Plenty of Options to Plan Dream Weddings

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – After saying “Yes,” couples in the Mahoning Valley begin the quest to make their wedding dreams come true.

And they have a lot of options to make that day just right for them.

Depending on the couple, they could choose a dream garden location, a posh golf course, a historic railroad station, an art museum or even a nod to the area’s industrial past.

“I try to make that personal connection with each bride and each groom individually,” says Jordan Wethli, event coordinator at Waypoint 4180 in Canfield. “Just by getting to know them… that’s when I’m able to make those judgment calls. Everybody wants that big grand wedding, but then they don’t realize there are certain things that come with big grand weddings that they may not like. You see pictures online, but until you really get to know somebody, that’s when you can say, this really doesn’t fit for you.”

At Waypoint 4180, a couple can have a ceremony on the golf course or a patio overlooking it, and a huge reception in the ballroom. The 26,000-square-foot building can host up to 1,000 guests, but can also be divided into six rooms for smaller events or two rooms for weddings.

The banquet venue features an executive chef downstairs with a kitchen nearly as large as the facility itself, an alcohol bar, a connected hallway to the Courtyard by Marriott and the Kensington Grill on property where Wethli says many couples choose to continue the party after the wedding.

Wethli says she has a list of vendors that Waypoint works with more often, but couples are free to choose their own photographer, videographer and entertainment. She finds herself taking charge of handling details for couples, for instance renting the Chiavari chairs some couples are requesting.

One-Stop Wedding Planners

Many vendors are branching out, helping couples in a variety of ways. Patty Rydarowicz started in the catering business with Jack Kravitz as Inspired Catering by Kravitz, but now has expanded her services.

She became a registered officiant at the end of 2020 and now has added a wedding planner business service. She calls the noncatering part of the business Inspired Ceremonies.

“There is a lot to think about,” Rydarowicz says, noting she always recommends they start with the wedding venue and the caterer. “At least you get to start doing payments.”

Then she suggests turning their attention toward photography, a DJ and florist. At some point, maybe six months later, many will get their attire, followed by their rings.

Often vendors can provide couples with a list of other vendors they have worked with well in the past.

Although she works with brides and grooms at a multitude of locations, catering sometimes five to nine events per weekend, Rydarowicz has the catering contract at Fellows Riverside Garden, where she often manages one event upstairs and one downstairs simultaneously.

At Fellows, she likes to think of it as a one-stop shop. After the couple chooses to have the reception there, she handles nearly everything else for them.

For Rydarowicz, adding to the services she provides was a natural extension. She already needed to know when the wedding couple would be completing the ceremony and finished with photos, when they anticipated guests and the wedding party would arrive at the reception, so the meal could be ready just at the right time. Now she helps them build the timeline.

“This is what I’m here for. So you enjoy your day and I take all the stress. That’s my job,” says Rydarowicz.

For the ceremonies, she says a lot of couples write their own vows and want a nondenominational service.

Couples may get a lot of advice on what they should do and the menu, but Rydarowicz likes to remind them, “This is your day.”

Those coming to the wedding will eat whatever you choose, she says. Still, making a splash with interesting food continues to be a trend.

Nora Chrystal of Jeff Chrystal Catering says she loves when a couple is all about the food.

“It’s fun to plan menus. When a bride loves food it is really fun.” Chrystal says. “It gives your wedding guests something to look forward to.”

For more than 30 years, the company has been creating foods from scratch and without frozen items, which allows for flexibility, Chrystal says. The company has packaged menus, but couples may use that only as a “jumping off point.” While specializing in the wedding meal, Jeff Chrystal Catering also helps to bring the couple’s vision to life down to the linens and china.

“We’re doing a lot of family-style presentations, which I think is great because it is so communal and it’s so welcoming,” Chrystal says. As an example, a couple may serve plated salads, followed by a family-style pasta dish passed around.

A bit of history

The Mahoning Valley has its share of historic sites and some couples are choosing to start their new lives together with a nod to the past. The B&O Station Banquet Hall in Youngstown is one of them. A historic registered landmark, built in 1905, the facility was one of the original train depots for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

“It’s so cool to have the vintage,” says Catherine Fetter, co-owner of the family business. “All the woodwork inside the building is original. It’s just been restored throughout the years, so I think we’re unique as a venue. We’re the only one like it in a pretty wide span and it’s in Youngstown, which is pretty cool.”

Trains go past the place to this day and Fetter notes the size of the train depot proves how “booming” Youngstown once was. The venue has room for 250 people for a reception and catering. There is an event coordinator, a newly renovated bridal room and both indoor and outdoor wedding ceremony locations.

When a couple decides to get married at the B&O Station Banquet Hall, they receive two complimentary tickets to attend a food and wine tasting event, where they try out selections from the chef and listen to live music, according to Fetter.

The chef specializes in locally sourced items when available and organic proteins.

Another place full of history where couples could choose to tie the knot is the Butler Institute of American Art. Wedding ceremonies can be held in the Butler North, a former church, next to the museum, according to Susan Carfano, assistant to the director at the Butler. Receptions can take place in Beecher Court.

“It’s unique,” Carfano says. “If you can afford here, it’s beautiful.”

Because it is an art museum, there are some restrictions for events held there. But guests can tour the museum, which Carfano says always impresses, especially out-of-town guests.

Many couples choose to take some of their photos outside the museum, she adds, which has historic architecture and is listed as a landmark on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Traditional cookie tables

No matter where they choose to hold the reception, a cookie table will probably be there.

“The cookie table is still huge,” says Rydarowicz, adding it can take hours to set it up and something she now contracts another person to do. But in addition to the cookie tables, couples are adding bundt cakes, donuts from White House Fruit Farms and an assortment of other treats. One wedding she is working on will include 24 different pies on the dessert tables.

An old tradition returning to style is the tossing of the bouquet. Rydarowicz says bouquet tosses disappeared for a while, but now they have returned.

Couples are bringing their own twists, changing the traditional list of wedding reception events and creating themed décor that suits them. The planning process can take months or even years and local venues and vendors are already booking for 2025.

Wedding vendors like Rydarowicz have found a passion in helping a couple make their day special and unique. After working with a bride for a year or even two, she admits she often finds herself tearing up at some point during their big day.

“I treat each bride as special as they are,” she says. “I love working with them. I try to always go above and beyond.”

Pictured at top: Jordan Wethli, event coordinator at Waypoint 4180, stands in front of the banquet hall at the white trellis. Waypoint is one of several locations at the Westford Commons in Canfield where couples often choose to tie the knot.