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For East Coast brides dreaming of an idyllic countryside backdrop for your wedding day, look no further than the Finger Lakes region in New York. If the idea of gently rolling hills, vineyards and dramatic lake views makes your heart swoon, the Finger Lakes should definitely be on your short list of destination wedding locations.
Named for its distinctive lakes that were carved by glaciers eons ago, the Finger Lakes are an impressive feat of nature: The two largest, Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake, are hundreds of feet deep and measure nearly 40 miles in length. While May through October is prime wedding season here, the ever-present backdrop of these waterways make each season special.
"The early setting sun in the winter months lends itself to amazing candlelit sunset ceremonies," says Heather Davidson, Director of Events at the Inns of Aurora on Cayuga Lake, one of the region's most sought-after venues. "Some of my favorite weddings have happened just after a fresh snow, with couples brave enough to head outside for snowy photoshoots, only to come back in to enjoy hot cocoa by the fire with their guests." A bespoke collection of historic residences that have been transformed into hotel offerings, the Inns of Aurora added Wallcourt Hall, a 1909 property, to its collection earlier this year.
Readily accessible by car, buses and flights bound for Ithaca, Rochester or Syracuse, N.Y., the Finger Lakes have long been a popular vacation destination for families, couples and group getaways — which is perfect for weddings, too.
"The Finger Lakes region truly offers something for every member of the wedding group," says Nicole Mahoney, Regional Director of the Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council. In addition to "outdoor activities galore," Mahoney cites local culinary experiences; shopping and antiquing; and cultural offerings, including museums and historic landmarks, as popular year-round activities. In recent years, the region's celebrated wine trails have inspired other self-guided foodie tours including a cheese trail, a sweet treat trail, and even several beer trails.
Home to more than 120 wineries, the Finger Lakes is one of the largest wine producing regions in the U.S. For brides interested in learning more about wineries that double as wedding and reception venues, the Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Association has a wedding-planning page that's a great place to start your research. Likewise, each of the 14 communities of the Finger Lakes have their own visitor information website, which include detailed listings for local accommodations, wedding venues and so much more.
These online resources will give you a feel for the types of places that give the region its charm, but before making any big decisions, your surest bet is to spend a few days on the ground visiting prospective sites in person — you'll know in your heart what feels right. Besides, a long weekend in the Finger Lakes, in the name of "research?" That sounds like a win-win situation.