Fancy-free: Choose a sweet spot for a low-key ceremony

Ray and Adam were married at Carter's Overlook on the Monticello Trail on September 15, 2018. Photo: Amy Jackson Smith Ray and Adam were married at Carter’s Overlook on the Monticello Trail on September 15, 2018. Photo: Amy Jackson Smith

Big weddings are great, but for some of us, less is more. As in, less expense, less stress, less planning. And there’s something thrilling about getting married without a net. Okay, we’ll just say it: Why not elope?

Taking your vows with only a handful of witnesses means that you really can forego nearly all the conventional planning and simply show up, often with no reservations or official say-so regarding your chosen spot. Mildly risky? Yes. Wildly romantic? Yes, yes, yes!

Here are a few suggestions for local off-the-grid wedding spots.

UVA pavilion gardens

Real people do reside in the large “pavilions” that punctuate the long rows of student rooms along UVA’s Lawn. But in fact the public is welcome to picnic, lounge—or get hitched—in the gardens behind the pavilions, and they are enchanting spots, with their serpentine walls and carefully tended plantings. Just be considerate of the folks who call these historical buildings home, and visit ahead of time to scout your favorite of the 10 unique gardens.

Saunders-Monticello Trail

This lovely trail starts at Kemper Park on Route 53. After a short stroll you can access the Palmer Woodland Theater, a pretty collection of wooden benches arranged among venerable white oak trees. A smaller landmark along the trail is Carter’s Overlook, which has a great view of Charlottesville and the mountains. These two spots are not reservable, but check the Monticello website to make sure no events are planned there for the hour of your nuptials.

20 Minute Cliff Overlook

Located at mile marker 19 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, this small overlook offers one of the best mountain views around. The panoramic vista sweeps south, west, and north, meaning the sunsets here are especially sweet. (Panoramic photo, anyone?) Technically, the National Park Service would like you to obtain a permit for your Parkway wedding—Google “Blue Ridge Parkway permits” for details.