From vineyards to historic buildings and vast open spaces, the North Fork offers many unique places to say “I do.”
And while the venue is perhaps the most important part of a wedding, it’s not the only thing a couple has to worry about. There’s the food, the flowers, the hotel and more.
So when planning a wedding here while living somewhere else, a lot has to come together — usually in a compressed amount of time — to turn a wedding day into a perfect day.
We recently spoke with three couples who chose to get married on the North Fork to see how they made it work with such spectacular results.
Joe and Allison Virgilio
Though it’s not her hometown, the North Fork has always been a part of Allison Virgilio’s life.
“I grew up coming to the North Fork a lot,” she said. “My grandparents had a house in Cutchogue. So when my husband, Joe, and I first started dating, it was very important to me for him to know the North Fork as well.”
Spending the day out in Greenport or visiting wineries became a common date scene for the couple, who live in Williston Park. When they got engaged in February 2016, the North Fork was the destination at the top of their list.
“We wanted something small and intimate, where it felt more like just a really great dinner party,” she said. “I feel like that’s what the North Fork offers. It can be super elegant and beautiful, but still have that cozy feel to it.”
The couple wanted not just an intimate setting, but also to move quickly — they had set their wedding date for August of that year.
“A couple of vineyards laughed at me that I was calling for that summer,” Virgilio said. The couple got lucky with Macari Vineyards in Mattituck, which was available for the date that aligned with the church ceremony.
“It just really worked for what we wanted for our wedding,” the bride said.
Cocktail hour took place on the deck overlooking the vines and among them below.
“Everyone just was really impressed by how different it was,” she said. “You just can’t beat that type of view — the barn in the background, and there was a killer sunset.”
She and her husband also wanted to make sure they used as many North Fork vendors as possible. Food was catered by Grace & Grit, fresh jams were sourced from Briermere Farms in Riverhead, North Fork Potato Chips were included in the guest favors and lavender from Lavender By the Bay in East Marion was used for place settings.
“The food was unreal,” Virgilio said. “I’m not even kidding when I say people are still talking about the food from our wedding.”
Initially unsure about the family-style catering Grace & Grit provides, she ended up being more than pleasantly surprised.
“At first I wasn’t totally keen on it,” she said. “But it worked out so beautifully and everyone again just thought it was so different.”
Virgilio said Grace & Grit founder Jennilee Morris successfully brought the farm-to-table freshness to the party that the North Fork has come to be known for.
“I love that Jenni went to the farmers market that morning,” she said. “And then the roasted vegetable medley was whatever was available — corn was in season, there were tomatoes, peppers.”
Maybe it was the location, the food, the favors or simply the orchestration of everything the North Fork had to offer, but the pair and their guests had an experience that was truly special.
“It was unlike any type of wedding [my guests] had been to before,” Virgilio said.
Ian McManus and Trey Williams
Ian McManus and Trey Williams have always had a place in their hearts for Shelter Island and the North Fork. McManus’ parents have a summer home on Shelter Island and the area is filled with memories of family and friends, which made it their first thought when it came to choosing a wedding location.
But with a guest list of about 170, venues on Shelter Island didn’t seem to have the capacity to hold the party they wanted. Passing nearby Brecknock Hall in Greenport one day, McManus decided to take a look.
“I got there and it took my breath away,” he said. “I actually put the deposit down before asking [Trey] to marry me.”
The venue encompassed everything the two were looking for, he said. The historical significance of the nearly 170-year-old mansion appealed to Williams, a history buff, as did the beautiful architecture, art and lots of space.
“It just really spoke to me because it was a classic venue, but with a North Fork twist,” McManus said. “That made it feel like home to us, and was something I think that really was important to me … something that really felt classic, but also homey.”
Once engaged, the couple excitedly began to recruit North Fork vendors to bring their dream day to life.
During the process, no one stood out more to McManus than caterers Plated Simply, especially because a menu that appealed to guests with all different diets was important to them. A raw bar with an on-site oyster shucker blew them away, as well as local fish, local wines and, a favorite of the area, North Fork duck.
“It was everything we wanted to be representative of [the North Fork], but also have our own taste within the region,” McManus said.
Not only did the food amaze, but McManus said the people made the day just that much more special, even down to the transportation company they used, M&V Limousines Ltd.
“We had just gotten married,” he said. “Probably one of the first people that came over to talk to us was the bus driver, who got off the bus. He said, ‘I can’t say how moved I was by what you guys just did.’ I was like, ‘Oh, thank you very much, it was very nice.’
“He said, ‘No, I’ve been waiting to get married to my boyfriend for years and we’re finally tying the knot, and seeing you two together just really, just really did it for me.’ I was so taken by that.”
It was the small touches from the North Fork, McManus said, those you wouldn’t expect on certain levels, that really made their day surreal. Even his parents, very familiar with Shelter Island, were impressed, he said.
“I took my parents to see the whole setup outside while everyone was having cocktail hour,” he said. “My dad just turns to me and goes, ‘Is this really for us?’ I think that they just couldn’t get over the fact that all of these things were in their backyard … they couldn’t believe that all of this had come together at Brecknock Hall.”
But nothing was more important to the pair than the idea that their guests felt at home, McManus said.
“Trey and I throw parties at our apartment and have dancing, drinks and food and everything,” he said. “We figured if we did something along those lines, and then took it up a notch — that’s all we ever wanted for our wedding. And I’m telling you, they had to pull people off the dance floor. Nobody wanted to leave.”
Erin Phraner and Alan Sytsma
When Erin Phraner and Alan Sytsma were choosing their wedding venue, they said, “it was like there was no other option.”
The couple quickly knew that Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue was where they would tie the knot.
“We wanted to get married in a spot that was meaningful to us,” the bride said.
Systma grew up in Michigan, but Phraner had grown up in Northport and trips out to the North Fork were common.
“My whole family spent a lot of time on the North Fork my entire life,” she said. “And so when Alan and I started dating, the North Fork was one of the first things I loved to share with him about my home.”
Greenport had been a particularly special place for Phraner and her family, which she shared with Sytsma.
“That’s where I took [Alan] the most, to Greenport,” she said. “So we knew that we wanted the base of the wedding to be in Greenport, and then wanted to find venues and things that were close by. It was such a special place to be, and to us seemed like a good fit.”
When it came time to choose the venue, Phraner said, “we wanted someplace where we loved the wine, and Bedell is still to this day our favorite wine out there. It was sort of a no-brainer.”
Bedell Cellars also captured the atmosphere the couple wanted, she said.
“The bright, clean, more modern look of the vineyard, in general, matched much more with our style — more modern minimalist,” she said. “Our wedding was really bright and airy. The look and feel of Bedell kind of checked off the boxes. That was the first place we went, took a meeting and we booked the date as soon as they possibly could.”
At the time, the pair both worked in the food industry and wanted to make sure the cuisine was front and center. It’s no surprise they chose Grace & Grit, a caterer that has become deeply rooted in the North Fork food scene over the years.
“We didn’t want traditional wedding food — we didn’t want crappy wedding food,” Phraner said. “I think that was the most important to us, and a mixture of the Bedell wine and Grace & Grit’s food — that was the perfect combo.”
The couple, who live in Brooklyn, wanted their special day to feel like a getaway, both for them and their guests.
“Even my family who lives on Long Island still had to travel out to the North Fork,” Phraner said. “We wanted someplace that felt like a really nice destination, but not that far from the city for people. We want them to feel removed from their everyday life. Like they’re not going back to their apartments.”
When the big day came in June 2016, the North Fork did not disappoint.
“People who are friends from out of state and our friends from the city who have never been to the North Fork before had no idea how magical it was out in Greenport,” Phraner said. “Everyone was blown away by the tone and by the atmosphere. People were kind of shocked that it was so close.”
The early summer wedding nearly had her guests in awe, she said.
“There were the most gorgeous flowers and sunset and people just kept saying, ‘This doesn’t seem real. It’s too pretty,’ ” Phraner said. “In general, I think for us, we wanted them to feel a little bit of an escape. And I think that being on the North Fork let us have kind of a destination feel without being too far from home.”