Everything You Need to Know About Getting Married in Virginia

Ultimate Guide to Getting Married in Virginia

“Virginia is for lovers.” Has there ever been a better state quote for weddings? From beautiful sandy beaches and rural mountains to historic sites, Virginia has something to fit every wedding style. There are plenty of wedding venues to choose from and opportunities to throw your event at one of the local parks or beaches. If you’re hosting a Virginia wedding, you can find great wedding packages that help make the most of your budget.

If you’re planning a Virginia wedding, this guide can help you find vendors, inspire ideas and even help plan activities for your guests who may be visiting from out of town. We also have information you need to obtain a Virginia marriage license and other legalities to useful when planning a wedding in the Old Dominion. Follow your wedding checklist to make sure everything is done on time.

Top Wedding Trends in Virginia

Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards Virginia wedding venue

Wedding trends change from year to year, but they also change from one place to the next. Virginia weddings feature a variety of Virginia-centric trends, especially the statewide tradition known as the “love letters.” Thanks to the Virginia quote “Virginia is for lovers,” there are multiple installations of six-foot-tall letters spelling out “love” all over the state. They’re great for photo sessions and can help set the tone for your wedding day. Due to their popularity, you can even have your own set of “love letters” set up at your Virginia wedding. You can order them from the Virginia Tourism Corporation staff, who deliver, set up and break down the letter on your wedding day (just make sure you approve it with your venue first).

Along with the picture-perfect “love letters,” other wedding trends include using potted plants or trees as centerpieces, switching out food stations for gueridon service and using strategic lighting designs like vintage candelabras or pendant lights as décor.

Some other trends showing up in Virginia weddings are:

  • Week-after photo shoots
  • Short receptions followed by after-parties
  • Autumn weddings
  • Ivory or cream color schemes
  • Selective pops of metallic accessories (copper lanterns or sashes on the couple’s chairs)
  • Rose gold–colored hardware (napkin rings, charger plates, cake knife)
  • Unconventional seating layouts (smaller or different size tables)

Virginia Marriage Rates and Wedding Costs

The Knot average costs for Virginia weddings

Planning your wedding can be an all-consuming task. However, it’s helpful to take a few minutes to review the statistics behind a typical Virginia wedding. In order to compile real data based on actual weddings, The Knot did the research and put together The Knot 2015 Real Weddings Study to find out what couples paid on average for Virginia wedding venues, engagement rings and other wedding-related costs. If you’re looking for budgeting help, use
The Knot Budgeter to keep track of your spending.

Virginia Marriage Stats

So how many couples are actually getting married in Virginia? Turns out, the marriage rate in Virginia is about 6.7 per 1,000 people. The average age of Virginia brides is 28, while grooms are 30 years old on average. According to The Knot 2015 Real Weddings Study, couples who had Virginia weddings were engaged for around 13 months before tying the knot and spent an average of $22,438 on the wedding day (not including engagement rings and honeymoon expenses). That being said, every wedding is different, and costs are determined on what personal touches you want included on your wedding day.

Budget Breakdown: Average Costs for Virginia Weddings

Getting a sense of what you’ll pay for your wedding day expenses will make it easier to budget and negotiate with vendors. Above you’ll find some average costs when planning a wedding in Virginia.

Top Cities in Virginia to Tie the Knot

There are plenty of great wedding venues in Virginia, and no matter where you choose to throw your wedding, it’s sure to be a hit. However, the following three places stand out as the most popular wedding destinations in the state:

Virginia Beach/Norfolk



Make It Legal

newlyweds showing wedding rings

While we hope that planning your wedding feels like it’s filled with fun events like cake tastings and finding the perfect DJ or band, there are some strings attached to tying the knot here. Understanding the ins and outs of not only getting your Virginia marriage license, but also taking care of details like permits and
changing your name(s), is equally important in the weeks and months leading up to saying “I do.”

Getting a Virginia Marriage License: The Basics

In order to obtain your marriage license, you and your partner have to go through the Virginia Circuit Court Clerk. It doesn’t matter where in Virginia you decide to get married—you can go to any circuit court clerk for your license. Both parties must be 18 years of age or older in order to get married; however, couples between 16 and 18 years of age can get married if they have notarized permission from a legal guardian or parent. The parent or guardian also has to be present and have a valid form of photo identification. The license is valid for 60 days once you obtain it for a $30 fee. There is no waiting period, no need to present witnesses and no required blood test. While you don’t need to be a resident of Virginia, you need one of the following for identification purposes:

  • Valid driver’s license
  • Military ID
  • State ID
  • Passport/passport card
  • Permanent resident card
  • Foreign government–issued passport

Both to-be-weds must be present at the clerk’s office to obtain a Virginia marriage license. Besides identification, you need social security numbers, the application fee and the full birth names of both sets of parents (middle names included).

If you were married previously, you either have to provide the date of your spouse’s passing or the date of your divorce in the form of a certified copy of the death certificate or divorce decree. Once all information is provided, you can celebrate your Virginia wedding in the style of your choosing.

In addition to the license, you must also find an officiant for the wedding who will solemnize the marriage, complete the Marriage Register as well as the Marriage Return and send both to the clerk who issued the marriage license within five days of the wedding ceremony. From there, the Marriage Return is sent to the State Division of Vital Records.

Permits and Other Important Legal Requirements for Virginia Wedding Venues

Besides your Virginia marriage license, there may be other permits you’ll need to obtain for the wedding day. To start, make sure that your officiant is an ordained minister with proof of ordination. Then, ensure that your venue has all of the necessary permits and licenses needed to host your wedding. Standard Virginia wedding venues normally have all of the requirements in place, or they’ll let you know what is needed.

Designated parks can host your wedding, but you need to obtain a State Parks Special Use Permit and pay a venue fee. Parks also have certain restrictions including noise regulations, capacity limits and similar requirements.

In most cases, you need to have a planning meeting at the wedding location in order to obtain a permit. You have to follow certain rules that may prohibit alcohol consumption, limit entertainment options and interfere with décor and floral choices.

If you’d like to have your Virginia wedding on a beach, you don’t need a permit. However, if you’d like the specific area cordoned off, you can apply for a Beach Wedding Permit that gives you sole access to a portion of the beach for three hours. This permit also allows for commercial setups including seating, fencing, arches or dance floors, which allows for amplified sound. This permit can be obtained through the Special Events and Film Office of the City of Virginia Beach for $200.

If you’re getting married at a venue that is unlicensed to serve alcohol and you’d like to serve it at no charge, you have to obtain a banquet license, which lets the venue host the event legally. This has to be obtained at least 12 days before your wedding date. For a single-day event, the cost is $55.

How to Change Your Name in Virginia

If you decide to change your name after the wedding, the process in Virginia is pretty straightforward. Check out
HitchSwitch professional name change service or follow our simple guide to changing your name.

Start with the Social Security Administration and the Department of Motor Vehicles. You need your original or certified marriage license with your new name on it. Once you have that, you can use the Social Security Administration’s website to complete an application for a new social security card. You’ll then mail the application in to get your new card.

Next, you need to take a trip to the DMV to get a new license. You need your marriage license, old ID and new social security card. Once you take care of these two agencies, you can move on to changing your name on bank accounts, utility bills, credit cards and anything else that has your name attached to it.

It’s All About Timing

Organized pink desk accessories

Virginia is considered to have favorable weather throughout the year—it’s rarely too hot or too cold. According to The Knot 2015 Real Weddings Study, couples are choosing to get married more in the fall than any other season, with 36 percent of weddings occurring during this time. Summer comes in at a close second, with 30 percent. Spring and winter trail behind, with 26 percent and 7 percent of weddings happening in these seasons, respectively. Keep in mind: The weather during summer is humid due to the state’s proximity to the ocean and various bays and rivers.

The Four Seasons in Virginia

There are five climate zones in Virginia—Southwestern Mountain, Western Mountain, Northern Virginia, Piedmont and Tidewater. While the weather fluctuates from region to region, you can get a general idea of Virginia weather based on the average temperatures. The winter months can reach lows in the upper 20s and highs in the lower 50s, while spring is made up of low temperatures in the upper 30s and highs in the 60s and 70s. Summer is quite humid, especially near the coast, with lows in the 60s and highs reaching the upper 80s and low 90s. The summer months also experience the most rainfall. Finally, the fall is made up of low temperatures in the 40s and highs in the 60s and 70s. The humidity is significantly lower, making it ideal for a picture-perfect Virginia wedding. The fall foliage is at its peak in mid to late October, which only enhances the beauty of your event.

If you’re concerned about snowfall, be aware that most of the snow in Virginia falls in the Western Mountain and Southwestern Mountain regions. It’s easy to avoid by planning your wedding outside of these climate zones.

Virginia Wedding Dates to Avoid

Depending on where you get married in Virginia, there are some important dates you may want to avoid in order to make sure that your wedding guests are comfortable and can easily find a place to stay. Ask your wedding planner or venue for tips about how to avoid major traffic times or local events that might make your wedding weekend more difficult for guests and more costly for you.

If you’re on a tight budget, try to avoid common national holidays and busy weekends that tend to inflate the cost of everything! (We cover these dates for 2016-18 in our
comprehensive guide). For example, the Friday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day is known as Lee-Jackson Day, which is considered a state holiday. Additionally, here are some festivals and events you may want to note for 2017:

  • NASCAR Cup Series, April and September, Richmond
  • The Ella Fitzgerald Music Festival, Mid to late April, Newport News
  • The Virginia International Tattoo, Late April, Norfolk
  • The PANorama Caribbean Music Fest, Early May, Virginia Beach
  • The Chautauqua Festival, Mid to late June, Wytheville
  • The East Coast Surfing Championships, Late August in Virginia Beach (important to note if you want a beach wedding)
  • Hampton Bay Days, Early September in Hampton
  • American Music Festival, Labor Day weekend in Virginia Beach

Great Guest Experiences

The Knot personalized wedding website

Helping your guests feel comfortable and welcome is one of the key ingredients to wedding success. With such a wide variety of unique wedding venues in Virginia, there are so many places for a celebration that is a true reflection of your couple style while also making it fun for your friends and family. No matter where you choose to get married, giving your guests a great experience starts with you creating your
very own wedding website. It’s a great way to keep everyone connected and informed.

Finding Your Way: Virginia Travel Info

There are direct flights available from 11 Virginia airports for both domestic and international travelers. Due to its central location, it’s also easy to travel to Virginia by car, as the drive from any city east of the Mississippi River can be done in less than a day. If you prefer traveling by train, Amtrak rail service is available in the state.

Once in Virginia, there are plenty of local travel options including public transportation, rental car services, Uber and even a ferry system. If you’re eco-conscious, Virginia provides its residents and guests with charging stations for electric cars.

Around Town: What to Do and See in Virginia

From historic landmarks and sites to fun outdoor activities, there is plenty for you and your guests to do in Virginia. For those interested in historic sites, Arlington National Cemetery, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello are just a few of the state’s attractions. If you’re more culturally motivated, there are plenty of museums, including the Virginia Museum of Fine Art and the Chrysler Museum of Art. Busch Gardens and Great Wolf Lodge are both located in Virginia, which are great for younger guests and families to visit. In terms of outdoor activities, Virginia has hiking trails, golf courses and watersports locations, as well as ski slopes for those throwing a winter wedding.

Go Local: Food and Favors

Virginia-inspired table sign and welcome bag

You can’t go wrong with the food in Virginia. Thanks to its coastal location, there is a wide variety of fresh seafood that you can take advantage of during your stay. If you’re using a full-service Virginia wedding venue, talk to them about incorporating local fare to give your wedding some Virginia-inspired flavor. For example, try to incorporate the Virginia oyster or local soft shell crab into an appetizer, or simply request a fresh local catch as an entrée option.

If you’re not a seafood lover, Virginia is also known for Smithfield Hams. Thanks to the state’s Native American roots, there is a long tradition of smoking meats that has led to Virginia’s reputation for producing these delicious hams. Incorporating this meat into your wedding day is a classic way to honor the Old Dominion.

Virginia Flavors: Unique Regional Foods for Your Wedding

Different parts of the state have particular foods they’re known for, so you’ll have plenty of options if you want to bring regional foods into your Virginia wedding.

Central and southern Virginia are known for their wine, apples and comfort foods. This region is famous for Southern staples like fried chicken, black-eyed peas and the Brunswick County creation, Brunswick stew. Save room for cornbread and biscuits too!

Northern Virginia boasts gourmet tastes and upscale ingredients such as wine and mushrooms. Applewood smoked trout and shortbread are regional delicacies that you can incorporate into your Virginia wedding. Northern Virginia is also known for vineyards, since the climate is ideal for grapes.

The Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia prides itself on its apples, poultry, tomatoes and peaches, while the Blue Ridge Highlands offer mountain fare such as venison, turkey, pumpkins and beans that is best suited for more rugged wedding receptions.

Do Your Guests a Favor: Virginia-Inspired Take-Home Treats

Thinking about how to bring Virginia charm into your wedding through individual favors or fun regional items for your guests? Commemorate your wedding day—and help guests remember it even more—by sending them away with a Virginia-inspired treat, like shot glasses or mugs with the quote “Virginia is for lovers,” or simply with the outline of the state etched into the glass. Consider something that can only be found in Virginia, such as these options from local businesses:

  • Salted peanuts from Hubs
  • Potato chips from Route 11 Potato Chips
  • Apple butter from Graves’ Mountain
  • Virginia-themed chocolate from Historical Chocolate Company
  • Hickory syrup from Wildwood’s Hickory Syrup
  • Bourbon chipotle hot sauce from Virginia Gentleman
  • Marinara sauce from Keswick Gourmet
  • Spice rubs from Gypsy Hill
  • Virginia map cookie cutter from Hill’s Kitchen

Check out
The Knot Shop for other personalized favors.

Virginia City Guides

Whether you want a beach wedding, a traditional banquet hall ball or a rustic mountain setting, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Virginia. No matter where you decide to get married, you can find Virginia wedding venues that match your style as well as vendors to meet your needs. To start, check out why the cities below have some of the best wedding venues in Virginia,
and then hook up with local vendors through The Knot ultimate wedding vendor marketplace.

Virginia Beach/Norfolk

Virginia Beach shoreine

This coastal town located in southeastern Virginia has beautiful sandy beaches as well as a famed boardwalk that lends itself to great photo ops or provides you with an outdoor space for the ceremony or reception. You and your guests can take advantage of the boardwalk’s piers to go fishing or take a bike ride down a designated bike path. There are also plenty of restaurants on the boardwalk to enjoy during your stay.

For local Virginia Beach wedding vendors, check out:

  • Reception Venues
  • Wedding Photographers
  • Bridal Salons
  • Wedding DJs
  • Florists
  • Wedding Planners
  • Videographers
  • Jewelers
  • Rentals
  • Wedding Bands


Richmond wedding venue

If you’re getting married in Virginia, you might be considering doing so in the state’s capital city of Richmond. In this progressive city, you’ll find plenty of amenities for you and your guests to enjoy while in town. It has cultural arts, historic prestige, and trendy shopping and dining options.

For local Richmond wedding vendors, check out:

  • Reception Venues
  • Wedding Photographers
  • Bridal Salons
  • Wedding DJs
  • Florists
  • Wedding Planners
  • Videographers
  • Jewelers
  • Rentals
  • Wedding Bands


Charlotesville wedding venue

If you’re looking for a more rural setting for your Virginia wedding, look into Charlottesville. This city, found in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, offers a different setting than Richmond or Virginia Beach. Here you’ll find vineyards and orchards, as well as great restaurants and historic sites like Monticello.

For local Charlottesville wedding vendors, check out:

  • Reception Venues
  • Wedding Photographers
  • Bridal Salons
  • Wedding DJs
  • Florists
  • Wedding Planners
  • Videographers
  • Jewelers
  • Rentals
  • Wedding Bands

Check out more Virginia wedding inspiration

Don’t forget to download The Knot Wedding Planner app—it’s a must-have for on-the-go planning.

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