So Mike didn’t waste a minute in starting our venue search. (Might I add that I find it funny that these places are now called venues? I suppose the world has no pretentions about the fact that weddings are a big show, after all.)
In terms of what we’re looking for, we haven’t narrowed it down completely yet. I’m torn between a rustic, vintage-y style, either in a barn or Anthropologie-inspired venue (if Anthropologie did weddings, sign me up!) OR something modern and urban, like a Brooklyn loft, with which we can go the DIY route. The only things we know for sure are that we don’t want your typical, hotel reception hall and we aren’t working with a lot of money.
After a few Google searches and flipping through the latest New Jersey edition of the The Knot which Mike’s mom had given us, he decided we’d start at Stone House at Stirling Ridge. This is the sister restaurant to Liberty House, a Jersey City venue which I had looked into with some interest in the past (and we’re actually going to be visiting tomorrow); but while Liberty House goes for the sleek, urban vibe, Stone House (from what I could tell from online pictures) seemed to be much more rustic, with its location in the Watchung Mountains and wilderness lodge-style aesthetics.
TOP REASONS WHY I’D HAVE MY WEDDING AT STONE HOUSE:
- The price – $100 per person at The Gallery, evening on a Saturday
- The food – they have a mashed potato bar as one of your cocktail hour options!
- A good balance of both the rustic and modern-urban vibes we’re looking for
- The staff – Carissa the planner is an amazing person
- Private building – it’s not a wedding factory
TOP REASONS WHY I WOULD NOT HAVE MY WEDDING AT STONE HOUSE:
- The room I liked best, the lounge, is out of our price range/too large for the amount of guests we’d be having
My initial reaction to seeing it was incredibly positive: yes, it has its lodge-style look, but it falls into the category of what I deem “modern rustic”–perhaps the perfect balance of what we are looking? It has its stone architecture, with wrought iron rails decorating the landscaping outside, but there is a sleekness to it as well, with modern wall designs and light fixtures, art glass walls, and just an overall sense of classiness.
As we were driving up, I for some reason was getting nervous–this was the first venue we had an appointment at, and I didn’t know what to expect. Even though the venue had the harder job of impressing us in this situation, I felt for some reason like Mike and I had to be “on”–we couldn’t screw up or else we’d lose our chances of having a wedding here! But my unfounded anxiety was put at ease as soon as we met Carissa, our would-be wedding planner. She had an amazing personality, and we vibed with her really well–which made it incredibly easy to ask her questions and figure out what would and wouldn’t work for us. I think this is key to finding a good venue: having a good staff to work with.
Due to the amount of guests we’re looking to have (in the 100-125 range), Carissa showed us The Gallery, a building separate from the main restaurant. I was a little disappointed by the fact that, due to our smaller wedding size, we wouldn’t have the option of the main restaurant, because I did like the overall feel of it. But the lounge and ballroom of the restaurant would be slightly out of our price range.
Mike immediately liked the fact that The Gallery was a separate building; he doesn’t want to have to worry about multiple weddings going on at once, where the bad DJed music from one party intermingles with overcrowded bathrooms and parking lots and confusion. The space was going for an art gallery feel, with exposed brick walls painted white, mirrors and minimalist art, and raw, stone floors. But the floor-to-ceiling windows still show a great view of the Watchung Mountains, so the “rustic” feel isn’t lost. The setup of the Gallery is long and rectangular, with two levels (not two floors; simply an upper level separated by 6 or 7 stairs to the downstairs part). This would be perfect for separating the tables and chairs and eating space with the dance space–which Mike pointed out is a good thing, because sometimes people don’t want their drunken dancing to be smack-dab in the center of modest onlookers sitting at their tables.
The ceremony and cocktail hour would be held outside; however, we didn’t get a good look at these spaces because they were covered with snow.
After our quick tour, we went back into the main restaurant and talked food. Mike and I are foodies, so this is a big area of concern for us; but Stone House has a huge menu of choices for cocktail hour and dinner, with ingredients grown locally at Wagner Farms, a communal farm in the area. The cake is also provided in the per person cost, but it’s not some generic cake thrown in–it comes from a local bakery. And since I’m a vegetarian, I made a point of asking whether or not the veggie option would be more than a plate of roasted vegetables. They said they could do a risotta, even butternut squash ravioli–and I was sold.
But, how much would all this loveliness cost? We are certainly on a budget, and unfortunately that has to be the number one concern for us. Stone House came through, though: For a Saturday night event in The Gallery, it would be $100 per person. Add-ons and enhancements are available–like butlered desserts or an espresso bar–but the bare-bones minimum package (which isn’t so bare-bones at all) is only $100! We were shocked.
So, as we were leaving, Mike and I were bubbly with excitement about how much we liked this place. Granted, it was only the first place we visited; but the bar has been set. If someone were to hold us at gunpoint and say we had to pick our reception venue right now, we’d have to pick Stone House–and I’d be okay with that.
Stone House at Stirling Ridge
50 Stirling Road
Warren, NJ 07060