Unique Venues Cater to Couples Planning Weddings




By Joanne DiMaggio

Planning a wedding can be the most blissful experience of a young couple's life. It can also be the most stressful. Luckily, for couples getting married in the Charlottesville area, there are a multitude of resources to guarantee a picture-perfect day.

Many brides wonder if they should hire a wedding planner. Some hesitate, fearing-as Barbara Lundgren of Barb Wired LLC, Event Management & Consultation says-that the consultant will take control and alter the bride's vision for her wedding.

"The planner should be your ‘silent partner' to guide and consult," Lundgren said. "The planning process should be enjoyed as much as the event itself, as there are so many fun things to experience. The venues, attire, food, wine; shopping, shopping, and more shopping. The planner cannot choose all these things for you, but is better to guide and refer throughout the process as needed and help with the vision that the bride and groom have set before them."

Wedding planners are valuable because they've done their homework. "The experienced wedding planner knows how to shop with the vendors and the ‘tricks of the trade' you might say," said Lundgren. "Sharing that information with the couple is worth every penny you pay your wedding consultant, along with the peace of mind on the day of."

On average, hiring a wedding planner will cost $1,500 and up, depending on the services requested. Most brides say it's worth it, especially when unforeseen last-minute problems pop up on the wedding day.

"Our ‘save the day' moments usually involve communication breakdowns and how they are handled in the heat of the moment," said Lundgren.


Destination weddings, wineries (especially those with mountain vistas), and historical locales are popular trends in wedding venues today.

Wintergreen Resort in Nelson County hosts approximately 30 weddings a year, many of them held outdoors to incorporate Wintergreen's exceptional mountain views. The resort offers several outdoor locations for wedding ceremonies, including the Blue Ridge Overlook, the Lookout, or the Blue Ridge Terrace. The Commonwealth Ballroom, the Skyline Room, and the mountain lodge-designed Pryor's Porch are favorite sites for wedding receptions.

"Couples love the Blue Ridge Mountains and when they see they can have the views, the event, as well as lodging and a myriad of activities all at one venue, they love Wintergreen," said Catherine Pearce, Conference Services Manager and Wedding Specialist.

Charlottesville also has a number of exceptional hotels and inns that cater to brides, including such favorites as Keswick Hall, Clifton Inn, The Doubletree, and The Omni. These properties offer a variety of wedding packages, overnight accommodations, and numerous options for rehearsal dinners, bridal luncheons, and wedding showers.

For brides who do not have wedding planners, the conference services managers at these properties make sure every aspect of the wedding runs smoothly.

"I am the first contact the couple has when considering the resort as their chosen venue and follow through the entire process from their first visit to ‘I do' with them," said Pearce. "As the main contact for the couple, throughout the planning stage I help to coordinate all events, set up activities with the couple at the resort, and am on site for the wedding weekend to answer questions and be sure that, once they arrive, they are relaxing and having a delightful visit, leaving the details to me."

Country Clubs

For brides who want elegance mixed with intimacy, a country club wedding is the perfect blend of ambiance and class.

"One of the exciting things about having your wedding at a county club is you have a wide range of options," said Steve Sudduth, Director of Catering at Greencroft Club. "What I like about a country club wedding is it's a little more intimate. We are a smaller country club and provide the elegance of an old home. We don't have more than one wedding a day, so we have more flexibility with timing."

As with most country club weddings, the bridal couple must either be members or be sponsored by a member. In a town the size of Charlottesville, that's a lot easier than you may think, as someone always seems to know someone who is a member of one of the area's premier clubs.

As with other venues, some country clubs have minimum requirements in terms of guests and fees. Many have natural gardens for outdoor ceremonies. Most have pads for tents and alternate sites for the ceremony in case of rain. In addition, brides who have their ceremony at a country club are accorded a private room-a place where they can get ready and have their makeup artist and hairdresser attend to them while members of their wedding party fortify themselves with finger sandwiches and fresh fruit.

"A major plus of coming to a country club is that all tables, chairs, china, are included," said Sudduth. "At many vineyards, you have to rent everything. I'm happy to help with some of the different details as far as finding a D.J., invitations, and timelines. I'm definitely available to help from start to finish."

While it is true that at most wineries the bridal couple has to rent everything from tables, chairs, and linens to a caterer, vineyards are nonetheless one of the leading venues for weddings in Central Virginia. Those with those coveted mountain views book well in advance, with property rental fees alone ranging anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000.

Because everything for a winery wedding must be individually ordered, many vineyards provide a list of approved caterers. There are some notable exceptions. Vineyards with an onsite restaurant, such as Barboursville Vineyards with its Palladio Restaurant, eliminate the need for an outside caterer by providing food service in-house. Barboursville is further unique in that it provides a historic backdrop (the famous Barboursville Ruins) as well as overnight accommodations in its 1804 Inn and Cottage.

University of Virginia

For those who hold a special place in their hearts for the University of Virginia, historic Alumni Hall on Emmet Street is a favorite venue.

"The beautiful Jefferson Room at Alumni Hall is a perfect setting for a wedding reception," said Carol Anne Abbott, Reservation Coordinator. "It contains 4,320 square feet and can accommodate up to 400 people seated and up to 700 people reception style. In addition, it has a wet bar which runs half the length of the room. The room features an elegant décor with hardwood flooring, perfect for dancing, and soft print wallpaper with sconces throughout for mood lighting. The annex, foyer to the ballroom, and terrace, outside patio containing a second wet bar, add an additional 3,870 square feet of space for guests. In addition, the conference room, containing 308 square feet, is perfect for a bride's/attendants' dressing room."

Alumni Hall-which hosts 24 weddings a year-does not provide food services, but it does offer a list of approved caterers. Caterers take on the responsibility of not only the food, but also the set up, break down, and clean up.

Although Alumni Hall is not affiliated with the University Chapel, their proximity make the two a natural choice for a U.Va. wedding. Those interested in having their ceremony at the chapel participate in a lottery. Details on the process are outlined at www.virginia.edu/newcomb/space/chapel.html.

Historic Homes

If Virginia's rich history is a passion of the bridal couple, several historic venues offer unique wedding packages. With its picturesque historic house and gardens, Ash Lawn-Highland, the home of James and Elizabeth Monroe, is a favorite local historic site for weddings. The venue offers informal, formal, daytime, and evening events with optimal privacy and flexibility, enabling couples to feel as though the Monroes' home were their own.

Another historic wedding venue is Montpelier, James and Dolley Madison's 2,650-acre estate nestled in the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Montpelier offers three wedding packages in a memorable and historic setting.

A rehearsal dinner, wedding ceremony, or reception can be held in the beautiful Annie duPont Formal Garden, the Grand Salon in the duPont Gallery, or at Madison's Temple. The staff has lists of caterers, florists, and other vendors who know Montpelier and can fulfill every creative desire.

Plantations also offer a distinctive historic backdrop for weddings. Prospect Hill, located just 15 miles east of Charlottesville, is an authentic 18th century plantation complex. Its large Garden Pavilion has been the site of hundreds of wedding ceremonies. A large white tent houses the wedding reception for as few as 25 and up to 250 guests. Smaller parties can also be accommodated indoors in the Rose Room, the former 1840 ballroom of the manor.

Where To Find Services

Most wedding venues provide bridal couples with a list of purveyors, giving them a variety of professionals to choose from. A "one-stop shop" of bridal information is www.cvilleweddings.com/. The sidebar conveniently categorizes every possible service, venue, and wedding-related products that a bride and groom needs.

The site was started by Web designer Jessica Clark who noticed there was a lack of this kind of resource in the Charlottesville area. C-VILLE Weekly purchased it in 2007 and according to Publisher Frank Dubec, feedback on the site as a valuable and easy resource to follow has been positive.

Businesses that serve the wedding or bridal industry for which the site has a category are included with listing content added and/or changed as needed. "The editorial content on-site is updated regularly with content from C-VILLE's ‘Making Marry' bi-weekly wedding column, and changes along with C-VILLE Weekly's publishing of our bi-annual tab, Unions," said Dubec.

Another wedding-related site is hosted by Virginia Tourism (www.virginia.org/site/features.asp?featuredid=169). Besides information on venues, Virginia honeymoon destinations, and Virginia-themed gifts for the wedding party, the site spells out the following legal requirements to wed in the Commonwealth of Virginia:

  • Each party must be 18 years of age with certified copy of birth certificate as proof. If under 18, notarized consent from parent or legal guardian.
  • A license costs $30 and is valid for 60 days.
  • Required identification includes a valid driver's license, military I.D., state I.D., or passport.
  • No waiting period, no need for a blood test, and no proof of residency required.
  • Officiates must be an ordained minister who can show proof of ordination; marriage commissioners, justices of the peace, and judges.

When and How Much

October is the winner of most popular wedding month, as couples plan their date in the hope of capturing the fall colors. Some vineyards, however, advocate weddings in early November, saying that over the last few years this is when they've seen peak color.

A close second to fall weddings are those held in the spring, with many couples opting to exchange nuptials in May rather than the more traditional June dates. Regardless of whether you lean toward a spring or fall wedding, select your venue and book early so you won't be disappointed.

As for budgets, our sources agreed that the average wedding today is anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000. This isn't to say with a little creativity it can't be done for less, but bridal couples should keep this figure in mind so as not to experience wedding sticker shock!

What's Most Important?

Regardless of where you are planning to have your wedding, keep in mind this sage advice from Catherine Pearce:

"Focus on what the most important part of the day is for the bride and groom. Is it location, food, photographs, flowers? Budget accordingly and interview at least two of every purveyor you want to hire. Hiring someone they are comfortable with, their personality, work, and modus operandi, prevents additional stress on the day of. And remember to breathe! That's my favorite line to brides if they panic."

To read the latest issue of the CAAR Real Estate Weekly, go to www.caar.com/clickbook.



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