Your partner popped the question and you’re floating in dreamy I-said-yes bliss. You can feel the sun warming the grapevines, taste the champagne bubbles on your tongue, and — you’re not telling anyone this, but — you’ve been humming your first song and practicing dance twirls while unloading the dishwasher.
It’s time to lay down some concrete numbers and start designing your Charlottesville wedding. We’ve tapped local experts for tips, trends, pricing, and inside know-how. Here, we break down the Charlottesville wedding planning journey into doable, cost-transparent bites.
Choosing Charlottesville is a no-brainer. A big small town with soulful Southern hospitality surrounded by vineyards and rolling farm country set against the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains — what’s not to love?
A C’ville wedding experience is defined by postcard mountain backdrops, farm-to-table food and wine, a vibrant downtown, top-notch vendors, and breathtaking wedding venues. It’s your dream wedding unfolding in one of the country’s most coveted landscapes.
You’re Not Doing This Alone
First, exhale and know that you’ve got a trusted local partner in the wedding planning process. Think of Novela as your personal wedding concierge. We're here to help you design, book, and finance the wedding of your dreams, one step at a time. More on how Novela can help you later, but first, let’s set the stage for your Charlottesville wedding.
The average wedding cost in the Charlottesville area in 2022 was about $45,000. Generally, Novela’s couples invest 1x to 3x this amount, or $45,000 to $135,000. The biggest factor that will impact your wedding cost is the size or the number of guests you invite. Of course, decisions relating to each of the major vendor categories below will also have a significant impact on your overall wedding budget, starting with the two biggest cost components: catering and venue.
Peak Charlottesville Wedding Seasons
Another leading factor driving cost is the date of your wedding. Will you be getting married on a prime Saturday in the peak season (May and June, September and October)? Or are you able to have your wedding on a non-peak day of the week during a non-peak month?
The most popular season in Charlottesville is early autumn, with peak months being September and October. The second highest peak happens in early summer in May and June.
The Big Six: Costs that Drive Wedding Budgets
Generally speaking, the following 6 categories will drive 80% or more of your total wedding budget: venue (20%), catering (20%), photography (10%), planner (10%), florals (10%), and rentals & decor (10%).
The following categories will cover the remaining 20% of your wedding budget: ceremony & reception music (8%), wedding attire (5%), wedding rings (2%), stationery (2%), transportation (2%), beauty services (0.5%), ceremony officiant (0.5%), wedding cake (0.5%), and gifts & favors (0.5%).
Keep in mind that the categories above don’t include non-wedding-day event items such as engagement rings, rehearsal dinner costs, day-after brunch, gratuities, honeymoon, or other optional travel expenses related to hosting a destination wedding.
How you allocate your budget will of course depend on your personal priorities and situation, but these are general guidelines that will help ensure smart, informed decisions.
One of the benefits of working with Novela’s complimentary wedding concierge service is that we’ll provide you with a detailed budget template for your Charlottesville wedding that incorporates all the average costs for each category within the market.
Breaking it Down
Now let’s take a closer look at Charlottesville wedding costs.
Charlottesville Wedding Venues
Low season (December–April, July–August): $8,277
High season (May–June, September–November): $13,769
"First and foremost, couples should have a vision of style and design before they set out on touring venues and know their maximum budget. This way, they will be able to picture how their wedding will come to fruition within the parameters of the venue."
Event Specialist at Mount Fair Vineyard
Ask this vendor:
How many hours does the rental fee include, and is there an overtime fee if I stay longer? What is the cancellation policy? Do you allow fire pits, sparklers, fireworks, dogs, etc.? Is there a security fee and, if so, what is the timeframe in which it is returned? What licenses and insurances are needed when signing with a venue? Does the venue have a backup rain plan?
Set your budget and guest count and stick to it. Ideally, this will be the first thing you book. Talk to family members who might be contributing and set a budget max that everyone is comfortable with. Secure your venue dates and lock in your venue and current pricing as soon as possible. Factor in the security deposit, gratuity, and cleanup costs. Ask about catering and alcohol licensing and offerings.
"Working with vendors local to your venue will save you on travel fees. Vendors who are local most often have genuine relationships with other vendors in the area, which makes the day run smoothly."
Co-Owner of Amore Events
Charlottesville Wedding Photography
Average starting package cost: $4,450
Ask this vendor:
How would you describe your style? Do you love your job? Are you a full-time photographer? How long have you been in business? Do you have a second professional photographer that works with you? How many weddings do you shoot each year? Are there travel fees? Is an engagement shoot and wedding album included? What’s your photo backup system? Are usage rights included or do we need to purchase rights to prints?
"Most photographers price their services based on how many hours they'll spend covering your wedding. While dancing photos are a ton of fun, hiring us to capture 3-4 hours of dancing isn't always necessary. Rather, a faux exit done an hour or so after dancing begins is a great way to save on coverage, without compromising your portraits with each other, your wedding party, or your family."
—Hunter Sheldon of Hunter and Sarah Photography
"Aside from the marriage itself, the photos from your wedding day last the longest. They get better with age, if done well, and can help relive memories and even create memories that you may have missed firsthand on the wedding day."
–Tom Daly of Tom Daly Photography
"I think the most important questions a couple can ask a photographer are not about timeline, logistics, and style, but more about their values and approach. Getting a sense of a photographer's personality and values — and making sure there's chemistry — will have a profound impact on the images."
–Kate Thompson of Kate Thompson Weddings
"Don't scrimp on your photography budget. Seriously. The photos are all you have after the big day. Hire someone you love and connect with and spend the money!"
–Sarah Cramer Shields of Cramer Photo Wedding Photography
Charlottesville Wedding Planners
The average cost for wedding planning services:
Full planning starts at $6,280; Partial planning starts at $4,180; Event management starts at $1,400
Ask this vendor:
Does my current vision match what I’m willing to spend? What things should I keep in mind to stay within budget (this usually starts with the guest count!) What is your planning process? What is the difference between the services or packages you offer? Don’t forget to take a deep dive into their social media and ask yourself if their work speaks to you.
"There are often family dynamics involved, and it can be tricky to focus on upholding what matters most to you when the people who might be footing the bill have different expectations. I always encourage my couples to think about their priorities and I often tell people to look 5 years into the future. For example, do you wish you had invested in a videographer or are you ok not having done so? You are also free to do away with things you don't care about! Couples should never feel pressure to do something on their special day because they're 'supposed to.'"
—Mia Crump, Wedding Planner and Owner of Little Acorn Events
Having a seasoned wedding planner, designer, or coordinator on your team is crucial. First, it allows you the freedom to actually enjoy your big day instead of stressing about the audio-visual hookups or making sure vendor meals are delivered. Second, we know the network and have the connections and history with vendors to make sure your team is curated to fit your vision and budget perfectly.
Owner of Just a Little Ditty Wedding Planning
Charlottesville Wedding Catering
Average cost: $145 per person for food, beverage, and service
Ask this vendor:
Will our wedding be your sole focus on that day/weekend or do you cater multiple weddings each weekend? Have you catered events at our venue? Are you licensed to serve alcohol? Will you provide an on-site coordinator who will run the entire event? Do we have to work off a preset menu or can you create a custom menu? Can you accommodate dietary restrictions, such as kosher, or vegan? Is coffee and tea service included with the per-person meal charge? Do you charge a cake-cutting fee? What is your policy on cleanup?
Hire qualified vendors that really know the market and the venues, have industry connections, and are known for top-quality service. Having a team that’s really well-versed in logistics and your particular venue will save everyone time and ensure your guests’ enjoyment. If you need to trim down, consider serving only beer, wine, and champagne. For cocktail hour, select three specific passed appetizers or arrange for themed help-yourself food stations. Choose local and in-season ingredients and don’t be shy about asking your caterer to explain which cuts of beef or types of fish cost more than others.
"We want to get to know our couples; how they got engaged, what they love to do together, and their first date story — was it over beer, pretzels, and cheese? If so, let’s incorporate that into the wedding. Personalized touches go a long way."
Director of Operations at Exchange Events & Catering
Charlottesville Wedding Floral Designers
Average cost: $6,600
Ask this vendor:
How long have you been in business? Does my current vision match what I’m willing to spend? Do you have travel fees? What about delivery, set-up, and breakdown fees? How can I best work with the energy of my wedding venue? Do you have a working relationship with my chosen venue and planner? What is the difference between the services or packages you offer? What flowers do you recommend based on our venue, season, and wedding color palette? What decor would you recommend to complement our floral design and do you provide items such as vases and decorative table items? Can you help us create statement pieces or personalized floral touches? Tell me about flower transport and staffing on the day of my wedding. Can you preserve my bridal bouquet after the wedding?
Set your budget and outline floral design ideas that are must-haves or non-negotiables. Build out from there. Choose florals that are in-season, non-exotic, and locally grown. Add lots of bright, healthy greenery to fill out your bouquets and candles to fill out table centerpieces. Plan to re-use flowers from your ceremony at the reception: arrangements at your aisle entrance can become reception table centerpieces, and bridal party bouquets and candles become long wedding party table decor. Keep an open mind — professional floral designers know what’s accessible and have close relationships with trusted purveyors. Give them creative freedom to choose the most beautiful and seasonally available flowers.
"You should ask your florist if they have a portfolio of their own work to show you. Their portfolio should include real events, not just styled shoots, because working on real weddings and events with multiple vendors and timelines is very different than having an entire day to get a few details ready for a photo shoot."
Owner of Southern Blooms Floral Design
"Your floral decor establishes the tone of your event at least as much as any other factor. That ‘wow’ moment when guests arrive at the ceremony and reception site, as well as the feeling of enjoyment you'll get looking back over your photos, is something to think about as you make your decision. When choosing a floral designer, ask yourself ‘does this team have the energy that I want to bring to my planning and wedding day?"
Event Director at Hedge Fine Blooms
Charlottesville Wedding Rentals (Tents + Decor)
Average cost: $4,400
Ask this vendor: Do you provide site inspections with your service? How long is the rental period? Do you have delivery, installation, and breakdown fees? Will there be an onsite manager on the day of our wedding? Have you set up tents and decor at this particular wedding venue? Do you have tips on how to arrange for optimal guest experience and flow? What’s the best tent for our forecasted wedding day weather? Do you handle any permits that might be required? Are there additional taxes and service charges to factor in?
Repurpose ceremony décor elements—like seating, aisle runners, and backdrops—into the reception area. Rent décor, lighting, and linens instead of buying them. Bring in sentimental items from home such as framed photos, records, books, and keepsakes. Focus on what your photographer will focus on—splurge on tablescapes and cocktail hour specialty drink glassware and give your guests a wow moment when they walk into the reception space.
"Having a team of professionals on your side who make a living out of making the impossible possible means you’ll never even know that there were wedding day hiccups. If you have a strong team executing your day, you can leave the worrying to them so you can relax and be completely in the moment."
Director of Sales at MS Events
Maybe a locally sourced three-course plated dinner with wine pairings is at the top of your vitals list. Or it’s all about an oyster and martini bar reminiscent of your first date. Perhaps you have your heart set on romantic seasonal florals and a grand statement piece or a full family and friends weekend vineyard stay. Pining for that elite photographer and a string quartet?
We get it. It’s important to go big on what matters most to you, what tells your couple story and makes your day sing with authentically you touches. That could mean nixing the cake and going all in on a pie display or gelato cart. Entering your ceremony by boat or horseback. Or creating vintage-inspired al fresco lounge spaces.
"Couples are doing some fun new things these days. They’re not worrying about tradition. They’re being unapologetically themselves, which I love."
Owner and Lead Planner at All The Dainty Details
The Cost of a Priceless Wedding Planning Experience
Now that you’ve identified what’s most important to you and put some thought into the Big Six, it’s time to select vendors, delegate tasks and figure out how it all fits together. Working with a wedding concierge and expert planner can help elevate the entire wedding planning journey.
Hiring a professional coordinator or planner may be the wisest decision a couple can make during their engagement.
"I believe that the wedding planning experience doesn't have to be stressful, but rather a creative and collaborative process between the couple and their planner."
Owner of Little Acorn Events
Consider varying tiers of planning services: full planning and curated design, partial planning, month-of coordination, or day-of coordination.
“If hiring a planner isn't in the cards, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a month-of coordinator to help button up all the final details, like your photography shot list, seating chart, reception layout, timeline, and being your point of contact for all your wedding vendors,” Mia says.
This planner also serves as your wedding day management team, allowing you to completely be in the moment.
“Our main tip is to be realistic,” says Dickie Morris, owner of Just a Little Ditty. “You can make magic happen for $20,000 or $2,000,000, but knowing and respecting which space on the spectrum you fall into is key. At the end of the day, guests will remember how they feel. Yes, the details and color palette, and personal touches matter, but if you're saving money on inclement weather safeguards in favor of an extra floral vignette, chances are your guests are going to remember they were cold or wet more than they remember how gorgeous your asymmetrical flanking ceremony arch was.”
It’s also important to remember the value of your own time. Calling in a pro wedding coordinator to do the heavy day-of lifting and allowing Novela to hand-pick your vendor recommendations and help you throughout the wedding planning process is crucial to enjoying your engagement. Novela connects you to the full-service planner that aligns with your needs and supports couples that want to simply use a day-of coordinator. Call on Novela’s concierge services to streamline your design, planning logistics, and vendor selection.
"Hiring a planner comes with experience and knowledge as well as trusted partnerships within the wedding community. Google is great, an expert is better!"
Co-Owner of Amore Events
Unveiling the Extras
These factors additionally affect the price of your wedding: A vendor’s years in the industry, hours of coverage, and whether they include an assistant, site visits, and additional planning meetings leading up to your wedding day. Make a plan as you enter into agreements with each vendor and ensure expectations and costs are crystal clear.
A Friend in the Industry
Working with Novela is like having a trusted friend — one with copious insider knowledge and industry connections — by your side every step of the way. We’ll match you with an expert wedding concierge to customize your wedding day plan, including vendor recommendations, detailed pricing options, a high-level budget framework, and a customized checklist just for you.
Find your perfect venue, book all your vendors, and finance your wedding at 0% interest. Novela is the first one-and-done wedding planning company that helps you design, book, and pay for your dream wedding - all in one place. Let's get started!