You know what that means.
It’s officially Wedding Season.
Check your calendar. Is almost every Saturday on your calendar filled with a wedding to go to? And there are 5 Saturdays this June – which was probably a relief to brides everywhere a few wedding-planning months ago.
Chances are, if you live in Winchester, you’re probably attending more weddings than your non-Winchester friends. Why? Because Winchester is the wedding capital of Virginia.
It’s true. Or so says a few official Winchester government webpages.
Even if it’s not officially official, it’s a great designation to claim to have. In Virginia, it’s incredibly easy for folks to get hitched – in less than 30 minutes, even. (Virginia is for lovers, after all.) Virginia doesn’t require a blood test, or a wait period, so it’s very easy to elope (and not have to book a trip to Vegas). So technically, you could get married this easily anywhere in the Commonwealth.
So why is Winchester the “Wedding Capital”, and not say, Richmond, you ask? Well, that really comes down to geography. We’re located at the northernmost tip of the state, and thus makes it an automatic convenience to folks in West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and even Ohio.
Plus, Winchester is just so gosh-darn pretty, how can you not want to get married here?
“I call it the Las Vegas of the East Coast,” said Judy Sue Kempf, who owns the wedding chapel in the George Washington Hotel with her husband, George (www.yourwinchesterwedding.com). Both serves as officiants and can be hired to perform a wedding ceremony.
“Here, they get a license from the city or county clerk of court, proof of age required for license, then they are given names of folks that perform these ceremonies and they pick, make a call and then ta-da… they are married within an hour,” she said.
Judy Sue and George actually got into the business of marrying people, back when she was the manager of the Winchester-Frederick County Convention and Visitors Center back in 1996. She saw so many couples coming in to ask for directions to the court house to get a marriage license, that she felt they could offer a nicer setting for these out-of-town couples. She and her husband have married couples from all around the world, in all age ranges:
“Our couples ohave ranged in age from 16 with parent’s permission to a lovely couple both in their very late 80’s. Love is in the air, no matter how old you are.”
Besides their chapel inside the George Washington Hotel (which is the only Wydham property to have a chapel), they also own Old Stone Church, a historic wedding venue located just up the street from the hotel. They also go to couples’ homes and other venues around the area. Besides those locations, there are many other incredible places around town to tie the knot and host a reception, including the George Washinton Hotel, the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley and Glen Burnie Gardens, historic churches in and around Old Town, bed and breakfasts, the Winchester Country Club, and gorgeous plantation and manor homes just outside of Winchester like Rosemont Manor, Long Branch Plantation, Belle Grove Plantation, and Historic Jordan Springs. With so many beautiful locations, it’s easy to see why many choose our fair city as the backdrop for their wedding.
But June is hardly the only busy month for the local wedding industry. Judy says they stay busy all year long.
“May was especially busy and so was February with Valentine’s Day,” she recalled.
“June is the official month for weddings but we find the winter months to be busy as well.”
No matter how long you’ve been planning your wedding—one hour or one year—Judy has some advice for the lovely couples out there:
“Remember your wedding day and keep this happiness with you throughout the years.”
Here’s some more details on how to get married in Winchester, from Old Town Winchester’s website:
1. Obtain a marriage license. We make it unbelievably easy here in Winchester. Both applicants need to appear in person at the Winchester Circuit Clerks office (5 North Kent Street, Monday-Friday 9am to 5pm), furnish information needed under oath and pay a $30.00 fee in cash. There is no blood test or waiting period required. Details can be found at www.winfredclerk.com/marriage1.htm
2. Create your dream ceremony, from a quick no-frills civil ceremony to sublime. Marriage Officiants, appointed by Winchester’s Circuit Court, are eligible to perform civil weddings and can help create the wedding event. Couples are free to write their own vows and plan their own beliefs and ceremonies. Find a local Marriage Officiant at www.winfredclerk.com/marrlist.htm
Coincidentally, there is a Strolling Bridal Show in Old Town Winchester this month—Sunday, June 24th from noon to 4pm. You can tour wedding venues, meet caterers and bakers, jewelers, and even take a carriage ride in a Cinderella carriage right on the pedestrian mall. For more details, visit the event Facebook page.