Wedding Wednesday: Venues

When Marc and I started talking about getting married, we thought we wanted a vineyard wedding. We started visiting a different vineyard each Sunday for a tasting and a cheese plate as an informal way to assess the options. When we went to a wedding last year at one of our favorite vineyards, we were almost certain it was the right place for us.

For the last few weeks, we've been revisiting some of those vineyards, exploring a few other options, and collecting fee schedules and menus in hopes of making a decision before those who got engaged over the holidays and those who will get engaged around Valentine's Day start their planning. Nothing like the prospect of a little competition to get you out of your newly-engaged haze!

Here is, roughly, what we're considering...

1. The Inn

The Inn was the closest venue to downtown Charlottesville and it was beautiful. It had a very "old Virginia" feel to it and our small-ish wedding wouldn't be dwarfed by the spaces on the property. The inn is known for its fantastic food, so we knew our guests would be fed well. The rental fee was higher than any other venue we visited, but it included exclusive use of the grounds for the weekend. The catch: we also had to rent all 17 guest rooms for two nights. That was not included in the rental fee.

2. The Established Vineyard

The established vineyard was one we had visited many times for tastings. The site was stunning, the food on site was fantastic, and the vineyard owned draping that would be used in the ballroom at no extra charge. Much of what was needed (tables, chairs, bar ware) was included in the rental fee. The drawbacks: it was the furthest venue from town on the list, staffing/labor was not included in any of the fees, and the rental fee increases each year, so while we're planning this now, we'll pay more because our wedding is in 2012.

3. The Newcomers
I don't have pictures of the newcomers. There are a few new players in the vineyard wedding game in the area. One has only had a couple events so far, but it's in a beautiful location. The rental fee was high, but it included a lot of extras (table, chairs, exclusive use). That venue had a kitchen on site, so a caterer wouldn't need to work on rented equipment (we looked at a few places that required us to rent a "caterer tent" with equipment in it). Bonus: someone thought to tuck a swing set around the back of the facility for children to play on. Brilliant!

Another venue we considered isn't even built yet. It's going to be a vineyard and they're going to host weddings in a few months. The renderings are beautiful. We actually have a connection to the site being used. The chef involved with the project is one Marc knows and the rental fee is discounted in light of the state of the site at this point.

I'm not going to tell you where we are with this one just yet. :)

If you're married, how did you pick your venue? What would you do with the options above?


  1. We picked our venue, the Ivy Inn, because it was a nice location in town that was not very expensive. (This was back before the Ivy Inn got fancy.)

    Of the choices you've laid out, I'd probably go with one of the newcomers because the pricing for the first two options would put me off.

  2. We picked Tavern on the Green in NYC's Central Park because they had a good chef at the time, a room appropriate to my small size wedding and they were available for my date which was 2 months later. They were wonderful to work with and I was surprised to find they were the best value for the money.
    You need to be comfortable with your choice. For me, the important aspect of the wedding is sharing in the joy of your day with those you love, not judging if everything is perfect. If you are happy, it will be great.

  3. So... when I was engaged, we visited a million venues, I made a huge binder, and then put all the details into a spreadsheet to compare pros and cons and costs.
    It was really helpful to see everything in one place.

    One thing I thought was important was proximity to the guest accommodations.

  4. We ended up using our church's facilities. It was only $800 to rent it, was adjacent to the church, had its own kitchen, and you could hire whoever you wanted for the catering. It certainly wasn't a super-fancy place (it was built as a convent in the 1920s), but it wasn't an ugly box with a drop ceiling, either. The food was way more important to me, so I spent the money on getting a good caterer. He had done the food for each of my three older sisters. We weren't after a "wow" reaction, but we wanted people to be well-fed. I overheard several people say that was the best wedding food they'd ever had, so I guess it was worth it!

    I'd be nervous about booking at the site that isn't yet completed. If you decide to book the Established Vineyard, I'd ask to lock in this year's price. They might consider it a better bet to have a definite booking for a lower price than to charge a higher rate and maybe not get an event that weekend. Good luck!

  5. My husband and I went back and forth and back and forth about locale. We were almost positive it would be a gallery space and then signed for a really cool space downtown. But at the last minute we decided to host the reception in our church's events room (free!). Our church was built in the 1800's and has a lot of character and charm, though! It worked out well for us to have a seat for everyone and a big dance floor rather than a cramped gallery.

    The bulk of our money was spent on hiring a superb local catering company to do the food service, bar tending and logistics.

    Guests seem to be happier with delicious food and a fun reception than with the actual surroundings.


  6. The Inn looks gorgeous- heck, they all do. We kind of made our decision hastily- we didn't even visit any other places. But "we just knew" haha. It sounds like you're holding out on us!

    It seems like a farther location would be good and bad- I always thought that if I had the wedding way up in the mountains, then only the people who REALLY wanted to be there would come. (Here in Utah, I think weddings are a dime a dozen, so it's pretty common for people to just "drop by" and grab a cookie rather than plan to spend the evening there.) So having it farther away might not necessarily be a bad thing- if people make the effort to come, they might as well stay awhile. But then again, maybe that's not really an issue in CVille.

  7. We got married in the gardens back on my family's farm. I had looked into lots of different types of places, but we decided on one that had some sentimental value at well as being a beautiful place. Plus, we had total control over everything and you couldn't beat the price. Since our wedding was very small it was the perfect intimate setting.

  8. I can't wait to see which one you picked! I'd love to do my wedding at a vineyard, but we've also considered doing courthouse and then a private party at a restaurant. Of course, we have to get engaged first :) it's funny we're already talking about it.

  9. What fun options!! I think a vineyard is a wonderful option, I always dreamed of doing mine there if I get the chance. SO excited for you both and look forward to hearing all about the fun and wonderful adventure!

  10. We decided on Disney because that's where we got engaged. We thought about a few venues local to Cville, but Disney was always my first choice because of all the options for the guests. Disney has multiple venues and we chose ours virtually sight unseen, there was 1 or 2 small pictures on the wedding website. I didn't see the actual venue until my wedding.

    The Inn looks beautiful.

  11. Oooh this is a toughie. We thought we wanted to do a vineyard too, but ended up having the wedding and reception at Prospect Hill. It was a bit of a hike out to Zion Crossroads but it was worth it! We rented it for the weekend and all my bridesmaids and family members stayed there - it was awesome. It was pricey but the rental fee included the delicious food!

    Other contenders at the time were now-defunct Kluge (too expensive and didn't want to be forced to use their catering company), Ashlawn Highland (too "rustic"), Veritas (booked for the weekend we wanted), and Barboursville (also booked). In the end, Prospect Hill just felt perfect for what we wanted! We looked into buses since it was so far out but decided to let people manage their own transportation; however for some of the vineyards off winding roads, I might recommend that so you can feel comfortable that people don't drink and drive!

    Have you looked at Glass House in Free Union? My BIL is the head winemaker there and it's a really unique venue. Their Cvillian wine is great too!

    I can't wait to hear which place you choose!

  12. Clifton is lovely and the food is great!

  13. I knew I always wanted a garden wedding at a particular mansion. It's owned by the local Junior League and I was lucky enough to book it on the most beautiful spring day of the year. My wedding was everything I planned.

  14. You have to go with the vineyard! Those hounds are way to cute:) However...For me, the element of stress that comes from an outdoor wedding was just to much for me to have to worry about. We had our ceremony outside in a beautiful formal garden, but there as a secure backup location and the reception was indoors. You just never know about the weather and I have seen it RUIN some weddings before. No matter what people say, nobody likes standing around in a tent in crummy weather.

  15. We got married at "the Inn" you describe. We had 109 guests, which pretty much maxed out the interior space (although you could get a tent and go bigger). We were only engaged for 8 weeks so it made a lot of sense to choose a beautiful space that didn't need much decorating or attention. Plus, food was delicious (one of our priorities) and I know all of our guests really enjoyed the setting. But, we have so many great venues around Charlottesville... you really can't go wrong! P.S. Got a photographer yet?!

  16. Goodness, it was a hard decision to pick a location for our wedding. I wanted waterfront (I grew up waterfront) but I also lived in Cville at the time (my husband went to school there), so we also wanted to capture some of the historic feel of the area. I looked all over Tidewater, Richmond and Cville to find "the location." Almost every place I selected was booked already, no longer did weddings (from when I initially started to think about where I would want to be married), or required a huge fee or all the rooms to be rented on top of their normal rental fee (B&B's). Basically, it was going to cost a lot of money to get what I wanted on a Saturday, in the warmer months, etc etc. I expanded my horizons to Sundays and ended up finding a waterfront location in my hometown that captured the historic fee of old Virginia with the waterfront that I also wanted. I thought getting married on a Sunday wouldn't be as fun, but in fact it was quite the opposite. Instead of having a rehearsal dinner and a wedding, it truly became a wedding weekend. We had big parties Friday and Saturday, then the wedding Sunday afternoon and another fabulous party on Sunday night. I loved that the guests got to see so much of each other and I am also glad that I had time to spend time with each and every one of them!


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