Weddings and Private Events? Catherine’s Got Them Covered
The most memorable of weddings unfold like a fine symphony, and here at Upper Shirley, our events director, Catherine Cristman, is the ideal conductor. Waving her figurative baton, she synchronizes wedding coordinators and vendors with our chefs, kitchen and service teams, and, of course, the wedding party to ensure one cohesive, beautifully flowing and brilliant performance.
“I pretty much oversee the big picture when it comes to the big day,” says Catherine, who is known around here for her sunny personality and can-do attitude.
Whether your event takes place inside our elegant Low Country-style winery, on its sweeping covered porches or riverside terraces, on the banks of this beautiful bend in the James—or some combination of the three—Catherine has you covered, and all instruments (or vendors) in sync.
How does she do it? For starters, experience. A conductor has to understand everyone’s roles in the performance. Lucky for brides-to-be, Catherine was immersed in the place early on. Starting while she was still in college—and just as Upper Shirley opened its doors—she quickly became a favorite server, hostess, wine pourer and caterer. Eventually, she took on social media duties, went on style shoots, met vendors, and helped organize our very first wedding.
“Catherine is beyond capable,” says Tayloe, who recognized a rising star and, when the opportunity arose, named her events director. “She knows the ins and outs of the vineyard as well as anyone, and how all our teams work. More than that, she is part of our family. It was an easy decision.”
Catherine has now overseen more than half of all the weddings held at Upper Shirley. From her impressive and meticulously ordered upstairs office with views of the grounds, she’s orchestrated celebrations small and large, outdoor and indoor, and through rain, shine, hurricanes and more. She oversaw our largest wedding ever, with more than 320 guests, and even managed a successful wedding after an hour+ delay caused by a fire near the Omni Hotel, where many of the guests were staying, with apparent ease.
“That was crazy!” Catherine recalls. “No one could get through. We had one bus of guests that had arrived and another that would be almost an hour late. I had to change the entire scheduling for catering, the ceremony, everything. But it all worked out! You can’t stress about things. You just have to be prepared and manage the situation calmly and with confidence.”
Among other things, Catherine has brought a warm personal touch to our weddings program. Before the couple even arrives to check us out the first time, she informally interviews them by phone so that she can tailor the tour to their vision. Right down the line, she ensures that the wedding itself is as unique as the individuals who are a part of it. (For samples and ideas, check out our wedding photo gallery.) A model of organization, she is always there for her brides.
“Each wedding is different,” adds Catherine. “Each wedding party is different—a 150-person wedding is going to look very different than a 300-person wedding, and basic elements like a plated meal vs. a seated meal, outside vs. inside, the ceremony here or off property, change how the venue is used. So it really is about personalization and getting the details just right.” (For a few examples, check out our wedding photography gallery.)
Catherine simply has the touch. Upper Shirley continues to garner rave reviews from brides and wedding parties and is now recognized as one of Virginia’s premiere upscale wedding destinations. Reviews on The Knot and Wedding Wire have been five star, and a slew of awards have come our way in the past year, including Best Large Wedding Venue, Best Place to Hold a Bridal Shower, and Best Area Wedding Venue from places like Richmond Bride, Richmond Magazine, Borrowed and Blue, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and many others. With all that, Catherine is booking weddings for 2018 and even 2019 at a record rate. (Not to worry though, there are still a few slots open for those who hurry!)
“Weddings are team events,” says Catherine. “And I rely a lot on our team and on the relationships I’ve developed with planners since I first started here.” She works seamlessly with planners like LKEvents and Kate Phillips Events, who bring their creative talents to help make brides’ wedding dreams come true on Upper Shirley’s spectacular grounds. And she continues to seek out the region’s best new vendors to ensure that planners and couples have access to the most ideal services and amenities.
If you’re planning on touring or scheduling a wedding at Upper Shirley, you’re in extremely capable hands with Catherine. As she says, “This place means so much to me—it truly is magical. I want it to mean just as much to other people. So I take all the care I can and pay attention to each detail to make every wedding day here the most special, exciting and unique it can be.”
To keep up to date on all things Upper Shirley Weddings, visit our new Instagram account @uppershirleyweddings. To schedule a tour, Catherine can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. If possible, she prefers that you fill out the form at the bottom of our wedding page before contacting her directly to give her a better idea of what your ideal wedding might look like. Link here.