When planning a wedding, one of the biggest decisions can be picking a venue. But in the past decade, couples have been coming to the Historic Triangle more frequently to say “I Do.”
“It’s definitely becoming a hot spot for weddings,” said Brittany Rice, director of weddings and special events for Colonial Williamsburg Resorts. “There’s so much opportunity in the area and it’s a small town feel but with so much for guests to do outside the wedding, which is becoming increasingly more important.”
Rice said one of the biggest shifts in wedding culture since she started in the industry a decade ago is the popularity of destination weddings. She said more often now, couples are choosing to make a long weekend out of their celebration and picking places where they can participate in multiple activities throughout a number of days.
But in James City County, the wedding market just opened in 2017 when the Board of Supervisors passed ordinance revisions that allow commercial event venues to operate on rural lands within the county.
Jessica Aiken, owner of Wedding Company of Williamsburg, a local wedding planning business, said with the boom in community events, there is a growing need for more venue space which has opened up a wider market for weddings.
“The market for weddings has just exploded,” Aiken said.
That’s part of what makes the Historic Triangle, and Williamsburg in particular, such a draw for engaged couples. Both Rice and Aiken said a majority of their weddings are with couples coming from places around the world. Rice said many come from Washington, D.C., New York and London.
At the Williamsburg Winery, there are guests coming from closer to the area in parts of Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia, said Simon Smith, vice president of food and beverage for the winery.
Smith said the winery started hosting weddings more frequently after the construction of Wessex Hall in 2000. Since then it has grown to become a popular destinations in the area, selling out most weekends quickly.
Colonial Williamsburg’s wedding venues has also picked up more traction in the past three years as the destination changed their marketing which impacted individual segments within hospitality, including weddings, said Grace Russell, public relations director with BRAINTRUST, which represents Colonial Williamsburg Resorts.
Both Smith and Rice agreed the most popular times of year for weddings are the fall and spring. But, Smith said, that doesn’t mean the times in-between aren’t also seeing a number of celebrations as well.
Smith said there has been an increase in January weddings this past year and it’s looking to follow the same pattern in 2020 as well.
For weddings at Colonial Williamsburg, the average number of guests ranges between 100 and 120, Rice said. Smith said he has noticed a trend in recent years where guests lists are getting smaller so couples can spend more money on the actual celebration and ceremony.
“The average wedding in the United States is now 80 people as opposed to 120,” he said. “People are still spending the same amount of money, but expecting more. They’re improving the overall experience.”
Aiken’s business is geared toward high-end clientele who are able to spend more on their weddings. She said she’s seen weddings between $40,000 and $100,000 become more popular. But with those costs come even more couples to the area to celebrate their nuptials. Aiken said since starting her business in 2012, she has grown to plan 30 to 40 weddings a year.
She has also been looking to buy a location in James City County that would provide a new venue for some of the weddings. While she has not bought anything yet, she said her business is following that track toward the future.
Overall, the Historic Triangle is growing as a name in wedding locations and local businesses, and couples, are benefiting.
“[There’s] so much opportunity in this town,” Aiken said. “This community is growing and…having a cool space for communities to come together is really my goal.”