Earlyhouse: A Wedding Venue and So Much More

By Kerri Creel

Nestled snug in the woods of Louisa County lays a picture perfect spot to say “I do.” Picture this: a bride appears on the covered terrace. The gasps and murmurs of seeing her arrival are punctuated only by the background sounds of nature and the spray of the water fountain. She walks down the slate staircase and over the white-washed wooden bridge.

Kathy Stiles, owner of Earlyhouse, shares a bond with the brides as she coordinates the details of the wedding ceremonies. Pictured above, Kathy celebrates with Eleni Rackley on her special day
(Photo by Kerri Creel).

As she makes her way down the “aisle” and crosses  the pond,  she passes  by the fragrant flowers and her family and friends seated on the  little  island.   Through   the arbor of roses, her groom waits at her final destination, the gazebo.  Over 350 brides have taken just such a walk in this place. Earlyhouse  is a 150-acre wedding and celebration venue located  on Yanceyville Road in Louisa that Kathy and Bruce Stiles have called home for 30 years. As owners of a construction company  and beautiful property, the couple began building “things” for personal use as they raised their family.

They entertained friends and held private family weddings and company picnics, and as they did, they kept adding more and more to the serene, woodsy scene.

Kathy remembers  that  they  soon realized   they   had  “created a  little bit  of a monster”  that  needed   to  be maintained and continually invested. So, approximately 13 years ago, the  Stiles opened  their picturesque property to the public to be rented for special occasions. Since then, many milestones of life have been celebrated here including weddings, anniversaries,  reunions,  and memorial services.

Don and Angela Reagan’s lovely wedding at Earlyhouse was featured in Borrowed in Blue magazine (submitted photo).

In   the  early days,   the  Stiles just allowed their patrons to use the location, but as Earlyhouse grew and evolved as a wedding venue, Kathy now acts as a wedding coordinator. Since she is so in- tune with their own layout and property, she  knows  exactly when  to  send  the individuals  of the wedding  party over the  bridge so that  they  are spaced perfectly – one on the bridge, one at the arbor, one at the gazebo.

If the couple wishes to include traditional elements (such as first dance,  blessing,  cake cutting, etc.), Kathy keeps things moving and ensures  it flows  smoothly. She whisks the newlyweds away quickly while the guests enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres on the  pavilion.  She also makes

sure the happy  couple actually gets to the dinner table, which is sometimes hard to do when all the wedding  guests are vying for their attention!

Earlyhouse  accommodates  up to  150 people. The climate-controlled (and newly renovated) reception hall houses tables, chairs,  a cozy fireplace,  and restrooms.

The Reagans and their guests enjoy the celebration of their outdoor wedding ceremony (Submitted photo).

Under the chandeliers and ceiling fans in the 1700-ft.covered  terrace, more linen- clad tables surround the dance floor area.

During the ceremony when guests aren’t eating or dancing, chairs are set up just outside the gazebo,  providing a beautiful and intimate setting to watch the nuptials up close. The bridal party dresses in the Stiles’ guest room, which is in their living quarters, a historic 1790 home.

The picturesque backdrop of over 350 weddings (submitted photo).

Kathy guides and assists her brides every step of the  way as they  personalize  the timeline for the ceremony and reception and they piece together the details of the big day. She is available  for questions, suggestions, advice, and plenty of reassurance.

According to Kathy, they haven’t had any “bridezillas”  which she attributes to the nature-loving dispositions  of the  patrons. “Our brides are people who embrace the outdoors  and therefore  have a certain, relaxed personality,” she said.

Of course,  any outdoor  bride has a nightmare playing in the back of her head that her magical  day will be a weather disaster. However, Kathy understands this nervousness and stays prepared and ready with a rain contingency plan.

Kathy has a connection and bond with her brides because she is not only an integral part of the planning process,  but also she (and her family) have a participatory  role in the celebration as well. “After a year of planning with Kathy, when it was over, I missed talking to her as a friend,” recalled Angela Reagan, a recent bride. “She was like family.”

Scenic photo opportunities abound at Earlyhouse with the many charming locations from which to choose. Dylon and Eleni Rackley share a moment on one of the two wooden bridges on the property. Their out-of-twon guest still compliment the location, the food and the staff (photo by Kelly and Joe Canty).

Angela and her husband looked at many venues in the Charlottesville area, but when they visited Earlyhouse in Louisa, they knew it was the place for them. (The Reagans’ lovely wedding was recently featured in the wedding magazine Borrowed in Blue.)

Kathy shared   that  some   of her most interesting and favorite wedding memories  come from   the   diversity of different heritages  that are incorporated  into the ceremonies. During a Russian wedding, the couple played out  a tradition  in  which  the bride’s shoe is stolen and the groom has to  pay to  get the shoe  back. A religious ceremony included the washing of one another’s feet. One couple planted a tree. Another bride and groom combined pieces of a cross to join together.

The traditions  and requests  are “as varied and endless  as the  number of  brides,” Kathy explained. One particularly touching    moment    she recalled was watching a disabled father of the bride who surprised his daughter when he stood up from his wheelchair and WALKED her down the aisle.

Eleni Rackley marvels   that  her rainy   wedding in   May  was  an amazing, magical, and perfect day at Earlyhouse. Months later, her out-of- town guests are still talking and raving about the beautiful setting.

“There are so many different spots that are tucked-away  on the property (woods, bridge) that  make  for breathtaking wedding  photos,” said Eleni. “You wouldn’t know that down this dirt driveway,  it just opens up to… paradise.” It’s not all about the bride, either,  because   Eleni said that  her family and friends enjoyed fishing in the pond, and their picky eaters loved the food!

Weddings are only one way to enjoy the hospitality and location.  The Stiles can also accommodate other special occasions and social situations. Recently a couple marked their  50th anniversary   with  dinner  and dancing at Earlyhouse. Memorial services and celebrations of life are also important to the Stiles and their patrons. White doves can be released for an especially symbolic and poignant moment.

Newlyweds Angela and Don Reagan drink in the scenery as their photographer captures a perfect spot for wedding pictures (Submitted Photo).

In the fall, as the air turns crisp, it’s the per- fect time for an annual favorite event at Ear- lyhouse. The Charity Chili Cook-Off  raises money for the National Kidney Foundation and the Good  Doctors Foundation. These charitable  organizations  are particularly dear to the Stiles because Bruce is a kidney transplant recipient. In the twelve years that they’ve hosted this event, the Chili Cook- Off has raised $100,000.

This year on November  4th, any chili connoisseurs can pay $10 to sample all the chili they wish to eat. Fifteen to twenty teams will be competing for their votes to win the People’s Choice award. Winning teams will also be chosen by local “celebrity” judges in a blind taste test. Teams are required to produce five gallons of chili.

In addition to satisfying your taste buds, guests to Earlyhouse can also participate in a silent auction, play in a corn hole tournament, and listen to music. For extra spice, the UVA drumline will play during the welcome ceremony, and the chili teams will try to out-do each other for the “most spirited team” award.

Kathy, Bruce, and their family have shared a unique and beautiful venue by opening up their home to others’ celebrations. They are committed to providing impeccable service and creating a space for people to feel as if Earlyhouse is their own special place for the day. Their wish is for everyone “to have a wonderful time celebrating their milestones, and for Earlyhouse to be an extension of what the guests would have at their own homes.”

The Stiles completed some renovations over the 2016-2017   winter, including a permanent roof over the terrace, and Kathy has future ideas  for their family business. She is considering hosting a monthly Ladies’ Night  to listen to speakers  on interesting topics and enjoy an evening to gather with friends in this peaceful, natural setting.

In talking with Kathy about how much she wants  people to  enjoy,  celebrate,  and be comfortable and relaxed, this writer noticed a framed quote on her pavilion wall which speaks volumes of her desire for herself and her guests:

“Life is not a race – but indeed a journey. Be honest. Work hard. Be choosy. Say thank you, I love you, and great job to someone each day. Go to church, take time for prayer. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh. Let your hand shake mean more than pen and paper. Love your life and what you’ve been given; it is not accidental. Search for your purpose and do it as best you can. Dreaming does matter; it allows you to become that which you aspire to be. Laugh often. Appreciate the little things in life and enjoy them. Some of the best things really are free. Do not worry; less wrinkles are more becoming. Forgive; it frees the soul. Take time for yourself – plan for your longevity. Recognize the special people you’ve been blessed to know. Live for today; enjoy the moment.

– Bonnie L. Mohr

Earlyhouse is located at 3998 Yanceyville Road in Louisa, Va. For more pictures and information, please visit earlyhouse.com and/or call Kathy Stiles at 540-967-1832 or 540-967-5550. For upcoming events, please follow Earlyhouse on Facebook.