Let autumn’s hues set your wedding scene

At the Sept. 13 Blue Ridge Bridal Fall Show at the George Washington Hotel in Winchester, brides learned how distinctive venues in the Shenandoah Valley are quickly making Virginia a state known for destination weddings.

Show owner Nancy Aikens Craun said that because of Virginia locations growing in notoriety, the Virginia Tourism Corporation has a strategic plan for increasing destination visibility and offering grants to venues.

According to Craun, the recent boom in the popularity of destination weddings is driven by the opportunity for guest entertainment outside of the wedding itself. The destination wedding model creates more of a weekend vacation for those coming from out of town, fleshed out with recreational opportunities like hiking or rafting.

Bridal parties can find an escape from metropolitan life among the mountains, and locals can take the opportunity to stop and take it all in at a special gathering in honor of the new couple.

“They’re not just picking a venue, they’re picking a destination that their party can enjoy,” Craun said.

In the Shenandoah Valley, such venues include wineries, farms and historic areas like plantations. Craun has noticed wedding opportunities within the area at breweries as well, although she hasn’t seen many couples or brewers taking advantage of that possibility yet.

Newlyweds can celebrate at the traditional and ornate setting of the George Washington Hotel – chosen for the bridal show to give brides a pampering experience while making plans and preparations for their big day. Another local destination featured in the show’s “Create A Wedding” contest, the Bright Box Theatre in Old Town Winchester has proven to be a popular choice since opening in 2013.

Further south, bridal parties can enjoy the view from Pleasant View Events’ barn venue or at the Yellow Barn at Shenandoah Caverns near Mount Jackson. At those venues, couples can give their celebration a more country or rustic flair.

Not only does the annual bridal show feature local destination venues, Craun said the hospitality and lifestyle of the area are reflected in the attitude of local vendors, some of which set up at the show to give brides a better feel for their options.

“The biggest difference is that brides are coming out here because of the lifestyle of the country,” she said. “We’re slower paced, we take more time … we can be friendlier because there’s less people out here.”

In fact, she’s known of quite a few couples who have chosen to settle down in the area after getting to know and appreciating the valley views – especially while surrounded by the rich hues of autumn.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com