The Catskill Mountains are an enchanting destination in southeastern New York. For generations, it’s been a favorite country getaway for New York City residents. Nestled in an idyllic valley, it’s no wonder Hayfield Catskills has become a wedding destination. Couples can step back in time with simple, elegant wedding experiences inspired by nature. Its English Frame Barn and Prairie Barn provide a venue full of rustic charm. I was lucky enough to talk to owner Christiana about Hayfield and what makes it such a special place.
My husband and I stumbled upon the most magical valley we had ever seen. A majestic barn sat above a shimmering hay field as birds sang all around. It struck us as the most gorgeous scene – the perfect place to be in love. The dairy farm had been in the same family for generations. Most recently it was being used for bailing hay.
We could see how meaningful this property was for the gentleman selling it. He lives a stone’s throw away and it was clear the farm was a huge part of his family story, and the entire community. Almost two centuries old, the barn is a meaningful symbol of the area’s rich history. We knew that it had to be preserved as much as possible. So, despite needing massive structural work, we preserved the rustic structure. We even had the internal repair executed with authentic materials and techniques. We found timber frame experts who knew how to execute hand hewn beams, joinery, and wood pegs. It’s the exact same way it was originally built in the 1800s.
We had to include amenities, like water, electricity, and bathrooms, invisibly. We treated the landscape the same way, keeping the hay tall and the grounds wild. We tucked parking away, hidden around a corner of 50’ tall Hemlock, Spruce, and Pine trees. At the same time, the barns were engineered to the nines. Structural support, foundation work, and a buried commercial septic system were all added.
We’re blown away by how much each wedding at Hayfield reflects the couples individual style. Every wedding is so unique and special. We’ve hosted black tie affairs with raw bars and 5-course dinners. We’ve also had casual attire parties with lawn games and ice cream trucks. The rustic exterior combined with clean interior provides a perfect canvas. We never push sticking with the status quo.
We don’t advertise and we do our best to stay off of mass wedding boards and databases. We want to keep the ethos of a secret valley, tucked inside the arms of the mountains, waiting to be discovered. Our couples want a venue that’s unique, that isn’t a repeat of what they and their friends have seen before. Hayfield is surrounded by the majestic Catskill Mountains. It’s nestled in the stunning Windham Valley. You can’t replicate the magic that hangs in the air here.
Wedding guests spend the weekend exploring. Couples can visit swimming holes, waterfalls, hike the Windham Trail, and climb mountains. At Hayfield, they see all those elements on the property. The mountain peaks are all around. There’s a babbling brook and wild hay dancing in the breeze like waves in the sea.
We extend heartfelt love to our couples and their families. We only host about 15 events every year. this ensures we bring a high level of enthusiasm and personal investment to each wedding. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve cried during every single ceremony at Hayfield Catskills! Several of our couples have become dear friends. We see some from time to time and have even celebrated one’s one year anniversary with them!
I love when couples feel empowered to buck traditions and include what is meaningful to them. We encourage them to pick elements important to them and invest in making those special. Anyone who’s engaged becomes familiar with the long list of wedding tropes. There can be real pressure to include them all. There’s nothing wrong with checking off those stereotypical “wedding” moments. But if something doesn’t feel right, throw it out! And if something feels important, think about how to emphasize it. Give it the attention you feel it deserves, and put your spin on it. The more we get to know our couples, the better we can understand them and suggest ways to bring that to life.
The Catskill Mountains are a gem and Windham is the epicenter for enjoying them. The Windham Path is a revelation in every season, as is Windham mountain. You can take the chair lift up for a breathtaking view. You can hike to perches and look out onto no less than 5 states. You can play golf on greens with mountain views. In the summer, there are secret swimming holes to discover and a million hiking trails to explore. There’s lots of waterfalls, including one of the tallest on the east coast, over 250’! And if outdoor activities aren’t your thing, the charm of the area antique and general stores are one of a kind.
There are two ancient apple trees standing at the bank of a brook. They make the perfect anchor for our ceremony site. Their moss covered trunks are over 10’ wide. Their craggy branches reach high above the couple say vows beneath them. Receptions are usually held inside. Our Gambrel barn’s soaring 35’ ceiling punctuates the dance floor.
Many of our couples are attracted to Hayfield because of the connection to nature. They often use flora and fauna as inspiration for their design. Names of nearby waterfalls, animals, and trees are used for table names. The local lore of Rip Van Winkle was the starting point for one of our couple’s design.
Almost all our couples feel it’s important for the food to be an extension of the aesthetic as well. Open flame cooking is always a show stopper and feels so seamless in our environment. Our couples feel adamant about incorporating farm-to-table practices. Their caterers source local ingredients. It can be steak from a local angus farm or trout caught in a nearby river. One couple had favors of homemade jam made from fruit picked at a nearby orchard. Another had delicious pots of local Catskill honey as favors. Yet another couple filled the space with sunflowers grown on a farm less than 5 miles away. Almost all our weddings end with s’mores around a fire pit.
We know that it’s easy to describe Hayfield Catskills as “a barn venue.” The truth is that we went out of our way to ensure that typical “barn venue” hurdles don’t exist at Hayfield. We designed the space so couples won’t have to coordinate things like porto-potties or generators. They avoid the annoyance of a dirt floor and a hot, sweaty, smelly interior. From the beginning, our vision was the antithesis of all that!
We installed electricity with easy outlets everywhere. We have permanent lighting from antique, hand-blown glass pendants. They are all on dimmers with twinkle lights outside. We have new, clean restrooms inside and new hardwood flooring throughout the space. We have beautiful spring well-water that’s safe to drink. We also have hot and cold water available to the catering staff and in the restrooms. We even have WiFi. We took care of all the logistics, which mitigates a lot of stress, confusion, and fees. Couples also avoid costly, awkward furniture rentals. We have antique chairs, display tables and bar, and custom made ceremony benches. There are also hand-hewn dining tables – a modern interpretation of the classic farm table.
We are at a pretty high elevation, so our event season is late May – October. The weather is much too unpredictable the rest of the year. The temperatures in the summer are usually mild. Even in August the evening temperature averages in the 60s! The sunsets are spectacular. After dark you can see the Milky Way and the sparkle of fireflies all around. Of course Autumn has the spectacular ombré foliage of bright reds, oranges, and yellows.
There are many very talented and creative people in the the area. Each wedding sees a combination of vendors from all locals. It’s hard to isolate a favorite in any category. We like to curate our recommended vendors based on our couple’s aesthetic, vision, and budget.
Find out more about the Hayfield Catskills Wedding Venue and other New York destinations. If you are thinking about a destination wedding in the Catskills or anywhere else, I’d love to connect and tell your story! Get to know more about me and what makes me different from other wedding photographers.