When Don and Talene Howe were planning their marriage last fall, the timing coincided with the Thanksgiving holiday, so the couple decided to embrace the season of family gatherings.
"This was a second marriage for both of us. We wanted it to be more of a family celebration, a Thanksgiving dinner, than observing all the wedding traditions," says Talene. "We invited our friends coming to the wedding to bring their families since we knew people would have family in for Thanksgiving. We needed a big space."
Trying to match a bride-to-be's wedding vision with venue size or budget is an increasingly tricky prospect as more couples choose dinner-dances for their receptions. Although 80 percent of couples still exchange vows in a church, only 30 percent now hold their receptions there, according to theknot.com and other bridal industry websites.
More area wedding barns
› Fillauer Lake House: Fillauer Lake Road, Cleveland, TN 423-618-2398
› Hidden Hollow Resort: 463 Hidden Hollow Lane, Chickamauga, Ga. 706-539-2372
› Laurelwood: Signal Mountain, Tenn. 423-596-4866
› Queen's Chestnut Grove Farm: 1232 Nellie Head Road, Tunnel Hill, Ga. 423-902-8770
› The Show Barn: Mountain Cove Farms, 994 Dougherty Gap Road, Chickamauga, Ga. 706-539-COVE
With the average cost of a wedding edging toward $30,000, couples are opting for casual party atmospheres, according to theknot. Since most churches do not allow dancing within their halls, the ceremony might take place in one location, the reception in another.
Mal Long, wedding consultant for Patten Chapel on the campus of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, has seen an upswing in bookings thanks to this trend. Long had 15 phone messages waiting on her when she arrived for work on Monday, Aug. 10 — and she says that's lower than the norm. Sometimes she will have as many as 24 calls in one day from brides-to-be interested in booking the Gothic-designed chapel.
"Every Saturday of 2016 is already booked except for two Saturdays in August. I already have my first bookings for 2017," she says.
And it's not just brides looking for venues. So far this year, 90 fundraisers have already been held in this area, with at least 50 more expected by Christmas, according to the Times Free Press' community calendars.
The Howes solved their venue needs by creating their own. His family's rural property near Georgetown, Tenn., had a rustic barn, which Talene says was Don's "guy retreat" to house his collection of military vehicles and old sports cars. They relocated the cars, renovated the barn and held their ceremony there.
When her daughter married three months ago, another wave of renovations took place on the property and the second ceremony was also held there. The Howes were so pleased with both events, they opened their property to engaged couples to share the love. They are one of several regional farms jumping on the barn-wedding wagon.
Kris Cobb of Sale Creek was a successful caterer who was struck one day by the number of weddings she was catering in barns.
"I finally asked some people what it cost (for the wedding) and was shocked," she recalls. "I knew I could do better at a less-expensive price."
The idea for the Barn at Drewia Hill was born. The property is owned by her family, a peach tree orchard once known as Crawley's Peaches.
"My great-grandfather's name was Drewia Albert Crawley and that's where the venue name came from. He farmed this land all his life. I couldn't see calling it anything else," says Cobb.
Sitting down with Nancy Sellers, who runs Fillauer Lake House and Barn in Cleveland, Tenn., Cobb listened to her suggestions then built a new barn on the farmland — an investment of about $30,000.
The Howe and Drewia barns are two of several new event venues in the area that range from rustic to urban industrial in design. Following are five of the newest additions to Chattanooga's party scene.
2 On the Roof
2 Northshore, 313 Manufacturer's Road
' Opened: January 2015
' Owners: Chuck and Cathy Pruett; Emily Eischied, event coordinator
' Square feet: 4,700; flexible space can be configured to suit size of crowd.
' Capacity: 300 people
' Type of space: A large room with adjoining patio located atop Root Kitchen and Wine Bar in the 2 Northshore complex, 2 On the Roof offers views of the Tennessee Aquarium and Lookout and Signal mountains. The room has a sleek, urban vibe with polished concrete floors, open industrial-style ceiling and white pendant lights. It is accessed by two staircases or an elevator.
' Amenities: Tables and chairs provided, full catering kitchen, three flatscreen TVs, three portable wooden bars, full audio Bluetooth system. Renter may use any off-site caterer of choice.
' Rental fees: $500 weekdays, $2,000 Fridays-Saturdays. Client has the space from 9 a.m. the day of the event to 1 a.m. the following day; days are not double-booked.
' Why it's unique: "It is so Chattanooga. It's a very versatile space, and you have a different view of downtown from every angle." — Emily Eischeid
Barn at Drewia Hill
16703 Andy Thomas Road, Sale Creek, Tenn.
' Opened: May 2013
' Owner: Kris Cobb
' Square feet: 2,800; barn is on 20 acres offering several indoor-outdoor options for ceremony/reception.
' Capacity: 240
' Type of space: New barn built of rough-cut pine with a limestone floor. Sets of double barn doors on each end of the space roll open on tracks to allow free flow of air and view of evening sunsets. Property also includes cedar-post arbor and new 40-by-16-foot covered space.
' Amenities: Barn includes two interior rooms, full standard kitchen, bride's room with one of the two restrooms attached to it; clients may bring own caterers and choose own vendors.
' Rental fees: Starts at $1,800 for up to 100 people and progresses to $2,300; includes tables, chairs, linens for up to 150 guests. Client must rent additional chairs, tables and linens if expecting more.
' Why it's unique: "The wide-open spaces. There are rolling fields all around us, no shortage of beautiful scenery. I love our beautiful sunsets — you can roll the barn doors open so guests can enjoy the sunsets during the reception." — Kris Cobb
Howe Farms Wedding Venue
7600 Runyan Road, Georgetown, Tenn.
' Opened: Thanksgiving 2014
' Owners: Don and Talene Howe
' Square feet: 6,900 on main floor, does not include mezzanine level
' Capacity: 500
' Type of space: A half-hour drive from Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, this renovated barn has a large main floor and a finished "mezzanine level" surrounding three sides of the barn's upper level. The two seating levels are connected by a double grand staircase, which offers brides an alternative from a center aisle for making her entrance into the ceremony. The Howes recently added "Ceremony Hill" on the property's highest elevation, which looks out over a seven-acre lake.
Amenities: The barn includes private rooms for bride and groom; the groom's room includes massage chair and flatscreen TV. Barn has climate-controlled heat and air, catering kitchen equipped with commercial-grade ice machine and walk-in cooler, fireplace room with flatscreen TV that opens onto a covered porch and patio.
' Rental fees: $4,000 Mondays-Thursdays 9 a.m. to midnight; $6,000 Saturday-Sundays, 9 a.m. to midnight, closed Sundays; $350 cleaning fee. Rental fee includes tables and chairs. Currently a weekend special of $4,000 is offered for a limited time.
' Why it's unique: "Our space is large, but also structured where you can have a small group of 20 up to a party of 500 and still feel that homey, relaxed feeling. We have 123 acres, so it's a great place for pictures. Outdoor and indoor spaces take the stress out of worrying about the weather because it's easy to bring the ceremony or reception inside." — Talene Howe
400 E. Main St.
' Opened: May 2015
' Owners: Amanda Halligan and Chelsea McInturff
' Square feet: 4,300
' Capacity: 200 seated, 330 standing
' Type of space: Located in a former 1950s chenille factory in Chattanooga's booming Southside, Granfalloon retains that industrial vibe. It is a cafe/coffee shop by day, bar and event venue by night. Halligan says the name was derived from Kurt Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle"; in the book, Vonnegut uses the term for a group of strangers meeting by chance and Halligan says that's what she and McInturff want their venue to facilitate.
' Amenities: Tables and chairs provided, full PA and audio systems that are compatible for a band of up to 12 members, full bar and full coffee bar with espresso offerings.
' Rental fees: Four-hour rentals are $500 Mondays-Thursdays; $1,400 Fridays, $1,800 Saturdays, $1,200 Sundays.
' Why it's unique: "I think our accommodations show how we want to position ourselves in the community. We want to be a place people come to meet. We want to make it feasible for people to use our space; we work with their budgets. We have an industrial-comfort type of layout and we want people to meet here and experience that." — Amanda Halligan
306 W. Main St.
' Opened: October 2014; began marketing as an event venue January 2015
' Owner: Michele Peterson; Mary-Martha McDaniel is operations manager
' Square feet: 3,000
' Capacity: 200 mingling, 150 for wedding ceremony/reception
' Type of space: Urban Lawn is an indoor-outdoor venue in the heart of the Southside. Plump cushions in iron-framed easy chairs invite guests outside to join one of the cozy conversation areas in the middle of the West Main Street block.
' Amenities: Lawn chairs, umbrellas, bistro lighting, outdoor heaters, grill area, lawn games and outdoor music system, indoor dining area.
' Rental fees: $950 Fridays-Saturdays plus $500 refundable damage deposit, $650 Sunday-Thursday evenings with $500 refundable deposit, $550 8 a.m.-2 p.m. daily plus $500 refundable deposit. All fees include an on-site facilities manager at event.
' Why it's unique: "Urban Lawn is unique because of the affordable prices and limited restrictions when it comes to vendors. We want all of our guests to feel like they are in their own backyard located in the middle of the city. Our space is versatile in that it can be very laid back or dressed out for a formal affair. The Lawn is within walking distance of many hotels, restaurants and downtown attractions so logistics are of less concern for partygoers." — Mary-Martha McDaniel
Contact Susan Pierce at email@example.com or 423-757-6284.