Venue Spotlight: Willowdale Estate

Willowdale Estate

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Photo Credit: Ryan Kenner Photography

The Willowdale Estate is located in beautiful Topsfield, Massachusetts and it is the perfect place for a wedding, shower or any type of party. We were there recently for their Entertaining 101 series and had a blast learning how the be the best host while checking out the gorgeous venue! Below you’ll find all the information you need on hosting your next event at the charming Willowdale Estate.


Willowdale Estate is an Arts and Crafts Stone Mansion; the property today is about 4 acres of the 720-acre Bradley Palmer State Park. In 1901, construction of the mansion was under way with owner Bradley Palmer and architect Charles Amos Cummings. The home was host of many grand parties with guests such as President Taft, Prince of Wales and General Patton. A preservationist and equestrian Bradley Palmer was committed to nature and conservation which is partly why in 1944 upon his death, he left the Mansion and Land to the State to be turned into a park for all to enjoy! Upon being awarded the 50 year lease to Willowdale in 1999, the Forsythe-Fandetti family renovated the mansion for the next eight years—carefully balancing historic accuracy with modern building codes.

Briar Rose Forsythe, their daughter, created her own company at Willowdale Estate providing catering services within the historic estate. Utilizing her decades of hospitality experience with her family’s businesses and her fundamental love of good, wholesome food, Briar has built an organization that leverages the beauty of this historic residence as backdrop for wonderful party experiences throughout the year.


The property includes a tented pavilion during the months of May-October which can hold up to 240 guests, with a minimum of 125. The typical flow of Tent Season weddings would be to host your ceremony in the lovely butterfly courtyard, cocktail hour throughout the mansion, and dinner and dancing under the custom built Sperry Tent. Willowdale only holds one wedding a day, so you’ll have exclusive access to the property for your event.

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Photo Credit: Dani Fine Photography

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Photo Credit: Nate Creamer Photography

Many couples with smaller guest counts (70-125 guests) often consider a more intimate indoor wedding held November through April. The Arts and Crafts style Mansion includes: exposed beams, detailed woodwork, an oversized skylight, French Windows and cozy fireplaces. The Mansion provides the comforts of home and an intimate setting that brings everyone together.

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Photo Credit: Adriano Batti Photography

Vendor Information

Willowdale Estate has a list of preferred vendors to recommend to clients. If a client wants to book a vendor that is not on the list, they work with the client to make sure that they are hiring an experienced, licensed wedding professional and to ensure they get the best service possible.

Willowdale Estate has an in-house catering team which adds to the convenience of hosting your next event here. The catering packages range from $99-$119 per person based on the season and day of the week. These packages include a large selection of food choices, linens, flatware, glassware and all of the service staff for the event.

Rental Information

Willowdale Estate has a range of site rental rates for 2015 that starts at $3,200 through $7,500 depending on the season and day of the week. The cost for adding a ceremony is $750 and covers all of the chairs, setup, extra time including 2 hours of getting ready and a full hour for parking, seating and the ceremony.

Contact the Wedding Sales Managers, Belinda and Kaitlin for more detailed information and to book your next event: or 978-887-8211.

Happy Planning!

The Swank Team

Five Ways to be the Best Bridesmaid

So you’ve been asked to be a bridesmaid…now what? Throughout the wedding planning process, the bridesmaids provide crucial support to the couple. While being in a wedding is a great honor, it can also be an overwhelming experience; but don’t worry- we’ve got you covered!

Here are the top five things you need to know to be the best bridesmaid:

1. Make yourself available…for anything! This may include dress/shoe/accessory shopping, putting together favors, writing out escort cards, addressing wedding invitations, creating welcome bags or anything in between. Ask what you can do to help and pitch in wherever needed!

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Photo Credit: Shoreshotz Photography

2. Plan an awesome bridal shower. The shower usually happens about 3 months from the wedding date. Make sure you and the other bridesmaids consult with the mother of the bride and mother of the groom before making any definite plans. This is also a fun opportunity to plan a themed party. Think about what the bride likes – if she loves wine, perhaps host the shower at a winery. Does the bride enjoy tea, the beach or Paris? These are all great ideas for a themed bridal shower. Also, be sure to check out our blog post on Bridal Shower Games you Should Play.







Photo Credit: Swank Events

3. Help keep the bride-to-be stress-free. This may be as simple as taking the bride out for a coffee or cocktail during a stressful week or just being a good listener when she needs to vent. Or you may need to step in to prevent some wedding drama. Regardless, constantly checking in to make sure things are going okay is a good idea.

4. Plan a fun bachelorette party. Help plan a memorable night for the bride that she will enjoy. Your ideal night out might not be the same as hers, so plan accordingly! For a low key bride that just wants time to relax with her girls, you could plan a spa getaway or a beach retreat. If the bride is looking for one last big party before the wedding, then take her out for a night on the town. Whatever you do, be sure to get a list from the bride of everyone she wants to invite to her last fling before the ring!

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Photo Credit: It’s a Bride’s Life, Haymarket Designs

5. Be prepared on the wedding day. The big day is finally here!

  • Make sure that the bride (and bridesmaids) eat and stay hydrated. The bridal party often misses cocktail hour because of pictures, so take a bite whenever you can.
  • Save the drinking for the reception – especially if you are giving a speech!
  • Come prepared for anything! Pinch Provisions makes a great emergency kit- or you can make your own. Don’t forget: Safety pins, nail file, deodorant, mints, tissues, bandaids, bobby pins, stain remover, fashion tape, hair spray


  • Finally, help get the party started and be the first one on the dance floor!


Photo Credit: Photography by Linda

Being asked to be a bridesmaid is an honor- enjoy every minute!


The Swank Team

Coming soon: Vendor LOVE!


This month, we’ll be starting a new series here on the blog called Vendor LOVE!

As event planners, we know how important vendors are to an event’s success. To thank our wonderful vendors and to share how fabulous they are with all of you, we will be highlighting one vendor each month and telling you a whole lot more about them. They’ll discuss how they broke into the industry, what they love about their jobs, and what makes them unique in their field.

We hope this series gives our readers a glimpse of why we love working with our vendors, as well as being a resource for those who are beginning their vendor search.

Stay tuned for more!


The Swank Team

Squeeze in These Quick Workouts Before Squeezing into Your Wedding Dress!

Our very own Jeanette Patenaude, who is also a part time kickboxing instructor, shares her favorite exercises for toning your arms, abs, and glutes. The great thing about these workouts is that they can be done anywhere and without any gym equipment.

Push-ups are one of the best workouts you can do. Not only do they strengthen your chest, but they shape your shoulders, triceps, and glutes while toning your core. So, if you have a sleeveless or strapless wedding dress, you definitely want to start incorporating push-ups into your wedding workout routine!


Get into high plank position, with your hands under and slightly outside your shoulders.



B: With your core tight, lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor. Pause, then push back up to high plank. Do as many reps as you can!



Jump Squats
Squats work the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. By adding a jump to the squat, you are adding extra calorie burn and power. No need to buy those butt padded Spanx for under your dress, all you need to do are jump squats!

jump squat

Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed slightly out. Keeping your chest upright and core tight, bend your knees and sit your hips back.


B: Press through your heels to jump as high as you can off the ground, swinging your arms behind you and do 10-12 reps.




Knee Catch Sit-ups
Sit-ups help tighten and tone your core. Doing standard sit-ups will only work one part of your core, so adding the knee catch intensifies the core work. Add some of these into your usual ab workout and before you know it, your dress will fit like a glove!

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Lay down flat with your arms above your head and your feet nearly touching the ground, keeping your core engaged.



B: Sit up fast while bringing your knees into your chest and “catch” them, making sure your feet don’t touch the ground. Do 15-20 reps.



Mountain Climbers with a Twist
Mountain climbers will help you get those abs, as this move works several core muscles, while also providing cardio. Similar to push-ups, these help shape your shoulders and triceps. Now let’s get those arms photo ready!

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Assume the push-up position (high plank).


While keeping your core tight, lift your right foot and bring your right knee toward your left shoulder.


C: Alternate sides and do 10-12 reps.



Whether you have a year or a month until your big day, incorporating these quick, effective workouts into your daily exercise routine will help you look and feel your best in your wedding dress!


The Swank Team

Meet Our Couples: Lydia & Henrik

Since we talk about our couples all the time and often post photos of their big day, we thought it would be fun for you to get to know them in advance. The first couple we’d like to introduce you to is Lydia and Henrik. Here’s the couples’ love story from the Bride.


How they met and fell in love…
I met Henrik the day after his birthday in January of 2012. We were both out with friends that night, and though we only talked for a few minutes, we clicked right away. He thought our age difference was too big, though, so we didn’t make plans to meet again. But when I emailed him, he emailed me back, and after a month of emailing back and forth, we decided we had way too much to talk about to just leave it at that! We finally got together for dinner one Sunday night, and the rest is history. We have many of the same passions, like art, travel, and a deep curiosity about life, and we fell in love over the next few months as we discovered how well we balance and complement each other.

How they got engaged…
We got engaged at the beginning of our travels in Europe this past summer, when we were in Paris. It was a beautiful sunny day in one of my favorite cities. As we began our day of sightseeing, so began Henrik’s search for a quiet moment to propose – no easy feat in one of the most tourist-laden places in the world! He was thwarted not once, but twice. First, he thought he’d pop the question at the Jardin des Tuileries, which he knew I loved. So we strolled over, only to find that it was gated shut for construction. Then, he figured the Louvre would be a good spot, given our shared love of art. But just as we walked into the courtyard, I noticed a bride walking by and exclaimed, “Look! How romantic!” He was foiled again. We decided to walk towards Notre Dame next. As we stood there admiring the façade, Henrik noticed that there weren’t too many tourists close by – we had ended up with our quiet moment after all. He told me to face the cathedral so he could get a picture of me looking at it while he got down on one knee behind me. When I turned back around, he was holding the ring. (He got the picture too!)

Random fun fact about the couple…
Henrik is Norwegian, and I have a major sweet tooth. Early on in our relationship, I asked if I could sample the mysterious candies he had stocked in his pantry. Since then, I’ve been completely addicted to Turkish Pepper, a kind of salty licorice candy that you can find in Scandinavia and Finland. I never even liked licorice before, and now I eat it more than he does!

Does it get anymore romantic than that? We’re thrilled Lydia and Henrik brought on the Swank Team to ensure a flawless day when they tie the knot next June at the gorgeous Lyman Estate in Waltham. We can’t wait to see how this beautiful garden themed wedding comes together.


The Swank Team