It takes a village—and a damn good cake—to make a great wedding.
Rehearsal dinner venue
Runner-up: Old Metropolitan Hall
Honorable mention: C&O
Now in its 11th year, The Local feels like a venerable Charlottesville institution. The emphasis on local resonates in every detail of the farm-to-table restaurant, from the handcrafted bar, chairs, and dining tables—all made of reclaimed wood—to the food, which is supplied by a host of nearby producers. All of this, plus the exquisite but unpretentious fare by chef Matthew Hart, add up to a win for betrothed couples to celebrate with friends and family before saying “I do.” • Old Metropolitan Hall has a vintage-glam vibe, Downtown Mall location, and impressive roster of preferred caterers, including The Local, Brasserie Saison, and C&O.
Adam Donovan-Groves (Donovan-Groves Events)
Sarah Fay (Day by Fay)
Honorable mention: Angelica Laws (Angelica & Co. Weddings)
A repeat winner from 2018, Adam Donovan-Groves honed his event-planning chops at Keswick Hall and maintains satellite offices in Georgetown and New York City, recognizing that many of DGE’s clients come from afar to celebrate their nuptials in Wedding Central, aka Charlottesville. • Sarah Fay’s testimonials say she’s “absolutely gifted,” heavily networked among vendors, detail-oriented, and calm and collected in the often hectic countdown to the big day.
King Family Vineyards
Runner-up: Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Honorable mention: Veritas Vineyards
Our winner and runner up this year trade places from 2018. King Family Vineyards comes out on top for its meticulously groomed site and facilities, which offer spectacular mountain views and exude sophistication (stabled and pastured horses, polo grounds, upscale farmhouse architecture), while still maintaining a friendly, down-to-earth vibe, perhaps owing to the family ownership. • Pippin Hill, set amongst hillside vineyards, also has a luxurious, countrified feel, with a barn-like reception space and excellent in- house catering under the direction of executive chef Ian Rynecki.
Runner-up: 3 Cats Photo
Honorable mention: Rob Garland
There’s no substitute for experience. With nearly a quarter century behind the lens, Jen Fariello has developed the keen eye and uncanny ability to capture and frame special moments that produce wedding photos to last for generations. • The high energy of 3 Cats principal Beth Seliga’s pictures stems from her experience photographing competitive cyclists while strapped to the back of a motorcycle. Her work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, USA Today, Pro Cycling—and, now, in wedding albums far and wide.
Runner-up: Gardenia Wedding Cinema
Honorable mention: Hoopla Media
The cool thing about a wedding film is that it captures moving images of a linear, tightly planned series of events and reorganizes them for maximum emotional and aesthetic appeal. This takes great sensitivity and skill (and a damn good second videographer on the scene), which Ian Atkins of Ian’s Creations possesses by the truckload. He has won in this subcategory for five years in a row. After watching the sample clips on his website, marveling at the imagery and pacing (and admittedly, getting a little choked up), we can see why our voters think Ian’s Creations deserves the highest praise. • Husband-and-wife team Alex and Brett Sandridge emphasize storytelling with their films—smart, because a wedding is a good story.
Cakes and desserts
Runner-up: Albemarle Baking Company
Honorable mention: Cakes by Rachel
You want a bakery that can nail the traditional wedding cake? Go with Chandler’s. Discs of spongey goodness coated with buttercream, mousse, and mocha cream get the full treatment, standing tall on pillars, festooned with fresh flowers, and decorated with botanical confectionary flourishes. • We’re sure that the fine folks at Albemarle Baking Company roll their eyes when, once again, they earn praise for their much-celebrated Princess Cake. It’s still ABC’s specialty of choice, and it’s still a delicious crowd-pleaser perfect for weddings. The bakery has a lot more to offer—ask and prepare to be amazed.
Band (or booking agency)
Big Ray and the Kool Kats
Runner-up: Sam Hill Entertainment
Honorable mention: Free Union (Michael Coleman)
The soul of Big Ray and the Kool Kats is founder and trumpeter Ray Caddell, who has backed the likes of Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, and Natalie Cole, and who’s first love is swing music. Caddell and his full band—11 musicians and singers at last count—now have a repertoire of nearly 200 songs. Whether they play a party tune (“Bringing Sexy Back”), a Motown classic (“Knock on Wood”), or a Sinatra standard (“Fly Me to the Moon”), Caddell and his classy cohorts fill the dance floor. • Sam Hill Entertainment founder Hank Wells has been booking bands since 1995 and now has a national network of go-to talent. He brings his magic to Charlottesville weddings with a roster of rock, soul, folk, R&B, and classical acts.
DJ (or booking agency)
Derek J. Tobler
Runner-up: Kevin Graham (DJ for All Occasions)
Honorable mention: John Garland DJ Services
Derek Tobler has lived in Charlottesville since 2006, and his enthusiasm and love of music are infectious. Brides and grooms dig Tobler for his thorough preparation and personal touch—and of course, his ability to get the party started and keep it going all night long. We love a guy who quotes W.H. Auden on his website: “Dance till the stars come down from the rafters. Dance, Dance, Dance till you drop.” • If Kevin Graham’s name rings a bell, it’s probably because he plays hits from 10am-3pm on Hot 101.9. Not a bad person to have churning out tunes at your wedding.
Event rentals and management
Runner-up: Festive Fare and Harvest Moon Rentals (tie)
Honorable mention: Skyline Tent Company
Last year’s runner-up MS Events leaps to the top of the heap this year. The outfit is renowned for its extensive inventory—from forks to farm tables, and lighting to lounge chairs—which is housed in a 22,000-square-foot solar-powered warehouse. An environmentally conscious wedding-rental company: That’s something we can get behind. • Things get a little mixed-up among our two runners-up and honorable mention: Festive Fare (tied for runner-up) and Skyline Tent Company (honorable mention) are actually part of the same company, Festive Fare Rentals, which has eight locations throughout the Southeast. So, strength in numbers, right? Our other runner-up, Harvest Moon Rentals, is a partner of Harvest Moon Catering.
Sealed With A Kiss
Runner-up: David’s Bridal (Richmond)
Honorable mention: Amanda’s Touch Bridal & Formal
Sealed With a Kiss stands above the rest with in-house designs by Sorbello Couture, the label named for fashion-industry veteran and store owner Susan Sorbello. • We don’t usually recognize best-of finalists from out of town, but runner-up David’s Bridal, out of Richmond, provides additional options to suit all budgets (albeit an hour’s drive away).
Erica Haskins (Top Knot Studio)
Runner-up: Mary Niefert (Salon DeShano)
Honorable mention: Annie Ivens (Roots)
Brides can try to stay calm about their wedding-day hair, but it’s no use. Top Knot owner Erica Has-
kins, also our winner in 2018, puts them at ease with her deft clipping, blow-drying, brushing, and styling. • Meanwhile, in rural Palmyra, Mary Niefert says that styling hair for brides (and bridesmaids, and brides’ moms) is her favorite thing to do. She must like working under pressure!
Hedge Fine Blooms
Runner-up: Southern Blooms
Honorable mention: Don’s Florist & Gifts
Hedge Fine Blooms wins again this year with its sophisticated, urbane sensibilities, gorgeous designs, and super-fresh, long-lasting flowers. • Southern Blooms, also the runner-up in this category last year, has perfected its formula with more than three decades in the business. The Madison-based florist does it all, from tight compositions to more naturalistic arrangements and decorations incorporating fruits and vines.
Runner-up: Cville Hop On Tours
Honorable mention: A&A Limousine
Transportation can make or break a wedding. The bride and groom and their entourage of family and friends want to arrive not only safely but also in style and comfort. It takes a large, diverse fleet and experienced drivers to make all of these things happen, and Albemarle Limo fits the bill on all counts. From sedans and stretches to a 55-passenger luxury coach, the company offers the best service, according to our voters, who are always on the money (well, 99 percent of the time, anyway). • You may know Cville Hop On Tours for its gaudy shuttle buses. But the company also offers luxury coach service in the form of a big-ass motorcoach with Wi-FI to stream your playlist, a water closet for your convenience, and reclining seats for your comfort.
Rock Paper Scissors
Runner-up: T&N Printing
Honorable mention: If So INKlined
Rock Paper Scissors has a presence on the Downtown Mall in the form of a stationery, card, and letterpress shop, but co-owners Dani Antol and Heather Haynie and staff have a range of talents, including graphic design, pen-and-ink work, and illustration (RPS does the lovely botanical labels for Flying Fox Vineyards’ vermouth). So, we totally understand why they’re a repeat winner in this subcategory. • T&N Printing also offers design services, in addition to its bread-and-butter, which, of course, is first-rate printing.
Harvest Moon Catering
Runner-up: Exchange Events & Catering
Honorable mention: The Local
Our voters flipped the lever for the same three caterers last year, in precisely the same order. This is good news, since consistency in food preparation and presentation—in addition to excellent flavors, of course—demonstrates the skill and attention to detail you want to go into your wedding feast. Harvest Moon shows range and flexibility in its offerings, accommodating vegetarians, vegans, and people with food allergies. • With his dual experience as a fine-dining chef and barbecue pit master, BBQ Exchange chef Craig Hartman can please all palates.