Have you ever thought sometimes that smaller really is better? That you would prefer to focus on what is important, without all the unnecessary stress? The old saying, quality over quantity, often rings true.
Sweet and Simple Weddings, formerly known as Ciao Bella Photography and Ciao Bella Celebrations, has found a niche, and it is squarely planted on these values – and in the heart of downtown Warrenton.
In 2013, when Mona McLinden and her husband Dan photographed a wedding at the Inn at Little Washington, they were part of a small, intimate affair. Although they photographed weddings of all sizes together for many years, that event was unique. Mona McLinden shares that the intimacy of that event inspired the couple to begin planning a new business model for the affordable small wedding.
Intimate weddings are more relaxed, says McLinden. She and her husband enjoy seeing wedding couples experience the moments of their special day as they unfold naturally.
“Couples can enjoy an overnight stay and experience the best of what our area has to offer,” says McLinden. “Most of our out-of-town guests remark on how they love our charming town and the beautiful countryside.”
We settled-in with Sweet and Simple Weddings to get an intimate view of their offerings. Here is what we learned.
Q: In addition to wedding services, do you offer other event services?
Sweet and Simple Weddings: Yes, we often put together parties for milestone celebrations such as Sweet 16s and 50th birthdays, renewal of wedding vows, celebrations of life and anniversary events. Our trolley events, lakeside ceremonies, winery tours and overnight packages with local businesses like Airlie and the Chilton House are some of our most popular. We also offer Zoom services for our weddings to enable a couple to share their special day with family and friends across health and distance boundaries.
Q: You offer catering, officiant services, photography, transportation and event planning? Do you partner with local businesses?
Sweet and Simple Weddings: We have a licensed kitchen in our space on Ashby Street where we prepare appetizer platters, dessert trays, trolley picnics and wedding cake is plated. We work with the bride to plan the special day and offer a trolley service as a special package. With our ABC license, we are able to offer wine, beer and mimosa bar setup. We enjoy officiating and providing photography for backyard weddings.
We partner with some local businesses to help make a complete package. Gateau for small wedding cakes, Fauquier History Museum for an outdoor courtyard event location and Village Flowers for flowery. We often refer brides to Something Old Something New Bridal on Culpeper Street.
Q: What is your most requested event and how far in advance do you schedule?
Sweet and Simple Weddings: Our most popular package is the “Intimate Wedding” with up to eight guests. Most of our weddings take place in Old Town in our Celebrations Room with a photo shoot through historic Warrenton.
Q: Sweet and Simple Weddings has been so popular; you often book up six months in advance with events throughout the week. What do you attribute to your success?
Sweet and Simple Weddings: Pricing is better out here, versus the D.C. area – where an elopement can cost a couple $500. We see folks practicing sensibility and practicality, making choices to use their funds for a down payment on a house or an elaborate and memorable honeymoon, while keeping the marriage ceremony and celebration to a low cost. We service second and third marriages that are blending families and have expenses with child rearing and college to pay for. People have many things to think about and paying a lot for a wedding day has been trending out for some time.
More than lower cost, this area offers so much. We are set in a prime location for its beauty, diversity in sights and landscape – and people are so friendly out here. Folks will walk or drive past our photoshoots along Main Street and stop to wish the couple well and say, “Congratulations!” There is something special about this small-town feel.
Q: What is something that most people do not know about your business?
Sweet and Simple Weddings: Several years ago, my husband and I visited Las Vegas to visit dozens of different wedding chapels for research and inspiration for our business. We saw some that were over the top and some that were quite beautiful. We established our own wedding chapel location right inside of our business location. It can accommodate up to 20 guests.
While 60 percent of our clientele come from Fairfax, Prince William and Culpeper, we have worked with couples from North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia. October is the most popular wedding month, as well as April and May.
“Big weddings are not for everyone,” says McLinden. “Simple or small, we can make them special, and that’s what we are all about. You can do it your way. We want people to know that they can have their event, in (most) any way that they want.”
Sweet and Simple Weddings is located at 18 Ashby Street, Warrenton, Virginia. It is within an hour drive from Alexandria, Arlington, Loudoun, Fairfax, Prince William, Stafford, Fauquier, Culpeper, Rappahannock, Fredericksburg, Warrenton, Frederick and Page counties, as well as Washington, D.C.
For more information visit www.sweetandsimpleweddings.com.
By Danica Low