All they wanted was a log cabin and an acre to call home. But when Jordan von Trapp’s parents arrived at the top of the hill at Old Gove Farm in Moretown in 1983, everything changed.
They had driven their Volkswagen bus all the way up the East Coast after leaving their home in the Caribbean with 2-and-a-half-year-old Jordan, searching for a place to land. When a real estate agent said, “Let’s just see the view” up on Gove Road, they climbed past a late-19th-century dairy barn and took in the panorama. Mt. Mansfield, Hunger Mountain, Camel’s Hump and the rest of the central Vermont ridgeline rolled out before them; nearly 88 acres of forest stood behind them.
“My mom’s from Kansas,” von Trapp says. “She was just blown away.”
Her parents bought the land, the barn and a farmhouse the next day. Such is the magical persuasion of that ridge.
These days, von Trapp, now a 31-year-old freelance writer, editor and photographer, lives on the ridge with her husband, artisan cheese maker and timber framer Dan von Trapp, also 31. They’ve found a distinctly 21st-century way to capitalize on the same intoxicating beauty that won over Jordan’s mother and father 30 years ago: They’re renting out the picture-perfect rustic barn — and that million-dollar view — for weddings.
The von Trapps call the place Bliss Ridge. It’s different from most Vermont wedding venues in one key way: Couples can use any vendors they like. They can have a catered six-course gourmet meal or throw together a potluck. They can rent décor from the von Trapps or bring their own. “A wedding is a celebration of your love,” says Jordan. “If you have to have the same one as someone else, how terrible is that?”
Cookie-cutter weddings might not be as horrifying to many people as they are to Jordan von Trapp, whose own 2010 wedding at Bliss Ridge was an utterly DIY affair. Pretty much everyone the couple knew contributed something — seeding the grass, cleaning the barn, excavating, scouring yard sales, crafting paper flowers, dressmaking, even concocting signature cocktails. “We had to re-landscape the property,” Dan recalls. And they did it all in less than four months.
The wedding was such a hit that the von Trapps decided to open up Bliss Ridge to other couples. Jordan saw it as an outlet for creativity. Plus, she says, “It’s supporting our farming habit.”
She and Dan grow organic vegetables and hay the fields, and they’re hoping to soon raise beef cattle and ducks. (Jordan documents their farming adventures on her blog, Saucy Vermont.)
“We’ve been to enough wedding venues to know what we didn’t want to be — a fake barn,” Jordan says.
Bliss Ridge’s $5000 site fee includes use of the grounds and barn — which features catering areas and a “rustic-chic powder room” for the bride — as well as tables and up to 200 chairs and assorted eclectic décor. There’s no septic system, so people rent port-o-potties or fancy bathroom trailers.
Beyond the basics, Bliss Ridge offers rentals and other services à la carte — everything from hay bales to hand-painted signs to a homemade dessert bar to Jordan’s signature “crack corn,” maple-sage-caramel popcorn.
“I had this girl in September who basically told me, ‘Make me a surprise wedding,’” Jordan says, so she charged the bride an hourly fee and planned the whole affair. That kind of comprehensive wedding planning isn’t something Jordan does all the time, she says, but when it feels right, she’ll go for it.
So far, with the exception of one wedding at which the caterer didn’t clean up, the guests flicked cigarette butts everywhere and the bride ended the night yelling at everybody, they’ve all been good.
To establish Bliss Ridge as a boutique events venue, the von Trapps had to apply for agriculture-residential zoning permits from the town and appear before the Moretown Development Review Board. They also had to upgrade the electrical wiring in the barn to accommodate wedding sound systems. At the moment, the town limits Bliss Ridge to 10 events per year. Since the venue opened in 2011, the von Trapps have hosted eight weddings.
One of them was mine.
My now-husband and I had already decided on a different venue, but a neighbor suggested Bliss Ridge was worth a visit. So we went, and when we climbed to the top of the hill, we fell in love with the place instantly.
At the end of that first visit, Jordan surprised us with homemade green-tea cupcakes in the barn. When I returned last week to talk to her and Dan for this story, they had whipped up a delectable lunch spread: chicken curry with spiced rice, a cabbage salad with orange slices, toasted rolls dotted with figs and fennel seeds, and an enormous wheel of von Trapp Farmstead Oma cheese. (Dan founded the Farmstead with his brother, Sebastian von Trapp.)
Jordan says she avoids the grocery store as much as possible, preferring to cook with the vegetables they grow and meat they get from nearby farms. It’s all part of the locavore philosophy she and Dan hope to spread. Bliss Ridge, Jordan says, “is a platform for our mission of teaching people about agriculture.”
To make it work financially, the von Trapps cobble together income from various sources — not that that bothers Jordan. “My whole life,” she says, “when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always thought, Do I have to choose one thing?”
She hasn’t. When she’s not coordinating with caterers or decorating port-o-potties with oil paintings, fancy French soaps or fall foliage, she’s often producing marketing materials for private islands and yachts. Before she moved back to Moretown in 2009, Jordan was a managing editor and photographer at Boat International Media, which took her around the world.
Jordan and Dan have known each other since they were 14. They were friends in high school but never dated, though both now admit to teen crushes. They saw each other twice in the decade between their high school graduations and 2009: Once Jordan spotted Dan on a motorcycle, flagged him down and jumped on. Another time, on a winter night, he encountered her riding in her sister’s convertible with the top rolled down. They drove off to look at the stars.
Romance blossomed quickly after Jordan and Dan ran into each other at a local bar in 2009, just a week after she moved back to Vermont. A long conversation turned into a moonlit kiss in the Bliss Ridge barn. “I’d been wanting to do that for a really long time,” Dan says. Seven months later, they hopped a plane to Greece, and Dan proposed near a chapel on the island of Skopelos.
“We often talk about how much sense it makes that our business has become facilitating celebrations of divine love,” Jordan writes in an email.
That’s the other thing that makes getting married at Bliss Ridge so unique: Jordan is the ultimate lover of love, and it shows in every detail — from her exuberant emails in the planning phase to her handwritten well wishes the morning after.
When she fell in love with Dan, Jordan writes, she remembers thinking, “If everyone could just find their soul mate, this world would be brimming with gratitude, and the commonplace negativity would dissipate profoundly. Then I was like, holy crap, I am such a hippie,” she adds. “But it’s true!”
The print version of this article was headlined "Blissed Out"