There are many different ways to incorporate a bar and beverage service into an event. At Willowdale Estate our clients can opt for a full open bar, a beer and wine open bar, a cash bar or a bar that is complimentary for guests for a portion of the event and then moves into a cash bar later in the evening. Regardless of the level of service- the bar is always a popular feature at our events, and there are many ways to ramp up the experience for guests.

custom great room wooden bar event venue (800x533)

photo: zev fisher


Bars come in all shapes and sizes, and at Willowdale Estate we have two custom mahogany bars with black slate tops. Our bars were designed to bring all of the sophistication of our historic surroundings to an event but be flexible enough to be displayed in any room we choose, and to have all of the features and functionality of a restaurant bar. A complimentary back bar displays glassware and extra bottles, and the center of bar is the perfect place to display things like bar signs, pricing information, or bottles that are featured on the bar at the event.

bar sign for cocktails at willowdale estate (800x532)

photo: bharat parmar


One detail for bars that we have always loved is the custom bar sign that highlights important information like the featured drink, bar pricing, or bar hours. When your guests come to an event they generally don’t have printed menus to order from so signs are a great way to quickly convey the information they need. We love this mirrored sign that highlights the featured drinks for the night “Old Fashioned & Espresso Martini”.

Striped straws and cocktail shaker from the bar at Willowdale Estate, north shore massachusetts venue    cocktail with vodka st germain white cran lime juice at willowdale estate topsfield ma

photos: dan aguirre


Many events at Willowdale Estate include great bar services such as poured wine service with dinners, or a passed signature drink during the event. Adding passed or poured drinks during important transition times at your event is a great way to ensure that your guests don’t have to travel too far, or wait in lines to be offered a drink. Willowdale Estate often offers a passed drink to accompany the bar service if there is a large number of people entering a cocktail event all at once, and if your event has speeches or important programming poured wine is a great way to keep guests glued to their seats! Another way to give your bar some personality is to add some themed features to the bar. If your event has a logo consider printing it on the bar napkins, or if you have a prominent color at the event order striped or colored straws to match the event!

wooden bar balcony gold chandelier cocktail hour (800x532)photo: bharat parmar


The last and perhaps most important detail to consider is the location of your bar. Think about displaying your bar in a highly visible location with room for guest enter and exit the service area easily. Hiding the bar away can make it more difficult for guests to find the bar, and may make them feel like they are missing out if they can’t see the rest of the event area. We love display bars in the central area for cocktails hours, and for outdoor events, the garden courtyard is the perfect place for guests to gather under the bistro lights to enjoy a drink and conversation while still having a clear view of the tent area where there could be dancing or other event activity.

Guests enjoy cocktails from the bar in the courtyard at night under the bistro lights for a September wedding (800x532)

photo: bharat parmar

If you want to see more great photos of our events – follow our boards on pinterest or photos on instagram:



REAL WEDDING: Edith & Zachary

Seeing the Willowdale grounds covered in snow adds an element of awe and intrigue that only gets more beautiful as the night goes on and the twinkle lights glow on the fallen snow. Edith & Zachary tied the knot inside the estate, but were surrounded by the snow covered grounds and the unique historical details Willowdale has to offer.

Winter wedding venue at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA

Edith and her bridesmaids prepared for the day in our Wedding Suite which offers a large open space with lots of natural lighting and is the perfect spot for hair, makeup and ensembles! Her detailed hair clip of pearls and ivory wedding shoes covered in rhinestones were a perfect choice for the neutral palette they used in many details of their day.

Bridal chignon hairstyle with white hairpiece at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA   White wedding shoes with gem toes  at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA

Zachary and his groomsmen were just down the hall getting ready in the Equestrian Lounge. Their wardrobe choice was a classic three-piece grey suit and dark brown leather Oxfords.

Grooms brown wedding shoes at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA   Grooms boutonniere at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA

The pastel wedding invitations matched perfectly with the neutral floral bouquet centerpieces featuring a variety of creams, whites and succulents arranged by Karla Cassidy Designs.

Whimsical wedding invitation at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA   Winter floral bouquet at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA

During their first look, Edith & Zachary embraced the snow and took portraits amidst the the winter scenery. Edith’s fur shawl and long white gloves are fashionable outerwear accessories that will help keep her warm and look great in photos!

First look, bride wearing fur shawl at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA

The ceremony took place at dusk in the Conservatory under our birch pole chuppah decorated with an assortment of textured greenery.

Winter wedding at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA

The reception space included a variety of round and square tables with textured burlap runners, LED candles and classic floral arrangements.

Great room wedding reception with mantle and built-in shelving at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA

Throughout their event, Edith & Zachary took advantage of all the unique photo opportunities offered by our 901 Arts & Crafts mansion. They are pictured below in the North Wing of the Estate in the Library which features ornate built-in shelving.

Historic wedding venue at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA

To see more photos and details of Edith & Zachary’s wedding day, check out their feature on The Knot!

All Photos In Feature: Zev Fisher Photography 



When it comes to creating the perfect environment for your event, lighting can be an afterthought. Depending on the time of day for the event and the time of year, your event might start in full daylight and end under the stars. Adding ambient lighting as part of the party décor can create a magical transformation to the look feel of the party space. Here are a few of our favorite ways to add some glimmer and gleaming light to your next event!


It may seem too simple but a small votive, lantern, birdcage, jar or hurricane vase with a real flame or LED candle is the perfect accent that looks great during daylight hours, and can transform into more of a focal point with a warm ambient mood at nighttime.

View More: A lovely cage lantern with sunflowers and candles for a summer wedding at Willowdale Estate - (266x400) Simple shelf decor with lavendar and candles for an outdoor food station at Willowdale Estate - (267x400) Pretty iron lanter centerpiece with candles and floral details added for a winter wedding at Willowdale Estate - (267x400)

(Photos from top left to bottom right: Christina Corneau, Bharat Parmar, Somerby Jones, and Joyelle West)


Indoor events at Willowdale Estate are known for their warm glow coming from the chandeliers and wall sconces but we also add twinkle lights outside in some winter months, and decorate our iconic Great Room mantle in the month of December. One trick we have used for multiplying the appearance of reflective light is by using vessels with mirrored or metallic surfaces. This will not only give off light from within, but reflect the light coming from other candles or lights in the room.

Holiday decor on the mantle with reflective modern lanters, candles and birch in the great room at Willowdale Estate - (800x532) Candles and white lantern for our entryway table in the foyer at Willowdale Estate - (800x533)

(Photos from top to bottom: Bharat Parmar, and Jamison Wexler)


For outdoor events in our Garden Courtyard or Sperry Tent, we love the use of paper lanterns, bistro lights, colored uplights and more modern installations like chandeliers, grapevine spheres with twinkle lights, pinspot lighting, and a patterned lighting design on the tent canopy or a monogram on the dance floor.

Sring bistro lights and grapevine spheres hanging from our Sperry Tent at at Willowdale Estate - (266x400) Cocktail in the garden courtyard with bistro lights and a bar under the stars at Willowdale Estate - (267x400) A summer event in a sperry tent with bistro lights over the garden courtyard and ambient uplights under the tent at Willowdale Estate - (800x533)

(Photos from top to bottom: Bharat Parmar, Lisa Rigby, Kivalo Photography)

So take a moment to consider light before hosting your next event- and if you need more suggestions or inspiration check out our latest pins from events in all seasons here: Willowdale Estate on Pinterest

If you loved hearing more about how to shed more light on your event details as the sun goes down you might like our other posts about this very subject: Details after Dark or Lantern LOVE!


Wedding Ceremony Etiquette: Four FAQ’s

Most wedding guests have common questions that run through their mind when preparing to attend a ceremony.

We thought these four common FAQ’s would be a helpful resource!

Ceremony in glass Conservatory with white garden chairs at Willowdale Estate Topsfield, MA

photo: Adriano Batti Photography

What should I wear?

Always dress in formal attire unless it is stated otherwise on the wedding invitation. Ladies – never wear white! This color is reserved for the bride. And if you can help it, try not to match the bridesmaids dress color and style. Gentlemen – always wear a suit and tie and make sure it is properly hemmed and wrinkle free! 

Cocktail party guests at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA

photo: Lisa Rigby Photography 

When should I arrive at the ceremony?

Arriving 30 minutes before the time noted on the invitation is standard. Showing up any earlier is ill-advised since the venue and the couple may still be finalizing all the last minute details and will not want to be seen before the ceremony begins. 

Wedding arrival beverage signature drink at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA

photo: Brett Alison Photography

What side to sit on at the ceremony?

In traditional Christian Ceremonies, the brides family & friends sit on the left hand side and the grooms friends and family sit on the right hand side. For Jewish ceremonies, it is the opposite – with the grooms family & friends on the left and the brides on the right. However, a non-traditional growing trend is to allow an open seating plan, encouraging your guests to: “choose a seat not a side, not a side”. 

Outdoor ceremony in garden courtyard at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA

photo: Jenny Moloney Photography

Can I take pictures during the ceremony?

It all depends on the couple! Some couples encourage their guests to take photos and create a unique hashtag for their event. Others prefer an “unplugged” ceremony, which politely asks guests to forgoe electronics during this time or for the whole event. If neither option is noted and you decide to take photos during this time, here is some helpful advice: turn off the flash, don’t stand up and block others view and avoid being in the background of the professional photos, taking photos yourself!

Wedding hashtag signage at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA

Father walks bride down aisle at colorful summer wedding Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA

bottom photos: Shannon Grant Photography

We hope these four FAQ’s are a useful guide and reminder to refer to before attending the next wedding on your schedule!


BEST OF 2015

We had a lot of fun finding the most loved photos, blogs, events and posts from this year across our social sharing platforms. Today we are sharing your favorite things in 2015! We hope you enjoy looking back and we are looking forward to another year of wonderful things to share!


In October we shared a photo of our iconic red door all decorated for the fall season with mums, gourds, and a seasonal wreath. The bright blue sky looks so great against the red slate roof and fieldstone! (photo: Sarah Boucher)

instagram - we love a great seasonal wreath!


From our recent post “PANTONE COLOR OF THE YEAR” the most pinned image was our Classic/Chic color combo pairing Rose Quartz, Navy Blue, Serenity, and Old Rose. (photo: Sarah Boucher)

old rose navy blue rose quartz serenity wedding inspiration from willowdale estate boston area venue


Our most liked status on Facebook is a very recent post- a photo of our 2016 Best of Weddings award! The Knot Best of Weddings is an award representing the highest-rated wedding professionals as reviewed by real couples, their families and wedding guests on The Knot! It’s an honor to be recognized alongside some of the best venues and catering companies in the business and our followers on facebook cheered us on!



The most viewed blog post of the year was “REAL WEDDING: Jessica & Edward” which was posted on April 10th! Spring is a time of great anticipation at Willowdale Estate, the tulips are about to come up, the Sperry Tent will be installed, and we’ll get to use more of our scenic outdoor spaces. (photo: Lisa Rigby)
001 lisa rigby - may outdoor garden courtyard weddingreception sweetheart table flowers (746x398)


Our most read newsletter of 2015 was actually our very FIRST newsletter of the year “JANUARY 2015” which contained information about our new series of Signature Events, our upcoming Wedding Open House, and lots of fun info about new pages on our website. (photo: Bharat Parmar)

snow photo at willowdale estate jan 15 newsletter bharat parmar


The most popular ticketed public event this year was our FROZEN Tea Parties. Our tickets sold out so quickly that we had to do an encore event which also sold out in just a few hours! Check out a few photos from the event on our blog post “Themed Celebration: Tea Parties at Willowdale Estate”. (photo: Bharat Parmar)

frozen tea party at willowdale estate a wedding and events venue north of boston


The most popular free public event this year was our “2nd Annual Bluegrass & BBQ”! Guests enjoyed our spacious garden courtyard, tent and side lawns for an evening of great music, food, lawn games and community! (photo: Shane Godfrey)

garden courtyard willowdale estate topsfield massachusetts wedding and event venue

If you missed any of these great posts keep in touch with us on all of our social sharing platforms listed above!