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The renovated Willow Grove Inn in Orange County. Photo courtesy the Willow Grove Inn
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Couples smooch at Mark Addy Inn, near Wintergreen Resort. Photo courtesy the Mark Addy Inn
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You can get married on the water in the Schooner Woodwind, a 74-foot sailing yacht docked in Annapolis.Photo courtesy the Schooner Woodwind
Not the type to tie the knot in a traditional venue? Then perhaps your long-awaited shindig should take place in a more intimate, personal setting. Today, many couples turn to quirky inns and hidden bed-and-breakfast settings outside of Richmond as the perfect spot to host their nuptials.
Willow Grove Inn (540-672-7001) in Orange County, for example, is a popular choice for Richmonders looking to avoid throwing their wedding day party in the exact same fashion as everyone else in River City. (Full disclosure: This is where my wife and I were married.) Just a short jaunt down I-64 West, Willow Grove Inn boasts historic 18th-century architecture in the rolling horse country of Orange, with the Blue Ridge Mountains as a romantic backdrop.
"We like to think of ourselves as a destination wedding that happens to be in Central Virginia," explains Sarah Smith, director of marketing. Smith says the inn, which recently received a multimillion-dollar facelift, is where "urban meets plantation." Best of all, couples opting to hold their wedding onsite automatically book the entire inn (14 rooms and cottages). As a result, family and friends have the inn completely to themselves, turning a wedding into an entire weekend of festivities at one central location — no driving, no fuss, and no shuttling between the rehearsal dinner, luncheons and the like.
Willow Grove allows couples and their guests to treat the entire mansion and grounds as their own, including the salon, library, extensive gardens and the onsite restaurant, Vintage. With only one wedding held each weekend, the staff (including butlers certified by the Charles MacPherson Butler School) focuses its attention to the inn's occupants for the weekend.
Drive deeper into the Blue Ridge and into local wine country, you'll find a similar arrangement at Mark Addy Inn (434-361-1101) located in Nelson County near Wintergreen Resort. "It's like having your own secret island," says Leslie Tal, the inn's owner. "We have mountains to the front, mountains to the side, and mountains to the back ... it's your private oasis."
Leslie and Rafael Tal have operated the Mark Addy since 2006, along with a Red Lorid Amazon parrot that greets guests from his cage when they enter the Victorian house. A pet-friendly establishment, the inn is ideal for couples and their wedding party who want to book the entire inn for the weekend toenjoy nearby hiking, biking, golf and a host of new wineries and breweries dotting the rural landscape. Many guests are married onsite, but grape lovers will often use the inn as a home base while picking a nearby vineyard to host their ceremony.
If wine country doesn't tickle your fancy, The White Doe Inn (800-473-6091), an Outer Banks bed and breakfast located in Manteo, N.C., is a smart pick for those looking to book an entire inn by the sea. This historic Victorian home offers destination wedding packages capable of housing the entire wedding party. Guests often opt for innkeeper Bob Woody to officiate their ceremony, or they select a sandier spot at one of the many nearby beaches before returning back to the inn for celebrating.
For those who can't bear the thought of a wedding on land, the Schooner Woodwind (410-263-1981 or schoonerwoodwind.com/BoatAndBreakfast.asp) allows a wedding at sea. Known as a "Boat & Breakfast," the Schooner Woodwind is a 74-foot sailing yacht that departs from Annapolis, Md. A popular use of the schooner has turned out to be weddings and related festivities for the bride and groom, along with a small wedding party. The boat and breakfast offers four staterooms with two shared heads (aka bathrooms). The Schooner Woodwind is docked at the Annapolis Marriott Waterfront Hotel, with activities and additional lodging for wedding guests in downtown Annapolis.