The Aisle A-List 2012
Our readers choose their top-tier wedding professionals
Illustration by Yelena Bryksenkova

Roll out the red carpet! Here come the stars of Richmond's bridal industry, as chosen by Richmond Bride magazine readers. For the first time, we asked our readers to choose their favorites — from wedding planners to cake bakers, from florists to hair stylists. You voted on more than 30 categories, and here are the results. Plus, editorial staffers tell you our favorite rehearsal dinner sites and coolest local Etsy shops, and we introduce you to two vintage furniture rental companies, the newest event industry.

Top Place to Order Invitations

By Invitation Only
4017 Lauderdale Drive, 364-8474
On any given weekend, you’ll find dozens of brides and their moms scouring through the store’s sample books, looking for the perfect invitation. One unusual purchase was an
invitation for a destination wedding. “It was made to look like a passport with a gold seal and stamps,” says owner Kerrie DiStanlo.
2. The Cordial Cricket  
3. Paper on the Avenue

Top Place for Bridesmaid Gifts

4035 Lauderdale Drive, 249-3900
Kate Stottlemyer, Tweed’s vice president of operations, says it’s the store’s variety that brings in brides looking for bridesmaid gifts. Our favorite is the Scout Pleasure Chest, a tall cooler totebag that can hold four bottles of wine. 
2. By Invitation Only
3. (tie) Cordial Cricket; Trend


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Retro Furniture Rental

Local Etsy Standouts with Artistic Wedding Wares

Top Tuxedo Rental

Bella Rosa
3979 Deep Rock Road, 855-1000

The men’s corner at Bella Rosa features a selection of about 200 vest colors and patterns including fuchsia, camouflage and leopard print. “Really, the bride chooses
everything,” menswear coor-dinator Christina Foy says.
2. Grooms Corner at Tiffanys Bridal

Top Limousine Company

James Limousine
1207-D N. Boulevard, 273-1540
James Limousine is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. “We do a lot of wine tastings for bachelorette parties,” says owner Randy Allen. “We also offer full-size motor coaches [with seating for up to 29] that can transport everyone safely.”
2. Down Under Limousine
3. James River Transportation

Top Wedding Cakes

Cakes by Graham
718 N. Cleveland St., 288-1920
Owner Graham Haddock has made thousands of wedding cakes since he started his company in 1994. One of the most unusual was a Beatles-themed cake. “The groom was a sonar technician, and we made a sugar yellow
submarine for the cake.” 
2. Baker’s Kitchen
3. (tie) A Cake to Remember; Shyndigz

Top Wedding Bouquets

Flowers Make Scents
1272 Alverser Plaza, Midlothian, 897-6100
Mother-and-daughter arranging duo Ellen Stange and Shari Hoyle always focus on to what the bride wants in her bouquet. “We put a lot of attention into the details,” Hoyle says. “We try to use unusual elements like lamb’s ear in the bouquet. We also can personalize flowers by adding [an item] that means something to you, such as a brooch.”
2. Flowers by Mona Ray
3. Vogue Flowers

Top Caterer

6229 River Road, 288-7482
The caterers at Mosaic consider each couple’s favorite foods and family traditions to create distinctive menus. “Our goal is to make the reception be a direct reflection of the couple’s style,” says Ryan Traylor, Mosaic’s director of catering and events. The mere thought of a gourmet mac-and-cheese bar, gorgonzola-walnut mini-souffles and Nutella semifreddo has us drooling.
2. Groovin’ Gourmets
3. Champagne Taste Catering 

Top Place for Groomsmen Gifts

By Invitation Only
4017 Lauderdale Drive, 364-8474
Brides and grooms can peruse catalogues at By Invitation Only to find
fitting groomsmen gifts, which include personalized presents such as flasks, toiletry kits, travel kits, money
clips and business-card holders, says owner Kerrie DiStanlo. “We also can
do beer coozies that are personalized.”
2. Mongrel

Top Place to Stay on Your Wedding Night

The Jefferson Hotel
101 W. Franklin St., 649-4750
Whether couples decide to keep things simple or go over the top with a suite and lots of personal touches, the best part of choosing The Jefferson for your wedding night is that you always have a luxurious, convenient place to return to for your anniversary. And you can brag that you stayed at the same hotel where “The Gibson Girl” held her engagement party in 1895.
2. Historic Mankin Mansion
3. The Berkeley Hotel

Top Band

Three Sheets to the Wind
Guilty-pleasure hits of the 1970s and 1980s with a kitschy nautical “yacht rock” slant are the mainstay of this Richmond-based band. “We do a lot of songs about sailing [think “Brandy” by Looking Glass],” says band member Jack Shannon, who adds that the band has witnessed some interesting toasts over the years. “Many from the wacky uncle. That’s always the favorite part of any wedding.”
2. Casper
3. Pat Russell Band

Top Shop for Bridesmaid Dresses

Bella Rosa
3979 Deep Rock Road, 855-1000
Owner Heather Harton recommends selecting a fabric and a color from one designer and letting each bridesmaid pick out their own dress. “It gives each girl the option to find a body style that works best for her,” she says, adding that jewel tones work well.
2. Tiffanys Bridal
3. Bella Bridesmaid

Top Shop for your Wedding Registry

J. Taylor Hogan
308 Libbie Ave., 282-4474
Brides find everything from Heron fine china to sterling flatware at J. Taylor Hogan. “Most of the girls who want Royal Crown china come to us,” says Bert Butler, the late Hogan’s business partner. Popular gifts include Italian planters and Mariposa tableware and utensils. “You don’t have to polish it,” Butler says.
2. (tie) Fraîche; Trend

Top Lingerie Shop

11713 W. Broad St., 364-1717
At Blythe, it’s what’s under the wedding gown that counts. The upscale shop carries bridal lingerie and foundations such as strapless bras, garters and garter belts. It offers personalized bra fittings, hard-to-find sizes and matching gown-and-robe sets. You’ll find lots of silk, chiffon and satin, everything from traditional to sexy.
2. Kiss and Make-Up
3. Priscilla McCall’s

Top Bridal Shoes

Saxon Shoes
11800 W. Broad St., 285-3473
Of course Saxon has fancy flats, pumps and sandals (including dyeable shoes). But a few brides are opting for Toms shoes, the comfy slip-ons that have a philanthropic purpose, says Saxon owner Gary Weiner. For each pair that you purchase, a child in poverty gets a pair for free. If you’re worried about being too casual, Toms do come in sparkly silver and gold material.
2. Tiffanys Bridal
3. Bella Rosa Bridal

Pre-Wedding Gym Trainer

American Family Fitness
Multiple locations; see
American Family has many ways to get fit for your wedding day, but we think a cool option is team training, a personal-training program that requires three participants but is a bit cheaper than one-on-one workouts. And hey, it could be a good way to bond with your bridesmaids or even your groom while feeling tip-top for the big day.
2. Gold’s Gym
3. Styles Group Fitness

Top Honeymoon Spot in Virginia

The Homestead
Hot Springs, (540) 839-1766
The Homestead resort is one of the state’s beloved jewels, with its elegant lobby, natural setting, fine dining and outdoor activities. The hotel offers a free upgrade to a suite on your wedding night, 20 percent off your whole honeymoon stay and a discount for your first anniversary — just ask for the wedding package when you make your reservation. And don’t forget to take a turn on the dance floor in the grand dining room, adds marketing director Lynn Swann.
2. Virginia Beach
3. Charlottesville

Top Place to Propose in Richmond

1700 Hampton St., 358-7166
Rebekah Davis, Maymont’s facility rental director, says that although some proposals fly under staff radar at the sprawling urban park, a few men arrange carriage rides after the big “yes” — including WTVR-6 meteorologist Carrie Rose’s fiancé. As for the helicopter landing that is part of one gentleman’s plans, the request is still up in the air. 
2. Church Hill/Libby Hill Park
3. The Jefferson Hotel

Top Wedding DJ

Choice Entertainment
From the creative telling of the bride and groom’s story during the wedding-party introductions to the use of a voice-over during the father-daughter dance, when it comes to wedding entertainment the difference is in the details, says Choice Entertainment owner Bill
Gilliam. “It’s those warm, engaging moments,” he says. 
2. Celebrity Radio DJs/Jason Paige

Top Reception Location

Historic Mankin Mansion
4300 Oakleys Lane, 737-7773
The Georgian revival estate in eastern Henrico County has hosted receptions and ceremonies every weekend in the spring through fall since 2006. Now it’s open for winter weddings. “It is very romantic,” co-owner Paula Ramirez says. “It seems like a small castle.”
2. The Jefferson Hotel
3. The Mill at Fine Creek

Top Place to Hold a Bachelorette Party

Off the Hookah
140 Virginia St., Suite 200, 225-1918
Also voted best pick-up spot in this year’s Richmond magazine Best & Worst readers' survey, Off the Hookah has what it takes to get the party started with three dance floors, multiple flavors of tobacco and go-go dancers.
2. The Tobacco Company
3. Godfrey’s

Most Creative Wedding Rings

Adolf Jewelers
1537 N. Parham Road, 285-3671
When it comes to engagement rings, “diamond is king,” Ronnie Adolf says. While round-cut reigns, Adolf says cushion-cut rings have been popular for the past few years, and he expects to see more requests for pear-shaped diamonds in the near future.
2. Fink’s Jewelers 
3. Dransfield Jewelers

Most Offbeat Ceremony Site

Historic Mankin Mansion
4300 Oakleys Lane, 737-7773
Listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places, this renovated estate features private cottages, manicured lawns,  and a wrought-iron trellis for wedding ceremonies on the bocce court.  
2. Poe Museum
3. Main Street Station

Top Bridal Hairstylist

Lou Stevens Glam Squad
After working with more than 2,000 brides, Lou Stevens says she can quickly discern the best hairstyles for brides with a few key questions. “I’m not going to push them into something that I think is going to be beautiful, but they’re not
going to be comfortable with,” she says.
2. Rachel Shrader  
3. Joy Pfister, Faces by Joy

Top Place to Hold a Bridal Shower

The Jefferson Hotel
101 W. Franklin St., 649-4750
The Jefferson has had its share of memorable bridal showers, like one for the Virginia Tech bride who somehow managed to get the Hokie Bird mascot to make an appearance, or the groom who had established the tradition of giving his bride-to-be charms and arranged to have a Jefferson charm placed in the shower cake.
2. Can Can Brasserie
3. Feathernesters

Top Bridal Gown Salon

Bella Rosa Bridal
3979 Deep Rock Road, 855-1000
Although Bella Rosa moved to larger digs a couple of years ago, the bridal salon in the 7,500-square-foot boutique is separate from the main store. “It’s more intimate,” says owner Heather Harton. “It’s such an emotional time, and it’s meant to be between the bride and her family and friends.” Dresses from a selection of 12 designers range from $800 to $5,000.
2. Tiffanys Bridal
3. Jingles

Top Officiant

Brian Purcell/Two Become One Ministries
6387 Greystone Creek Road, Mechanicsville, 572-0833

After a divorce in 2007 and being laid off in 2009, Brian Purcell wanted to turn his life around. “Instead of feeling defeated, I wanted to help myself and help other people,” he says. The ordained pastor now counsels couples before and after marriage. 
2. Andrew Mutter
3. Doug Bowman

Top Bridal Makeup Artist

Lou Stevens Glam Squad
Although airbrushing makeup for the big day has been popular in recent years, Lou Stevens recommends working with waterproof products. “Getting dewy, glowing skin is the most important part,” Stevens says. She uses a 24-hour sheer foundation and waterproof application techniques for brides. 
2. Joy Pfister
3. Natalie Gordon

Top Bridal Accessories

Bella Rosa Bridal
3979 Deep Rock Road, 855-1000
Belts have gotten so popular at Bella Rosa that the boutique had to create a separate section in the store for them. “A detailed sparkly belt brings the dress up a level and really defines the waist,” owner Heather Harton says of the store’s collection.
2. Tiffanys Bridal

Top Photographer

Don Mears
1623 W. Broad St., 915-7491
When he’s photographing a wedding, Mears says he seeks out less obvious moments between people who love each other. “There’s a rhythm to wedding days,” he says. “Cake cuttings and first dances are a little easier, but beyond those scripted moments, it really is about knowing weddings.”      
2. PW Photography
3. Meghan McSweeney

Top Wedding Planner

Naomi Meyer/Bridal Consulting by Naomi
With more than 30 years of experience as a photographer’s assistant and a caterer before starting her consult-ing business, Meyer says, “I have the ability to take all the resources that I work with and meet my clients’ high-est expectations.”
2. Kate Franzen/Lovebirds Events
3. Colleen Cook/CCS Events

Top Shop for Mother-of-the-Bride Dresses

Bella Rosa Bridal
3979 Deep Rock Road, 855-1000
After hours of bridal-gown fittings, owner Heather Harton says it’s touching to see attention shift to the mother. “It’s so great to see the brides working with their family and not being the complete center of attention that day,” she says.
2. Tiffanys Bridal
3. Jingles Bridal

Top Florist

Flowers by Mona Ray
The former horticulture teacher at Atlee High School creates flower arrangements with her daughter in her garage in Providence Forge. “I enjoy the peacefulness,” Ray says. Last year, she created arrangements for more than 200 weddings. Peonies, roses and calla lilies are favorites. 
2. Flowers Make Scents  
3. Vogue Flowers 

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