By Ashley Claire Simpson
At the dawn of the 1900s, Westmoreland Davis – a then-future Virginia governor – set his sights on Morven Park, a grand mansion with surrounding land that would be used for farming and fox hunting. Upon making this Leesburg property their own, Davis and his wife, Marguerite, cared for and dressed it up so nicely that the now 22-room mansion, set on sprawling 1,000 acres of beautiful land in horse country, has become a popular Virginia wedding venue.
“The mansion started off as a modest fieldstone house, circa 1780, and different owners throughout the decades expanded upon it,” said Alexandra McKay, Morven Park’s Event Coordinator. “We focus on our last owners, Governor Westmoreland Davis and his wife Marguerite.”
Morven Park has been open to the public for 50 years, but the wedding program hadn’t been established until a decade ago.
“Brides started coming to us to ask if we would allow them to get married here,” said McKay. “We were one of those alternative locations, for couples who wanted an exceptional outdoor setting, with options for a garden wedding and cocktails on a marble terrace.”
Morven Park, the site of 10 to 12 weddings every year, has two main locations for ceremony, two for cocktail hour, and two for a reception. While there is a small venue for indoor weddings, it’s the outdoor nuptials Morven Park puts on that are their bread and butter.
“We are still primarily known for our garden weddings,” McKay said. “In the 1930s, Mrs. Davis got interested in Boxwoods, and the result was a traditional English Boxwood garden.”
The Boxwood garden in place today has changed slightly, the reflecting pool remains among fragrant magnolia trees. As a sight to behold, this part of the property is the most popular wedding setting.
“Boxwoods are Virginia’s response to Savannah’s moss and Miami’s art deco,” McKay said. “Morven Park’s gardens allow couples to say their vows in an incredibly romantic and visually appealing setting that most of their guests will have never seen before and will never forget.”
While Morven Park’s outdoor spaces can fit up to 600 guests, most weddings have between 200 and 250 guests. The indoor option, an antebellum coach house, is available for weddings with less than 120 guests.
“The Coach House is charming and provincial,” McKay explained. “It’s a U-shaped, brick building with a courtyard in the middle.”
And, when you have your wedding at Morven Park, you can be sure that the focus is on you.
“There’s only one wedding per day,” McKay said. “Since I’m the sole Event Planner, you’re talking to the entire Events department every step of your planning. There is no crossing wires. I’m the first person you talk to, and I am the first person on site on your wedding day.”
For Morven Park, ‘wedding season’ tends to be spring and fall, when Virginia is known for milder weather.
“Our most coveted and requested dates are in the spring and fall,” McKay said. “We are almost all outdoors and there simply aren’t a lot of winter weddings because of the need for tenting and heat. In the spring, we have dogwoods in bloom and the fragrance of magnolias in the air. The grounds are simply gorgeous that time of year. In the fall, the yellows, oranges and reds in the leaves make for a stunning backdrop in wedding and engagement photos.”
While Morven Park has a preferred vendor list, featuring local florists, photographers and hotels, McKay said her team only charges an additional fee when a couple opts to pursue off-the-list catering.
“Because a wedding is so personal, we feel that it should be your event at our location, not an event that we’re simply hosting for you,” she said. “Due to our layout and exclusivity, we can offer couples a lot of freedom and flexibility. If you want to make your wedding a barbecue with games on the lawn, feel free. Or, if you want a black-tie wedding with orchids hanging from the ceiling, you can do that too. Along those same lines, we have hosted some of the most romantic weddings with less than 50 guests, and some of the most lavish receptions with hundreds of guests. Everything at the Park can be done to scale without losing the beautiful and elegant feel of it all.”
Morven Park, as McKay has noted, is a great opportunity for D.C.-area brides to put their hometown on display.
“We meet a lot of brides who aren’t native to the area but have moved here and fallen in love with the country chic, or provincial aesthetic, of historic sites like ours,” she said. “Couples are excited to showcase Morven Park, with our opulent mansion and sweeping landscapes, to their guests. Guests love that we are close to the airport and D.C. attractions. Almost every guest at a Morven Park wedding comments on how remarkable the setting is and that it was a wedding they won’t soon forget. And after the months of planning and all the anticipation that surrounds a wedding, isn’t that what every bride and groom want to hear?”
For more information, visit morvenpark.org.