2 Hudson Valley Wedding Venues: The Garrison and The Highlands Country Club
There are two Hudson Valley wedding venues that are near and dear to me; The Garrison and The Highlands Country Club. I have known both of these Hudson Valley wedding venues intimately, both personally and professionally as a Hudson Valley Wedding Photographer.
Personally, The Garrison and The Highlands have been a permanent fixture in my life for twenty-two years as a member of the Cold Spring and Garrison communities. As a Hudson Valley wedding photographer, The Garrison and The Highlands Country Club are my “home’ venues. I have photographed at both properties on multiple occasions – in fact, The Garrison marked my beginnings as a professional photographer.
The main similarity between these two Hudson Valley wedding venues, other than being jointly owned and both on golf courses, is that they are both contained in the Hudson Highlands. This, in my mind, lends largely to their charm. The Hudson Highlands is, after all, the most gorgeous and historical part of the Hudson River. However, when it comes to the details of your Hudson Valley wedding, The Garrison and The Highlands Country Club are two unique Hudson Valley wedding venues, each offering a different feel.
The Garrison: Hudson Valley Wedding Venue
The Garrison is just about two miles from the Highlands Country Club. Both Hudson Valley venues are located in the quaint Hamlet of Garrison, NY. Although The Garrison is further from the Hudson River than The Highlands Country Club, it is better known for its Hudson Valley view. This is because The Garrison sits on a hill that lends itself to a vast panorama of one of the most dramatic landscapes the Hudson River has to offer.
From a Garrison wedding, you can clearly see why the Hudson River is considered a fjord.
Storm King Mountain on the east side of the river and Breakneck Ridge on the west creates the pinnacle of this gorge and is called Wind Gate.
View of “Wind Gate” from The Garrison
Wind Gate, clearly visible from The Garrison, has long been a landscape that inspires. In fact, the center of America’s first homegrown artist movement, aka the Hudson River School of artists, blossomed along this part of the river.
This view is also historically significant in an unexpected environmental way.
A battle to preserve Storm King Mountain (the centerpiece of that view) actually set the stage for today’s modern environmental movement. In the early 1960’s, Consolidated Energy proposed tearing up Storm King mountain to make way for an electric storage plant. A group of concerned citizens opposed the proposed plant and won on environmental grounds, which was unprecedented at the time.
Hudson River School Painting of “Wind Gate” From West Point, by John Ferguson Weir
Present Day Photo of “Wind Gate” From West Point
I am so grateful that the Highlands beauty was preserved by these actionable citizens. No matter what angle you view, paint, or photograph Wind Gate from, it is just so utterly beautiful.
This historical view was meant to be breathed in on your wedding and is front and center during an outdoor wedding ceremony at The Garrison.
Summer Wedding in The Garrison’s Ceremony Garden
The Garrison’s initial incarnation was as a men’s health and physical recreation resort. The original gymnasium brings you back to this era and is still intact on the North end of the building. In the 1960’s it became The Garrison Golf Club.
In recent years, the Hudson Room was added to the property, as a distinct cocktail area. This room also acts as an amazing indoor ceremony space in the case of rain. The Garrison’s Hudson Room is a gorgeous, light, airy and modern space. The room has clean lines, a muted palette and is flanked by floor to ceiling windows on two of its walls. Of course, nobody wants to forgo the outdoor wedding in the Ceremony Garden with its amazing view as a backdrop. However, in the case of foul weather, the Hudson Room is the closest you can get to being outside while still being fully protected from the elements.
Winter Wedding Ceremony in the Hudson Room at The Garrison
Winter Wedding Ceremony in the Hudson Room at The Garrison
A Garrison wedding is actually gorgeous in all types of weather. Even in the dead of winter the view still inspires. The stone gazebo, just outside the front door is a sweet spot for photos and just a quick jot from the main door in the case of rain. In the spring, the landscape blooms with many trees and flowers. In the summer there is tall grass, and weeping willow trees. The photo possibilities are numerous and so close to the main building. Trust me, this proximity will go far in simplifying your wedding day.
Summer Wedding at The Garrison
Winter Wedding at The Garrison
A particular hill on The Garrison’s Golf Course makes this Hudson Valley Wedding Photographer VERY happy. This hill wonderfully gives way to a vast sky. I have also used that hill for editorial portraits in addition to weddings. In fact, I recently photographed The Garrison’s manager’s husband on that hill for the Garden Conservancy of America.
A Bride and Groom Walking Across the Hill at The Garrison
An Editorial Photo I Did on The Hill at The Garrison
Both of these Hudson Valley wedding venues only hold one wedding at a time. There is a small public bar on-site, called World’s End. The bar is clearly delineated from the ballroom though. The Garrison also houses a sweet public restaurant called The Valley. The food is American and mainly sourced from local purveyors and a small farm on the property.
I think The Valley Restaurant would be the perfect reception space for an elopement or micro-wedding.
You can read about other Elopement and micro wedding locations in the Hudson Valley Here: https://christineashburnweddings.com/2020/05/09/intimate-wedding-and-elopement/
Unlike The Highlands, The Garrison has guest accommodations. There are four guest rooms on-site. There is also a small room for the bride to get ready. I would suggest getting a guest room if both the bride and bridal party want to get ready together. The window light in the guest rooms is bright and cheery.
A Bride Getting Ready in the Bridal Suite at The Garrsion
The Garrison is where I began as a photographer.
It is within the World’s End Bar that I took my very first portrait with intention. The portrait was for an assignment while studying at the International Center for Photography in Manhattan. The challenge was to photograph a friend – the way you see them. While at a local fundraiser at The Garrison, I happened upon a friend, who I thought was perfectly suited for this portrait assignment. My friend was wearing a fur coat at the event and looked so regal and from another era. I asked her if she would let me photograph her the next week at The Garrison in that very same outfit. She agreed and we set out to The Garrison for lunch, the following week. At the time, I knew very little about light but I did love the wallpaper in the barroom and positioned my friend there. The spot at the bar just happened to be adjacent to a large north-facing window. The light was incredible and to this day, it is within this light that I most like to photograph. This photo changed everything for me. I remember submitting the printed photo to the class for the first time and everyone, including the teacher, stopped what they were doing to peer further at the portrait. Ironically, it was this friend portrayed in this photo who first encouraged me to take up photography.
My Very First Portrait as a Photographer. Photographed at The Garrison.
The Garrison is also where I photographed my very first event – my eldest daughter’s Eighth Grade school dance. When the PTA asked me to photograph the event, I was ecstatic. I photographed the kids dancing and set up a photo booth.
However, I was really interested in doing a solo portrait of each child. I had the view in mind as a backdrop but it was raining out. I did not know much about flash photography at that time but I knew enough. I realized, even then, that bouncing the flash was much better than having the flash shot directly at the subject.
Luckily, just outside The Garrison’s main entrance, there is a long awning. I was incredibly nervous and under pressure to make something beautiful but I did not have much experience photographing with a flash. I did a quick test, and it turned out that bouncing the flash off the awning made for a beautiful light source – while still protecting the kids and myself from the rain. I stared at those photos for hours. They were beautifully executed and captured each child so well. I am still proud of those photos.
A Youth Portrait from My Very First Event as a Photographer, Which Was At The Garrison.
(The Front Awning and a Flash Can be a wonderful place to capture a portrait when it rains. )
The Highlands Country Club: Hudson Valley Wedding Venue
If you were to poll Hudson Valley Wedding photographers asking them to name their favorite Hudson Valley wedding venue, The Highlands would rank very high. The Highlands Country Club has a quaintness to it. It wears it’s patina elegantly – especially in the ballroom.
The chandelier in the ballroom is like a big cherry on top of a wonderful molded cake room.
The large windows are gorgeous and the way the room flows through large doors onto the brick porch is amazing.
The Ballroom During a The Highlands Country Club Wedding Reception
I love the porch at The Highlands. I have enjoyed that porch on many occasions and as a photographer, I really appreciate the gorgeous open shade light it provides. It also provides a protected space to photograph portraits in the case of rain. Cocktail hours on the porch and in the adjacent lawn are lovely. The fire pits at night, with guests overflowing from the ballroom, are especially wonderful. The small bar is super cozy. And although the Highlands Country club does not have a river view, it still just seems to encapsulate the magic of the Hudson Highlands best.
The ambiance here is very sweet.
The solarium next to the main ballroom can be used for a cocktail hour and for a wedding ceremony in the case of rain. Generally, the grass courtyard in front of a large tree is an ideal location for a marriage ceremony.
A Highlands Country Club Wedding Ceremony in the Solarium
An Outdoor Highlands Country Club Wedding Ceremony
In addition, there are numerous sweet nooks to utilize in wedding photos, throughout The Highlands Country Club property. The weeping willows on the golf course are gorgeous. The hedges out front are amazing backdrops. The weathered Dutch barn is incredibly picturesque. There is also a pond and wonderful tree-lined, rolling golf course. The landscape pops in the warmer months and there is also a small bridge. However, my most favorite place to photograph at The Highlands is the bridal suite.
The window light in The Highlands Country Club bridal suite is just incredible and makes for some dramatic portraits.
Among the Weeping Willows at a Highlands Country Club Wedding
Portrait of a Bride in the Gorgeous Window light in The Highlands Country Club Bridal Suite
A Sweet Nook at The Highlands Country Club Wedding
The Highlands was erected jointly by a handful of local wealthy and influential families in 1898 which included the former Governor of NY, Hamilton Fish. The Ballroom served as their social center. These families’ mansions are still dotted along the river in the Hudson Highlands. The most visual of those family homes is Osborn Castle.
The Osborn castle sits on the hill overlooking the Highlands Country Club. The home was originally built by railroad magnate, William Osborn. It was then passed down to his son Henry Osborn. The late Henry Osborn was a paleontologist and the former president of the Museum of Natural History. Henry Osborn gave Tyrannosaurus Rex his name. Can you imagine taking a horse carriage from the castle down the mountain to attend a ball at Highlands? The Osborn family still reside in the area and are active members of the community. Henry’s great-granddaughters are classmates of my youngest daughter.
The castle has been in disarray for many years and was unfortunately completely gutted very recently. I was grateful to be able to photograph inside the castle a couple of times. The first time was for the book, “Connecting: Celebrating the People and Places of the Hudson Highlands”. This book was published by the Hudson Highlands Land Trust and features my photographs of the area alongside essays from local residents. I also photographed a fashion styled shoot in the castle in collaboration with a local artist/clothing maker. You can see the work here: https://christineashburnweddings.com/2018/04/30/dark-and-moody-wedding-photography/
The Osborn Castle. Where One of the Original Families who built The Highlands Country Club lived. It Can Be Seen From Highlands.
The Inside of the Osborn Castle.
A Styled Shoot Inside the Osborn Castle
I have lived up the road from The Highlands for the past twenty-two years. I am also on their preferred wedding vendor list. My family and I were members of The Highlands Country Club when my three girls were little. The Highlands Country Club continues to serve as an unpretentious summer playground and gathering spot for local families. As my daughters got older, they began to work at Highlands Country Club as lifeguards.
I have attended many milestone events at The Highlands, including my best friend’s 40th birthday – whose wedding reception was also at The Highlands. In the winter, it was always lovely to gather in front of the fireplace with friends. And of course, as a Hudson Valley wedding photographer, I have photographed many events there.
Overall, The Highlands is a Hudson Valley wedding venue best suited for weddings on the smaller size, accommodating up to 150 guests. The Highlands has an old-world charm about, albeit no view like The Garrison. However, there is a flow and ambiance to The Highlands that is conducive to having a magical time.
I personally and professionally know both of these Hudson Valley wedding venues like the back of my hand. You can’t go wrong, choosing either to host your Hudson Valley wedding as both are charmed by the history and landscape of the Hudson Highlands. However, the main difference is The Garrison has a more modern feel with a spectacular view. The Highlands Country Club, on the other hand, embraces its old-world charm and magic.
You can see full blog posts from two weddings at The Garrison here:
You can check out a full blog from The Highlands Country Club Here:
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