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Driving down the aisle — Voluntown venue offers drive-in weddings

It’s an age-old adage that every bride dreams of walking down the aisle on her wedding day — but what happens when a global pandemic keeps that dream from coming true?

As countless couples cancel their celebrations, one local venue is offering alternative plans for socially distant weddings, replacing that slow-paced, romantic march down the aisle and traditional slicing of a tall, tiered cake with a drive-up ceremony and free popcorn.

Tamarack Lodge in Voluntown will be hosting the discounted drive-in weddings over Memorial Day weekend for couples whose initial wedding plans were canceled or rescheduled due to COVID-19. And by drive-in, these wedding planners don’t just mean in cars. Brides and grooms are welcome to arrive at the altar riding on quads, straddling motorcycles or galloping up on horseback.

After driving or riding down the aisle to the tune of Christina Perri’s ballad “A Thousand Years” — which features lyrics like “I will be brave, I will not let anything take away what's standing in front of me” (or sitting next to me) — the happy couple will be wed by a justice of the peace and exchange vows from the driver’s and passenger’s seats, or atop their noble steeds, as guests are served a one-course meal of free popcorn.

“COVID-19 has forced us to think out of the box even more so than we’ve done in the past,” said Valoree Longo, owner of the venue. “The traditional weddings are out of the question right now, but we do have great outdoor space that allows for other options.”

If a shotgun-seat wedding isn’t your style, the venue also is getting creative with alternative “micro-wedding” options. Keeping in mind social distancing restrictions, it is willing to work with couples on whatever ideas they have for driving or riding down the aisle, or making use of its outdoor spaces.

“We’re right in the forest where you can go hiking, couples can come in hiking gear and then go on a hike, they can incorporate whatever it is they love to do,” Longo said.

The venue is offering another package called “Last Min-Weds,” another type of micro-wedding that will include a ceremony and four-hour reception for a small party, with a fire pit and lawn games.

One Rhode Island bride booked a September wedding at Tamarack after her initial venue in her state took such a financial hit from canceled events during the pandemic that it's unable to open up for the rest of the season, Longo said.

The bride and her fiancé decided to move their wedding to Tamarack Lodge, which is working with them to accommodate as many guests as possible, exploring whether the entire event will need to be outside to ensure social distancing.

As of now, Last Min-Weds will allow for 50 guests, once that size crowd is allowed by the state, and must be booked within 60 days. Dates will be available on weekdays and Sundays.

The micro-wedding packages will include the ceremony site, an indoor reception venue, tables and chairs, dishware, flatware, glassware, centerpieces, soft drinks, coffee, tea and a champagne toast for $2,080, a discount of $814 on a traditional wedding package, according to the venue.

The drive-in weddings will include red roses for the bride and groom, with soda, water, wine, champagne and beer for sale in addition to the free popcorn for up to 20 guests.

All weddings will feature a heartfelt ceremony with Justice of the Peace Ashlee Felton, and a verified signature for the marriage license. Licenses previously obtained from a different municipality will be honored.

Photographer Allie Dearie will photograph the weddings, with a short portrait session after the ceremony included for each couple.

The drive-in weddings will be held on May 24 & 25, with a price tag of $757.

For more information or to book your socially distant wedding, contact Amylu Meneses at amylu@tamaracklodge.ct.


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