Planning the Perfect Williamsburg Wedding

Love does not consist in gazing at each other,
but in looking outward together in the same direction.

-Antoine de St. Exupéry

“Let the magic begin!” If only it were that easy to make a wish and have your instant dream wedding! The truth is, planning a wedding in Williamsburg involves a great deal of time, organization, and money.

Most of us certainly don’t have access to an unlimited wedding budget. Fortunately, there are many resources available to couples planning their special day, and the type of wedding and ceremony you plan is limited only by your imagination!

By following a few guidelines you can make it less difficult-and more fun!-along the way.

bride and groom cutting top cake tier

Getting Started

First things first, and that means making the basic decisions together up front. What type of wedding have you dreamed about?

  • Size: Are you thinking about a large celebration that includes family, friends, co-workers and an extensive wedding party? Perhaps a smaller, more intimate affair, with just close family and friends?
  • Style: Do you lean toward the traditional, Victorian, or modern? Do you prefer a memorable event; something that will be unforgettable, such as the top of a mountain or in a rowboat?
  • Ceremony: Are you intending on having a civil or religious ceremony? Will there be military honors?
  • Cost: Wedding costs can quickly become exorbitant. Do your homework, set a budget and stick to it.

Now is the time to do your planning groundwork by talking to each other, and your family members, regarding the degree to which they will be involved. This is also a good time to make some preliminary site visits to churches and Williamsburg reception halls, getting a rough idea of what it may cost to host the wedding you really want.

Choosing a Style

This is where the fun begins! Your wedding style or theme is only limited by your dreams and imagination, and the possibilities are endless. You can have a traditional daytime wedding, or a more dramatic candlelight evening ceremony. You can plan it for indoors or outdoors, in an extravagant or exotic setting, or right in your own back yard.

candle and bouquet of light pink roses

Theme weddings are very popular today, and range from holidays to locations, or to particular historical eras. Williamsburg makes the perfect setting for a magnificent Colonial themed wedding. These weddings focus on maintaining a theme with the location, dress, food and decorating.

Destination weddings are also popular. Rather than planning a large wedding with all of the financial responsibilities, some couples opt to plan a small ceremony away from home. Whether the wedding involves just the couple or a select group of family and friends, popular vacation destination resorts are offering packages to meet all needs and budgets.

Setting a Budget

This is one of the most important steps in the planning process. Once you have an idea of what the costs are for the particular type of wedding you have in mind, you can plan a budget. It is important to be rigorous in touching upon all of the items you will need to pay for. Here is a budget guideline for a typical formal wedding and sit-down dinner or buffet reception:

  • 50% Reception
  • 10% Music
  • 10% Flowers
  • 10% Wedding attire
  • 10% Photography
  • 4% Stationery
  • 6% Extras (includes rings and rehearsal dinner)

These costs can be adjusted according to the type of wedding you decide to go with. It is important to remember that the more guests you invite, the higher the percentage of your budget goes toward your reception.

Tips on Choosing a Site

Once you have an idea of the type of wedding you will have, you can begin shopping for your site. There are many considerations in choosing the right location in Williamsburg or the surrounding areas. Cost, ease of access, guest capacity, availability, and parking are a few of the items that will be on your list of questions.

You should have your wedding date firmly decided upon so that you can reserve as early as possible and avoid any difficulties later. Be prepared to come up with a deposit to reserve the location if required.

Get everything in writing, including the date and times your reservation will cover, the types and amounts of food to be served, drink charges, and whether or not the quoted price includes taxes and tips.

Note: Always think about the guests. Elderly family members, parents with small children, or anyone who may be disabled in some way might require some extra thought and consideration in order for them to fully participate in your special day.

tree overlooking a pond

Bridal Consultants

Although it may seem like an extravagance, a bridal consultant in Williamsburg can save you time, money and a lot of stress. You can decide how much or how little planning they will be responsible for. Whether you would like assistance with just the reception, or everything from the rehearsal dinner to the post-wedding brunch, they have the contacts and the resources to make arrangements quickly and for the best price.

Prices range from a flat fee to a percentage of the total wedding cost. Shop around and be sure to ask each of them the same questions so that you can compare their services fairly.

Setting the Date and Time

This can be one of the most difficult tasks of all! Trying to squeeze your wedding and honeymoon in between jobs, vacations, and family commitments can be a huge job. If you are trying to plan your wedding during the off-season or resort down-times, the choices may become even more difficult.

Take some time to think about who you are inviting and whether or not they would be available to attend at that time. For instance, if your future mother-in-law manages the holiday decoration department in a large department store at the mall, a Christmas wedding may cause her a great deal of anxiety.

Consider the day of the week. Although Fridays and Sundays are less expensive to book your reception, some people may have difficulty leaving work early on Friday to travel, or having to take Monday off in order to attend a Sunday celebration. There will inevitably be time conflicts for some of your guests, but a little foresight can minimize the number of problems you will have regarding attendance.

Catering & Selecting a Menu

This is one of the biggest choices you will face: what will you serve your guests? The choices are endless, of course, and depend upon the number of guests, location, the caterer, and what type of dinner you choose to host. Will it be a formal sit-down dinner? A buffet? Perhaps it’s a more informal garden party setting, or even an old-fashioned barbeque.

pink fnapkin folded like a fan on a white plate

There are many considerations when it comes to the food you serve. Cost is one, of course. Environment is another: if you are outside on a hot summer day, serving salads or meats over a certain length of time can be tricky.

Is your wedding formal? This may not be the best time to serve chicken wings or pasta with red sauce! The time of day is certainly another factor. You may not want to serve as substantial a meal for an evening wedding as you would for one taking place mid-day. Hors d’oeuvres may be more than enough.

If you are choosing an independent Williamsburg caterer, make a checklist of questions to ask. What is included in their price? Do they offer linens, candles, wedding cakes? Most importantly, get referrals from someone you trust. Try to sample their food if possible, and be sure to have a signed contract with all the details clearly spelled out to everyone’s satisfaction.

Making the Marriage Legal

Every state has its own rules for obtaining a marriage license. Be sure you check with the city or county where your marriage will take place. There is often a waiting period that may or may not include the completion of blood tests or other physical examinations prior to the granting of a license.

More Wedding Planning Tips & Resources »