By Cody Mello-Klein | [email protected]
If Alexandria is known for one thing, it’s the history that runs throughout almost every corner of the Port City. From the brick homes and cobblestone streets of Old Town to the Main Street Americana of Del Ray, history is everywhere in the city, and that makes it the perfect location for couples looking to bring historic charm and style to their wedding.
A historic farm once owned by the nation’s first president, an 18th century home built by Alexandria’s founder and a marvel of Greek revival style are just some of the options available for those looking to rent one of Alexandria’s many historic wedding venues. Connect the city’s past with your future and consider these venues for your big day.
Few places are as quintessentially Alexandrian as Carlyle House. Completed in 1753, this stone mansion and garden was built by John Carlyle, a wealthy merchant and one of the city’s founders. After undergoing extensive renovations in the 1970s, it now functions as a museum that is available to rent for functions, including weddings.
Carlyle House and the property’s grounds provide “an urban oasis in the middle of Old Town,” Randi Boord, a museum associate at Carlyle House, said.
Between the museum in the historic home, the main floor of which is open to guests for an hour during rentals, and the quiet gardens behind the home, Carlyle House provides a stylish yet low-key experience. When renting Carlyle House, couples can choose to hold their ceremony in the tented Magnolia Terrace, the back garden with its gazebo or on the sprawling front lawn of the house. According to Boord, Carlyle House is also ideally located for out of town wedding guests.
“At just half a block from King Street and from the waterfront, it is easily walkable from nearby hotels, restaurants and parking, and we offer options for both ceremonies and intimate receptions,” Boord said. “The house itself is quite special and is a beautiful example of Georgian architecture.”
Event rentals at Carlyle House include access to any of the three locations for the event itself, as well as the Magnolia Terrace for use as a back-up location in case of inclement weather or for the evening portion of the event. Evening rentals include access to a small kitchen. Due to the location, only acoustic or ceremonial music is allowed, but not other amplified music.
Carlyle House offers three rental options: a two-hour ceremony rental, evening rental or one-hour microwedding rental. Rentals start at $800 and have a maximum capacity of 65 people for an evening rental, 100 people for a two-hour ceremony rental and 25 people for a microwedding. However, only the front lawn can accommodate up to 100 people for an event.
Securing alcohol service and an ABC license is often just another item on an already long to-do list during the wedding planning process, but Carlyle House makes things easy. Alcohol service is handled by Great Blue Heron, NOVA Parks’ caterers.
Location: 121 N. Fairfax St., Alexandria 22314
Information: [email protected], 703-549-2997
Couples who are looking to get out of Old Town but keep the historic charm should look no further than River Farm.
Perched on a hill overlooking the Potomac, River Farm was once owned by George Washington himself and now functions as the headquarters for the American Horticultural Society. The site, located in the Fairfax County portion of Alexandria, stretches 25 acres and encompasses gardens, a blooming meadow, the historic manor, a flagstone patio and unobstructed views of the Potomac River. When couples rent River Farm, they don’t get only one part of the property; they gain access to the entirety of the estate.
“I tell people that they should really tell their guests to take advantage of it because it’s really neat to be able to go down in the meadow, down to the fence where you can really see the water,” Leslie Bauman, rental and venue sales supervisor at River Farm, said. “We’ve got the big giant tree right down by the Potomac that has the bald eagles’ nest and frequently the bald eagles are flying around. We have a gorgeous black walnut tree that’s over 250 years old – that was George Washington’s era. We have one of the biggest Osage orange trees in the country that’s well over 230 years old. There’s so much for people to do and see.”
River Farm provides a lot of flexibility, allowing for micro weddings with wedding parties of six to eight people and massive events with as many as 240 people in equal measure. Rentals at River Farm last for nine hours, which includes set up and breakdown time, and prices range between $3,900 to $12,900, depending on the day of the week and number of guests.
Location: 7931 E. Boulevard Drive, Alexandria 22308
Information: [email protected], 703-768-5700 ext. 114
One of two Greek revival buildings in Old Town, the Athenaeum combines historic charm with contemporary art in a way that, much like a wedding, honors the past while looking to the future.
The Athenaeum is operated by the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association and typically serves as a gallery that focuses on highlighting work from local artists. The gallery is open to the public for free, but outside gallery hours the site also serves as a wedding venue that takes advantage of its iconic architecture and gallery space.
According to Veronica Szalus, executive director of the Athenaeum, the gallery’s prime location at the intersection of Captain’s and Gentry rows also allows couples and their guests to take advantage of Old Town’s photogenic urban landscape.
“These are two of the most sought-after locations for photographs. From a photography perspective, if you want great photos at your wedding and just people to see some of the best, most unique stuff around Old Town, our building offers that …” Szalus said.
Rentals are not offered during gallery hours but are available from 8 a.m. to noon and 4 p.m. to midnight Thursday through Sunday and all day Monday through Wednesday. An Athenaeum rental provides full access to the building, including the main floor gallery, upstairs gallery and courtyard.
For wedding ceremonies, maximum capacity is 80 people in the gallery and 50 people in the courtyard, while seated receptions provide space for up to 80 people without a dance floor and 60 people with a dance floor. The Athenaeum is also dog friendly, meaning Fido won’t have to miss out on the fun. Rental rates are $275 per hour on Monday through Thursday, $445 per hour on Friday and Sunday and $545 per hour on Saturday. For rentals on holidays, rates go up to $600 per hour.
Location: 201 Prince St.
For more historic wedding venues, consider:
• George Washington’s Mount Vernon
• The Lyceum
• Lloyd House and Gardens
• Gadsby’s Tavern
• The Rectory on Princess
• Lee Fendall House
• Woodlawn & Pope Leighey House