The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
|New Callaway wedding destination already popular|
Most brides choose the arches for their wedding ceremony at Wisteria Ridge, complete with a classic Franklin County background.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer
Taking advantage of Franklin County's natural beauty was at the core of Mary Wray's idea of creating a destination for special occasions, mainly weddings.
After several years of planning, searching and a lot of hard work, Wisteria Ridge Event & Conference Center between Callaway and Boones Mill recently opened for business.
Located on Algoma Road off Callaway Road, the "ridge" includes breathtaking views as well as a 4,000-square-foot white tent that can accommodate a large number of guests, a bridal suite, a groom's house, a barn and a wedding arch with a backdrop of a nearby pond and mountains.
"I had been toying with this idea for years," said Wray, who also owns The Artisan Center and Basket Creations and More in Rocky Mount. "I just had not found the right spot. I was looking for some acreage and view."
By chance, an artist friend of hers was selling a house with 28 acres of land in the northwestern part of the county and asked Wray if she knew anyone who may be interested.
Wray asked her friend to send photos of the house and land.
"When I saw the pictures I thought, well, maybe I should go and take a look at the property myself," she said.
When she did, she knew that "this is the spot."
The problem was, she said, convincing her husband, Jim, that it was not only the right spot but a good idea as well.
"He kept saying, 'this is going to be a lot of work, and a lot of money'," she said.
But he finally agreed and the property was purchased in June 2013.
"We began the work immediately," she said, which included plenty of landscaping.
Fortunately, the buildings that now house the bridal suite, groom's house and barn were already there and just needed renovation. Of course, renovation work is not an easy task. A workshop was transformed into a bridal suite and the groom's house was once used as a chicken coop.
The bridal suite is complete with large bathrooms and a changing room and lounge for the bride and her party. Part of the suite also includes a caterer's kitchen with a large door to make unloading easy.
Wray, who is from Texas, decorated the groom's house with a cowboy theme.
The barn, which once housed horses, is now a popular place to visit and was even used for the rehearsal dinner at one of the weddings there.
Ironically, as part of the landscaping, a tree located near the front of the property and the only one that sported wisteria was cut down, to her surprise.
"I love wisteria anyway," she said, "so we had to buy more wisteria to plant."
The other big project was pouring a 4,000-square-foot slab of concrete that would be home to the huge tent. An unusually cold spring this year did not make that or other work easy.
"It was stressful," she said. "We had already booked a wedding in early May and were literally working up to the day of first wedding."
The hard work paid off, and the weather cooperated.
"It was a beautiful day," she said, adding that the wedding went off without a problem.
All of this is located on the gradually sloping ridge, so guests have plenty of room to park and walk around and enjoy the views.
"Photos are so important," she said, and most brides choose the arch with the pond and mountains in the background for the wedding ceremony.
The tent itself is complete with tables, chairs and all of the amenities a wedding party needs, Wray said.
"Wedding parties really don't have to do anything but decorate the way they want," she said, adding that everything else, from attendants to ice to cleaning up afterwards, is included in the package. "We set up everything for them. Everything needed is here."
Wray also works with local businesses that may be involved in a service needed at a wedding.
"They (the wedding party) can use anyone they want, but I do encourage working with Franklin County businesses," she said. She also has brochures highlighting local businesses that she gives to those who inquire.
Word has already gotten out about Wisteria Ridge, she said, and 14 weddings have already been booked for this year and four for next year.
Wray said wedding parties have come from Washington, D.C., Richmond, North Carolina and Franklin County.
"Even when they have to travel to get here, they still come out ahead," she said, referring to the cost involved and how expensive it is to rent places for weddings and receptions in metropolitan areas.
"People (wedding parties) have responded very, very positively," she said. "Of course, they love the views."
Wray said she is booking only one wedding per weekend and will take down the tent when cold weather approaches.
But Wisteria Ridge is not just for weddings, she said, and can be used for any type of reception, party or even a family reunion.
The public and especially recently engaged couples are invited to attend the Wisteria Ridge Open House on Wednesday, June 25 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Wray said.
"We invite you to come and enjoy music, cocktails and hors d'oeuvres and meet and greet wedding professionals," she added.
Wisteria Ridge is located at 765 Algoma Road, Callaway. Call 540-483-8368 or visit the website, wisteriaridge.com., or the Wisteria Ridge Facebook page.