Virginia Hunt Country Weddings - A Perfect Destination
When people talk about a destination wedding at our nation’s capital they think about the famous monuments on the mall, elegant hotels, and grand venues such as the National Building Museum. They think about the spring cherry blossoms.
Local wedding photographers know and treasure a nearby region, the Virginia Hunt Country. This historic area preserves views and venues dating to the nation’s colonial period. Everything from small B&B’s, Colonial Estates and a growing number of vineyards to the new West Belmont Ballroom in Leesburg Virginia.
I’m going to loosely define Virginia Hunt Country as the Piedmont plateau and Shenandoah Valley. The area extends from the Potomac River on the north and running south along both sides of the Virginia Blue Ridge to Charlottesville as a southern terminus. An Eastern border is Dulles International Airport. This area contains small historic towns that retain their old world main street charm and miles of rolling pastures for horse farms and famous estates framed by the dramatic rise of the Blue Ridge mountains and clear rivers such as the Shenandoah and Rappahannock.
The venues provide simple outdoor or tented surroundings such as the many vineyards to the newly opened Grand Ballroom at West Belmont. You can find a place for a wedding with a few couples to 1800 guests. There is a strong network of catering and rental companies to meet every need from catering by Red Hot & Blue to those experienced in White House affairs. It’s all here and an attractively priced alternative to the D.C.metro area.
Let me share a few of my favorite spots for events and weddings photography by starting off our tour with a B&B two doors down from our home in historic Leesburg.
The Norris House Inn
This lovely house dates back to 1760 and was built by the Norris brothers who were prolific builders here in Leesburg. (In fact they built our house in 1852 as a model home to generate business for their lumber mill. There really is lots of interesting history and sites to visit). Anyway, back to the Norris House. Your hosts are Carol and Robert Healey who have six beautiful rooms on three floors with either a garden setting or parlor for small family sized events and weddings. It’s also a great place for out of town guests to stay.
The Thomas Birkby House
The next venue on my tour is catty-corner to our home and the Norris House Inn.
(I know, you’re thinking I have a long commute to events).
Ron Rust, Judy Kozacik and venue coordinator Mary-Louise Torrey run a flawless operation at this property dating back to 1770. The home has a wonderful bridal suite for preparations and another for the groomsmen on the second floor. The ground floor contains three rooms for cocktail parties, small family affairs or corporate meetings. Behind the house is a wonderful garden and large patio for ceremonies. There is also a garden gazebo that’s popular for cake cuttings and a large climate-controlled tent at the back of the property for evening receptions or inclement weather. We love a flower toss from the upstairs porch and using the nearby streets of Leesburg as a movie set for photographing our bridal parties. In fact we frequently use the surrounding streets for not only photographing the bridal parties but also engagement sessions. The Birkby House can accommodate up to 180 guests.
The Blackhorse Inn
Moving south to Warrenton you will find a large B&B owned by Lynn Pirozzoli. This property encompasses the main house with 9 bedrooms, wonderful parlors and sitting rooms. This is the newest property on our tour at this point dating from 1850. The décor, and central stairwell are flawless.
The inn is surrounded by horse pastures and working stables. There is a gazebo for nice weddings, several large patios for formal pictures and cocktail parties. Detailed garden settings provide a variety of photographic opportunities.
This is a prelude to the Gilded Fox; this large ballroom can accommodate up to 200 guests and is removed from the main house to preserve privacy. We have a great time photographing brides with the horses and wonderful sunsets in the background. The Blackhorse Inn has won numerous awards you will find displayed on their website. They’ve also been the site for several fashion and bridal photo sessions featured in high-end bridal magazines.
The Briar Patch B&B is outside of Middleburg a rural town full of art galleries and boutiques supporting the surrounding estates and plantations that make this one of the most desirable zip codes in the country. This cottage type B&B is situated high on the hillside looking over the valley frequented by Mosby’s Rangers during the civil war. This house dates to 1805 and is surrounded by giant oak trees. The owners Ellen Goldberg & Dan Haendel have just finished transforming the barns into an elegant series of ballrooms with walls of French doors and a giant stone fireplace. They can support 200 guests in the ballroom, and also have wonderful outdoor sites for events and weddings. We had the pleasure of inaugurating the new facility for their daughter’s wedding last summer. Ask to see their daughter’s wedding pictures. It was an amazing event on the hilltop overlooking the valley, rolling hills and horse pastures.
Historic Long Branch
This is a real gem in our collection and my favorite located in the Shenandoah Valley. Historic Long Branch is a historic museum showcasing the plantation home built by “King Carter” after obtaining the land from Lord Fairfax in the 1700’s and construction proceeding through the first half of the 19th century. The opportunity to have access to a property of this type full of antiques from the first two centuries is remarkable. The curator Colette Poission is a knowledgeable host and facilitator for your event or wedding. You will fall in love with her. This is also the site for the annual hot air balloon and wine festival each October. I could write an entire article about Long Branch, but take a look at the website for a view of the three story spiral staircase, English gardens, and so much more. This is also a great location for an engagement session, fashion shoot, or family portraits on the portico.
This 250-acre property is the site of the annual Gold Cup races and supports steeplechase, polo, and the occasional event. I don’t think there is any limit on the number of guests and Elaine Burke has years of experience organizing events and weddings. Great Meadow is just north of Warrenton close to highway 66.
This work in progress is the dream of Shiela Johnson, a billionaire entrepreneur working to create a 5 star retreat and spa in Middleburg. I can speak about their wonderful catering department, and look forward to adding this property to our list of venues.
West Belmont Place
The National Conference Center began life as the Xerox training campus and has become one of the largest venues in Northern Virginia. My friend Sharon Meyers is the key to coordinating your event or wedding after the inauguration of the new grand ballroom. Last month they kicked things off with a wonderful Mardi Gras themed party. Sharon can help you with events up to 1800 people. There are 900 guest rooms for those wanting to avoid driving after the party and out of town guests. The center is located next to the Potomac River at the edge of Leesburg.
I’ve described a few samples of venues in Virginia Hunt Country, I should write a book about these wedding venues and a host of other wonderful and unique locations. Each is very distinctive, picturesque and exciting. Visit us and share our wonderful world for your wedding or event in Virginia Hunt Country. Your wedding photographer can create wonderful pictures and your guests will be excited by the ambiance and southern charm.
There are non-profit associations that work to make sure your vendor has a sound business with insurance, backup resources and years of experience to make your day perfect. Feel free to contact me for other references and possible venues. The sites above are just a small sample of what you can find in Virginia Hunt Country.
Don & Ines Harper operate out of their atelier in historic Leesburg, Virginia. The Edge Photography Studio has a number of editorial wedding teams serving the mid-Atlantic. Be sure to check them out.
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