Rustic Elegance in an Extraordinary Church
by Michelle Essex
Many brides raised in Virginia have enjoyed touring Jamestown and seeing the early rustic settlement, but they most likely have never dreamed of having their wedding in such a unique and historical location. Henricus Historical Park, 10 miles south of Richmond, offers just that extraordinary opportunity. In this reconstructed 17th century town, a bride and groom can be married in one of the restored historical buildings, or they may choose an alfresco ceremony just outside the settlement wall with the backdrop of the beautiful James River. A particularly special wedding venue at the park is the newly recreated historical church with all the charm of wooden pews, a magnificent wooden cathedral ceiling, and old time altar. The recreated “old world” park offers an incredibly unique setting for wedding celebrations.
The history of Henricus is especially interesting, since it is lesser known than the story of Jamestown. Settlers established Henricus in 1611, in a beautiful area on the James River. The settlement at Henricus was not successful and Jamestown was established years later. Thirty years ago historians set out to reconstruct the English settlement, and today, Henricus is a fascinating educational experience for visitors of all ages. The park is perfectly situated to be very private but convenient for guests, in its location just off the I-95 corridor.
The Henricus church offers a bride a venue with the trendy modern flair of a barn, wedding and the grandeur and tradition of a church wedding. Walking into the church draws a moment of awe as one sees all the natural wood throughout the church—the floors, the pews, the cathedral ceiling, the altar, and the walls. Real candles burning in the gorgeous wrought iron candelabras exude the magical ambiance of authenticity. One can smell the oak in this uniquely beautiful rustic place of ceremony and worship. The modern lighting is hidden to complete the authentic 17th century atmosphere. One hundred and fifty guests can enjoy the experience of sitting on lovely old time pews as they witness the bride and groom framed by the altar as they exchange their vows. With the modern comforts of heat and air conditioning, guests can relax and celebrate comfortably. It is sure to be one of the most unique church wedding venues anyone will ever encounter.
The serene and peaceful locale of Henricus Historical Park offers an exceptional opportunity for brides who prefer an outdoor wedding. The lovely clearing on the river bluff showcases a stunning granite cross with the backdrop of picturesque natural views of the James River. The area has the perfect number of trees to be shaded, yet still remain well lit with unobstructed views of the James River. Some brides choose to use the granite cross as an altar for the ceremony, while others prefer to seat guests facing the unobstructed beauty of the James River.
The bluff has enough space to accommodate an outdoor ceremony along with a tent for the reception. The bluff is a very private situation for a reception with a DJ or band and a great setting for guests to celebrate. Brides who need enough space for weddings as large as 1000 people find it to be a wonderful location for the ceremony. Henricus Historical Park has parking for up 400 cars and easy access to the bluff for those who are disabled and need to be dropped off on the site. The park provides wooden fold out chairs for outdoor weddings of up to 125 people. For weddings of less than 150 people, the church offers a fabulous alternative place for the ceremony in case of inclement weather.
Henricus presents unique wedding reception options. There is a preferred caterer who knows the property well and has keys to the kitchen, but a bride has the option to choose a different caterer. Some brides treat their guests to a unique historical feast, serving a menu of dishes common in another time period. How does a “Henry the 8th Banquet” sound?
Dinners can be hosted in the large room of the recreated hospital. Unlike today’s sterile hospital environments, the Henricus Hospital has cathedral ceilings with exposed beams and wrought iron candelabras which make the room an amazing space for a wedding celebration. The picturesque hearth and fireplace in the hospital creates a warm and inviting ambiance.
Only steps away from the hospital one finds the warm and homey Henricus Tavern with its own large fireplace and exposed beams. The Tavern has a large modern catering kitchen. Upstairs the bride has access to a couple of lovely modern rooms where she and her bridesmaids can get dressed together.
Brides may choose to use both the Tavern and the Hospital for the wedding reception. The section between the two side by side buildings offers a place for milling about and enjoying the outdoors. There are so many ways to use the park buildings as a unique experience for wedding guests.
A bride may choose to treat her guests to the whole “Henricus Historical Park experience.” Closed to the public, her guests can privately tour all the buildings and hear historical interpreters, dressed in 17th century costumes, share about the historical settlement. A stroll through the park, allows everyone to enjoy visiting the three historical houses, church, tavern, hospital, barns, gardens, and Indian village. Everyone is sure to find a spot to relax or explore. Even the park’s pig, Buttercup, is a delightful greeter for kids and animal lovers alike.
The loveliness of the historical settlement is enhanced with the lush beauty of nature in this fabulous locale along the James River. There are many unique and whimsical photo opportunities. As one explores the gardens, primitive buildings, open shelters, barns, wooden carts, unique rustic fences, doorways, wood piles and river vistas, the imagination runs wild.
The Henricus Historical Park staff is welcoming and they relish sharing the park for weddings and events with the bride and her guests. They are passionate about the opportunity for visitors to enjoy the recreated settlement. New ideas, repurposing buildings in special ways, and helping the bride use the venue excites the staff. They have enjoyed supporting film productions, an episode of “Legends and Lies: How the West Was Won,” the Richmond Symphony playing on the bluff, as well as, many other events.
Brides can book Henricus Historical Park well in advance of their Big Day, but the staff will also work to accommodate brides with a short planning period. For more information, see www.Henricus.org.