Wedding planning with the pros

So you just got engaged. Congratulations! The next step is to get married. And of course you want to get married in Saranac Lake, because there’s no better place to do it. So how does one go about making that happen?

Though I’ve lived through a lot of wedding planning with a lot of friends, I’ve never been married, so I thought I’d talk to a professional to write this blog post about planning a wedding in Saranac Lake. I talked to Katy VanAnden, who co-owns VanBee & Co., which does wedding planning as well as event planning, corporate events, and marketing and public relations.

I’m not sure about most wedding planners, but Katy said VanBee is very flexible: They can help with any individual aspect of a wedding — choosing a venue, booking vendors, or day-of management — or they can do the entire wedding start to finish. She even has three brides this year who are coming to get married in the Adirondacks from overseas, which means VanBee has to set up the entire wedding so the bride can step in just a few days before the ceremony and be ready to go.

Step 1: venue

Katy said the very first thing she advises people to do when they want to start planning their wedding is to find a venue. Having a good idea for the time of year helps, but you don’t want to get to married to the idea of a specific date. It’s better to find a venue that you love, then see when it’s available.

There are a good amount of venues in the Saranac Lake area for 100 people or fewer, but if you plan to have more guests than that at your wedding, it gets a little tougher. Some great venues include White Pine Camp, Ampersand Bay Resort, Mount Pisgah, the Saranac Lake Fish and Game Club, the Lake Clear Lodge, or you could be like my friends Rob and Danie and just get married in the street. (This is not exactly legal so don’t do it. Or at least keep it short and get out of the way of cars when they come through.)

Rob and Danie

They had a lovely reception at the train station. There are also places that aren’t ideal for a ceremony but would be great for receptions like the Red Fox and Nonna Fina. And hopefully the Hotel Saranac will be up and running again soon to host receptions.The hotel is a historic property that used to be where for decades everyone had their wedding reception, but it fell into disrepair for a few years and is currently undergoing renovations.

Each venue has a set of rules that go along with using it, like whether you can hang things on the walls or whether you can set up tents or how late you can go. Katy noted that’s one of the good things about using a firm like hers: You don’t have to do all the research yourself, and they can help you weigh the pros and cons of various places.

But when?

Summer weddings in Saranac Lake are, of course, super popular, because summer is arguably the best time to be in the Adirondacks (definitely, in my opinion!). Fall weddings are also popular due to the beautiful fall foliage, but peak foliage time is fleeting and it can vary widely from year to year. An early October wedding could have peak foliage one year, but the next year it could mean a snowstorm.

Katy advises brides to consider winter weddings. They can be breathtaking, and they are also cheaper because you aren’t dealing with peak season prices.

She also notes that brides looking at a venue in one season should keep in mind that the place can look hugely different if the wedding is held in a different season.

Tell everyone!

Once you have the venue and date set, you can look into sending out save-the-date cards. Generally you can send out save-the-dates as soon as you book your venue, but if you book more than 10 months ahead of time you might want to wait a little while. Katy generally recommends sending them out 8 months before your wedding.

There are plenty of options for making save-the-date cards and your invitations online, but if you want to go the extra mile to have special, localized cards, check out Gail Brill Design. Gail is a Saranac Laker who specializes in calligraphy, and she has done some amazing work over the years:

A beautiful save the date

and a lovely invite

Step 2: vendors

Once you have your venue and date set, the next step is to book your primary vendors: catering, entertainment, and design/floral. If you’re working with a wedding planner, they can help you create a design board, which is basically a more final, concrete version of that Pinterest board you’ve been pinning to ever since you had that ring popped on your digit. If you’re more the do-it-yourself kind of bride, consider making your own that narrows your Pinterest board down to a very specific style. It helps to show vendors so all the different elements coordinate better.

If you chose a venue with a built-in food system, then you are lucky enough to not have to worry about catering. Otherwise, you’ve got a variety of options to peruse. Most local restaurants will cater a wedding, and there are other private companies like Adirondack Chef Service that will cater as well.

Step 3: secondary vendors

Once you’ve got the main vendors nailed down, now you can start working on all the other things. You should look for your secondary vendors to do things like photography, videography, and make the cake.

You’re also probably starting to come up on the time when you need to send out invitations. They should be sent out about eight weeks before the wedding so you can get your RSVPs about three weeks before, which gives you time to map out a seating chart.  

Say yes to the dress

Of course, this whole time you’re shopping for dresses. Try to find one at least 10 months ahead of the wedding! It sounds crazy, but alterations often take eight months, especially if you’re in a remote place with fewer resources like Saranac Lake. Bridesmaids dresses take a little less time, but your bridesmaids should try to get their dresses picked out a few months before the wedding. 

Kristin said yes to the dress, plus some lovely hair flowers!

Other considerations

A few other things might be important to consider. Does your venue require you to get a liquor license? Is the venue owned by a village or a town (or even a school district) and require that you get permission from a local board? Plenty of places like the train station and the town hall are municipally owned. Do you plan on having fireworks at the reception? You’ll need to deal with a permitting process if you’re interested in any of those things, so make sure you look into what needs to happen with plenty of time to make everything happen smoothly — and legally!

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

The best thing about an Adirondack wedding is that it’s also a great place to get engaged, and it’s a perfect place to come for your future anniversaries. It’s close enough and affordable enough to come for a couple’s getaway every year. You can turn Saranac Lake into “your place,” and it makes a great story to tell friends and family over your many years together.


Two sides of the Trifecta
Skiing the Fish Pond Trail

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About The Author

Jess is the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism's communications manager. A Tupper Lake native and Saranac Lake resident, she is passionate about the arts, especially live music and theater, and she will drop anything to go to a concert. She also enjoys swimming, kayaking, hiking, snowboarding and riding her Suzuki Boulevard S40, a 650 cc motorcycle. If you have an arts-related item you think would make for a good blog post, email her at

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