Kutztown, pronounced Kootz-town, is a little town in Pennsylvania, slightly west of Allentown. Many people have never heard of Kutztown. However, with Allentown and Bethlehem only a short drive away, it’s actually a great destination for couples looking to get out of the city and into the countryside. This is a perfect destination wedding spot for people in the NYC metro area. It’s far enough to make you feel like you’re in a different world, but there is no airplane ride required.
Here is how we think an ideal wedding weekend in Kutztown should look...
If your wedding is on Saturday, guests will arrive on a Friday later in the day (after work). If you have your rehearsal on Friday afternoon, you will be able to give your wedding attendants time to go back to the hotel and get refreshed. Hosting a happy hour with some lite bites is a great way to welcome your guests and have them meet your wedding party as well.
Since Kutztown is a small community, the hotel blocks are typically set up in Allentown and Bethlehem. This means guests travelling from the East will have a shorter drive to their destination. For a truly memorable “happy hour,” I highly recommend “The Bookstore." Set up shuttles for your guests to be taken there as it’s a hidden spot with very limited parking. It's worth doing this because the Bookstore has got the best bar in the state. Seriously. This place is a true "speakeasy," and even the hippest New Yorker will be impressed. They offer food and live music, alongside their huge liquor selection. End the night with a shuttle ride back to the hotel to make sure guests get a good night sleep before the wedding day.
Kutztown is the home of one of my favorite barn venues. A relatively recent addition to the wedding scene, The Rodale Institute is an organic working farm with rolling hills, live animals and beautiful scenery. They have gardens of flowers that change with the season, so you can have a different setting depending on what month you choose. You can be married on a hilltop surrounded by apple orchards or in a field beneath massive willow trees. Set up shuttles to take your guests from their hotel(s) straight to the venue, where you can hold your ceremony, cocktail hour and reception.
Unlike other barn wedding venues, Rodale includes tables and chairs in the basic rental fee. This means you don’t have to be concerned with renting these unless you want something different. They also allow you to be on the property until 11pm, which is later than most farms by 1-2 hours. You have the property for the entire weekend (also included in the rental fee), which means your florist and designers can set up anytime on Friday and not have to breakdown until Sunday. While they do offer a list of preferred vendors, being a creative space, you are welcome to bring in any caterer of your choosing.
Since the farm is so huge, your guests will be transported to the ceremony spot and then to the cocktail hour via tractors. This is not the “sit on the hay and ruin your dress” type of tractor. Nope, they do it right at Rodale; your guests will have actual seats. As the rustic trend continues to be popular, this barn is a perfect option: you can leave it as is with their hanging market lights and natural beauty, or you can enhance it with chandeliers and flowers.
For the day after the wedding, consider the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail for your guests. Since many guests will travel home the morning after the wedding, this is a great chance for a small group to visit the wineries together. If your group is small enough, you can even rent a limousine. Visit a few wineries on the trail (my recommendations include Big Creek and Tolino). When you are done sipping, head to brunch to say “farewell.” The Hamilton Kitchen and Bar in downtown Allentown is perfect for brunch. It has a large outdoor seating area.
During the wedding weekend, it’s important for your guests to have a great place to stay. When hosting a wedding at Rodale, your maximum guest capacity is 180, so you want to make sure there are enough rooms for everyone. Everyone has a different hotel preference, and there are various options in the area.
For guests who prefer a chain hotel, I recommend the Homewood Suites in Allentown. This hotel offers different types of rooms, including suites, so that guests can share space (and costs) if they want. There is also a pool and gym on site, and pets are allowed.
A beautiful bed and breakfast option in Bethlehem is the Sayre Mansion. The rooms are luxurious and romantic, yet come fully equipped with the ever important WI-FI. This is listed as one of the “historic hotels of America” and it has carriage suites in addition to the 19 private guestrooms. While it’s not available for block purposes, I recommend to my couples that they suggest this hotel in their invitations for other couples who might like to make this a romantic weekend themselves.
Closer to The Rodale Institute is another bed and breakfast that is perfect for the wedding couple as well as their wedding party and/or immediate family. The Main Street Inn, located in downtown Kutztown, offers eight beautifully designed rooms with vintage flair. There is a porch outside where guests can mingle and relax on the rocking chairs and gliders. Only a few minutes from Rodale, this bed and breakfast is the perfect location for those directly involved in the wedding.
The Hamilton District in downtown Allentown, which is a popular place to set up hotel blocks for a wedding in Kutztown, offers some very cool “non-chain” restaurants to recommend to wedding guests. Shula’s Steakhouse (named after football legend Don Shula, of course) is the perfect restaurant to recommend to those guests that want quality meat paired with fantastic wine options. It’s a modern place that city dwellers will enjoy going to, especially if they are fans of surf and turf.
Allentown Brew Works is a historic building that tourists will love to visit. There are five floors in this restaurant, and a menu that caters to every taste. This is a fun place to recommend to wedding guests because they will enjoy the surroundings. If the fact that Rodale is an organic farm is appealing to the couple, then this place is a must try. They focus heavily on sustainability at the brewery and use mainly local ingredients.
Down the street in Bethlehem, there’s The Wooden Match, which is defined by three things: beer, meat and cigars. They have exterior and interior seating. Many couples may not smoke cigars, but they do ask me to bring in cigar rollers for the day of the event, and those cigars tend to go quickly. This restaurant is a must on the suggestion list given that many “cigar bars” no longer exist. Your guests will thank you!
Depending on the time of year, Lehigh Valley and Berks County offer plenty of festivals for groups to attend. Bethlehem is actually known as “the city of festivals.” One of the highlights is the Blues Festival. Couples should be aware of the event calendar so that they can recommend extra events to their guests AND, more importantly, so that they can reserve blocks of rooms ahead of time so they are not left without enough accommodations.
Of course, Sands Casino is perfect for the guests that like to gamble. Sands is great not just for the gamblers, but for the shoppers as well since there are plenty of outlets to choose from. Sands has wonderful nightlife, dining and hotel rooms. Best of all, it is only 25 minutes from Rodale.
For the guests that love to go antique shopping, Kutztown and the surrounding area is full of shops. The Fleetwood Antique Mall is 40,000 square feet of amazing finds and, yes, unlike many similar venues, they take credit cards. For the hardcore antique guest, you can even visit their website in advance to see plenty of what they are currently offering.
Whatever your guests want to do, there are plenty of options. The name “Kutztown” always scares my couples when they first hear it, but once they know all that is offered here, they feel excited. It truly is off the beaten path and a hidden gem that wedding guests will be talking about long after the wedding weekend is over.