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Planning a Locally-Inspired Wedding

Written By Kit Henshaw; Harrison's Wine Grill & Catering

Fall in Central Pennsylvania is a time when the green landscape turns to gold and the surrounding mountains change to a wall of vibrant color. While the growing season is coming to an end, our catering phone continues to ring with inquiries from bridal couples about a growing and important trend: planning a locally inspired wedding.

We are often asked, “We'd really like as much locally sourced foods as possible - what might be available to us this time of year?" In response, we make sure that the couple understands that flexibility is key when planning to incorporate seasonally grown items and beyond that we encourage couples and wedding planners alike to consider the “Four F’s” of local wedding sourcing: Flowers, Favors, Farms and Food.

Flowers -- Rather than using greenhouse flowers that are trucked in from other areas, use flowers that are grown locally. Many local farms grow flowers and sell them at the farmers markets the entire growing season. Beautiful seasonal bouquets can be displayed simply in a special vase or in a blue mason jar. Using local blooms on your wedding cake is a nice touch, as are bridesmaid and flower girl bouquets, and the hand tied bridal bouquet that will be thrown at the reception. Don't forget about composting those flowers after the event.

Favors -- Local wedding favors are also a nice way to share a bit of the place you call home with your guests while not breaking the bank. A couple years ago, Chelsea Clinton assembled gift bags from local merchants and farms in the town where she was married. These items included produce from a nearby farm, wine from the Clinton’s vineyard and items from a local emporium. Consider wine from Mt. Nittany Vineyard or Seven Mountains Winery or perhaps, peaches or apples from Way Fruit Farm. Tait Farm Foods offers countless products that can become the perfect individual favor or gift. The staff in the Tait Farm Harvest Shop can assist you with personalizing jars of their popular jams or chutneys, as well as some of the personal care products made from lavender grown right on the farm. They can also pair a product with a locally made wooden spoon or ceramic dish.

Farms -- A local farm venue is also an up close and personal way to promote the theme of Fresh & Local. Here in Centre County, General Potter Farm is a beautiful and rustic barn venue that exemplifies the agricultural roots that have been the foundation of our community. A farm is a relaxed atmosphere and one that offers lots of flexibility. You can decorate any way that you choose, sing karaoke in the barn as late as you wish and generally have the run of the place. Often farm weddings can cost a fraction of nuptials at more traditional sites, because it is more of a do-it-yourself atmosphere. If you know a farmer in the region, it would be worth asking if they would be open to hosting a wedding on the property. Many small farmers like pulling out the hay-covered welcome wagon because it offers an alternative revenue stream. Unique barn weddings also offer a unique setting for your photos.

Food -- Ahhh... now we get to our favorite part - Fresh & Local menu planning. The month you are planning your wedding will help with food planning - what is available at that time of year? At Harrison's we are currently working with 22 local food purveyors and have several more that we can call upon for local food requests. We have several foods that are available all year, for example goat cheese and dairy items, artisan breads, Pennsylvania mushrooms or locally farmed pork. With produce, it's seasonal only: asparagus in May (or so); tomatoes and corn are late July through September; butternut squash in September and October; apples throughout the fall season. The farms where the items come from are showcased on food placards with each dish. We work with our couples to match available foods with their own personal tastes and to create menus that wedding guests, particularly those from out of town, get a taste of the local landscape. These result in memorable menus that guests talk about for a long time after the party is over.

Finally, a rustic "Local" or farm themed wedding will inevitably include some other unique circumstances like less than fancy bathroom accommodations, the risk of a high heel stuck in the mud and yes, the bugs will probably be uninvited guests. But the memories of vows said under an oak tree, the delicious flavors of the local land or a sunset that lights up the sky through late evening, just might make it all worth it.

For further information on seasonal menus contact Harrison's Catering at

Harrison's Wine Grill and Catering 1221 E College Ave State College, PA 16801

Contact: Kit Henshaw

(814) 237-4422

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