Love nature as much as you love each other? A new wedding venue option in Round Top might be the perfect setting for your nuptials, with a stream and waterfall on 38 gorgeous Catskills acres—and every convenience you could wish for.
The love story behind Living Stone begins with two 14-year-olds rock-hopping through the rushing creeks of Palenville’s forests. Catskill boy Django Houston and Palenville native Heather Williams met in their first year of high school and discovered a mutual love of exploring the streams and hillsides, becoming dear friends in the process.
After graduating together in ’93, each discovered their own path into creativity: Houston became a master stonemason, and Williams the owner of the in-demand Pippy’s Food Truck. And here’s where it becomes a love story: when the two friends reconnected about nine years ago, something major clicked, and they’ve been partners in creation, travel, and life ever since.
Four and a half years ago, the couple was house hunting, and a 38-acre property in Round Top popped up on Zillow, catching Houston’s eye. By the next morning, the listing had vanished. They decided to go with their realtor to look at a different Round Top home on Heart’s Content Road. “Despite being from nearby, we’d never realized how special Round Top is,” says Williams. “There’s beauty everywhere you turn.”
That house was not The One, but the realtor investigated and found that the property Houston had been struck by was minutes away and had just come off the market that morning. What could it hurt to take a look? “The first thing we saw was amazing rock outcroppings,” says Williams. “We got out of the car and heard water. Django took off running—I couldn’t, I’d just had foot surgery—found the waterfall and the creek, and came back and said, ‘We’re making an offer.’” It turned out that the owners had withdrawn the property from market thinking they’d have to subdivide in order to find a buyer and were very pleased to hear from Houston and Williams that the woods would stay intact.
Since then, the couple has worked steadily to craft their paradise into something to share with the rest of the world, harnessing both of their trades in the process. Last summer, they hosted their first wedding ceremonies at Living Stone. “Every detail of this place is handcrafted, either by us or by local artisans or friends,” says Williams. “The electrician is a dear friend, the gutter guy is a friend from Catskill, and his son is getting married here. The sound system guy is a neighbor, and we were on the phone with them pretty much constantly during our first three weddings! There’s such a rich network of top-notch talent here.”
Some of the spaces that Houston guided into existence: a 1,000-square-foot streamside bluestone patio, stone bridge and two firepits, one with a unique spiral design. The pavilion altar (there’s also a forest altar) is crafted from hand-burned local cedar; the pavilion itself is handcrafted by Hudson Valley Timberworks and Restoration using nail-free mortise and tenon joints.
“People ask Django how he came up with something and he says, ‘The spot told me what it wanted to be,’ and that’s really how he works,” says Williams. “After all the years he’s spent making beauty for others, this is his first chance to do stonework in his own space and it’s stunning. And once we opened, it was a huge thrill for both of us to see people enjoying it the way we’d been dreaming of. ‘Look! They’re at the firepit! Look! They’re on the path!’ It’ll never get old.”
After a dozen years of catering, Williams knew exactly how to put together a highly functional venue, with a sound system, indoor and outdoor lighting, full commercial kitchen, upstairs lounge, comfy restrooms, custom curtains that can be lowered to protect the pavilion and heaters to keep it cozy on a chilly day.
It’s all put in service of the glory of the forest itself. Williams and Houston consider themselves stewards and are thrilled to call the property home and be able to share it. “It’s not your cookie-cutter place by any means, and our couples aren’t cookie-cutter types,” says Williams. “It’s intimate—our sweet spot can accommodate about 80 to 100 guests—and it’s perfect for people who are looking for something outside the box and unique to the Catskills, people whose dream is to get married in the forest.”
Available packages include a weekend-long Fairytale or weekday Elopement; add-on options include streamside yoga, forest bathing, sound baths, s’mores by the fire, and guided hikes. A rental efficiency are available on the property, and there are plenty of lodging options nearby.
“We're going to have fun. We want to do community events, open the space up for fundraisers for different things, have a supper club,” Williams says. “Right now we're just in our infancy, so we're going to see how the space evolves. And I'm sure it will, organically. What is meant to happen here will happen.”