By Jann Wiswall

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, many of us are thinking about making gestures big and small to declare our love for family, friends and spouses or maybe future spouses.

If you’re in that last group and have recently become engaged, you may already be making plans for the big day. And you should. After all, according to most professional wedding planners, planning your nuptials can take a full year or more depending on many factors.

One of the first items on the planning checklist is selecting a venue, and there are a lot of things to consider. If you want to be married in beautiful, natural surroundings that are less than an hour from a major airport, in an area that can provide accommodations for all of your guests and is in proximity to a variety of activities for those guests, you really should consider having your wedding in Ellicottville.

With the mountains and natural surroundings, two resorts that make special events and weddings a top priority, smaller venues for more intimate affairs, and all the other services you need just a phone call away, you get everything on your list all the way up to the honeymoon.

Ellicottville has no shortage of activities to keep your guests entertained all weekend long, meaning you can focus your attention on the wedding. In fact, there’s so much to do, you might want to suggest they extend their trip for a few days before or after the nuptials take place.

At Holiday Valley, which is a year-round resort, there are plenty of lodging options on the mountain and throughout Ellicottville, and there’s plenty to do within walking distance, making logistics so easy.

If your friends and family love golfing, they’ll be wowed by Holiday Valley’s 18-hole, par 70 “Double Black Diamond” golf course. It’s challenging and well maintained, and boasts beautiful scenery along the way.

If your guests are adventure-seekers, Holiday Valley’s Sky High Adventure Park is filled to the brim with fun stuff to keep them busy. Kids and adults can climb trees (while safely harnessed to them) in the Climbing Forest, navigate the Aerial Park’s treetop courses and ziplines, or fly down the mountain on the Sky Flyer Mountain Coaster.

If you’re having a summer wedding, your guests can cool off and have a blast in the pools located next to the Tamarack Club at Holiday Valley. The three-pool complex features a toddler pool, a lap pool and an activity pool with a slide and diving board. There are also a variety of fun outdoor games like corn hole, ping pong and giant-sized Jenga, providing hours of fun for kids of all ages.

Or, take a hike up to Holiday Valley’s Spruce Lake, where you can relax at the beach, or kayak or canoe on the 14 acre lake. It’s a great spot for a picnic, too.

If your guests are looking for a great workout, direct them to the numerous hiking and biking trails all around Ellicottville. Holiday Valley’s mountain biking and hiking network consists of challenging uphill and downhill trails, logging roads and singletrack trails. Plus, they connect to McCarty Hill State Forest for even more miles of fun.

In the village of Ellicottville, your guests will find another one-of-a-kind destination: the Nannen Arboretum. Located at 28 Parkside Drive in Ellicottville, guests can take a leisurely stroll along the paths and experience nature at its best. It’s also a perfect setting for wedding photos.

Sometimes, wedding guests are eager for some serious R&R surrounding the big day. Holiday Valley and Ellicottville have several fine spas where guests can get anything from a facial to a pedicure to a massage or a halotherapy session. Most offer wedding-party specials.

Shopaholics will love exploring the numerous antique shops around Ellicottville, as well as the specialty shops and boutiques in the village. From unique fashions, to delectable fine foods, the stores are bustling with great deals on unique items all year round.

Beer lovers can enjoy a brewery tour at Ellicottville Brewing Company, and wine aficionados can head to The Winery of Ellicottville for a tour and tasting.

If your guests want to hit the party scene, there’s no shortage of nightclubs that offer live music, dancing and outdoor spaces to enjoy in the warmer months.

It’s hard not to have the perfect wedding in Ellicottville. With a little planning, yours will be the wedding that your guests will be talking about for years to come!

Editor’s Note: This issue of the Ellicottville Times kicks off our special wedding and engagements section, which will run for several weeks. Be sure to pick up the paper, read us online (www.ellicottvilletimes.com) and like The Ellicottville Times on Facebook for a series of articles on ways to make your special day truly unforgettable.