Meet Shalese Kocher, the venue operator at Madison at the Mill, an industrial venue in Orange County, Virginia! Read more to hear about how Shalese got started in the wedding industry and how her experience has given her the skills to run a unique and chic venue in Virginia!

Shalese Kocher Madison at the Mill Richmond wedding venue operator
Heather Chipps Photography

What makes you or your business stand out and why should a couple hire you? 
We’re a really unique venue! There really aren’t a lot of venues that have the industrial vibe that we do…and there aren’t a lot of venues that can hold as many people as we can! We have a ton of space, but the great thing is, you really don’t have to spend a ton of your wedding budget on decor because the Mill is already very chic and decorated with paintings & chandeliers. Plus, in pretty much all the reviews we get from couples after their weddings, they say, “Our guests are still talking about the venue!” That’s beyond awesome to hear.

What’s a weird/unusual tip you tell your couples?
It’s not super weird, but we advise all of our couples to HAVE A SEATING CHART! You have to at least assign tables! We get so many couples who want to keep things laid back, but nixing the seating chart is not the way to go. Your guests WANT to be told where to sit, especially if they’re not super familiar with a lot of the other guests! They don’t want to invite themselves to someone else’s table!

Shalese Kocher Madison at the Mill Richmond wedding venue operator
Shalese Danielle Photography

If you care to share, how did you get to where you are now?
HAHA well, I started my “career” in weddings by photographing weddings as soon as I graduated from JMU, but things really took off when I started as an intern (was that my first official title?!) at Richmond Weddings! I worked for Richmond Weddings while growing my photography business for almost 5 years before moving back home to Orange to help my fiancé run this wedding venue his family had renovated. Now I’m a semi-retired wedding photographer & full-time venue operator! I got to work side-by-side with my future father-in-law and his construction crew to expand the space, which led to us adding a bridal suite, second bar, and ceremony room. Since then, I’ve talked him into creating an outdoor space so we can offer mountain view ceremonies & tented receptions!

What’s something every couple should know before getting married?
Oh boy, about each other?? They should know everything! You have to talk about money, religion, politics, morals, dogs vs. cats, kids or no kids, adventure or couch potato life . . . I mean ev-uh-ree-thing!

Shalese Kocher Madison at the Mill Richmond wedding venue operator
NuGen Media

What’s your go-to spot to eat in RVA?
When I lived in Richmond, Robert & I went to Lunch/Supper all the time. I still have not found better chicken & waffles!!

What did you want to be when you were little? Astronaut? Firefighter? Wedding Planner?
I always wanted to be a writer. One of my earliest memories is sitting in some giant box my grandparents had with a fake phone pretending to take requests for stories. Then I would write them on a yellow legal pad with really, really bad illustrations.

What was your first job?
So this is weird, but I THINK my first job was in medical billing. My mom worked for a small, family-owned medical billing company, so during the summer, my sister & I helped with filing and data entry. I do not think I was of legal working age though, haha!

What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
Ugh, Belvita Breakfast Biscuits, which is basically having cookies for breakfast. But I woke up late, and I can eat them while I walk my dog! If I have time, I love making a full English, beans and all. I REALLY like pretending to be British, haha!

Shalese Kocher Madison at the Mill Richmond wedding venue operator
Justin Edmonds Photography

What do you like to do when you are away from work? Or where is your happy place?
Travel! I’m constantly watching Hopper for cheap flights!

What is your newest Netflix obsession? Or what is your favorite TV show?
Robert will tell you that I watch the same shows over & over, and he is 100% correct. Friends, The Office, Gossip Girl, Grey’s Anatomy, and Parks and Rec. They are my background noise, and I love them! But I’m also watching Stink, a Netflix documentary about the chemicals in our environment. It’s seriously scary!!

What’s the coolest thing you’re working on now?
Starting a new venue, basically! Promoting our outdoor space is like starting a brand new venue!

Nachos. What would you put on yours? 
Cheese. Because I am a very, very plain eater! I’m like the anti-foodie.

What’s your go-to dance move?
I’d have to show you!

Learn more about Shalese and the beautiful venue she runs over on their website!