In a part of Northern Virginia famous for gorgeous wedding venues, Oatlands Historic House and Gardens has a beauty that stands out. Just a little south of Leesburg, it is one of the most stunning locations for a marriage celebration imaginable. What makes Oatlands really special, though, is how it feels simultaneously spacious and intimate. Though the grounds are large at 415 acres, the ceremony and reception spaces are cozy. So a smaller celebration doesn’t feel small. The venue also has lots of little nooks that are great for gorgeous couples portraits. So if you have a small guest list but want lots of wide-open spaces, Oatlands might be the right choice for you. It certainly was for Sarah and Chris! This lovely couple had a beautiful, 60-guest wedding at Oatlands Historic House and Gardens. And every part of the Oatlands experience fit their personalities and wedding vision perfectly!
Getting Ready for an Oatlands Wedding
We started documenting Sarah and Chris’s wedding day relatively late in the proceedings. We arrived at Oatlands Historic House and Gardens when both were mostly ready. The only things left to do were the bride getting into her wedding dress and the groom and his groomsmen putting on their suits. Even in the short bit of time we were there, though, there were some really lovely moments that the couple shared with their wedding party. And of course, we captured all of them on film.
Something about bride getting ready in the Bridal Suite.
Chris and his three brothers – who were also his groomsmen – got ready at the aptly named Bachelor’s Cottage. Located not far from the main house, the two outdoor ceremony spaces and The Greenhouse, it is a very cozy little spot for a smaller wedding party to prepare. Chris and his groomsmen congregated there just after we arrived. They quickly changed into their wedding clothes, but then spent several minutes tying their ties. It turned out that two of Chris’s brothers did not know how to properly knot a tie. So the groom and his eldest brother helped the others out, doing up theirs for them. It was very sweet and led to some really meaningful photos. As did the moment when the four of them did a champagne toast to Chris’s future happiness.
First Look in The Tea House Walk at Oatlands
Before their ceremony, Sarah and Chris shared a lovely first look and exchanged private wedding vows. The spot they picked for this beautiful part of their day was one of the most perfect we’ve ever seen. Running from The Boxwood Garden (a spot for ceremonies), behind The Magnolia Garden (another ceremony location) and on to a gorgeous secluded little pool, The Tea House Walk seems custom-made for a first look. It is essentially a long, grassy tunnel with tall hedges on either side. So it affords the privacy necessary for truly emotional first look. And the gorgeous greenery and leading lines make the photos of that special wedding-day moment unforgettably beautiful.
That’s exactly how the pictures of Sarah and Chris’s first look turned out. After we positioned the groom in a nice spot partway down the lane, the bride-to-be walked up to The Tea House. (Which is a lovely little gazebo-like structure.) Then she walked down the tunnel, tapped her future husband on the shoulder and reveled in his reaction to seeing her in her wedding dress for the first time.
As sweet as their first look was, their personal wedding vows were even sweeter. They shared their deepest feelings about each other and reminisced about how they fell in love. And we hung out in the background, being careful not to interrupt these moments but capturing all of them on film forever.
Couples Portraits in The Green Hedges Walkway and The Boxwood Garden
One of the most compelling reasons to do a first look on your wedding day is it allows you to do your couples portraits and family formals before the ceremony. That frees you up to enjoy the cocktail hour and get a head start on your reception. So you get to have so much more time with your guests and loved ones.
That was exactly the plan that Sarah and Chris had for their wedding day. So as soon as they finished exchanging their private vows, we took them around the Oatlands grounds for their couples portraits. We started right there in The Green Hedges Walkway, where they had done their first look. They stood in the middle of that lovely tunnel, and we used the graceful arches of the Tea House to frame them.
After taking a few more closeup shots of them cuddling in the leafy walkway, we brought them over to The Boxwood Gardens. One of the most beautiful parts of Oatlands Historic House and Gardens, this area is especially lovely in the spring. Two of the DC metro area’s most famous trees – cherry blossoms – grow in that garden. Which makes it an ideal spot for gorgeous couples portraits! We posed Sarah and Chirs between the two iconic trees for a variety of sweeping wide-angle images. Then we had them stand near a bright yellow flowering bush to add lots of color to their wedding portraits.
From there, we brought them back through The Tea House Walk and over to a set of stone steps leading up through the trees to the main house. We took some very romantic, intimate portraits of them cuddling amid the leaves. Afterwards, we led them over to the aforementioned pool. We created lovely images of the couple reflected in the waters.
Oatlands Historic House and Gardens Wedding Ceremony
For their wedding ceremony, Sarah and Chris chose one of the venue’s other gardens. Though The Magnolia Garden can fit more wedding guests than The Boxwood Garden, it feels smaller and more intimate thanks to the huge trees growing in it. As such, it was perfect for Sarah and Chris. As we mentioned above, only their closest family and friends witnessed their exchange of vows and rings.
Not surprisingly, the wedding ceremony was filled with lovely moments that we preserved for the couple. There was Chris’s face lighting up when Sarah came down the aisle. And when he discreetly brushed away a tear after her father gave her away. There was the bride “correcting” the officiant every time he called the groom “Christian.” (She later explained that he’s always been Chris to her.) And there was Sarah’s mother wiping tears of joy from her eyes. There was Sarah’s ear-to-ear smile when the groom’s mother and brother placing a lazo around the newlyweds to honor Chris’s family’s Salvadoran heritage. And the laughs when the ring bearer declared he “didn’t want” to deliver the rings to the couple. (He rallied and did a few seconds later.) And finally, there were the cheers when the groom stomped on a glass in a nod to part of the bride’s cultural background.
Oatlands Wedding Reception in The Greenhouse
For the final part of their wedding day, Sarah and Chris moved the celebration indoors to The Greenhouse. That was partly because of the weather. (Northern Virginia was experiencing abnormally high winds and intermittent rain that evening.) But there was a more important reason why they chose that location for their wedding reception. The Greenhouse is also one of the most unique spaces you can imagine. And as such, it’s a great spot for cool wedding reception photos.
The building is long and relatively thin. It is also a split-level. The top floor contains the entryway and a bar in the back. One floor down is a slightly larger area with huge windows comprising one wall and the ceiling (hence the name “The Greenhouse”). Though a bit cozy, that part of the building is ideal for dinner tables and a small dance floor. (The bottom floor is where your caterers will set up a kitchen.)
After their cocktail hour concluded, Sarah and Chris went outside to share a private moment and watch the sun go down. Once the newlyweds were ready, their guests sat down at the dinner tables. The groom’s father welcomed the couple to their reception, and they descended the stairs to the applause of their family and friends.
Sarah and Chris immediately went into their first dance, which was as sweet and tender as every part of their wedding day. Afterwards, they shared a lovely dinner with their guests and enjoyed moving toasts from the matron of honor and best man. Following a short time out on the dance floor, the bride went up to the top of the stairs for her bouquet toss. We’ve never seen that done from a floor above the crowd before, and the steeper angle made for really cool photos!
Night Wedding Portraits at Oatlands Historic House and Gardens
Before the evening wrapped up, we brought Sarah and Chris outside for some quick night wedding portraits. (Very quick, as the wind and rain made it a bit uncomfortable to be outside!) We posed them in front of The Greenhouse’s long window. Then we set up an orange light behind them to create an eerie silhouette. (We chose the color to match the interior lights of The Greenhouse, which were shining in the background.) The resulting images were hauntingly beautiful and a perfect ending to a lovely celebration.
Thank you so much to the wonderful couple for letting us be a part of their wedding! We can’t tell you how much we appreciate your trust!
Bridal gown: Anthropologie’s BHLDN
Groom’s suit: Suitsupply
Cake artist: Wineberry
Florals: CS Farmstead
Caterers: Pure Perfection
Contact Us for More Information!
Interested in learning more about our services? Please visit our Wedding Photography FAQ page for answers to all your questions! Ready to inquire about our availability on your wedding date? Contact us now to get the conversation started!