By Terry Meadows
Do you get that thrilling sensation deep in your heart when you wander through a historic home, sensing all the previous souls who walked in your steps, laying their hands on the same railing or turning the same door handle that you do now? Do you close your eyes and breathe deeply to absorb the stories of adventure, love, laughter, excitement, and day-to-day normality of times gone by? Do you feel the desire to wrap the familiarity of its history around your body and, just for a moment, live in a simpler time?
Maybe the best way to honor that history is to get married in that house and start a new journey of your own that will echo down through history in the hallowed walls of that home.
We are here to help guide you to the best historic homes in Northern Virginia. At Zion Springs, not only do we love planning and celebrating weddings, but we also have a passion for wedding education. It can be overwhelming when couples decide to plan their wedding, and we’ve seen the uncertainty, the questioning, and even the doubt as couples decide what is right for them. Seeing how difficult this decision can be firsthand, we realized a long time ago that we really care about helping couples plan their wedding that is perfect for them.
Why choose a historic home for your wedding venue
A historic home has an intrinsic legacy of tradition and heritage that imbues the smells and touch of bygone eras. Its quiet homily to previous occupants rests in its walls, and the whisper of daily occupation is etched in the floors. When you host your wedding at a historic venue, it is like welcoming guests into your own home while you all take a step back to an era when everything seemed so elegant and simple.
Surround yourself with the stately couches, fine furniture, and rich fabrics in any of the multiple rooms that are available for your celebration. Take advantage of the beautiful grounds surrounding the home, and delight in the many cozy scenes for your portrait photograph session.
With a historic home, you can use the setting as the theme of your wedding and save money and time on decorating the venue. The rich luster of the historic backdrop lends an ambiance of quiet luxury and gentility.
Our picks for the best historic wedding venues in Northern Virginia
While there are so many beautiful old homes in Northern Virginia, we have narrowed down our list to our top five picks based on the setting and experience of each venue.
- Red Fox Inn, Middleburg
- Oatlands Historic House and Gardens, Leesburg
- Belle Grove Mansion, Middletown
- Gunston Hall, Mason Neck
- Historic Blenheim, Fairfax
1. Red Fox Inn, Middleburg
While not necessarily a “house,” this charming inn built in 1728 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of the oldest taverns in the United States, and some auspicious guests walked through its doors, from George Washington to President Kennedy. It was a favorite romantic spot for Elizabeth Taylor and Senator John Warner. With its lodging for 22 guests, Red Fox Inn offers bespoke full-service weddings Located in the midst of the bucolic streets of Middleburg, this beautiful old tavern combines sophistication and Southern hospitality to create an unforgettable setting for a wedding. Gather your friends and family in the picturesque Courtyard Gardens before adjourning inside to one of their traditional Piedmont-furnished reception rooms.
Notes: Music must end by 10:30 p.m.
2. Oatlands Historic House and Gardens, Leesburg
With over 200 years of history, Oatlands is a beautiful place to start your marriage. It conjures up the stately elegance of Southern charm, and with its manicured lawns and formal terraced gardens, it offers a stunning setting for an outdoor ceremony. The Greenhouse, believed to be the second oldest in the United States, is ideal for smaller events. Its original weathered brick and worn stucco walls surround you with authentic rustic charm. For the rich hues of American chestnut wood walls, the Carriage House originally housed horses and carriages. The original plank walls and beams now provide a homespun, informal gathering space for a small reception. Stroll down a lighted pathway past the Greenhouse to the Grand Tent Pavilion, where its draped ceiling and chandelier lighting create a luxurious backdrop for larger weddings.
Notes: No kitchen facilities. Wheelchair access limited.
3. Belle Grove Mansion, Middletown
Built in 1794 for gracious entertaining, the Hite family home is now a National Historic Landmark. Its role as a wedding venue goes back to the early 19th century when all six of Nellie and Isaac Hite Jr.’s daughters married there. You and your guests can enjoy the lawns and gardens that draw the eyes to the beautiful Shenandoah mountains in the background. Choose to celebrate your small, intimate gathering of 40 guests in the stone-walled Manor House or in the 1918 bank barn with its wood paneling and rustic charm. Having the Shenandoah National Park and George Washington and Jefferson National forests close by, weddings in the fall are spectacular.
Notes: Music must end by 10 p.m. Wheelchair access limited.
4. Gunston Hall, Mason Neck
Celebrate your wedding in George Mason’s 1759 Georgian mansion set in 550 acres of landscaped grounds, breathtaking vistas of the Potomac River, and stunning panoramic views. This is a beautiful, tranquil setting for your wedding where you can take advantage of the breathtaking outdoor scenes and the elegant Ann Mason Room with its private courtyard for indoor celebrations. The red-brick mansion’s rectangle pond or sweeping tree-lined pebble driveway are the perfect romantic spots for your photo sessions.
Notes: Music must end by 10 p.m.
5. Historic Blenheim, Fairfax
Transport yourself back to the mid-1800s as you celebrate your wedding, where you can gaze on history through glass walls and look out to spectacular vistas of lush lawns, shady trees, and meandering footpaths in a parkland setting. Whether you choose the historic charm and presence with modern amenities of the Interpretive Center or the Pergola Terrace set amidst the Civil War remnants outside, Historic Blenheim is a wedding venue that is close to nature and steeped in history. The low hourly rate makes this venue appealing to those looking for a budget-friendly option.
Notes: Music must end by 10 p.m. No dressing area.
What to watch out for with a historic home wedding venue
While you are transported to another era, be aware of any restrictions that come with these stately homes. With a historic home comes great responsibility. Often, the venue has original furnishings and decor from the period, and you will want to preserve their provenance.
The venue might restrict children from attending to protect the fragility of the home’s contents. They could limit the sound and lighting equipment due to the high demand for electricity and the lack of adequate outlets required to run them. Some old homes still have old circuits that can’t adequately handle our modern devices.
You might need to carefully plan how to accommodate guests with physical limitations if the house doesn’t have elevators. You also want to consider the requirements of your vendors, as it might be difficult for them to maneuver up and down stairs if they are setting up furniture.
Check the heating and cooling systems at the venue, and plan accordingly so you and your guests are not sweltering in summer or freezing in winter.
When you tour the venue, make note of their limitations and restrictions, and follow the guidance of your wedding planner or the venue’s event coordinator on how best to facilitate your wedding.
Choosing a historic home for your wedding venue
With the various styles and themes for a wedding, you might have landed on a historic home as the ideal venue for your wedding. As you add your story to the history of the house, relish the character of the setting that gives your wedding charm and grace. As you dance the quadrille across the dance floor, relive the bygone times of celebration and unity of those whose footsteps you now follow.
Do you still need some help deciding which venue best suits your dream wedding? Our How to choose the perfect wedding venue article goes over what we went through here but in a broader form with suggestions and advice.
(Note: no compensation was received for mentions and links)