Did you know that vineyards are quickly becoming a popular wedding venue? Why not, if you are a lover of wine, like a little bit of rustic feel, rollings hills and gorgeous gardens, a vineyard wedding is the perfect theme for you...AND...if you are in the Charlottesville, VA area, think about checking out the First Colony Winery. This week we sat down with Heather Spiess, one of the owners of First Colony and I can't wait for her to tell you a little more about her winery and wedding venue.
I know that First Colony Winery is a working winery. What made you decide to go into the wedding business?
When we purchased the winery three years ago, the former owner was hosting a small number of weddings and other events. We have such a beautiful venue, it only made sense to expand that market and expose prospective couples to the beautiful space we have.
What are some of the hurdles that come with running both a vineyard and a wedding venue that couples may not know about?
The biggest hurdle we experience is during harvest (August-October, also our busiest season for weddings). First and foremost, we are in the business of making wine and if we have fruit coming in on the same day as a wedding, we have to be very careful to keep the two totally segregated. That is very hard to do when we have trucks loaded with fruit pulling into the parking lot when a wedding is setting up. The coordination has to be very precise.
What sets First Colony apart from other venues?
The rustic elements of our reception space and the flexibility of our ceremony space set us apart. We have a number of beautiful outdoor spaces for ceremonies, including a field that faces the Chardonnay vineyard. The Chanticleer Loft with its vaulted ceiling, massive beams and café lighting provides a rustically romantic setting for any event.
What is your favorite area of the venue?
I honestly think our bridal suite is unrivaled. It is intimate and secluded from the hustle and bustle of the wedding preparations. It is the perfect spot for the bridal party to spend time together.
How many weddings do you have in a weekend/year?
First Colony only hosts one event per weekend. This allows the bride to have access to the reception space the day prior to the wedding for set up. In 2015, we hosted about 15-20 weddings and events.
What is your favorite part about the weddings?
Seeing a happy bride is my favorite part of a wedding!
Do you have a favorite fun story?
We have a winery cat named Fritz. Fritz has been at First Colony for many years and I’m sure will be with us for many more. We recently hosted a wedding and at the moment the bride was ready to walk down the aisle, Fritz appeared just ahead of her and walked down the aisle first. He certainly didn’t steal her thunder but he did get a good laugh!
What different packages do you offer your couples?
We do not offer packages. Each space is priced differently but we prefer to rent the entire winery for a flat fee. That way, we are able to turn all the space over to the wedding party without having to charge separately for each space being used.
How long in advance do you typically start working with a bride?
We have booked weddings 18-24 months out as well as 2 weeks out. Typically, we start working with a bride about a year before the wedding.
Do you provide someone dedicated to the couple on the day of the event to help them?
No, we do not have an onsite planner. Our entire staff is available the day of the wedding to help with everything from providing an iron to scraping up extension cords or setting up chairs for the ceremony.
What size wedding is typical for you?
We typically host weddings of 120 guests or less.
You have several different areas in the winery to hold a wedding. Do you have a favorite?
The Chanticleer Loft is the most rustically elegant space at First Colony. When decorated, it is simply beautiful.
What trends do you see with the current brides?
DIY and informal. We hosted at least three weddings this year that were catered by BBQ companies. The weddings were still very elegant but the food wasn’t terribly expensive and it created a really nice, relaxed atmosphere.
If you could tell the brides one thing about your business, what would it be?
We are a farm! We make wine! We will have May flies in the spring, stink bugs and lady bugs in the summer, fruit flies and bees in the fall. But that’s all part of having an event at a working winery!
Finally, for a couple on a budget, what is the one thing that they shouldn’t skimp on?
For a stress-free and seamless wedding, use a wedding planner! I have seen so many brides trying to handle every detail themselves and then come unglued the day of the wedding. Wedding planners come in all shapes and sizes. There are those who are “day of” or “month of” planners and those who will guide the wedding couple handling every detail from the day they become engaged. This is something I would definitely not bypass!
Thanks Heather for sitting down with us today. Remember guys, for those of you in the Charlottesville area looking for a wedding venue, check out First Colony Winery. Until then, be sure to follow them on social media: