It’s been a good long while since my last vendor spotlight, you guys! Last Fall’s wedding season was just so C-R-A-Z-Y, I had to take a break from finishing this series while I kept up (okay, barely kept up) with client projects and weddings. But I’m happy to kick it off again with the adorable historic cottage out at Rockford Grange in Washburn Missouri. I took the opportunity last summer to become a Missouri wedding photographer for a day while I explored Rockford Grange and just adore this little cottage on their vast and property – rolling hills, a river, several ponds, and OH! I forgot to mention they’re a working elk ranch, so there are many many furry critters in the fields too – yayyy!
Here are a few of my favorites of the cottage and my absolute favorite parts of Rockford Grange, and some words from the lovely owner Samantha! Read and scroll, read and scroll. 🙂 Enjoy!
What is the name and location of your venue?
Rockford Grange at Bear Hollow Ranch located on the border of Arkansas and Missouri in Washburn, MO.
What is your name and your role at your venue?
Samantha and Rowdy – owners/managers
When was your venue built?
Our venue has had many lives. The original rock cottage was built by an herbal medicine doctor and he named his farm Rockford Grange. The main portion of the venue was built in the 1970s for Judo Olympic training.
Was it always an event space? If not, what was it?
In the early 1900s a portion of the land was owned and used by an herbal medicine doctor for his retirement and farm. The property has also been a Dude Ranch, and Olympic training facility for Judo, and a Holistic Life Center.
If it wasn’t always an event space, why did you choose to turn it into one?
Due to the size of the space and the beautiful location it sat on, we felt like it was the perfect setting for a wedding venue.
When did the property hold it’s first wedding?
October 2014. Our own wedding.
Are there any interesting stories about the history of your venue?
As mentioned before the original property owner was an herbal medicine doctor named Omar Palmer. He built the rock cottage and named his farm Rockford Grange. The home was his place of retirement but he also saw patients there that would ride on horse and buggy from all across the county to see him. In the 1950s the property became a camp and a dude ranch. In the 1970s the man who brought Volkswagen into the United States developed the property further by building several structures including our main campus and the ten cabins for his son so that he could train in Judo for the Olympics.
The the thing that really sets us apart is that we are not only a wedding venue. We are also a working ranch that raises exotic livestock like Bison and Elk which can be seen from the venue in the distance. It makes for pretty awesome photos!
What is the thing you most commonly hear brides and grooms love about your venue?
The privacy, the uniqueness, the history, and all of the space! If they wish to do so they could make a whole weekend out of their event. We have overnight accommodations and plenty of things for guests to do during their stay; that includes hiking, fishing, kayaking, etc.
What is your favorite thing about hosting weddings?
It’s such a joy to be apart of what some would say to be the most important day of their life. Seeing two families join as one and the happiness and love that surrounds such an event really makes the job enjoyable (THE BEST).
What is your favorite thing about your venue?
I would say the uniqueness and serene quality that our venue offers. We aren’t just another barn, we are an actual live working ranch with exotic animals. Our venue has significant history and some of the most beautiful scenery in the area.
What is your best advice for brides and grooms booking with you?
I always tell people not to stress about small details. If a Pinterest idea didn’t come to fruition, none of their guests knew about it anyways. A good timeline or someone outside of the family to help guide the day is also very helpful.
Do you have any plans for growth/updates to the venue?
We are currently in the process of remodeling the cabins on the property for overnight guests. Just this year we finished the remodeling of the Rock Cottage and our Entrance House so we have lots of space for guests that want to stay for the weekend.
Do you ever host other events?
Yes, we do! We currently host men’s church retreats and corporate events/meetings. However, we are open to having any kind of event!
How many weddings do you host per year?
30-35 but we are seeing that Thursday, Friday, and Sunday weddings are becoming very popular. We are expecting a larger number in 2018 and we’re super excited about our future brides and grooms!
Any lessons you had to learn the hard way?
We are both “yes” people so learning to stand firm on some things has been hard. For instance glitter and fake rose petals! Luckily we’ve had some really great customers so nothing too crazy to complain about!
Were there surprises you didn’t account for that you wish you had?
Definitely the time and effort it takes to make every wedding the best that it can be. We do not offer any services other than the space itself but when it comes down to it we want the day to go very smoothly so we pretty much do whatever it takes to make that happen. Meaning very long days. 🙂
Any memorable weddings or moments that affirmed why you opened your venue?
Almost every wedding that we’ve had has been memorable to us. When it’s time to close everything down and the bride and groom are at their send off and we see how happy they are, that really makes us feel good. We’ve gotten notes and “thank-you’s’ from time to time that also make us feel like we’re doing a great job and making a positive impact on their special day. I can think of one wedding in particular where I over-heard guests say “wow, that was the best wedding I’ve ever been to” and that really warmed my heart.
If you were able to have a “perfect” wedding at your venue, what would it look and/or be like?
I don’t really want our brides and grooms to strive for perfection because I don’t really think that’s attainable. What’s most important is that they’re happy and that their family and friends are having a great time!
I personally love when we have weddings that include a lot of personal and meaningful touches. Whether that be in their decor, vows, or anything else. It just really makes their wedding stand out and I think it’s important for people to make their day about them and who they are as a couple.
What’s the best way to contact the venue for more information or for booking?
Visit our website or call us at 479-422-1444
Rockford Grange Cottage – Missouri Wedding Photographer
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