We are often asked how we even began wanting to do something like this. Who just decides they’re going to build a wedding venue from nothing? Crazy people, that’s who.
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact beginnings. But when you add an entrepreneurial mindset, with a personally-owned construction company, with a passion for people and a desire to use our talents to serve others, and then finally the missing piece…the piece of property, it makes sense how it all came together. But even we didn’t believe that it would really ever happen. I think we’re just like everyone else, and through the years we often had conversations that began with “someday we should…” “it would be fun to…” , “man, I wish we could...”. It’s that dream talk that sometimes never becomes audible words, and if they do, you only dare speak it to but a few souls on earth.
And then we decided just speaking them wasn’t enough. We felt strongly that this excitement and passion inside us wasn’t just random. It was connected to our purpose. It’s no secret that our faith is priority in our life and business. So it’s impossible to tell the story of how this all began without including the One who led our every step and after years of casual chat, laid this new journey on our hearts intensely. If it’s hard for you to believe in something you can’t see, and you don’t like reading about others’ faith journeys, we aren’t offended one bit if you click the back button and exit out of this first blog post and come back later when it’s all pretty wedding stuff. But a fair warning…this stuff is better than the wedding stuff.
The Summer of 2017 the thoughts became consuming. We had only shared our idea with one other person, and that person just happened to place a book in our hands that we trust God was using to nudge us. (The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson) After the many nudges that we needed, research, prayer and a whole lot of faith, we concluded that the only way to truly know if God was leading us to build a big white barn was to take steps, trusting Him to guide them. Here’s an excerpt from the book that I posted on our social media on January 8, 2018:
“A dream is simultaneously the best feeling and worst feeling in the world. It’s exhilarating because it’s beyond your ability; it’s frightening for the exact same reason…if you’ve never had a God-sized dream that scared you half to death, then you haven’t really come to life. If you’ve never been overwhelmed by the impossibility of your plans, then your God is too small. If your vision isn’t perplexingly impossible, then you need to expand the radiuses of your prayer circles". “ - Mark Batterson
Deciding to build a commercial building on non-commercial property isn’t just something you can just go out and start. While we had a builder in our back pocket, we definitely had to do this right. There are barn venues all across the country that get shut down weeks and even days before weddings, leaving couples scrambling and devastated. The right process includes letters from the county sent out to neighbors, research, a business plan, and presentations to the local zoning and commission boards, and fears of contest by opposers. We’ve read horror stories online of other venues trying to open in which community members, community government and neighbors have made it impossible. We are grateful to our local government and especially our neighbors who have showed support for us from the start. Not everyone is as fortunate. All of this was further confirmation that God was already ahead of each step we took.
We’ll skip past all the presentations and days spent waiting for approval. And skip you straight to January 2, 2018. We had been approved by our local zoning board and now were facing the County Commission for final approval. We walked into the Harvey County Courthouse with nerves like we’ve never felt before, and we walked out approved. The Barn at Grace Hill was happening.
Even though we hadn’t officially been approved we had been busy behind the scenes getting our logo, website and rendered image ready to go. 6 days after approval, our rendered images landed in our email inbox and it was the first real glimpse of what had only been in our heads and a quick sketch on paper. Seeing this rendered image for the first time was surreal. We were confident that this image would be the sole driving force of our marketing for the first many months.
Before we knew it, our local newspaper had announced our coming, and we launched our social media accounts only to find the inquiries for a building not even in existence, flooding our inbox. We possibly solidified our label of “crazy” when we confirmed we’d be opening in September. From that point on the question of the year became “Are you going to be done in time?”
One of our favorite details of this story is that we gave 2-3 months of tours in our home, sitting at our dining room table. There was no building and nothing to envision except for what engaged couples could see from our rendered images and a floor plan. We added an interior rendering soon after, to help everyone get more of a feel for the inside. Our first handful of bookings happened with no white barn in sight. Talk about pressure. We now were responsible for a building that people were planning their entire wedding day around. These couples will always hold a special place in our hearts.
When the weather warmed up a bit, and the building was framed, we finally gave our first REAL tour on March 8. It’s reasonable to state that it takes a certain boldness and element of adventure to book a wedding venue not built yet, but Abigail and Darrin acted as calm and cool as could be. They posed on the loft in hopes to recreate the same pic on their wedding day but between their rockin’ party and the full dinosaur costume, the re-enactment never happened. But it’s still a sweet one of the first couple to walk through the space.
The scariest thing about construction is the unknowns. Weather being the biggest factor, but other countless issues also. We’d love to say we skated through these days full of confidence and no worries, but we’d be lying. Anxiety was high. And the countless “Are you going to be done in time?” questions continued. There were days we doubted the entire thing. We never had any major setbacks, but we had countless small and medium ones that took their toll on us over time. A 7 month timeline for a building like this is gonna do that. It’s in those moments of desperation and helplessness that God revealed to us even more that He was in this with us. And if we were going to make it, we were certain by now it would be only because of Him.
We decided a “soft opening” would be beneficial. Not only to give ourselves an earlier date to be done by, but also to get people in the building before our first official wedding. Labor Day weekend 2018 was one for the books. We brought in a vendor team for our first styled shoot, and that night our bride and groom models got to use the space for their reception after having already had a destination wedding earlier in the summer. 2 days later we had another friend of the family use the space for their post-destination wedding reception also.
We were officially done. With 20 days to spare. We could credit the weather for being cooperative. We could credit our amazing contractor for his tireless work. Or we could credit ourselves. But we choose none of the above. While it doesn’t look like a miracle from the outside, those of us who lived through it can’t call it anything but.
”If you want to see crazy miracles, obey the crazy promptings of the Holy Spirit. Grab your pole, head to the lake, row the boat, cast the line, set the hook and reel it in. As you obey the promptings by casting your line, you never know what kind of miracle you’ll catch on the other side. Go fish.” - Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker
We heard later on that the quiet buzz around us was “they’ll never get done in time.” And all those kind people, whoever they were, would have been absolutely right had it been just us. But we were never alone and we were never in charge.
Call us crazy.