Emily and David Catherwood didn’t exactly have a fairytale meeting.
“It’s kind of a funny story,” Emily said. “My best friend from college called me up one day and asked me if I wanted to go on a free cruise, and I was like, ‘Of course, I do!’”
Unbeknownst to the Long Island native, she would be spending the next few days on a ship with her undergrad buddy’s friends, who would serendipitously become her future in-laws. “[Dave] was supposed to go,” Emily said, “but he got orders from work early, so his family needed a replacement. I went on vacation with his family and met them before I even met Dave. I guess his parents put in a good word.”
After two and a half years of dating, Navy engineer Dave popped the question on a soggy day in Central Park, one of Emily’s favorite spots.
Then came the next big question: where to have the wedding?
“I just didn’t want the same cookie-cutter kind of environment. I looked at some places in Philadelphia, since we live here, and I really didn’t find anything that I loved,” Emily said. “My best friend, who has very good taste, I would say, was like, ‘Why don’t you look at The Inn at Leola Village?’”
When it came to the venue, it was love at first sight. “Once we saw The Inn at Leola,” Emily recalled, “I’m pretty sure it was instant that we knew that that was where we were going to get married.”
While the idyllic Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star resort in the heart of Pennsylvania’s Amish country wooed the twosome, it was the service that made them say “I do” to the venue.
“When we talked to Tara [the couple’s wedding planner at the inn], the answer was always, ‘Of course, we can do that,’” Emily said. “Even random things. Other places we went to just did not have that level of service.”
Another perk of this historic retreat was the fact that it was a full-service venue.
“Everything was there,” she said. “Since we had people traveling, I think we rented out almost the whole inn. We had our rehearsal dinner there. We had our brunch there. The whole weekend was there. We used the florist, the salon, everything.”
On the morning of the May 2018 nuptials, the bride and her friends got ready in the bright pink Ada Fisher Cottage and adjacent salon.
Rather than worry about Pennsylvania’s fickle spring weather, the couple opted to have their ceremony at Casa di Fiori, a farmhouse-inspired venue boasting high open-beam ceilings, large windows and a gorgeous stone wall and fireplace.
Amid the romantic setting, Emily and Dave were still able to put their own twist on the space. “We did drapery through a company that The Inn at Leola recommends, which I think added a nice, dramatic effect to the room,” Emily said. “We had a lot of greenery and a lot of candles set up by the florist, so that turned out really well and it was a nice backdrop.”
After the ceremony, the couple joined their 150 guests in the barn — an adjoining space with two connected terraces — for cocktail hour. The bride and groom each had a signature drink (a lemon drop martini for Emily and a “new fashioned” for Dave), but the real highlight was the food.
“I made sure that I got to go to the risotto and polenta bar,” Emily said. “It’s really fun. Through our package, we picked this option for hors d’oeuvres and you could fill [a martini glass] with polenta or risotto. They had different types of sausages and shrimp that you could put on top, which I’d been dreaming about since we put it together.”
A five-course seated dinner was served inside Casa di Fiori’s main space, which, post-ceremony, was transformed into a festive dining room with a dance floor. The couple and their attendees savored slow-roasted European chicken breast with whipped potatoes and gorgonzola sauce, filet and shrimp with limoncello and port wine demi-glace, and roasted herb and vegetable risotto.
Beyond the flavorful cuisine, Emily said what stood out most was the staff’s attention to detail.
“One of the things that’s nice about The Inn at Leola is that they have what they call white-glove service, and they plate everybody at the same time,” Emily said. “They knew where everybody was seated and what exactly they were eating. So, even if they ordered gluten-free, they got their food at the same time as everybody else. It’s kind of elegant. Somebody told us it was almost like a dance when they put the food down.”
In addition to a whimsical wedding cake complete with shimmering gold polka dots (from the property’s own La Terra Bakery), the twosome opted for a European pastry and doughnut bar, which proved to be a hit.
“I loved the wedding and it went by too fast,” Emily added. “The last song, of course, I had picked it out. So, I knew when they started playing ‘New York, New York’ by Frank Sinatra that that was the last song, and I bawled. I was dancing with my parents and my brothers and it was just one of those amazing moments that I knew later on I would wish I could repeat.”
After the reception, the couple had an after-party at the bar, complete with Cinco de Mayo-themed snacks (a tribute to their May 5 wedding date) and dessert bar leftovers.
From the florist to the head baker and bartenders (who were all recounted by name), every staff member left a lasting impression, Emily said.
“Anything we asked for, they were able to make the dream come true and put it into action,” she said. “From our first meeting with our wedding planner, Tara, we knew we were in good hands and our vision would be possible. The Inn at Leola exceeded Dave and I’s expectations, and we’re so thankful we chose the venue to host the best day of our lives.”