A handful of businesses in the Capital Region offer carriages for that special day:
Classic Carriage Service
It’s not just brides and grooms who take a ride in a Classic Carriage from Johnstown.
Tamara Healy’s handsome black carriage and a team of horses carried Santa in the Gloversville Holiday Parade. It was also a main attraction at Holiday on the Avenue in Scotia and the Victorian Holiday Celebration in Sharon Springs.
The carriage, a vis-à-vis, in which passengers sit facing each other, is Healy’s most popular horse-drawn vehicle for weddings.
For the bride, a black carriage is the best, she says.
“If a bride is sitting in a white or light-colored gown in a light-colored carriage, she doesn’t become the focal point. My carriage has the darker background, the beautiful burgundy interior, and the bride pops. She’s definitely the center.”
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Couples can also choose an Eagle, a smaller carriage pulled by one horse, or a waggonette, which can hold up to 10.
Healy, who has owned the business for 18 years and is the main driver, grew up on a Johnstown farm, and is the third generation in her family to live on the 200-acre property on Route 31A, which was originally a dairy farm.
When she was three years old, while her parents were busy milking in the barn, she took her first ride on a horse, bareback and without a bridle. With her father, she learned to drive a team of oxen when she was still a girl and by her teen years, she was driving horses.
Today, she has four carriage horses: two bay Percherons, a black Clydesdale and a black Shire.
Classic Carriage does weddings in Fulton, Montgomery, Saratoga, Oneida and Herkimer counties, but “we can go virtually anywhere,” she says.
Healy is the president of Eastern Regional Draft Horse Association and is also active with Cornell Cooperative Extension, 4-H and the American Farm Bureau Federation.
And when she’s not driving carriages, she’s a band teacher at an elementary school in Johnstown.
The Bowman family and their apple orchard span four generations. But horses, too, are part of the family.
“We’ve always had the draft horses in the orchard, we’ve always really enjoyed them,” says Katie Bowman, a third-generation member who was born and raised on the 98 acres in Rexford. Last July, Katie got married in the orchard.
Bowman and her mother, Martha, are co-owners of Bowman Carriages, a separate business based on the apple farm, which since 2008 has been offering horse-and-carriage services for weddings and other events in the Capital Region and beyond.
“We’ve gone as far as Syracuse. We’ve done a few things in Vermont. Pretty much as far as people want us to go, will we go.”
They have three carriages and two wagons that are pulled by a Belgian or a team of Percherons. For weddings, the most popular is the Cinderella carriage, an ornate white vehicle with a pumpkin-like shape that seats six.
“It’s by far the most beautiful carriage that we have,” Bowman says. “Every bride wants to feel like she’s having a fairytale wedding day.”
The other available vehicles are a white limo vis-à-vis that seats six; a black Victorian vis-à-vis that seats four; a people mover wagon for up to 20 people and a farm wagon that seats eight.
Bowman is the driver and her husband, Chad Oathout, is the footman.
“It’s a family-run business,” she says. Draft horses “were a big part of my mother’s life and my father’s life. It’s just passed down the generations.”
Saratoga Horse & Carriage
At Lakota’s Farm in Washington County, brides say “I do” at a scenic outdoor site, ride in a horse-drawn carriage and then celebrate in a 19th-century barn that’s decked out with an elegant chandelier, a mahogany bar and vintage china.
“It’s a 182-year-old dairy barn converted into a wedding venue,” says Kimberly Finney, who runs the Cambridge horse farm with her husband, Alan. “It can be a sit-down, plated formal event with the gentlemen in tuxedos,” she says, “a very laid-back, Bohemian event” or a party with “a country feel.”
The Finneys, who have owned Saratoga Horse and Carriage since 2011, opened the wedding barn in 2016 after a major two-year renovation of the 36-acre property and its buildings. Nine horses, including three rescue animals, live with the Finneys on the farm.
Saratoga Horse and Carriage has been hired for weddings in Saratoga Springs, the Adirondacks, Catskills, Vermont and Massachusetts. Now, because they are busy with barn weddings, they are not traveling as much with the business.
“We want people to come to us, to share our farm with people,” Finney says.
Their carriages include a black vis-à-vis, a white vis-à-vis and a hay wagon.
“They get to have that grand romantic entrance. Sometimes there’s not a dry eye in the house.”
Kimberly and Alan, both Connecticut natives, grew up with horses.
When she was a child, her father lived in Hoosick Falls and he had draft horses. By the time she was 13 years old, she was driving a team of Percherons at the New York State Fair.
Kimberly served in the Army as a military police officer and then earned degrees in criminal law enforcement, hotel restaurant management and culinary arts. She has worked as wagon driver on a Colorado dude ranch, events banquet manager at San Diego’s famous Hotel Del Coronado and food and beverage manager at The Sagamore Resort on Lake George.
Alan, a master carpenter, has a home building business, Tallat Designs, that’s based on the farm.
Loon Meadow Farm
“The first wedding I ever did was for my brother,” says Beth Podhajecki.
That horse and carriage ride, with young Beth in the driver’s seat, launched a business that’s still going 35 years later.
When Beth married, her husband Steve joined the venture, and for more than 20 years, the couple did weddings and other events in Connecticut and Westchester County.
In 2016, they moved to Greenfield Center, six miles from Saratoga Springs, and built a house on the 153-acre property where Steve grew up. Their new home, Loon Meadow Farm, is also a bed and breakfast.
The couple now does weddings and other events in Saratoga Springs and the surrounding area.
“We have 20 horse-drawn vehicles, some of which are sleighs,” Podhajecki says. “I love horse-drawn vehicles, especially the antique vehicles, which are so lovely.”
For weddings, their popular vehicles are a French vis-à-vis that seats four, and two Victoria Phaetons, a two-passenger carriage in a style that was designed for Queen Victoria. One is white and one is burgundy. They also have a 12-passenger waggonette.
When the Podhajeckis do a wedding, Beth is usually the driver and Steve is the footman, and they both wear formal attire, including vintage top hats.
Their wedding customers are often horse lovers. “Other times, they just feel it would add a romantic, special elegance to the wedding,” Podhajecki says.
Couples today want to make a grand entrance, even if the ceremony and reception are at one location. “With the carriage, we can pick them up at a discreet location at the venue or perhaps nearby, and we can bring them in dramatic fashion,” she says.
“Today, people are looking to make it unique. We try to tailor our service to whatever concept they are looking for.”
Karen Bjornland is a freelance writer and editor.