In recent years, Richmond, Virginia has seen a surge in elopements, something that might come as a surprise to those seeking out wilder destinations. However, the state capital is a great place to elope to, with plenty of options in nature as well as Downtown. Plus, in recent years it's received national attention as a culinary destination, applauded by Bon Appétit for its percolating food scene replete with fine dining, and home to “one of the region's fastest-growing beer scenes,” according to the Wall Street Journal. As the eating and drinking scene has ripened against a milieu of Thomas Jefferson-designed buildings, so has the arts and culture scene—Richmond’s sidewalks have been made vibrant by neon murals, creating excellent backdrops for elopement photos. Its storied hotels have welcomed elopers with packages and enchanting gardens in which to say, “I do,” where Edgar Allen Poe, who considered Richmond his true home, wrote some of his most famous lines. It also claims the founding members of heavy metal band GWAR, who now run a vegan restaurant, GWARbar, in the city’s Jackson Ward neighborhood. To top it all off, it’s a pretty affordable city to visit.
Best Time of Year to Visit
March - April & Late September - November
Richmond has a slew of outdoor elopement offerings—gardens, murals, an island!—so unless you’re into elbow sweat, avoid pretty much every month from May to mid-September, when Richmond is draped in humidity. Ideal months to visit are March and April and September through November when the weather is warm, not hot. The off-season (December through February) tends to be chillier (40s and low 50s) and rainy, which is good if your aesthetic is wet. If not, pack rain gear. The winter sees spritzes of snow, but they’re just that—spritzes—and usually turn into rain.
Pro Tip: Two big events hit in autumn, so prepare to either avoid or embrace them, depending on your propensity for crowds: September brings the Maryland Renaissance Festival (and some 280,000 visitors), and in October, you’ll find the Richmond Folk Festival, a three-day, hearty dose of Americana delivered via music and food (it’s also entirely free). And, due to Richmond’s location on the James River (it’s not called the “River City” for nothin’), it has its fair share of triathlons that often fall during the aforementioned best times to visit, so be sure to check racing websites to avoid clogged-up interstates and no vacancy hotels.
Behold, nature. The James River slices through Virginia from east to west, and where it hits Richmond you’ll find a 54-acre island in the middle of the city. Belle Isle—part of the larger James River Park, a woodsy and waterfront park laced with more than 20 miles of trails and visited by around two million people per year—has become a popular eloping destination due to its bountiful flora and fauna offerings right in the middle of the city. To reach the isle, you cross a pedestrian footbridge accessible from Tredegar Street, where you’ll also find parking and bathrooms. Pause on the bridge for photos before and after your vows, which you’ll say on sloping slabs of rocks that peak above gurgling river rapids where turtles sun themselves next to you. To elope on Belle Isle, just bring your officiant and photographer, and note that the park hours are dawn to dusk. Unless you’re planning on inviting more than 300 people or setting off fireworks, no permit is needed (you’ll find more permit info here).
About 20 minutes west of Richmond, on a serene, bucolic road where GPS might dip out, sits an 1850s general store that was born again in 2005 as Gather at the Hallsboro Store, a home for all things charming, rustic, and twee. Onsite pup? Check. Vintage French pots? Check. Local, small-batch, fresh goat milk soap tinged with honey, toffee, and bergamot? Hard check. Gather also offers a winsome venue for a tiny gathering: a clearing among the pines in the nearby woods. It also simplifies a few nuptial nice-to-haves, including flowers through its partnership with local floral designer Vessel & Stem; a patio lunch for two, thanks to on-site catering from Cater 2 Events; and ambiance, in the form of glowing bistro lights. The property is currently being rezoned to accommodate bigger events, but if it’s just you two and a handful of others, give them a call as they can host small gatherings among the pines. Bonus: There’s also a cottage on-site, should you decide to mini-moon it up.
Looming high above the James River is Libby Hill Park, one of the highest points in Richmond and a tranquil little green space dotted with a tall fountain and benches. Known as the “View That Named the City,” as it’s likely where William Byrd II stood in the 1730s and named Richmond due to its topographical similarities to England’s Richmond on the Thames, Libby Hill Park has evolved from a go-to engagement photo spot to one favored by elopers, especially for the knockout sunset shots. Plan for Monday through Thursdays before 6 PM, when the park fills with locals looking to relax and take pics of the blazing sunset (or, if you really want privacy, go at sunrise).
Elopements have been on the rise at Linden Row Inn, a 70-room hotel that, like so many of Downtown Richmond’s buildings, comes with a slide deck of trivia. Most notable is that the seven Greek Revival, carved-out rowhouses comprising the inn are on the site of a garden where a young Edgar Allen Poe—who lived across the street with adoptive parents after his mother died in 1811—would play amongst the flowers; he’d later refer to the space as the “enchanted garden” in his 1848 poem “To Helen.” Today, the Enchanted Garden is an intimate brick courtyard with a babbling fountain on the side of the inn facing Miss Scott’s Alley. The Enchanted Garden holds elopements Monday through Thursday, 11 AM to 5 PM, which include champagne and wine for up to 25 guests. If you’d prefer to get married indoors, the inn will transform one of its seven parlor suites into a mini venue that can accommodate ten people. However, it’s by no means small—on one side you’ll find an original fireplace surrounded by armchairs, and on the other side is a king-size bed. Elopements in the suites are welcomed any day of the week. Pricing is based on availability and time of year and can range from $1,000 to $2,000 depending on alcohol and the number of guests.
This striking white structure, designed by Robert Mills—one of America’s first native-born architects and the only architecture student of Thomas Jefferson—is one of the earliest examples of Greek Revival architecture and the only remaining of Mills’s five-domed, octagonal buildings. (Mills also designed the Washington Monument in DC and, before that, the original Washington Monument in Baltimore.) Originally an Episcopalian house of worship, Monumental Church is now non-denominational and deconsecrated, making it ideal for those who prefer to elope in a churchy environment but aren’t super religious, or those who have interfaith relationships. Onsite photography is available, and you can hire your own officiant and book the church for a four-hour window. Pricing varies, so call for a quote. Oh, and one pretty major detail is that there are no bathrooms in the church, but you can rent them in nearby Virginia Commonwealth University buildings depending on the day and time of your elopement.
In 2012, Richmond’s Broad Street corridor was officially designated the Arts and Cultural District of the city. However, details—the area lacked vibrancy in both arts and culture, save for First Fridays and a smattering of pop-up events. Enter NY-to-DC artist Shane Pomajambo, brought in to orchestrate an elaborate, city-wide campaign known as the Richmond Mural Project. During the next five years, what was originally a 30-day pop-up from 10 muralists turned into a city-wide burst of 100 murals, which in turn evolved into a bevy of technicolor backdrops ideal for photo ops and, hence, elopements. Since 100 murals are a lot of murals, we’ve done some searching and found a few that lend themselves to particularly pleasing sidewalk ceremonies. One is the kaleidoscope masterpiece from New York’s Jason Woodside in Downtown; another, the majestic ‘Minotaur‘ (pictured above) strewn with two bright roses by Australian David “Meggs” Hook; and finally, ASVP’s giant ladybug in the Fan District aptly titled “Make Your Own Luck.” In order to avoid crowds, aim for a weekday afternoon, and then head to happy hour to toast your romantic frugality.
Its pink rooms are “genius” (Travel & Leisure). It’s a 2019 “Best Hotel” (U.S. News & World Report) and a “Top Wedding Vendor” (Virginia Living). Housed in an early 1900s dry goods store, the millennial-hued, boutiquey Quirk Hotel has racked up the accolades since opening in 2015. The hotel sits smack-dab in the oasis of Broad Street’s humming art scene, and its owners, Katie and Ted Ukrop, fully embrace their spot in this cultural domain—you can buy pieces right off the walls in the rooms, or peruse local artwork and gifts in the adjacent Quirk Gallery.
But enough about art—you’re here to elope, and with good reason. Quirk has one of Richmond’s only rooftop bars, “Q,” which was named one of the 50 best rooftop bars around the world (also by U.S. News & World Report). Q, which is strictly 21 and over, doesn’t open until 5 PM, making it ideal for those who like chill sunsets against panoramic views of low-hanging skylines.
Couples with less than 20 guests can also plan on holding a ceremony in Quirk’s Gray Owl room, which is technically a meeting space, so if your theme is “Thing That Should’ve Been an Email,” this room is for you (kidding, kidding—hold the agenda). Rates range from $600 to $2,500 for space rental, so contact Quirk directly for a quote.
Getting married in Richmond is a pretty straightforward process: there’s no waiting period, so you can apply for a marriage license and get married the same day; you don’t need any witnesses; and there’s no blood test. Just take yourselves, a government-issued photo ID, and $30 (cash or credit) to the City of Richmond Circuit Court Clerk’s Office to apply; it’s open Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM to 4:15 PM.
The clerk can provide a list of civil celebrants and ministers if you’re having a ceremony (they don’t do ceremonies inside). Just be sure the officiant returns the signed license to the Clerk’s Office, where it will stay forever (copies are $2.50 each). The officiant also must be licensed by a Virginia court to marry you, and note that the state is one of two that does not accept online ordinations (the other is Tennessee). The marriage license expires after 60 days, so have your ceremony plans mostly in place when getting the license. Once married, the license is valid anywhere in Virginia.