If you’re planning a micro wedding in Virginia, the first question for most people is “do I need a venue?”
Most elopement couples can get away with doing their entire ceremony and post-ceremony celebration – with fewer than 15 participants – in public spaces like Shenandoah National Park. However, if you are hosting an intimate wedding for 15-50 guests, a public spot in a park won’t cut it. And yes, you’re going to need some kind of venue.
Spaces like Shenandoah National Park or a state park are public recreation zones and have specific rules about what kind of events can be held with how many people. (Elopements with up to 15 participants and no set up, for instance, can happen just about anywhere.) Check out this comprehensive guide about how to get married in Shenandoah. State parks have their own rules and regulations that may differ from park to park.
If you are eloping, choosing Shenandoah or a state park is an amazing option. For a wedding, though, I wouldn’t necessarily book a park lodge, given the wide array of highly appealing choices out there.
A quick note — throughout this article I’m using the terms “small,” “intimate” and “micro” wedding interchangeably. I define that kind of celebration as anything with 15-50 participants but venues are going to have their own definitions.
There aren’t right or wrong answers to these questions, but do keep them in mind. While it may be cheaper to rent a VRBO than an inclusive venue initially, those costs might become a wash if you add in a tent, tables, chairs, linens, silverware…you get the point…to the VRBO rental price.
Currently, VRBO is way easier to search than Airbnb for a place to host an intimate wedding. That’s because in August 2020, Airbnb removed the filter function “suitable for events.” So while you can still search Airbnb for properties that will accept up to 16 guests (the Airbnb filter max), you then have to scroll down and look through house rules and message hosts individually to find out if they’re able to do events.
At VRBO you can simply filter for “events allowed” and, as far as I can tell, as many guests as you want can stay on site (although fair warning — most houses will only be able to accommodate 20 or so overnight guests.)
For a detailed guide to planning an Airbnb or VRBO wedding check out this resource: How to Plan an Airbnb or VRBO Wedding
If you aren’t finding much, remove the “events allowed” feature and just start clicking on properties you like and reading the “policies” tab — many places do allow small events but require prior approval.
Finally, you’ll find some of the places have names like this one in Charlottesville (The Inn at Blue Mountain.) These are properties associated with existing venues, breweries or vineyards that are simply marketing themselves through Airbnb or VRBO. In those cases, I recommend booking directly through the main website instead of accessing it through VRBO or Airbnb. That’s because VRBO and Airbnb take a cut of the profits and some rentals will raise their rates when listing on those sites.
As you’re looking through properties, here are the parameters I would recommend keeping in mind:
Here are some lovely properties on VRBO or Airbnb that would make great intimate wedding venues.
A cute bed-and-breakfast or inn is my favorite kind of venue for an intimate or micro wedding. They are already equipped with tables and chairs, the food is often exceptional (when there is an onsite restaurant), and you (and your closest friends and family) can stay at the property!
Luckily in Virginia there are MANY bed and breakfasts or inns that are amazing choices for your celebration.
Here are a half-dozen:
The Joshua Wilton House (Harrisonburg)
The Blue Door Kitchen and Inn (Flint Hill)
The Oakhurst Inn (Charlottesville)
The Clifton Inn (Charlottesville)
The Farmhouse at Veritas (Charlottesville)
The Ashby Inn (Paris)
This is quite literally your own backyard or the backyard of a friend or family member. Backyard weddings can be SO much fun because they’re comfortable, casual and incredibly intimate.
The considerations for having a backyard wedding are similar to those you have to make when renting an Airbnb or VRBO though.
Virginia is a mecca for breweries and vineyards. Many double as big wedding venues, but others are small and offer the perfect backdrop for a micro wedding.
This is not an exhaustive list, by any means… And, to be honest, just about any brewery or vineyard in the area has the capacity for hosting a wedding. These are just a few of the more intimate ones that would work well for a smaller group.
Stonetower Winery (Leesburg)
Wildman Dan (Afton)
Glass House Winery (Charlottesville)
Catoctin Creek Distillery (Purcellville)
For those of you who want the beautifully curated or high-end wedding experience done on a smaller scale, a venue that specializes in such events might be the best way to go.
All of the venues listed here either only accommodate smaller celebrations (fewer than 80 or so guests) or have specific micro-wedding packages.
The Blue Ridge Farm (Afton)
The Space Downtown (Charlottesville)
The Commonhouse (Charlottesville)
Red Pump Kitchen (Charlottesville)
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden (Richmond)
Historic Polegreen Church (Richmond)
The Ultimate Small Wedding Planning Guide and Checklist