Tips for Weddings at Sylvanside Farm

Sylvanside Farm barn

I’ve said this in another post, but Sylvanside Farm is my most photographed venue. As you can imagine, I’ve seen pretty much every configuration of a wedding held there. With this post, I’m hoping to guide you in making your wedding at Sylvanside Farm as easy-breezy covergirl as possible! Don’t feel like you need to follow this to a T, and if you’re not a couple of mine and someone tells you something different that you love, fabulous! This is merely here to help you out in the areas of what I believe works best both photographically and logistically.

Getting Ready

Let’s start at the beginning – your getting ready locations! There are two areas on the property used for getting ready, along with a usable salon. One is a larger cottage with ample space, which I recommend using for anyone getting hair and makeup done. There is more room to spread out and work comfortably. The Hunt Box is a much smaller cottage used mainly for the couple after the wedding, However, the groom and groomsmen tend to hang out in there while they wait for everyone to be ready. This cottage is small, so I wouldn’t recommend any large groups needing space to move around. And obviously, the salon is a great space to get hair and makeup done but I would recommend keeping everything at the big cottage and sending people as needed for hair and make up, the space is small but definitely usable!

PRO TIP: Get your hair and makeup done on site. I’ve had many couples get ready off site and, logistically, the travel between airbnbs and the venue can put constraints on the timeline. It’s much easier to keep everything all in one place!

The Ceremony

The ceremony is the biggest thing that I have to have conversations with my couples about. There are a couple locations on the property that allow for ceremonies but photographically, there is only one that works perfectly. (In my humble opinion, obviously.)

The Orchard

  • This is THE ceremony spot. Photographically, it’s perfect. Logistically it can be a bit of a challenge, but it’s worth it! The lighting here is perfect throughout the day and with an afternoon ceremony the light hits right behind the trees and is so dreamy! It’s also shaded, so in the warmer months your guests won’t be dying in the direct sun. The only reason it can be a bit of a challenge, is it’s located right next to the road you drive in on. So, Terry, the owner, will sit at the bottom of the driveway and stop any late guests from entering so they don’t kick up gravel and/or disrupt the ceremony.

The Field

  • This location, while beautiful, is a challenge photographically. There is zero shade, so the lighting is usually extremely harsh and unflattering. Harsh lighting also creates a ton of green cast on your skin making editing difficult. It can also make the pond a crazy green color which doesn’t look great as a backdrop. Along with the harsh light comes crazy heat. Because there is zero shade, your guests will be sitting in direct sun for at least 30 minutes prior to your ceremony, not to mention during it. I know this spot is gorgeous, but I definitely recommend waiting until golden hour to get sunset photos near the pond and keep yourselves and your guests comfortable in the orchard.

The Stone Barn

  • This is the rain plan! This is not a favorite of mine, just because it’s inside and you loose all of the gorgeous greenery the farm offers. BUT it is an option for rain. Keep in mind, this space is TIGHT. It’s a lot smaller than it seems, especially once you put 100+ guests in it. You will also be walking around the barn and up through the back to have the front of the aisle (the alter) in front of the doors. You will be back lit in photos, so the lighting might be hazy or harsh, and you will be photographed with flash because the area is so dark. Keep that in mind when making your selections and make sure your photographer can produce images that you like that require flash.

Cocktail Hour

Your cocktail hour will most likely be at the Stone Barn. This is a gorgeous area to host your cocktail hour! Logistically, there is only one bathroom on the property, so your guests will have to walk from the Stone Barn to the Poplar Barn to use the restroom. There is also limited shade and it can get VERY toasty on the property so be sure to provide umbrellas and lots of water to your guests during cocktail hour.

Have some interactive entertainment during cocktail hour to keep your guests busy. One of my favorite activities is feeding the horses! You can provide them with a smorgasbord of carrots and treats and your guests can have fun safely feeding the horses! This always makes the best photos! Other ways to include activities are lawn games – which should be included with your wedding package.

PRO TIP: Make sure the stairs near the restrooms and front of the Poplar Barn are gated off during cocktail hour. Guests tend to wander and explore and can pop into the reception space before its ready. This ensure rogue guests won’t be dropping off personal items or hanging out in there before it gets photographed. You spent a lot of time and money prepping that space, so you definitely want it documented!


Portrait time is EASY at Sylvanside Farm. The biggest thing is you’re at the mercy of the sun throughout the day. If you’re doing your portraits in the middle of a sunny day, you’ll probably use the space near the garden in the middle of the property. This provides gorgeous light and also a little bit of shade to keep you cool. On a sunny day you’d most likely have to wait until golden hour or sunset to utilize the field and get the Stone Barn and the Poplar Barn in your images. I highly recommend going out during sunset, the images always turn out so good!

You can also sneak inside of the weeping cherry tree for some fun and edgy images.

PRO TIP: You can use the horses in your portraits! BUT you have to allot time out of your schedule for this – it takes a minute to get the horses to you. You are also at the mercy of a live animal and they can be unpredictable and dangerous. Watch out if they’ve gotten into any clover – they’ll be a bit drooly and can potentially get your clothes dirty! Personally, I have a ton of experience with horses so I am totally comfortable handling and photographing them. I definitely don’t recommend this being your first time around a horse – if you don’t have experience with them but would like the photo op, choose to get a photo with them over the fence instead.

The Reception

The Poplar Barn is over 200 feet long and can seat up to 225 guests comfortably. Meaning, this barn is HUGE. Like you don’t fully understand how big this barn is until you step foot in it. So, the logistics can be a bit of a challenge sometimes. Not to worry though, Amy, from Amy T Events, and Barrett, from Black Tie Gourmet, are fantastic about utilizing the space to it’s fullest extent on a wedding day.

The biggest thing is, there is no heat or A/C installed in the barn. So, you have to bring in an outside source or utilize the fans they provide. PLEASE keep this in mind when planning your wedding day. Late spring and summer weddings can be BRUTAL on you and your guests. It can get extremely hot in the barn especially with dancing and moving about. I highly recommend providing your guests with cold towels, hand fans, and lots of water throughout the wedding day. The heat can be very dangerous when combined with layers of clothes and lots of alcohol and we, for sure, don’t want any injuries on your big day!

There is also a noise ordinance for ALL of Loudoun County, so your DJ won’t be able to play music past a certain decibel level. This isn’t a huge problem when you’re on the dancefloor, you can still party the night away. It’s also kind of nice since you’ll be able to hold conversations on either side of the dancefloor, while your guests get their party on!

Ways to Elevate Your Reception Images!

Here’s a list of some fun things I’ve seen roll through various receptions at Sylvanside Farm:

  • LED light up wands
  • Bubble guns
  • Heart shaped sunglasses
  • Fake microphones
  • LOTS of added twinkle lights
  • “Voicemail” guest books
  • Reception outfit changes
  • Photobooths

The Exit

Unfortunately, due to safety concerns, sparkler exits are no longer allowed at Sylvanside Farm. HOWEVER, there are other options available to you – my favorite being a champagne spray! You will get messy but the end result it absolutely worth it! This is THE best way to epically end your night! My second favorite is BUBBLES! Bubbles are SO much fun for your guests and are a great way to signify the end of the wedding. Invest in 6-8 bubble guns and provide the rest of your guests with personal bubble tubes. The experience will be a memorable one and provide for some great end-of-the-night shots.

Some other options are:

  • LED wands
  • Cellphone lights!
  • No-mess streamers

PRO TIP: Opt for a recessional send off instead of an end of the night send off. Not everyone may be able to participate but they ALL get to witness it! It’s also a lot easy to control!

I hope you found this helpful! If you’d like to see a full wedding from Sylvanside Farm you can view it here!

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