To use a very over-used phrase: think outside the box!

Consider a State Park or Conservancy if you are planning a smaller wedding or want to have your ceremony in a beautiful natural setting. Going this route can help you save even more money since you can bring in your own vendors in most cases. You can choose a caterer or consider a potluck receptions, bring your own beverages or choose someone to provide bar services without a corkage fee. Choose a florist who can work with the natural setting and season.

A special use permit is required for state parks and must be submitted with an application fee which will often be refunded if your date cannot be reserved. Be sure you wait for approval before arranging your vendors. I’ve detailed some options here, but you can find a more comprehensive list with descriptions on the Commonwealth of Virginia website.

Cooking on the Outdoor Grill at the reception


I recently spoke to Jess about her marriage to Charles in a November (several years ago) wedding at the Virginia Outdoor Center in Fredericksburg. She said that with a small contribution and a day of river cleanup was all that was necessary to “rent” the space. Her memories of this intimate, natural wedding are priceless. I love this image of cooking on the outdoor grill, but I’m a country girl at heart!

Bear Creek Lake State Park is just outside of Richmond and is perfect for small weddings or engagement parties. There is a kitchen on-site and accommodations are available in cabins, a lodge and tent sites. Perfect for a low-key natural ceremony or wedding weekend. You will not be able to have candles or release balloons, birds, butterflies or anything else, but that is a small price to pay considering the value, peace and tranquility.

Belle Isle State Park

Belle Isle State Park

Belle Isle is in Lancaster and offers an upscale historic setting for your special day and can accommodate a larger wedding and reception than Bear Creek. There are two colonial style buildings on 33 acres. Usually the park only requires payment of the standard overnight rental for both dwellings.

Chippokes Plantation State Park is an historic plantation offering formal gardens. Perfect for your chic outdoor wedding. You are allowed outside vendors, but they must have the proper insurance and permits. There are areas that are perfect for small and large weddings.

Grayson Highlands State Park offers many sites for weddings from small to large with several backdrops: open field, streams, 180 degree mountain vistas, or another location that you find special. Grayson Highlands is located in Mouth of Wilson.

Do you dream of being married by a lake? Twin Lakes State Park offers a gazebo by the lake. This setup can accommodate up to 135 guests. There are cabins on-site for your out of town guests and the staff will work with you help with your planning details.

Natural Tunnel and Cove Ridge Center

Natural Tunnel and Cove Ridge Center

Natural Tunnel and Cove Ridge Center offers four separate sites to rent, giving you a choice for your perfect backdrop. Get married in the mouth of a tunnel, illuminated with a spotlight. Consider the gazebo with breathtaking 360 degree views. The Cove Ridge Center offers a more traditional venue with a catering kitchen and there is also an amphitheater that can accommodate up to 200 people, with some of the seating covered. Natural Tunnel is in Duffield.

Do you have advice to share or have your own out of the ordinary venue? Or questions you’d like to ask? Please leave us a comment below and let us know!

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