Green and Gay
Nestled on an immaculately landscaped setting in Connecticut, a charming eco-friendly bed and breakfast specializes in same-sex weddings.
By Brittny Drye
Tucked away on two acres of wooded wildlife in Ridgefield, Conn., surrounded by lush greenery, is Green Rocks Inn, an eco-friendly bed and breakfast that caters to a clientele that prefers to tread lightly on Mother Earth.
Their four exclusive suites and rooms boast organic bedding, towels and eco-yoga mats, each uniquely decorated with character and charm that reflect the innkeepers’ passion for travel, culture, diversity and beauty. Guests are offered eco-friendly fare with the inn’s own organic fair trade coffee and breakfasts made of locally grown organic foods bursting with flavors—freshly squeezed juices, organic fruits and granola, natural Greek yogurt and breads, muffins and croissants paired with creamy organic spreads. They also offer an a la carte menu featuring buttery Eggs Benedict (toasted croissant points covered with fresh organic Nova Scotia smoked salmon, topped with creamy stirred eggs and chives), a decadent parfait, with layers of fresh fruit, yogurt and homemade granola, and the traditional Jewish Nouveaux L.E.O. dish with a twist—scrambled eggs with shallots, chives and parsley, finished with julienne smoked Norwegian salmon.
And while the eco oasis is certainly reason to visit, it’s the weddings held at this escape that hold a special place in the hearts of the innkeepers, Barbara Simkins (a transplant from the corporate world) and her partner Natacha Friedman (who has a rich international background—born in Israel, raised in France and speaks five languages fluently: French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and English). They host, on average, 30 weddings a year, 90 percent of those being LGBT.
“We had the bed and breakfast, but when the marriage equality act was passed in Connecticut, we were hosting some guests at the inn, who happened to be gay, who said ‘Wow wouldn’t it be neat, now that your state has a same-sex marriage law, to do weddings here?’ and that was really the first time it even occurred to me to do it,” explains Simkins. “The following spring, we started to get a lot of phone calls from folks who wanted to do weddings here. It really happened organically.”
The gay owned and operated property sets the perfect backdrop for your special day, offering packages from elopements (Simkins reminisces about a particularly dashing gay couple from Denmark, dressed only in white t-shirts, jeans and their love for each other) to elaborate celebrations with the works.
They plan everything in-house, with a comprehensive list of hand-selected partners and vendors that are both eco- and gay-friendly, from photographers to caterers, florists to rental companies. Dedicated to ensuring the respect for the marriage ceremony and vows, Simkins became a Justice of the Peace in 2010. She wanted to ensure that all couples—gay, bi, lesbian, transgender, straight—received the ceremony they deserve.
“I really never thought I’d see the day when gay marriage was being recognized, and it’s just such a special honor to be able to facilitate the joining of two people together, legally,” she says. “It’s indescribable.”
She has since performed more than 100 ceremonies, as well as consulting beforehand in order to customize the ceremony to fit each couple.
Completely customizable, couples have the option of having their wedding indoors or out. The intimate interior can comfortably accommodate a guest list of up to 60. The high-end Asian and African contemporary art and furniture infuse a Zen-like atmosphere, sure to calm even the most concerning wedding day nerves.
Outside, Mother Nature plays as a prominent guest, offering lush greenery as a backdrop during the spring and summer months, while the autumn gives way to New England’s famous foliage, as the leaves blaze with vibrant oranges, red and yellows. Oversized, uniquely shaped rocks —which provided the bed and breakfast its namesake inspiration—line the thickets, offering beautifully earthy landscaping for photo opps.
Once the vows have been exchanged, and they have set into their life as newlyweds, Simkins is well aware of the challenges that they can face. Having worked with so many LGBT couples in beginning their lives together, she has become a source to turn to with a wide range of questions concerning licensing to name changes. Wanting to offer the community inclusive, fully researched answers, she has taken it upon herself to create an extensive marriage resource. Green Rocks Inn will soon be providing counseling, education and a referral network to the GLBT community as we navigate the same-sex marriage waters. Inquiries on name change, divorce, adoption, health care directive, power of attorney, IVF, taxes and more will all be tackled and answered, for both locally and other states.
In today’s world, with the additional marketing opportunities that the LGBT community provides to businesses, several are tapping into it, but very few actually get it. And that’s where Green Rocks Inn shines. Their commitment to gay marriage, and beyond, is what sets the inn apart. “It’s a great addition to our business plan and motto, but at the same time, it’s more of a spiritual experience to us. It’s something we like to categorize as spiritual hospitality,” explains Simkins. “It may sound a little hokey, but it really is that special to us.”