Today we begin a new series that showcases distinctive spots for intimate weddings all over New Jersey. We’re beginning close to home with a small venue, Main Street Manor in Flemington. The owners Ken and Donna Arold gave us a tour of the inn and Donna sat down for an interview.
Here’s our interview:
BNJ: Donna, How did you get started doing weddings?
Donna: I worked with brides for many years as a spa director. I was responsible for working with them to coordinate all the things that they had to do to get ready for their big day. I coordinated all their spa, hair and nail appointments. I’ve always loved working with brides. When Ken and I bought the inn we felt it would be a perfect venue for small weddings.
BNJ: What makes this place great for weddings?
Donna: It’s the spirit and the feeling of the place. It’s perfect for intimate weddings. There’s an evocative warmth and an elegance about it that’s distinctive. We strive to be more involved with our guests. We want our couples to feel as though the Inn is ‘their house’ for the wedding. We encourage them to bring personal photos and mementos which we place throughout the Inn to make it really feel like home.
The Inn has a huge amount of common space, perfect for an elegant, sit-down dinner party or a butler passed cocktail party. The flow of the house with its two parlors, and large dining room make it comfortable for guests to enjoy a private chat in a cozy corner of the library while others meander through other parts of the house or the veranda outside.
BNJ: How do you handle the food for the reception? Do you do it yourself or do you have it catered?
Donna: We’ve worked with several local caterers and based on the vision of the couple, we steer them in the proper direction of the type food they want and how much money they want to spend. Sometimes when couples want to be ‘hands off’, we’ll work with the caterer on their behalf. It’s a matter of whatever works for the couple.
BNJ: What is the funniest thing that’s ever happened at one of your weddings?
Donna: We actually hosted a wedding here before we owned it! What happened was that there was a woman who grew up in Flemington and had always fantasized about getting married in this house since she was a little girl. Well, she called Maryjane the former owner and asked her if she could have her wedding here. Based on her wedding date, Maryjane told her that the inn was under contract and that we would be the new owners by that date. She told the bride she would have to ask us if we were willing to throw a big wedding party the first week of owning the place. When Maryjane called me, lunatic that I am, I said “Sure!”
I got in touch with the prospective bride to plan the wedding and all the details. Maryjane was kind and patient and gave us the run of the house to plan the big day. We met several times working out the details of the event; planning her entrance down the beautiful staircase, the flow of the day, the food, the photos, the harpist, everything. We had it all covered … except for one thing. The closing date for the purchase was postponed for a week at the last-minute over bureaucratic issues. We now would be hosting the wedding in an inn we didn’t own yet!
Well, what’s an owner (or almost owner) to do? We proceeded as planned. We had no choice. Maryjane was an angel about the whole thing and let us invade her inn with all of our china, linens, refreshments and flowers the day before the wedding. With all of our planning and a huge portion of understanding from Maryjane, the wedding came off without a hitch.
BNJ: Do any of your couples actually get married at the inn or are you just a wedding reception venue?
Donna: All but one of our 18 couples has gotten married at the Inn. Most will exchange vows in the front foyer, but we’ve had several couples request the library. This spring we had an intimate wedding on the lawn in the back garden.
BNJ: Do your couples ever take their honeymoon at the inn afterwards?
Donna: Yes, some couples do. We even have a special package for that. Our couples can get married, have the reception and spend their honeymoon here.
BNJ: What’s the most unusual wedding you’ve ever had at Main Street Manor?
Donna: I would have to say that the most unusual wedding was a wedding we hosted here at the Inn last June. Ellie and Yoshi were living in the UK at the time, but Yoshi was being transferred to the US and they wanted to get married here so they could be together.
Yoshi was born in Japan and Ellie was born in England. They met in the UK where they both were working at the time. They found us via the internet and came to the United States to meet my husband and myself and to look at the Inn as a possible wedding venue. They loved the Inn (and us!) and booked the entire Inn for their wedding weekend. Yoshi’s family came from Japan; his Mom and Dad and his sister and her husband. Ellie’s family came from England; her Mom and Dad and her brother and his wife. For both families, it was their first time in the states and the groom’s Japanese family did not speak a bit of English.
It was the bridal couple’s goal to have their wedding be very personal and hands-on. They made favors for their 20 guests themselves; little desserts out of felt, all hand-done by the couple. They were absolutely beautiful! They arrived the day before the wedding with buckets of fresh flowers; peonies and yarrow and pots of fresh herbs which the family arranged themselves.
The two Moms, , despite the language barrier, created a wedding wreath together made of grapevine & fresh flowers as a backdrop to the wedding ceremony. It was the most touching thing to see them working together on something for their children. They couldn’t communicate through words, but their emotions and love were expressed through that wreath. They made ‘buttonholes’ (a British term for a boutonniere-sort of pin-on flower) the morning of the wedding after breakfast and the whole family helped.
Ellie, who is a pastry chef, had made little fancy pastries for the wedding guests, rather than the traditional wedding cake. The pastries were displayed on tiered cake dishes and the cloth on the table was made by Ellie’s grandmother and had adorned every cake table throughout at every wedding for generations. This wedding was so unique and so personal and we just loved being a part of Ellie & Yoshi’s beautiful day! We’re still in touch with them; they’re very special to us.
BNJ: What is the largest wedding that you can handle at Main Street Manor?
Donna: We can handle weddings and receptions up to 45 guests in the warmer months of April through October because we can use the veranda. In the cooler months, November through March, we can host parties of up to 35. Now that the gardens in the back of the inn are ready we hope to hold some larger tented parties and events.
BNJ: How many weddings have you hosted at the inn?
Donna: We’ve hosted 18 intimate weddings here at the Inn in 4 years and we’ve got 2 more scheduled for later this year. We feel very lucky to have been a part of our couple’s special day. It means the world to us.
BNJ: What other types of celebrations have you hosted?
Donna: We’ve had bridal & baby showers, anniversary parties, birthday parties, sweet 16 parties, Christmas parties, reunions, elopements for 2 and all kinds of themed ‘weekend escapes’. We also host corporate luncheons and private ‘afternoon teas’. We pride ourselves on not being cookie-cutter and we enjoy working with each customer to bring their vision to life. That’s the fun part for us!
Main Street Manor is located in historic downtown Flemington in Hunterdon County in Central Jersey.