HPF – How Did We Get Here – Part II
As you read in Part I, we had simple beginnings and a simple plan on our wedding business approach. Remember, initially, we were hoping that we could find “several” brides to book weddings here but never imagined that it would turn into a full time business.
In early 2011, we had four generations living here on the farm. My mother, Willene Reynolds (everyone called her Mimi) lived in her brick house still enjoying a busy retirement with lots of involvement in her church and with a local widow’s ministry plus weekly meetings with her china painting friends, and she was also very involved with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She was aged, somewhat decrepit but still managed to be active, work in her flower beds, and be the hospitality queen of the farm. Her love of flowers has influenced both me and Jill. Her love of life, God, and relationships have influenced all who knew her.
Jill and her family were living in the old farmhouse. Much progress had been made with those renovations but it was slow-going as she had a busy life with two young boys, a husband working long hours, and helping out on the farm. Anybody who has a farmhouse knows that the work is never done but as money was saved and time allotted, another farmhouse project would begin.
My husband and I were also living on the farm back under a grove of oak trees in one corner of the farm. We were living as empty nesters at that time with another daughter living in town and a son who was newly engaged. My husband, David, was a truckdriver working 50-60 hours a week so life was always busy keeping up the farm (with all that entails) too. I had a part-time church secretary job, raised an exotic breed of cats, and enjoyed tending all of my goats, cows, dogs, chickens, pigs, cats, and horses on the farm. With 4 generations living on the farm, it was always a fun yet often complicated dance that I wouldn’t have traded for nothing. Being able to help keep my mom in her own house in her aged years and enjoying life on the farm with Jill and her family has been a source of great joy.
All of that to state that our schedules were hectic, our pocketbooks were somewhat empty, our riches were in those things that are not monetary yet are counted as blessings, but we had an idea that both me and Jill wanted to try. A simple idea with meager expectations; to pay our property taxes, to garner enough money to help maintain the farm, and maybe to have some extras for some farm improvements….that’s it! So, we began. Part I described some of what all was on our “to do list” before we could begin.
Projects were always typically done ourselves. Despite our very long “to-do-list” our budget was shoestring for sure. My poor husband, David, who worked long shifts each day would tackle all of these construction type projects for us on his weekends or even take his vacation days to work on them.
We all pitched in and helped with whatever we could. Little Tucker (Jill’s oldest son) was our Project Manager sometimes.
We not only used our existing barn wood very carefully with any addition or project but we would scavenge the valley for old barn wood boards that we could rescue. My how times have changed. Back then, you could often have those old barn wood boards just for the offer of removing them from an existing barn that was slated for improvements, but now they are almost too priceless to afford. Our goal was to make any addition look as though it was original.
Honestly, our initial goal was still a minimal approach. The more primitive the barn looked – the better (at that time). A real barn with real hay and a very authentic feel was the criteria of those early barn wedding events. That said, those simple aspects were still a challenge to accomplish. We not only mucked and cleaned out the barn but we power-washed everything multiple times. In creating the restrooms, you deal with all sorts of plumbing needs as well. Our barn had always had power, but you have to think about so much extra power for string lights, restroom lights, caterer and buffet room lights, DJs, crockpots and coffee makers, fans, etc. Knowing that we had done this once before with Jill’s wedding, helped us tremendously. Showtime was here and it was now time for our very first wedding.
Janelle was our very first bride. I remember getting a call from her only a couple of weeks after we had our website “live” on the internet. We had a very simple website at first – one of those you can do yourself with minimal effort. We had a disadvantage in that we didn’t have pictures of previous weddings since we had just begun. Fortunately, we had a slew of pictures from Jill’s wedding to show to potential brides that this is what “it will” look like. I say this with humor because at the time our website was up, our barn was still full of animals, manure, and muddy paddocks.
This was one of the pictures of Jill and John that Janelle had seen on our website. She loved it and wanted to make sure she could take something like this too! In fact, part of Janelle’s excitement in securing us for her wedding was that she had just found out that her previous venue had quietly gone out of business and not notified any of their brides. She was late finding out and trying to move forward with a May 1st wedding. She was so tickled that we had availability and she loved all of the photos from Jill’s wedding.
Brian and Janelle made their own beautiful haybale photos.
A couple of days before Janelle’s wedding is when the North Georgia and Chattanooga area got slammed with tornados. In fact, tornados touched down and destroyed many houses in the Flintstone area. Janelle had her the TV reports of all of the damage in “Flintstone” and poor girl, she was sure that fate had thrown her a nasty blow once again. I think it was actually Janelle’s sister that called us – so sure that we were ravaged by damage, to inquire if someway somehow Janelle’s wedding could go ahead as scheduled. Fortunately, though the grounds were covered with limbs and leaves, we had no serious damage! Two days later – the day was sunny and warm, the grass was green, the curtains were blowing in the wind, and I remember Janelle telling us that the farm was so much more beautiful than she ever could have imagined. It was music to my ears!
The inside of the barn was much simpler, indeed, but it fit the bill at the time. Our touches of decor (don’t ya just love the weather vane), the cast iron tub was perfect for chilling wine, the barn provided that very rustic look, and guest were tickled to be at a wedding that was “outside the box.” Our tree tunnel photos began from that very first wedding and though she didn’t take a goat-photo, she did take a cute pony photo with Peanut Butter. Janelle and Brian made their own memories here at the farm. Brian was a fireman so, of course, they needed a photo with the firetruck. It was a memorable wedding that was the perfect one to start our new business.
Part 3 blog will continue with our first year and its impact. To have begun our business technically in early January, we were still able to book twelve weddings our first year. It felt like a horse jumping out of the gates at a race track, but we were surprised yet committed and anxious to see how the year would play out.