10 Best Wedding Venues In & Around Charlottesville, Virginia | Charlottesville, Virginia Wedding Photographer Sarah Houston Photography

I've had the honor of photographing some really incredible weddings over these past seven years, my couples have allowed me to witness some really amazing memories made for them and the locations were breathtaking. I've decided to compile a little list of my favorite venues in and around Charlottesville, Virginia! These are ones I have photographed or they are on my dream list for future weddings (in no particular order!!)  I hope you enjoy!!

1. Trump Winery.  Hands down this is probably one of my biggest dream venues...not only are the views breathtaking but the wine is incredibly delicious and a MUST for your wedding day!! I feel in love with the location while meeting with a colleague for lunch, being a foodie I had to try their menu. Needless to say I was not disappointed! I am also all about the customer experience and they are on their A-Game when it comes to treating their guests to a great time at their winery. Friendly, Attentive and knowledgeable makes Trump Winery a dream venue for me and I'm hoping to photograph a wedding here very soon!!

2. Mt. Ida-The Lodge.  I've had the pleasure of photographing a wedding here and it was AMAZING (I also will be back here again in 2018 with another wonderful couple!!!). If you want views of the mountains for your ceremony, a GORGEOUS barn reception and an amazing team to take care of you...then look no further-Mount Ida is just for you! It's steeped in History, has incredible views of the mountains and is nestled right in the heart of Charlottesville. There's options for lodging and you can dance the night away in their lovely barn with all your friends and family! I love as a photographer just how many options there are for portraits, endless places to create that special moment between you and your love:) If you haven't visited...you are missing out! Make a trip out there if you're looking for a great outdoor/indoor wedding space!

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3. Pippin Hill.  Probably one of the "Prettiest" Barns you'll find in the area, besides Mount Ida's- The Lodge. Another location with gorgeous mountainous views, yummy wine and impeccable service. Quietly nestled in Charlottesville as well, this is another dream wedding venue for me! It's classically gorgeous and really speaks to the high end bride who has a refined sense of style, match made in heaven!

4. The Market at Grelen. I've been here a few times and each time it made me fall in love with it more. The Green House is an amazing space for a wedding reception and the views are lovely too! It's tucked away in the hills with rolling fields and trees of all different kinds! It's a blank canvas waiting to be created into a masterpiece just for your wedding. 

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5. Rixey Manor. I've photographed numerous weddings here over the years and it's honestly like a home away from home for me. Isadora & Ben really make the venue, they are the most gracious of hosts and really make the experience! It's tucked away in the hills with lovely views of the mountains in the backdrop & since it's out in the country, you can party almost allll night long with no problem! You get the entire house for the weekend which makes it a top wedding destination in my book!

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6. Morais Vineyards. This venue is a true hidden gem. It feels like you've stepped into an Italian Villa, it has a real European feel-making it an excellent choice for the elegant soiree. The open reception space and balcony overlooking the dance floor makes this a top spot for the elegant party with lots of portrait opportunities around the grounds!

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7. Castle Hill.  Charlottesville is THE PLACE for gorgeous, elegant barn weddings. So gorgeous I would call it a "Glarn"-Glammed up Barn. (yep I just made that up) Castle Hill is set in the rolling hills and is a lovely large White "Glarn" Barn. Looking for a country view but want a elegant feel? Look no further, they've got ya covered!

8. Keswick Vineyards. This Vineyard has it all, from the gorgeous venue space to the lovely grounds, it's a dream come true. Did I mention they have a pool? Any place that has everything you need in one place is perfection!! 

9. Historic Whitehall Estate. Gosh I love this venue!! Not only do they cater (delicious food!!) but everything is so so pretty here. From the ceremony site, to the lovely Estate House, there's no shortage to pretty pictures. The staff are so sweet! Another historic venue with a gorgeous view, this is another must on your list of wedding venues!

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10. Airlie. This is another hidden gem, a lot of people don't even know this gorgeous exists!! Tucked away in the outskirts of Warrenton, Virginia sits this gorgeous property and Manor House. It's lovely gardens and manicured lawns are the perfect place to say "I Do". It's elegant ballroom and historic property boost some pretty incredible backdrops for portraits. Everything is under one roof-Catering, Chairs, Tables....what else could you ask for in this one stop wedding venue!

 

 

Winter has come...

Winter...it's the slow time, the season where all you want to do is crawl into your warm bed and hybernate. It's also the most stressful time for me and I struggle with my depression the most. Yep...I just admitted it, I suffer from depression. Actually A LOT of creatives do, I just want to be open about it in hopes to encourage others that they are not alone. 

Its HARD to keep a positive outlook all the time and pretend to be someone you're not on social media...it's a tiring game of acting and you know what? It's ok to be real. I don't suggest posting a full on melt down, or shaving your head like a certain pop star...but it's ok to be honest about struggling with insecurities and having a rough time, we are all human & hearing encouragement from others can help tremendously! I know having others pray about it with me makes me feel so much better!! It's OK to be somewhat transparent, not all of us have it together 24/7. The only way to break the barrier of perfect, is to be honest.  

Here's a cute cactus because I hate being cold... 

Here's a cute cactus because I hate being cold... 

I hold myself together because falling apart isn't an option. My six year old is my anchor, find something in your life that holds you together and focus on that positive light. My daughter is my angel, she makes me laugh when I need it, hugs me when I'm down and literally keeps me (somewhat) sane. Lord knows my confidence is LOOOOOW but she does like to boost it for me by always reminding me that she's my biggest fan, that's worth more then some award to me...you can't replace hearing "When I grow up I want to be like you mommy" .

Depression doesn't make you weak, it's not a flaw...it's just something that you need to work through & getting help doesn't mean your admitting defeat. There are days that are TOUGH and I don't want to get out of bed or even talk to anyone, but I know I have to because I can't give into the darkness. I have so much to be grateful for, even when things are tough...business is slow or the bookings just dry up, I still need to count the blessings I've been given. Just this year I was so blessed to find a part time job at a lovely little boutique in town, my boss is incredibly sweet and encourages me. It's helping me get through the slow season and I'm just so thankful for it! It doesn't mean I'm not a successful small business, I just need it for a little extra umph until wedding season comes again:) Do I regret leaving my full time job? Honestly at first I did...but if I hadn't, I honestly wouldn't have 22 weddings booked for this year. It was a blessing that I couldn't see just yet...

Its ok to be scared, stressed, worried & doubt yourself. It's ok to FEEL, it's giving in, giving up and being defeated that you need to stay away from. It's hard to keep going...especially when you can't see the road ahead of you, but if you keep walking, keep pushing through the storm, I promise you it'll be worth it. Don't let the darkness surround you, don't give up. Dreams are meant to be lived...no matter how hard it is to get there, you'll get there in your own time. 

xoxo

Sarah  

Mt Ida Lodge Wedding with Stephanie + Zac | Charlottesville, Virginia Wedding Photographer Sarah Houston Photography

Finally!!! My off season is upon me and I am playing catch-up on my blogs:) First one I wanted to share (& yes I am going out of order....) is the wedding I photographed at Mt Ida, The Lodge! Cody Grannis with Amore Events By Cody designed this spectacular soiree!! I seriously adore Stephanie and Zac so so much and it was such an honor to share in their day. These portraits are just a few of my favorite memories from their day, I bet you can't even tell it was FREEZING and the wind was crazy strong!! It was simply perfect in every way, I cannot wait to photograph more weddings at this gorgeous venue that has stolen my heart!

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Maybe it was the water...| Personal Post| Sarah Houston Photography

I've attended and spoken at workshops A LOT in my 6 year span of being in this business. So when I was asked to speak in Playa Del Carmen for the HOF (House of Flynn) Retreat, I couldn't say no!!

Another shot of my girls. Me, Alex, Lisa & Ashton. There's something about making a hot Mexican hug sandwich that connects you more 😂 

Another shot of my girls. Me, Alex, Lisa & Ashton. There's something about making a hot Mexican hug sandwich that connects you more 😂 

This was my first time on a plane, first time out of the country and the first time I'd be away from my daughter/family for six days

....but boy am I glad I did.

The stunning view from my airplane window of Cancun! 

The stunning view from my airplane window of Cancun! 

You'll never grow, never learn knew things or become who you are meant to be-if you never push yourself out of your comfort zone.

When I was little I had a traumatic experience, I drowned and that scarred me beyond belief. Then fast forward 15 years and I found myself in an abusive relationship that took away my confidence and brought on intense anxiety that limits me from functioning like a normal human being. So when we went Scuba diving, my plan was to watch all these fun activities alone on the beach....not so fun. Thankfully I was so blessed to connect with an AMAZING group of ladies my "Flynners" & my soul sisters. (I'm totally crying writing this!!) they encouraged me, waited patiently while I took my time getting into the water...the FIRST TIME since I was 3. I couldn't touch the bottom so they held my hands, stayed with me & kept encouraging me...even though they were missing out on going out on their own to have fun. THAT meant the world to me. These girls became my sisters & it didn't end there...

That is me, in the water after 25 years of being in fear...top it off with a Dolphin. 

That is me, in the water after 25 years of being in fear...top it off with a Dolphin. 

Even though we were all different, we all had different styles, we were all connected. I know that in this industry it can be hard, we can't always connect to those who aren't "like us" but I'm telling you...if you step out, you'll find the best friends you've been searching for.

These girls!! I love them to the moon and back! Alex, Ashton and Natalie...trying to eat my sunburned shoulder 😂 

These girls!! I love them to the moon and back! Alex, Ashton and Natalie...trying to eat my sunburned shoulder 😂 

Fear is just insecurity in a Kate Spade coat and this year I squashed it. I'm ready to take on next year and all the "What if's", I'm not going to give up or be scared because if I had said "I'm just going to stay on the shore because it's safe" I NEVER would have saw all the beauty around me.

The Mayan Ruins, I've always wanted to see...but never wanted to fly. I am so happy I did finally see them! 

The Mayan Ruins, I've always wanted to see...but never wanted to fly. I am so happy I did finally see them! 

Thank you so much Maureen with The House of Flynn for this amazing experience & helping me find my "tribe". If it weren't for you those fears would still be holding me back!

Just some of the colorful beauty that Playa Del Carmen has to offer! 

Just some of the colorful beauty that Playa Del Carmen has to offer! 

xoxo

Sarah

Classic Private Estate Wedding in Middleburg, Virginia | Middleburg Virginia Wedding Photographer Sarah Houston Photography

I've always loved the countryside, but Middleburg definitely takes the cake. It's gorgeous views, quaint town and lovely estates that are hidden gems along the way. So when Anna + Will told me that they were getting married at a private estate there, let's just say I was SUPER excited. 

When I pulled up the driveway this gorgeous location greeted me and took my breath away. The views of the mountains and the stunning columned walkways...it was a dream come true. Anna was simply stunning in her gorgeous wedding dress (LOVED THE TULLE!!) and Will was handsome in his all black tux-very elegant!

It may have been hot but that certainly didn't stop everyone from having a blast. It was the perfect summer wedding full of laughs, lots of love and memories that I will share with you here:

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I seriously laugh SO HARD when I see this photo....

I seriously laugh SO HARD when I see this photo....

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most epic Father-Daughter dance EVER!

most epic Father-Daughter dance EVER!

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To the point of Quitting | Personal Post| Charlottesville Virginia Wedding Photographer Sarah Houston Photography

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I've been really quiet around here lately, a lot of you have been wondering why or maybe you just haven't noticed. Wedding season has been in full force, throw in some regular portrait sessions and taking on a small job Mondays/Friday's and you've got a recipe for a small search party to find me. 

I'm the worst when it comes to listening to my own advice, especially the "Don't say yes to everything". I have literally surpassed the overcoming point and head dived into "I'm in over my head". Of course with the crazy stress comes the lovely phase of-I'm getting burnt out. Between the stress of trying to deliver galleries on time and balance the millions of things I said yes too, my migraines are in full force and I've neglected my house, my family & taking care of myself.

I'm heading to a breakdown at breakneck speed y'all. 

Have you ever gotten on a merry go round and made it spin really fast then jumped off? I can tell you the outcome isn't pretty. I ended up bruised and puking faster then you can say "ouch". Well 28 weddings later (well almost because the year isn't over..) I'm feeling a little bruised and battered. This season has been a tough one, full of learning and mistakes I won't ever make again. It's also changed me, some good/some bad.

I let the bad experiences define me & the good experiences just passed me by. I let these little things that I should learn from then move on, make me want to quit. 

Just because you get hurt from something doesn't mean you should just give it up. When I was younger I loved ballet, it was my life. Then I got injured and it scared me to the point of giving it up. That's what happened to me this year, I let some experiences hurt me, I let them get in my head and I wanted to give up. I hated myself and I lost my "Why". THAT was the scariest moment for me, thinking that this wasn't right for me. I LOST MYSELF.  

All too often we get caught up in the pretty, we think that being wedding photographers is easy, it's fun and it makes good money. But what people don't see is the long hours, the behind the scenes work and the sometimes not so pretty moments. Don't get me wrong I LOVE my couples to pieces, but it's not an easy job....weddings are hard work and sometimes things happen you can't control-which somehow comes back as your fault. 

With only a few weddings left this year I'm getting ready to go into my reflection period better known as "off season" I'm hoping during this time I can regenerate, reflect and learn from this past year. I hope to move forward smarter, refreshed and ready to tackle the next season! But I just want my fellow creatives to know: 

-it's ok to doubt yourself and to feel like your not enough. I do this too!! 

-don't let the bad outweigh the good. A few bad experiences should never define the good ones that remind you WHY your doing this  

-quitting is an easy out, but if you keep going your stronger. Don't give up just because you think it's the best answer, if you keep trying you'll continue to grow and become a stronger person

-it's ok to cry & be overwhelmed, it means you are human.  

-LOVE yourself and what you do, you are an artist and just because the white balance doesn't look right to you...doesn't mean they will notice!!!! 

Its crazy how quickly things can tear you down and even crazier if it makes you want to quit something you love.  

Hang in there<3  

xoxo

Sarah