No place like home: It takes a village

Local brides choose family homes for nuptials

  • 4 min to read

When it comes to choosing a wedding venue, some couples are finding there’s no place like home.

At-home weddings are romantic, intimate, and always memorable, especially when the property offers views of sweeping mountains, lush meadows, or rivers and ponds.

They sometimes come with some logistical challenges — parking, bathrooms, and a backup plan in case of inclement weather, to name a few. But, in some cases, it can be cheaper to host your wedding in your own backyard.

You’ll save on venue fees and you won’t have to worry about time restrictions or limits on how you can decorate. Most of all, you’ll create wonderful memories in a place that you adore.

Natalie McKechnie Mannherz grew up in Stowe village in the historic circa1855 Gothic Revival brick home on the corner of Main Street Mountain Road.

She is the daughter of Jeffrey and Lucinda “Cindy” McKechnie. Jeffrey McKechnie D.M.D operates his dental office from a restored barn attached to the home.

Natalie met her husband, Todd Mannherz, in 2012 at a mutual friend’s barbecue while they both were living in Boulder, Colo. They were soon biking and skiing together and quickly became a couple.

Natalie works as a recreational therapist and piano teacher for children with disabilities and Todd is a software engineer.

They got engaged on Feb. 5, 2014 during a vacation in New Zealand. They had spent a day driving across the mountains when Todd suggested they take a bottle of chilled wine to a pasture on a hill. Once there, he asked her to be his wife.

“I was very surprised,” Natalie said. “It was really great.”

Natalie never considered a venue other than her childhood home.

“I was never one of the girls who thought about getting married or where I’d get married,” Natalie said. “When Todd proposed, I just assumed I’d get married at my house.”

Stowe is a popular wedding destination and the family has several acres of land abutting the Little River behind their home.

Todd, who is originally from Wrightstown, Pa., had come to love Stowe after visiting with Natalie. He liked the idea of being married there.

“It was what everyone wanted,” Natalie said.

Cindy McKechnie wanted to host the wedding that summer even if it meant she’d only have six months to plan it. She knew that a huge construction project was scheduled for the area of Mountain Road that runs alongside her house in spring 2015 — the main bridge and the covered bridge will be replaced — and she didn’t want it to spoil the photographs.

She hired Nancy Jeffries-Dwyer of NJOY Event Planning to help her organize the event.

Within two days of the engagement, Cindy had reserved the Stowe Community Church for Aug. 2.

“My mom is the type of person who would do anything for her kids,” Natalie said. “She always makes things work. I knew that even if she was nervous she wouldn’t be deterred.”

Other than some worries about whether the weather would cooperate, Cindy was confident that with Jeffries-Dwyer’s expertise — and the help of a team of landscapers, florists, caterers and other experts — she could pull the event off.

“We have lived here so long,” Cindy said. “We knew and trusted the expertise of the people who were hired to assist with the final presentation.”

Cindy hired landscapers to level the land on the lower property behind the house to prevent flooding if it were to rain. She also pulled up knotweed to tidy up the riverbank.

She also had stone steps built to create a smooth path for guests as they walked around the house and to the backyard.

An avid gardener, Cindy embellished her extensive perennial and annual gardens, adding white alyssum, which resembles wedding bouquets, around the borders. On the wedding day, potted plants and flowers were placed throughout the property.

The couple chose an understated rustic decorating theme for their wedding with wooden signs and lots of flowers.

“We didn’t want to do anything flashy,” Natalie said. “We chose blues and greens and let the florist piece together the other colors. We were trying to keep it simple — very Vermonty.”

Place cards at the tables bore the names of places in New Zealand that are special to the couple.

After the ceremony the couple walked down Main Street to the McKechnie home for photos, posing on the front porch, the covered bridge next to the home, and throughout the gardens, which were in full bloom.

Neighbors and friends waved as they caught a glimpse of the just-married couple.

“The people in the neighborhood, the church, the Green Mountain Inn, it took a village to put the wedding together,” Cindy said.

A cocktail hour area was set up behind the house on the upper level of the property. A large tent with a dance floor was set up on the lower level for dinner and dancing.

About 170 guests were in attendance.

Parking wasn’t an issue as most guests stayed at the Green Mountain Inn just across the street. “It was in walking distance so no one had to drive once they arrived,” Natalie said.

Susanna’s Catering provided hors d’oeuvres and dinner for the event. Entrees included lamb, salmon, and mushroom risotto. Along with a traditional wedding cake baked by Marion Peer of Vermont Sweet Tooth and decorated with real flowers, there was a selection of tiny treats for dessert.

“We got reviews from our guests that it was the best wedding food they’ve ever had,” Todd said.

Their first dance was choreographed to the James Bond theme song. “That was the most fun,” Natalie said.

Other than a five-minute rain shower during the cocktail hour, the weather held up throughout the day.

All of the planning and work that went into the reception was well worth it, according to Cindy.

“The house has so many memories for my children,” Cindy said. “To culminate with a wedding is a wonderful experience.”

Having the reception at her parents’ home made for a perfect day, Natalie said.

“Being able to get dressed in my home and get ready there was so natural,” Natalie said. “I wouldn’t change anything about it. I loved every part of it. It felt comfortable, like that’s where I was supposed to be."

The couple did so much traveling back and forth to Stowe in the months leading up to the wedding that they decided to postpone their honeymoon. They’ll travel to British Columbia in March to go backcountry skiing.

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