.

 

CAPTIONS

The bride didn’t want a traditional floral chuppa so Michael George of Hybrid in Pound Ridge used panels of white, gauzy fabric lit from behind to create this contemporary look. The aisle glowed with orange-colored rose petals and pillar candles.

 

 

Designing the cake, from Pâtisserie Lulu of Scarsdale, was Gorfinkel’s favorite part of the wedding preparations. “Every time we met with them, they gave us cake and coffee,” she says. “We kept looking for a pretext to drop by for more.”

 

 

To honor an Irish relation who raised her, Gorfinkel hired a bagpiper to play “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” as he preceded her down the stairs to her wedding ceremony.

 

 

Rabbi David Rosen, the former Chief Rabbi of Ireland, flew all the way from Israel to conduct the wedding ceremony.

 

 

Chairs at the ceremony were arranged so that the bride and groom could see all their guests, like this bridesmaid, as they exchanged vows.

 

 

The couple’s wedding rings rest on a cloth embroidered with their monogram and                      wedding date.

 

 

The couple brought in their own white dance floor to cover the venue’s parquet. Their lighting designer, Scott Funk of Lightworks Interactive, used the floor as a screen to project their names.

 

 

Guests were seated at tables decorated with photos of the couple taken in places they’d been together.

 

 

 

The music was a raucous mix of musical styles, including Israeli pop.

 

 

After the ceremony, the happy couple savors the moment.

 

 

Gorfinkel, in her customized gown, Etoile by Ulla-Maija, says she “felt like a star” on her wedding day.

 

 

Sara and Ron’s Wedding Resources

Location: Tarrytown House Estate & Conference Center, Tarrytown (914) 591-8200 www.tarrytown houseestate.com, Event Planner: A Most Creative Affair, Tarrytown (914) 631-7475, www.amostcreative affair.com, Florist: Michael George of Hybrid, Pound Ridge (914) 764-1154, www.michaelgeorge customfloral.com, Lighting Design: Lightworks Interactive Inc., Ronkonkoma (631) 588-0491, www.lightworksinteractive.com, Photography: Noam Shlomo of Tel Aviv, Israel

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