Setting the Stage
By Karon Warren
1 Memphis Street photography by Katie Millican Photography and Jon Sharman, The Gin at Nesbit photography by Whit Photography, Graceland Chapel in the Woods courtesy of Graceland, Mallard’s Croft by Smash Photography and Cotton House
Finding a great wedding venue is one of the most important choices couples will make because the location determines the style and tone of a wedding.
Choosing the right location for your wedding goes a long way in setting the stage for the type of wedding you will have. A church wedding tends to be more formal and solemn while an outdoor wedding tends to be more relaxed in tone. The venue impacts many of the wedding decisions you will make, including what style of attire your wedding party and guests wear, the flowers you select and the type of ceremony you have.
Of course, size also plays a role in selecting a venue given you want to choose a space that accommodates all of your guests without anyone feeling crowded. At the same time, you don’t want to choose a large venue if you are having a small wedding, lest you feel dwarfed by such a large space.
And for most – if not all – brides, price remains a primary factor in choosing a wedding venue. This could be a significant portion of your overall wedding budget, so it will help determine which venues you can and cannot afford.
Thankfully, there is a lot of variety in wedding venues throughout northwest Mississippi and Memphis, so finding a location that suits your needs and budget is easier than ever. Take a closer look at these six popular wedding venues:
Bonne Terre Inn
Hosting weddings since the 1990s, Bonne Terre Inn in Nesbit is composed of a Southern Country Inn, a wedding chapel, and Ashley Hall (a Colonial Williamsburg-style reception and banquet facility). In addition, the 23 wooded acres offer many possibilities for outdoor weddings, and it’s appropriate that Bonne Terre means “good earth” in French. In fact, estate manager Nicki Sztapka says it is the property’s grounds that make Bonne Terre a unique wedding venue.
“Choose any spot for your outdoor wedding, with the chapel as a backup in the case of bad weather,” she says.
For indoor weddings, Bonne Terre Inn Event Resort can accommodate up to 250 seated guests; that number increases to 500 for outdoor weddings. Built in 1999, the chapel comfortably seats 200 guests and features lovely stained-glass windows. Bonne Terre hosts weddings year-round, including Sunday and Monday weddings. Not surprisingly, fall is a very popular time.
“Wedding season in the South is the fall,” Sztapka says.
However, for many brides, that means choosing a date around their chosen college football team’s schedule. And that, surprisingly, leads to some interesting wedding dates.
“In football season, some couples are getting married on weekdays,” Sztapka says.
At the moment, she says couples should book between six months and one year out in order to receive the date they want for their wedding. Of course, if a specific date is not important, availability is much more flexible.
“If you have a man and a dress, you can get married this afternoon,” Sztapka jokes.
When planning their wedding at Bonne Terre Inn Event Resort, brides also have the option of booking accommodations on site for the wedding party. The main inn contains 10 rooms, with three rooms at the small inn and two bedrooms set up in the barn. The inn is only 20 minutes from the Memphis airport.
Sztapka says many brides love having their family and wedding party all together for their wedding weekend.
Graceland’s Chapel in the Woods
Although Elvis Presley’s iconic home in Memphis has stood since 1939 and earned its place in pop culture history in 1957 when he purchased the home and made it his own, Graceland’s Chapel in the Woods has a more recent past. The original Chapel in the Woods was constructed 18 years ago and hosted more than 2,000 weddings, dedications and vow renewals – most by diehard Elvis fans.
In 2018, the newly designed Chapel in the Woods was unveiled, revealing a modern design and floor-to-ceiling windows that make the surrounding grounds a part of the decor. Seating up to 100 guests, the chapel also includes an intimate reception area. Naturally, the new facility kicked off its inaugural season with a wedding for two serious Elvis fans.
“The Chapel in the Woods was christened during Elvis Week 2018 with the wedding of a couple that actually met at Graceland in 2015 during Elvis Week,” says Christian Ross, PR and marketing specialist for Graceland. “We also hosted 10 vow renewals of couples whose love stories were sparked by Elvis.”
More recently, a couple who worked together on the upcoming Hallmark Movie “Wedding at Graceland” tied the knot in the chapel. Their first dance song? The Elvis hit “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
When it comes to booking a wedding at the Chapel in the Woods, it might be easier than you think.
“For couples looking to get married at Graceland, depending on availability, we can actually accommodate requests about a week in advance,” Ross says. “This gives us enough time to confirm a minister.”
Graceland’s Chapel in the Woods also is within walking distance to The Guest House Resort & Hotel, so couples, the wedding party and wedding guests can stay nearby for the big day.
1 Memphis Street
For 16 years, Piet Zee drove by the old 1930s cotton seed warehouse sitting on the square in Hernando and knew he wanted to buy it. In 2014, he and his wife, Gina, finally purchased the building.
“We bought it knowing we wanted to do something to give back to Hernando,” Gina says.
However, they also knew they weren’t prepared to do it alone, so they enlisted the help of Dale Wilson, who would become their business partner. “He was the one with the style and design,” Gina says. “Piet had vision for the space.”
In restoring the building, the trio incorporated reclaimed items, such as bricks from a former building in Memphis, 1902 windows from a retired industrial building in Cullman, Alabama, and vintage doorknobs on the ladies’ room doors.
The restoration caught the attention of area brides, who started reaching out to the Zees about events.
“Brides came before the doors were open,” Gina says. “We opened in 2015, and they just kept coming.”
1 Memphis Street can comfortably accommodate up to 200 guests with the ceremony set up in the same room as the reception. Depending on the setup, the space will hold between 140 and 165 for a seated reception with dance floor and up to 292 for a mingling reception. There’s also a patio out back and in the front.
For brides wanting a specific date, they should book a year out; less time is required for those with more flexibility. Fall remains the most popular season, but the venue also is booking a lot of Christmas weddings.
The Gin at Nesbit
Open in 2018, The Gin at Nesbit resides in a late 1800s cotton gin-turned-supper club. Previous to its reincarnation as a wedding venue, the building sat vacant for 15 years. When owners Stafford and Christy Houston purchased the property, it was not with the vision of making a wedding site.
“My husband bought the building to expand his iron business next door,” Christy says. “But it cost too much to do what he wanted to do. We tried to sell it for about eight months, but then decided it would be a good venue.”
It didn’t take long for the Houstons to realize they made a good decision.
“We had a really good response right from the start,” Christy says. “There was a need for a bigger venue in this area. Also, [brides] love the industrial look.”
That industrial look doesn’t come just from the building’s origins. Inside, there are reclaimed doors from a Memphis train station and bricks from Sledge, Mississippi. Outside, a newly enclosed courtyard space was just added to the facility.
With more than 13,000 square feet, the Gin at Nesbit hosts up to 350 people for a wedding, and dates are going fast.
“We’re hoping for two weddings a month,” Christy says. “September through November is fully booked. You should call now for dates.”
Cotton House, Cleveland
New to the wedding scene in northwest Mississippi is the Cotton House in Cleveland, which is opening its doors this month. This new property from the Marriott Tribute Portfolio brings together elements of the old and new South to celebrate the people, places and sentiment of the Delta.
The Cotton House also offers several options for wedding events. For instance, the Donelson Room accommodates up to 250 guests in 2,496-square-feet. The ballroom features industrial interiors that serve as a backdrop for weddings of every style. Directly adjacent to the Donelson Room, The Lawn provides an outdoor space for ceremonies and as overflow for indoor events.
For smaller, more intimate affairs, the 728-square-foot Bar Fontaine welcomes up to 50 guests in an atmosphere of industrial, metal-plated walls with contemporary furniture. There’s also a rooftop patio, where you can have wedding pictures taken during a Mississippi sunset.
Now is a great time to book as many dates remain available. However, to ensure you get the date you want, call as soon as you have chosen your date.
901-496-2840 or 901-494-2937
Owners Tom and Lucy Green originally purchased Mallard’s Croft for family who came to visit. At that time, the barn was just a pole barn, and not a pretty one, either.
“It was horrible-looking,” property manager Diana Younts says.
Younts was talking with Tom one day and mentioned that many brides today are getting married in barns. Tom told her he would build it out as a wedding venue if she booked a wedding. As it happened, Younts had a friend whose daughter was looking for a place to get married. And the rest, they say, is history.
Green had the property ready to go in just three months. That was in 2014; since then, the property has hosted more than 200 weddings. Today, the property includes the barn, a farmhouse and a duck preserve. Wait. A duck preserve? That’s right. In addition to weddings, the property also hosts duck hunts.
Back at the barn, though, the venue can accommodate 220 guests for a seated dinner event and between 250 and 300 for a buffet. Combining rustic with elegance, the barn features 1760 louvered windows found in Pennsylvania and church pews from Scotland. Along with the barn, the property also contains a cottage and 600 acres overflowing with locations for outdoor weddings, receptions and rehearsal dinners.
“It’s a very homey, casual and personal feeling here,” Younts says. “It’s very welcoming.”
For fall dates, brides need to book between a year and a year and a half in advance; those seeking spring dates can book between nine months and a year.
Younts has advice for all brides no matter which kind of venue they choose.
“Make sure your venue has a lot of character and personality to it,” recommends Younts. “Have a wedding that represents you and your fiancé. Don’t try to duplicate another wedding. Look for venues that give you opportunities to think outside the box.”