Kelly and Ben: Rocky Neck State Park, Niantic, CT

Kelly + Ben were the first couple I worked with. I couldn’t have asked for a better couple to work with for my first wedding.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty and awesome pictures/run-down of the wedding, I would like to take a moment to thank someone. Erin Gates of Elements Interiors, Inc. author of Elements of Style blog. Erin has no idea who I am, but after reading her blog, I feel like I have known her forever. She inspired me to put myself out there as a wedding/event planner and start Planning by Popyk. If you are thinking of starting your own business or just want to read an awesome blog, you should check her out.

All pictures courtesy of Rebecca Hale of Hales Studio. I hope to work with her again soon with my Boston clients

Kelly + Ben selected The Pavilion at Rocky Neck State Park (RN) in Niantic, CT for their ceremony and reception site. Many of their guests were from out of town and they wanted to highlight a scenic spot in CT, where they had been living.

With a save the date like this, I knew this would be a fun wedding to help plan. They got this idea from a greeting card. The opposite side is a picture of the two of them mirroring the picture with their own large pitchers.

Rehearsal dinner was at the famous Mystic Pizza, from the movie….Mystic Pizza. I am from CT and actually never have been there. So I made sure to sample the product before the endorsement…and it is just as good as everyone says. The pizza, still haven’t seen the movie.

Kelly and guests stayed at the Niantic Inn. A quaint inn located in downtown Niantic, minutes to RN which has a lovely view of the ocean. It also provides the backdrop for some great photo ops.

The guys before the wedding. Not very hard to find a boat in these parts.

The couple decided to take pictures before the wedding to maximize time with guests and enjoy the cocktail hour. I don’t blame them. Appetizers are the best part!

Some shots of the couple.

My favorite of Kelly.

Her dress was  Augusta Jones in Ivory.

My favorite of Ben.

Ben and the guys…

Parks like this one with beautiful grounds and detailed, architecturally appealing buildings are an untapped resource for weddings. You can’t beat the views and possible photo ops. The best thing about RN was the stellar staff, particularly Sue who had great recommendations throughout our planning stages.

There are multiple locations to choose from for a ceremony. Kelly + Ben selected a wooded area overlooking the water. Here Kelly’s brothers walked her down the aisle. For music, their neighbor played the harp. It was the perfect accompaniment to the waves crashing in the background.

. The ceremony was officiated by Ernest Adams of Nutmeg Justice of the Peace. If you are looking for a JP in the New England area, I would highly recommend Ernest. He is almost a JP/Wedding planner in one. Not officially, he is just that good. We needed to do multiple walk-throughs of the site because Rocky Neck Park was severely damaged by Hurricane Irene like much of the CT coast. Two weeks before the wedding, we still did not have the o.k. to use the Pavilion because trees were blocking the entrance to the park itself. Ernest worked with me to brainstorm back up plans in case we needed to find an alternative site for 250 people in 2 weeks! Yikes! Luckily the park staff worked tirelessly to get it up and running and we didn’t need an alternative.

One unique part of the ceremony that Ernest does is a ribbon ceremony. It is a way for family members to get involved. The couple and family members had a good time with it.

Kelly and the girls. Dresses by Monique Lhuillier from Nordstrom. The stone walkway wraps around the Pavillion and is another option for a smaller ceremony.


Flowers by McQuades. They also provided catering. This saved on cost because delivery of food and floral were combined.  The florist was excellent.

Maximizing your floral budget

  • Combine vendors
  • Stick with what exists in nature. Not because I am an ubber environmentalist. I have a rain barrel, but that is the extent of it. If it isn’t in season or if you have to dye flowers to make them the color you want, it will be more expensive and the flowers won’t last as long. 
  • Don’t be too matchy. Complimentary colors will make everything pop. 

The florist worked with us to replicate the look Kelly wanted by using local and seasonal flowers.  

And on to the reception. The Pavilion again has so much natural detail, that you really don’t need that much to dress it up. Less really is more at this place.

By day the natural light from the windows overlooking the water. By night, the vintage lanterns (and added Chinese lanterns) light the reception. At this fall wedding, we got to experience both. We went with white linens and white chairs to provide a contrast to the wood.

The cocktail hour was held at one end of the Pavilion which opened up to a Terrace. They change the flora seasonally, so no decor needed outside. You can see the ceremony site from here as well.


Place settings were again simple. A single mum tied with twine to the napkin. These napkins are actually paper. Can you tell? And they are the softest paper napkins ever. With 250 plus guests, this was a huge savings. In addition they used silver plastic flatware and white plastic diner ware. Caters can buy them in bulk and they are significantly cheaper than the standard place setting.

The Entrance Table.

Kelly and Ben both have careers in the sciences, so what better way to display guest tables than a test tube filled with personalized M & Ms. The couple also displayed pictures on the table. We used green mums throughout the Pavilion to add a pop of color when needed. Since mums are so hardy, they lasted for the whole event without needing water.

Instead of a traditional guestbook, they had a large champagne bottle for guests to sign. Here is a before and after.

Food again was by McQuades Marketplace. Bill from McQuades was excellent in customizing a menu to Kelly and Ben’s budget. When Sue from RN recommended Bill from McQuades and said they can “hustle”, she wasn’t kidding. The catering staff was waiting at the gates as soon as they were allowed to get in, cooked the food fresh outside, managed to tie the flowers to all the place settings, helped out with centerpieces, and was packed up and out of the building in time. At RN and many reception locations you will be billed if you exceed your time. They knew how to get in and get out and leave the place in good condition so that Kelly and Ben got their deposit back.

Cake provided by Deb from O My G’nache. I have had the pleasure of working with Deb   at a previous job where I sampled many of her cakes. Deb provided a tasting for the couple, which I attended (cake….of course I was there, I even got to take some home).

You know her cakes are good when they couldn’t decide which one to select. So they picked two flavors for their guests. Red Velvet with cream cheese frosting and Pumpkin with cream cheese frosting. To save in cost, Deb made a 3 tiered cake and some sheet cakes of the two flavors. Another cost saving tip is to have desserts or cake at a table rather than delivered to each guest. This will reduce your cake costs by about 20%. Kelly and Ben offered takeout containers for anyone that wanted more cake for the ride home.

The bridesmaids had the same vintage broach for their hair from etsy.

For music, an 80’s cover band. Awesome.  Orange Crush knew how to get the party started. From the moment they started playing until last call, the dance floor was packed.

There were a lot of kids at this wedding, so Kelly wanted to make sure they had a space and some activities to enjoy in addition to the dancing, which they enjoyed plenty of. The Pavilion is very long, so even with 250 guests we were able to have the band on one end, tables and a kids activity area at the opposite end. It wasn’t secluded, but offered a spot for them to hang out.

Here they are in a pretty intense game of Apples to Apples.

At the bar, there were large bowls with a variety of toys and candy.

Invites by Vistaprint. Kelly and Ben referred their guests to their website on

More pretty detail pics of the flowers and windows.

And the winner of the best dressed (aside from the bride and groom of course)……I’m a sucker for seersucker.

These are my favorite pictures of the archway.

And I will end with some Rocky Neck money shots from Rebecca.

And as the sun set and the music came to an end….there was still more partying to be had. Kelly + Ben invited guests to join them for an after-party down the street at The Black Sheep.

This entry was posted in Connecticut, Fall Weddings, Purple Weddings, Weddings on the Water. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Kelly and Ben: Rocky Neck State Park, Niantic, CT

  1. Debra says:

    You truly did a wonderful job with Kelly and Ben’s wedding! I was there first hand to see how calm and focused you were, while smiling!
    It was a pleasure working with Kelly & Ben as their cake decorator, thank you for the opportunity!
    I hope we can work together again soon!

  2. Pingback: Amy and Joe: The Pavilion at Rocky Neck State Park, Niantic, CT |

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