North Fork Weddings: Bending and breaking with tradition

BRIAN DORSEY STUDIO COURTESY PHOTO | Wedding guests dance at a reception at Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue last summer. Local wedding experts say some traditional dances like the father-daughter dance is still well-loved on the North Fork, but organized dances like the Electric Slide are no longer common.

Some things never change when it comes to wedding tradition, local wedding experts say. There’s almost always a bouquet, a white dress, an “I do” and a big bill.

But some rules of thumb are bending and breaking.

Traditionally, the bride’s family is responsible for most of wedding’s cost, said Southold resident Maria McBride, the wedding style director of BRIDES magazine. But that trend is changing.

“Today, tradition is much less important than financial practicalities,” said Ms. McBride, who has also authored a series of six books, including one titled “The Perfect Wedding.”

Ms. McBride said many couples save money for their weddings and are increasingly covering main wedding expenses and making major money decisions. When parents help, she said, the groom’s family typically pays for the rehearsal dinner and the bride’s family signs the check for reception expenses.

And the parents will often receive in return — perhaps in addition to a lifetime of love and thanks — dances with their newly-married children.

“The father-daughter dance is a well-loved tradition and it’s expected that they will dance the entire song,” Ms. McBride said.

Amy Finno, senior vice president of marketing and events at Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue, agreed that the father-daughter dance has remained a popular tradition, but other staple dances have seen their way right out of North Fork venues.

The once-popular Electric Slide and Macarena are things of the past at North Fork receptions, she said.

“We’ve had some really great bands play here — some have played some rocking Motown and everyone has a great time,” she said. “But there’s less organized dance.”

Ms. Finno said other long-loved traditions like decorating the bride and groom’s limousine and even the throwing of the bride’s bouquet have begun to disappear.

“I think the North Fork is trending differently than the catering halls,” she said. “The venues out here are beautiful, tented spaces with gorgeous landscapes and I think a lot of people are keeping it more simple.”

She said she still sees the best man and maid of honor making the traditional toast to the bride and groom, and some newlywed couples give their own toasts to each other and to their guests.

A lot of couples are turning the traditional wedding structure upside-down, according to Jim Fallon, director of sales at Hotel Indigo East End on West Main Street in Riverhead.

Mr. Fallon, who has handled wedding transactions for the past three decades, has noticed for the first time the emergence of the “3-on-2 wedding,” a type of reception he finds to be a new trend specific to the North Fork.

Such a reception calls for a three-hour party with hot food and lots of hors d’oeuvres, followed by a two-hour party in a ballroom with dessert, champagne, live music and dancing.

“The party never stops, but it’s almost like having two weddings in one,” he said.

The first part of the evening, a sort of cocktail hour, is often accompanied with a half-dozen internationally-themed food stations, he said. Some couples choose for the second part of the reception to transform the ballroom into a nightclub.

He said he’s seen longtime traditions like removing a bride’s garter belt or even cutting the wedding cake slowly go away.

“A lot of people are looking for alternative weddings,” he said. “Things are changing.”

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