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!


REAL WEDDING: Adrien & Victor

Adrien & Victor tied the knot early last month at the start of our mansion season. All the detailed elements of their day was captured by Dan Aguirre Photography.  Adrien wore an off-white silk gown with a sweetheart neckline, a stunning necklace and a vintage headband while Victor sports a 3 piece suit with a pink vest and bowtie. Victor’s rustic boutonnière & Adrien’s bouquet consisting of of assorted flowers and succulents were designed by local florist, Karla Cassidy

Groom with pink vest and bowtie with willow boutonniere at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA    Bride with succulents bouquet at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA

A “first look” took place before their ceremony outside in our butterfly garden courtyard.

First look with bride and groom at historic wedding venue at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA

A ketubah signing followed the “first look”. This is an essential part of a traditional Jewish marriage where the rights and responsibilities of the groom in relation to the bride are defined.

Traditional ketupah signing at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA

The ceremony was held in our Glass Conservatory underneath our birch pole chuppah which was adorned with a beautiful floral arrangement that matched the brides bouquet and was also designed by Karla Cassidy.

Mansion ceremony in glass Conservatory with with floral designed chuppah at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA

Upon conclusion of the traditional Jewish ceremony, cocktail hour started in the North Wing of the house while the Conservatory & Great Room were transformed into the reception space. Our bright, farm fresh stationed cheese and crudité table was displayed on our rustic credenza. 

Mansion cocktail hour with curated cheese and crudités table at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA

There were a variety of passed appetizers served to guests including these fall favorites: caramelized apple cider doughnuts with cheese fondue and pecan crusted chicken bits with maple dipping sauce. 

Pecan crusted chicken bites with maple dipping sauce for cocktail hour appetizer at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA   Apple cider doughnut appetizer with cheese fondue  at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA

Atop our ivory linen, the reception tables were embellished with the warm glow from pillar candles in an assortment of fleur-de- lis and Lacie lanterns. 

Mansion reception in glass Conservatory with lantern rentals at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA

Entrées included seared salmon and one of our most popular dishes, the New York Sirloin in au ju with crisp potatoes and asparagus, pictured below.

New York Sirloin wedding entrée at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA

Ariel shots taken from the balcony orchestra in the Great Room allow for unique perspectives of dinner and dancing.

Wedding reception dancing in Great Room at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA

The night carried on with plenty of dancing & dessert featuring our “American Cookie Jar” station and an intricately detailed lemon wedding cake with raspberry cream filling!

Detailed wedding cake on display in mansion Great Room at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA Rustic dessert display with wedding cake slices  at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA

Check out our online photo & video galleries to view more Willowdale weddings!



In the first installment our new series of posts we will cover some of our most frequently asked client questions! First order of business is to discuss the options for hotels and inns in our area. This is a huge topic and we have a lot of recommendations based on where the majority of your guests are traveling from, and what kind of experience you want them to have. For that reason – let this first post be “Part 1” of a series of great insider information about these locations!
The first destination is a historic, coastal city just 20 minutes north of Willowdale Estate. In Massachusetts, Newburyport is known as a popular destination for shopping, fine dining, entertainment, and most notably the scenic beauty of the seaport and beaches.

essex street inn view from street newburyport ma inn close to willowdale estate topsfield ma (800x450)

Essex Street Inn has everything you could want from a downtown hotel- the perfect location, plenty of character and a comfortable place retreat to after a busy day of activity. With 37 unique rooms in three historic buildings Essex Street Inn is one of the largest accommodations in the downtown area that works with clients to reserve the amount of space need- anywhere from the entire Inn, a single building, or a smaller room block. Here are some insider details from my recent visit with Kathy Ross, the Events and Business Administration Manager.


Choosing a destination city for the guests at your event is a great opportunity to curate an entire experience around your wedding or event. Imagine your guests checking in and being able to gather for a welcome drink or rehearsal dinner within walking distance of the accommodation. Some clients also schedule a post-event gathering like a brunch, beach day, or whale watch! Bringing your guests to a city like Newburyport is giving them an immersive experience into New England history, culture and lifestyle that they will remember as an important part of their stay.

newburyport inn with nautical suite with working fireplace near willowdale estate topsfield ma (800x450)

My tour of the property began in the central building, decorated with beautiful antique furniture and comfortable common areas. Each room is truly unique cheerful wall colors and local art on the walls. The photo above is of one of the suites with a nautical theme, I loved the large windows and working fireplace in the room! Many of the upper suites including the Bridal Suite and Honeymoon Suites have large common areas and roof decks with views of the nearby ocean and seaport areas.


Newburyport is just 35 miles north of Boston, where the Merrimac River meets with the Atlantic Ocean. Getting to Newburyport from Willowdale Estate is an easy scenic drive north on Rt 1 North and takes just over 20 minutes. The Essex Street Inn has parking spaces in the area behind the three buildings they own and additional overnight street parking on Essex Street and the surrounding neighborhood. On the day of my visit I found convenient parking just steps away from the door! Essex Street begins as a quiet residential street and intersects with State Street, home to a wide variety of shops, restaurants, banks, and even a local grocery store! The waterfront park, market square, and the Maritime Museum are all within walking distance and there are excellent parks and beaches close by!

areal newburyport essex street inn near willowdale estate topsfield ma (800x535)

You may be planning the perfect wedding weekend or a week-long business retreat; having a great location for your guests to stay is essential and we encourage you to visit Newburyport as a great option for accommodations near Willowdale Estate!

Discover Newburyport for yourself here:

(All photos from Sarah Boucher with the exception of the final areal photo above from


Tips For Hosting A Corporate Event

Hosting a corporate event creates the opportunity to spend time outside of the office with your co-workers and are meant to be social and fun. There are many reasons to host a corporate event including: nourishing business relationships, team building, product launches, Christmas and holiday parties, wine dinners, inductions, work anniversaries and more. We’ve provided a few tips and ideas for your next corporate event!

corporate celebration social party guests with wine

It’s all in the details! Weather you get creative with décor, food choices or serve a signature cocktail – customizing your event for your guests is important. From a formal dinner party or a backyard barbecue with lawn games – we can accommodate your request. One of the many benefits of booking an event at Willowdale is that we have a full time planning team that is dedicated to creating their clients vision. Hosting an event that runs smoothly will have a positive impact on the guest experience and will only make you and your company look more professionally refined. 

View More:    chalkboard menu signage wedding event celebration gathering

cornhole bean bag toss lawn games   ping pong lawn game event

PR Potential – If you are launching a new product, branch, or honoring a colleague, you may want to hire a photographer or videographer to capture all the highlights (we have a whole list of preferred vendors we can provide you). Willowdale Estate also offers many rental amenities to choose from including a large video monitor, projector screen and a wireless mic for any meetings, speeches or announcements.

event venue meeting projector presentation    corporate meeting estate mansion podium unique space dining room

historic event venue dinner lunch banquet party celebration chiavari chairs

A well planned menu that offers a variety of food options will keep your guests talking about your event for weeks to come. When choosing your menu, be aware of those attending who may have food allergies or are vegetarian. Check out our sample menus online or email Noah Quist, our Corporate and Social Events Sales Manager for our complete list of offerings.

cheese crudite cocktail hour corporate event    gourmet wedding food entree salmon bok choy

Mingle – Don’t forget to enjoy the party and mingle with your guests! Our staff will ensure everything is running smoothly on your behalf!

corporate event venue dinner party cocktail hour mansion

Photo credits from top to bottom, left to right:

Red Bird Photography

Cuppa Photography

Shane Godfrey Photography

Maureen Cotton Photography

Shane Godfrey Photography (4)

Rachel Kate Photography

Leona Campbell Photography

Lisa Rigby Photography