Takes a Village
Country-chic weddings created with DIY style
As a child of the 1970s, Zhenya Pomerantsev says his family did what many in Belarus did. They spent summers at their dacha, a country home where they had an allotment of land to grow fruits and vegetables. Flash forward to 2007, when Pomerantsev meets and falls for James Waldinger, who invites him to the Waldinger family’s retreat—a dacha in the Berkshires. “My first thought was: Where are the potatoes?” says Pomerantsev with a laugh. He asked if he might develop a small plot at the Canaan, New York, home, and five years later it evolved into a sprawling garden and the inspiration for his blog, “The Feral Gardener.”
When the couple decided to marry, it was obvious that they would do so in the Berkshires—so their nearest and dearest could experience the area in person. “The Berkshires is our happy place,” says Waldinger, CEO and founder of Artivest, an online platform for alternative investing.
Pomerantsev and Waldinger—or #Pomerdinger, because everyone needs a hashtag, jokes Waldinger—selected the Round Stone Barn at Hancock Shaker Village for their venue. “The sheep and chickens are going to be at the cocktail hour,” says Waldinger. The grooms wanted the wedding to feel homemade and authentic, which meant personal touches like a hand-drawn chalkboard menu, homemade salt mixed with herbs from their garden, and a chuppah adorned with flowers from the dogwood tree where Grandpa Irving’s ashes are buried.
With the area providing so much natural beauty, the DIY wedding trend is driving interest in the Berkshires. Couples come here looking for a quintessential barn or outdoor ceremony, says wedding planner Lyndsey Hamilton. “The challenge with this wedding was they married in a real barn with actual animals,” says Hamilton, a part-time Lenox resident and member of the Berkshire Wedding Collective, a one-stop-shop of elite vendors for discerning couples.
Tara Consolati, founder of the Berkshire Wedding Collective, describes a DIY wedding as “farm-to-table food, where the china looks like it came from your grandmother’s cabinet and the flowers seem like they were just thrown into a vase.”
When Yo-Yo Ma’s daughter, Emily, marries in September in Tyringham, it is expected to be a luxury wedding, which can run hundreds of thousands of dollars. More typical destination weddings run $100,000, giving a boost to our economy. Above the cost of the actual wedding, Consolati adds, “There are all the guests who need a place to stay, and dine out, and put gas in the car.”
Pomerantsev and Waldinger wanted a rustic/chic look, so Hamilton headed a team of local vendors. Manu Kingston of rEvolve in Great Barrington customized the lighting and furniture out of reclaimed and recycled wood. After power-washing the stone barn, dining tables were set up on the circular second floor, which overlooked the dance floor. Crocus Hale Flowers of Lenox incorporated peonies and flowering vegetables from Pomerantsev’s garden in breathtaking arrangements. “When I saw those flowers, I cried,” says Pomerantsev, a lecturer of Russian language and literature at Fordham. SoMa Catering in Richmond prepared a locally sourced menu. With sawdust underfoot and twinkling lights overhead, the barn’s transformation into an elegant, inviting space astonished everyone.
The fashion-savvy grooms wore matching navy-blue tuxedos with suspenders from the Ludlow Shop by J.Crew, with Waldinger in a black bow tie and Pomerantsev in a white one. Their matching wedding bands were made from a single piece of white gold by their friend, Mikhail Rakov, who designs for Tiffany. Their 200 guests flew in from Kiev, London, and Toronto, and the men wore suits, while ladies opted for cocktail dresses of bold prints. “We told women that, unlike any other wedding, they can wear white,” says Waldinger, whose mother took him up on it.
Consolati calls Hamilton a genius at creating the DIY look—something that few couples can fully organize and do themselves. In the case of the Thornes, though, that is exactly what they did.
Lily Thorne and Simon Davenport wanted a modern/country wedding but had a strict budget of $20,000. So, Thorne’s family got creative. “For months, my family went out into the woods to forage for moss for the centerpieces,” says Thorne, a West Stockbridge native and merchandise manager at Bird, a Brooklyn-based fashion boutique. She wanted to get married at the Barn Gallery at Stonover Farm in Lenox, but it was beyond their means. Fortunately, her parents are friends with the owners, who agreed to a bartering system—Thorne’s father, Peter, did inn sitting, built doors, and refinished counters.
“I call it a DIE wedding: Do It Everybody,” says Peter Thorne, a woodworker, who carved numbers out of solid walnut for each table. Aunt Kate of Kate Baldwin Catering in Richmond catered the affair. Aunt Amy baked the cake. Aunt Molly and the groom’s mother threw the rehearsal dinner.
Having a budget actually was freeing for the couple. “One look on the Internet, and you can be overwhelmed by the napkins and linens,” says Davenport, a copywriter at Macy’s and musician with Adiós Ghost, who played at the wedding. “A budget is comforting because it eliminates choices.”
Two days before the wedding, Thorne and her mother, Sarah, an interior designer, selected flow-ers from family friend Anna Mack of Wild & Cultivated in Sheffield. “I felt that whatever was fresh right now was the right choice,” says Thorne. Hours before the ceremony, dozens of guests helped assemble the arrangements and set up the barn with red-berried plants and white linens hung from the ceiling.
It was close, but the couple stayed within budget—even with the expense of a luxury port-a-potty and the bride’s lace gown, custom-made by Brooklyn-based designer Rachel Comey. “It’s the one thing I didn’t skimp on,” says Thorne about her dress. Davenport wore a Rag & Bone suit, and guests brought Brooklyn cool, sporting tattoos exposed under chiffon slip dresses and Baby Bjorns over gray suits.
When the newlyweds finished their ceremony, the crowd cheered. Thorne passionately called it “a parade of joy!”