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Wedding Planning

Top 25 Wedding Venues [Updated for 2019] In Loudoun County

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Top 25 Wedding Venues [Updated for 2019] In Loudoun County

The 25+ Most Popular Loudoun County Wedding Venues

Loudoun County is one of the best places to get married in all of Virginia and it is packed with amazing venue options just a short drive from Washington DC! We’re super blessed to have everything from beautiful wineries, rustic barns, historic manors to elegant resorts. We’ve photographed at most venues in Loudoun over the years as local residents of Historic Leesburg. If a venue is missing that you’d like to see, please leave us a comment! We’ll be working to keep this list updated with example images, blog posts or galleries from each venue. If you have any questions about a particular venue (especially from a photographer’s perspective) please contact us! For more photography wedding information, click here.

riverside on the potomac ceremony venue in the spring time in loudoun
historic whitehall estate outdoor wedding venue in loudoun county
bluemont winery wedding couple in the vines in loudoun county
zion springs reception barn dinner setup for loudoun county wedding venue
salamander resort and spa indoor wedding venue in loudoun county

Intimate Tiny Wedding Venues

  1. The Poker Room at Shoes Cup and Cork

Getting Ready Location Ideas

  1. Airbnb

  2. Stone Cottage at Bluemont Vineyard

  3. Lansdowne Resort

  4. Salamander Resort

Food and Entertainment

If you and your guests are in town for the weekend then these are some of our top places to go!

  1. Divine Wine Tours - they’ll pick you up and take you to all the best wineries

  2. The Wine Kitchen - great local wine and fantastic food

  3. Cocina on Market - tacos and awesome roof deck

  4. Tuscarora Mill Restaurant - amazing fine dining

  5. South Street Under - cozy sandwich shop

  6. Shoes Cup and Cork - coffee shop with incredible food and amazing outside garden seating

  7. Crooked Run Brewing - beer that is SO good

  8. Loudoun Brewing Co - beer that is also SO good

  9. Vanish Brewery - beer that is SO good + food trucks, brick oven pizzas, bbq and scenic views

  10. Fireworks Pizza - brick oven pizza magic

  11. Bites Wine & Grilled Cheese Bar - greatest idea ever

  12. King Street Coffee - best coffee in Leesburg

  13. Melt Gourmet Cheeseburgers - won best burgers in Virginia… which is good enough for us

  14. The Old Lucketts Store - get your antique shopping on

Recent Loudoun County Weddings


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Why You Should Consider Having A First Look

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Why You Should Consider Having A First Look

Do you see each other before the ceremony or wait to walk down the aisle? Do you keep or break with tradition? We'd love to share some perspective and go deeper into these important questions!

Gina and Peter's first look at the Tudor Place in DC

Traditionally, the first time a couple sees each other is when the bride walks down the aisle. However, that tradition has flipped in recent years to where now the majority of couples are opting to see each other earlier in the day.

If you’re on the fence about this decision we’ve put together some things to consider. We wanted to approach this topic not only from a wedding photography perspective, but also as a married couple who didn’t have a first look at their own wedding.

What does the day look like without a First Look?


Once you get engaged, the whirlwind of planning starts. You've hired all the right people, you've tasted all the cake, you've checked off all the details. Now wouldn't it be nice to enjoy all of those amazing things...TOGETHER?

Most wedding days start with you getting ready. Hair, makeup and getting dressed while you anxiously anticipate all of the big things that are about to happen. You eventually get to the ceremony and finally see each other as you walk down the aisle. It’s amazing! This was one of the most incredible memories from our own wedding. But at the end of that aisle you’re brought together and the ceremony quickly begins. There’s no real time to stop and communicate, to embrace, to admire or to just tell each other what you’re feeling. You’re getting married right now and things are underway! You say “I do” and walk back up the aisle, turn immediately around and start taking family portraits and then couple portraits. All of your guests move onto the cocktail hour for drinks and conversation but you miss most of this for portraits. Portraits end and you rush to enter the reception, do your first dance, shove some food in your mouth, and then walk around the room to say hello to some of the many people you’ve invited. Before you finish talking to guests the toasts and dancing start up and before you know it the last dance is announced and the day ends. People have probably told you that your wedding day goes by fast, and it does! What we just described is a pretty accurate depiction of our own wedding day. 

Now let’s start the day again with a First Look…


You start the day the same as you get ready, but all of that nervous anticipation has a place to calm and diffuse when you see each other before the ceremony. Unlike walking down the aisle with many people watching and then launching into the formality of your ceremony, you are alone together and not rushed. You have time to react to seeing this amazing person that you’re about to vow to love for the rest of your days. You have time to embrace. You have time to walk around your future spouse and tell them how freaking good they look. After this moment you can go do your couple portraits at a time when you’re not missing any other part of the celebration and there’s nothing on your mind except that you’re about to get married. You are free to just be present to one another. If circumstance allows you may be able to knock the family and bridal party portraits out of the way after the first look, and then you can go relax and hide away as guests arrive. The nerves are calmed. The photos are done. There’s nothing that remains except experiencing the rest of the day and celebrate. You walk down the aisle and still look at each other with just as much joy and excitement. You get married and then you have time to go hang out with your favorite people that you invited, leaving you with more time to enjoy the rest of the reception and hopefully even eat all of your amazing food!

With a first look you maximize the amount of time you get to spend with each other and with your people. It is probably the single biggest logistical influence you have in your timeline to do that!


What are the benefits from a photographer's standpoint?

  1. Photographing guests and details.
    One of the biggest photography advantages to having a first look actually has little to do with couple portraits. It has do with being free during the cocktail hour for photographing your guests, and also photographing the details of your reception. If portraits are scheduled for the full duration of your cocktail hour then your guests won’t be photographed until the dance floor, resulting in a lot less photos of them. Additionally, if you care about photos of the reception details, the best time to document details are right after the staff is finished setting up but just before your guests enter to sit down for dinner. 

  2. Timing and avoiding delays.
    We’ve found that the wedding day schedule is more easily controlled before the ceremony vs after the ceremony. This is simply because it’s earlier in the day and there are more ways to adapt. For example, if makeup runs late we may move the bridal party portraits to later in the day. However, later in the day we might not have the opportunity to move anything which often results in portraits being shortened.

  3. Uninhibited emotional moments
    When you aren't walking down the aisle, the focus is purely on your future spouse. With no one else around your photographer literally has 360 access to your body language and facial expressions. Without the distractions or pressure of guests watching, the two of you have full permission to let your guard down. 

Groom sees bride for the first time with huge smile during first look
bride wipes tears during first look in Frederick Maryland
bride and groom read letters and laugh together before seeing each other during first look
groom waits as bride walks down steps to meet him during first look at Bluemont Vineyard
bride and groom see each other during first look and laugh with joy

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How To Plan For Family Formal Portraits

How To Plan For Family Formal Portraits

Weddings have the unique ability to bring entire families together. This creates an incredible opportunity to document the people that are most important to you, often spanning multiple generations.  

However, let's be honest that not many people really enjoy taking large group portraits, no matter how much they want them.  Kids have short attention spans and don't like to look at cameras.  Adults want to move along to the cocktail hour.  The bigger the group, the more challenging to organize. All of this to say, formal family portraits can be a giant stress trap right in the middle of a wedding.

We want to share some of our best tips to plan around that and hopefully avoid that stress altogether, and to create a better experience for you and your family. You should be able to get the amazing and beautiful group portraits to capture your family legacy while also creating an atmosphere that is efficient with time and stress-free.  

1. Organize Your List Ahead Of Time

We send out a planning guide a month or two before the wedding and ask all of our couples to send us every combination they want during formal portrait time. There's no one-size-fits-all template here.  We have some weddings that might have five combinations, while others have thirty.  The key thing is that you don't want to be figuring out which people should be in which photo the day of your wedding.

We would also suggest that you pass along critical info ahead of time if there are sensitive factors with any of the portraits. We would hate to make mom and dad stand next to each other and smile nicely for every photo only to find out later that they are divorced and haven't talked to each other in years and were completely uncomfortable the whole time. We certainly don't want to stir up any drama that overshadows the beauty of the day. Every family has its quirks but when your photographer knows about those things ahead of time, it mitigates any chances of committing an avoidable faux pas.

Figure out the combinations, consult your family as needed, and then lock the list down! Family members will always find a way to come up with infinite other combinations for family portraits that they want on your wedding day, but we'd suggest that you stick to your planned list.  It's easy enough to capture other ad hoc family portraits during the cocktail hour or reception.  If a family member starts getting aggressive about the portrait they want that is not on the list then you can kindly let them know that the photographer will be able to grab other portraits during the cocktail hour or reception and will take care of them at a later time. 

Planning all of the combinations ahead of time will likely cut the time needed in half and get everyone on to the next event quicker.

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2. Understand How Much Time You Need

Formal portraits generally take between fifteen minutes to thirty minutes.  There will obviously be exceptions to that, but that's a good average.  The time needed is largely dependent on the number of combinations, and also the size of the combinations. A portrait with five people will be much quicker to organize than a portrait with fifty people.  Once you've completed the list of combinations you should be able to get a good ballpark for the time needed and plan it into your timeline accordingly.

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3. Decide When

The easiest time for formal portraits is right before or immediately after the ceremony.  This makes it simple to ensure that everyone you need will be there. Before the ceremony is great if there's enough time, and you're if already planning to do a First Look. The advantage of doing portraits before the ceremony is that nobody is missing out on another event such as the cocktail hour. If you're not doing a first look, or there just isn't enough time, then it's great to do them right after the ceremony is over while everyone is still together.

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4. Decide Where

Regarding location, consider lighting and logistics.  If it's an outdoor wedding and the time for formal portraits is Noon, it's probably not a great idea to stand out in an open field unless it happens to be a cloudy day.  Your photographer can usually find a good shaded spot that will look nice for everyone.  If you're having a church wedding and want some or all of the portraits in the church just make sure you talk to the church ahead of time to understand their rules.  They might have specific windows of time where portraits are allowed.

The second thing to consider for location is logistics.  There may be a beautiful spot near your venue that looks out over a valley or mountains, but if it's a big hike you probably don't want to force grandma to walk half a mile to get there!  We typically recommend finding a place within minimal walking distance from the ceremony site. If it's a hot summer day, we'd also recommend being very close to a place with shade or air conditioning to let family members stay cool while they're waiting their turn.

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5. Let Everyone Know The Plan Ahead Of Time

One of the best things you can do to further ensure that everyone is where they need to be at the right time is to email all of the people the week before the wedding and let them know the game plan.  All you need to do is let them know that they'll be part of family portraits and when and where they need to show up. Everyone does better when they know the plan and what's expected of them.

6. Designate "The Loud One"

Your photographer should own the list and get everyone looking their best to capture the photos, but they won't necessarily know who is who.  A great way to get everyone together quickly is to officially designate a confident and loud member of your family to help the photographer call out the combinations and bring the family together.  This is especially useful if anybody is missing from the immediate area.  

bree greg slideshow-89.jpg

7. Spread The Joy

Family portraits can be stressful, and we get that they might not be the most fun part of the wedding day. However, it's awesome to look back and have amazing pictures that capture your family legacy.  Plan the best you can to make it go smoothly and quickly, but once you're in the moment try to remember why these photos are important to you and your family.  If you choose to spread joy and enthusiasm your family and guests will usually follow suit. If people are uptight or spreading stress during this time you have the power to counter that by spreading joy or laughter.  Real emotion always shows through in photos so let your joy be contagious and have a great time!

taylor rob portraits-11.jpg

Creating Your Wedding Photography Timeline

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Creating Your Wedding Photography Timeline

We often get asked by couples how much photography coverage they need for their wedding day.  It's easy enough to figure out how long you need for the venue or what time to serve dinner, but photography can be a bit of a moving target.  You know you want to capture the amazing special moments throughout the day, but how do you create the photographer timeline to accomplish that?  We've thought about this a lot over the years when talking with our couples and we hope this post can guide you in determining how much photography coverage you need when planning your wedding day.

The most important rule for your timeline is that it's ultimately about what's important to you and what you want to have documented.  This varies for every couple.  Here, we would like to give you some insight into how long photographers typically need to capture specific parts of the day to help you understand and make decisions for your timeline.  

Let's break it down into a few decision factors:

1. Start Time

2. Portrait Time

3. Detail Time

4. End Time

Finding Your Start Time

We start by discussing the beginning of the day.  Our start times vary quite a bit for weddings. The first question to consider is: do you want to document the getting ready process? This is one of our favorite parts of wedding days because there's this incredible fusion of emotions with all of the nervous excitement, and couples are spending time with the family and friends closest to them.  As storytellers, this is so much fun! But, back to the important question: when do you need your wedding photographers to start?  Most brides get ready for hours, especially if they have a bridesmaids getting ready with them.  Hair, makeup, flowers, getting dressed... this is sometimes a four to six hour event.  

There's a good chance you don't want or need that entire time documented, and there are a few things to consider.  First, most women are not crazy about being photographed before they get their hair and makeup done.  Second, the bride usually gets her hair and makeup done last.

Ahmed and Namrah Sunday Documentary-96.jpg
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amanda charlie slideshow-30.jpg

For a typical wedding, a good general rule is to have your photographer show up about 60 to 90 minutes before you want to be finished getting ready and move on to the next part of the day. Although, PLEASE assume buffer time for hair and makeup because it rarely finishes on time! Also, we spend the majority of getting ready time documenting honest moments of people as opposed to staged details. If we’re off photographing flat lays of invitations or the dress and shoes then we’re likely missing moments of you interacting with your closest friends and family. If detail shots are important to you then we can definitely photograph these, but you might want to add some extra time in to make sure that there’s still a lot of time to just focus on documenting people!

We also find that most guys wait until the end to get ready and it doesn't take them that long so we recommend you base your start time around the bride :)

There are of course exceptions, and we ultimately care about what's important to each couple. We've had weddings where getting ready started much earlier for unique events taking place. We've documented grooms leaving early in the morning to hand pick wild flowers to be used for the ceremony.  We've documented all of the women in the bride's family carrying out a multi-generation tradition of having bacon and ice cream for breakfast.  We've documented couples helping setup the venue themselves before moving on to getting ready.  We've also documented guys playing laser tag and football.  If you have an event before the getting ready process that you want to remember then definitely plan your start time around that!  

sarahcolin wedding-47-L.jpg

Next, let's talk about the middle of the day and how to factor portrait time and reception details into a photography timeline that could expand or contract your overall schedule.

Couple Portraits

We always recommend a minimum of 30 minutes for couple portraits. Sometimes we do couple portraits at multiple times such as first look and then sunset. Sometimes they are at all once.  Our recommendation is 30-60 minutes total.  If portraits involve traveling to different sites then make sure to factor travel time in separately and account for traffic too. If you want to ensure that you get the full allotted time for couple portraits PLEASE consider doing a First Look. It’s much easier to control the timeline before the ceremony, and we also find it’s much more relaxing for the couple.   

taylor rob slideshow-69.jpg

Formal Portraits

Most of our couples want a handful of formal portraits for bridal party and family/extended family.  These are the images that mom's and grandmothers LOVE.  And in all honesty, they will probably mean a lot to you too.  We know you and your guests want to move on to the cocktail hour or the next part of the day so preparation is the key to keeping it efficient and quick.  It will go quicker if you prepare the list of combinations ahead of time, and also inform those guests where and when they need to be.  Timeline for this greatly depends on the number of combinations and size of the group photos.  More combinations = more time, and larger groups = more setup time.  To keep it simple for planning, most wedding formal portraits take between 15-30 minutes depending on the above factors if you're prepared.  They usually happen shortly before the ceremony or immediately after since all the guests are in the same place.

Reception Details

Did you spend a lot of time or investment in the details and decor of your wedding reception?

If so we highly recommend doing a First Look so that we are free during the cocktail hour. It's almost impossible to photograph reception details once the guests come into the room for dinner after the cocktail hour. We recommend making room for about 10-30 minutes prior to the guests being seated for dinner (depending on the size of the venue and amount of details to photograph). This will allow for time to capture the table settings, room decor, the cake and any other details that you poured time and energy into. One of us will probably stay focused on capturing people during the cocktail hour while the other one handles details so we can still prioritize documenting your people.

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Finding Your End Time

Now, let's jump to the end of the day!  Do you have a big ending to the reception?  (Sparkler exit, sending floating lanterns into the night sky, etc).  If so, then you probably want your photographer to stay until whatever time the reception ends and capture that.  Easy decision.

However, you may not have a big sendoff, and plan to have your guests dance the night away. Reception parties are a blast to document as everyone busts out their best dance moves and lets loose in celebration.  If you have hours of dancing, the pictures are likely going to start looking alike and you may not want 500 dancing photos, especially as that open bar keeps going into the evening :)  

We've found that most of the big traditions during the reception happen in the first half such as the bridal party entrance, toasts, first dances, and cake cutting.  On average, a good general rule is to allow for at least 60-90 minutes of photography coverage after the dancing starts to get a great variety for the party images.  For example, if you expect dancing to start at 8pm then have your photographers stay until 9 or 9:30 as the end of their coverage.  

Everything else from a photography perspective during the day is documenting and journalism, and your photographers should be able to flow with the day.  We hope this gives you a better idea in deciding what's important to your schedule and figuring out how many hours to book your photographer.  Happy planning!

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