“Echo Valley Farm offers up a rural poem as a setting for your event. Whether it is a wedding, celebration or corporate gathering, we revel in making yours distinct.”
“Our barn provides an authentic rustic setting with plenty of space. It also serves as an ideal backdrop for outdoor celebrations. The roomy upstairs quarters provide a private place for the host and/or wedding parties to enjoy and get ready.” A quote from the Echo Valley Farm Website.
Echo Valley Farm, Wedding Venue Stories: Stacy Hobbs, owner of Echo Valley Farm takes us on a little journey to share what its like to manage a wedding venue in Culleoka Tennessee, South of Nashville. The photo above features the Hobbs family celebrating a wedding at Echo Valley Farm. This is the story of a family business, on a family farm that hosts weddings so special that even their own family chooses Echo Valley Farm.
On the website Sonny & Stacy Hobbs are listed as “proprietors & farm hands”. I love this! For all you entrepreneurs considering starting a wedding venue because of all those romantic notions you have about what your life will be like…..FARM HANDS!!! This is what it’s really like to run a wedding venue, you have all the responsibility of an owner and you must be willing and able to put in an insane amount of work. It is not glamourous but can be oh so fulfilling. Whether your venue is in the city or the country, if you can’t handle hard labor and understand complex business operations, a wedding venue may not be right for you. But this story is about the Hobbs Family, so let’s get to it!
THE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS:
Why did you decide to start a wedding venue? “We decided to have weddings on our farm when my daughter wanted to get married there. I had been coordinated wedding for a few years. We are officially going into our 2nd year operating a venue. “
Please share the story behind your venue name or how you came up with the name. ‘The name Echo Valley came from my late father in law. This is a 3rd generation cattle and hay farm. The barn was built by my father in law to be a horse barn with living quarters in the top. His dream was to have a horse arena out in front. The reason it is so flat there. Perfect place for weddings. My father in law lost his battle with cancer 10 years ago. So, my husband and I decided to move to the farm and build our forever home. So, many stories are here on this land, from my husbands grandfather to now our story. We wanted to let this peaceful area be the start of other people’s stories!”
What do you like best about being a venue owner/mgr? “What I like best about being a venue owner, is when I see it all come together with each couples individual personalities come through in their decor. The smiles, the laughter and watching their story begin!”
Can you share some of the costs and expenses that most are not aware of when it comes to running a wedding venue? “We were fortunate enough to not have had to start from the ground up. When we decided to start a venue. Getting permission from the county was difficult at first, permits and surveys were things I had never dealt with. We had had to invest in adding wood to the metal walls, building a kitchen, bathrooms, bar and decor rooms in some of the stalls, leaving the others as storage areas for tables and chairs. We are currently not heated and cooled downstairs , but do have heating and cooling in the restrooms, kitchen and bar areas. We do provide stand up heaters for cooler nights. We remodeled the upstairs living quarters to allow overnight accommodations. We will eventually heat and cool the entire downstairs area. So many little things on cost to start have added up quickly! Landscaping, has been a large expense, ground maintenance, chairs and tables, decor. (Ever changing)liability insurance, business ads, etc… just when you think you have enough staff members, you need more. Providing parking areas, now how do the guests get to the wedding site from the parking area? Valet services, expenses go on and on. “
“What I am learning at each event we have, is that paying staff is oh so worth it! Takes a lot off of me. I am learning that having preferred vendors is a great idea! I get better pricing with them and their word of mouth is the best! I am not tech savvy by any means. I highly recommend having a website that is ever changing, updates are a must. That was a great investment! I also, recently added having a company constant adjusting our online presence to be able to be found on the internet. Such as when people such venues in their area by voice command. Our venue expenses are pretty basic, when not in use electricity is minimal. Everything is shut down that does not need to be running. My husband has been a business owner for many years, so I am fortunate in that area to have him to ask questions. He keeps me in check. Lol. It is so easy to always want to add the next craze, I’m learning to not do that. With my experience in being a certified wedding planner and coordinator with floral design, I have and still get to tour other venues and talk with the owners that have been around for a along time on what works for you them. What they do and don’t do! I feel that’s a must. Get to know them, they have great tips! “
Do you have any tips on saving time & money on day to day operations? We do pay people to mow and do basic lawn care maintenance. That saves so much time. I do my own landscaping, only because I enjoy it so much. I will be turning that over in the next season. I just need to let go of the reigns a bit. Enjoy what I’m doing and not always working. Having staff to do things such as set up and clean up is so worth the investment. Otherwise, you will get burnt out so fast if you are trying to save money on those areas. You just get exhausted and have no time to enjoy why you started this in the first place.
Does your venue have special regulations or hours for your event rental parties? “We are constantly changing our rules and regulations, we learn something new at almost every event. We do have to enforce that children have constant supervision, this is a farm and has a lot of water areas. We are willing to hire childcare staff to take care of this at a cost to the couple, so they don’t have to ask family and friends. I recommend having an area foe children to hang out at if you have the space. Kids get bored so fast. But if they have a designated kid/teen area to sit around and talk play games etc.. things run smoother in that area. Also, hiring valet staff is a definite plus for us and the guests. That cost is also passed on to the couple if they choose that service. It’s a long walk from the parking area. We do have a handicap parking area as well that is very close. “
“Because we are still new and very selective on who we allow to have an event on our property, we only currently host wedding in the late spring, early summer and early fall. So about 7 months out of the year. We also, offer the entire weekend, with overnight accommodations. We currently book 2 to 4 weddings a month. I still do weddings outside of our venue as well. We enjoy keeping it at a smaller scale, so we still have time with family. “
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Do you do your own advertising & marketing? If so please share any tips on best practices that help you get your business in front of more potential clients, get more leads, etc… “Our main source for lead generation is Facebook wedding sites and working with other venues, what we don’t offer verses what they do and vice versa. Getting to know your competition is always great! “
What do you think your couples love most about your venue? “What sets us apart from venues around us, is not only our view, we offer the overnights, all inclusive weddings, and provide planning and coordination services in house. What is unique about us verses surrounding areas is the wildlife that can be ever present and the history of our community and farm. “
“We will be offering open houses and wedding shows in the next season. COVID stopped that this year.”
Tips on providing great venue tours for potential clients? What materials do you provide on tours? “For venue tours, what I have learned and am still learning, is to listen to the clients, their needs and wants. Be open and honest about whether you and your venue would be a good fit. Discuss what you allow and don’t allow up front. No one like surprises. Always, do a follow up within 48 hours. I send a questionnaire through HoneyBook to find out why they chose us or what made them choose somewhere else. It helps with knowing what I need to work on. I always, give them a Brochure for wedding event insurance, they are going to need that wherever they go. I don’t give anything else at that time. I do send a private message within 30 mins of them leaving, to let them know, I enjoyed getting to know them and congratulations on their engagement. “
“I know this may sound crazy, but every couple that has booked with us, has said it’s because I’m so organized. My decor room is always neat and I am able to answer all of their questions. It is so important to not be scattered and to know exactly where everything that you provide is. “
Can you share any costly regrets you may have learned from along the way? “For us, we are considered agritourism. In the beginning we spent unnecessary money for inspections and such that were not required with agritourism. Make sure you know what you are classified as before you spend money. “
Can you share some tips or advice on wedding contract development? ” As for the contract, always be updating it, things change so much. I have the clients initial every paragraph, to cover the “ I didn’t know that wasn’t allowed” comments. I go over every paragraph with them in person, then again before the event. They initial a walk through agreement, that states they have read and understand what is expected from them beforehand and that they understand the contract.”
Any hard challenges you would like to share with venue owners and how you overcame that challenge? (permits, legal issues, neighbors, vendors, bridezilla/momzilla, bad reviews)? “I do not deal with moms if I do not have too. I let the clients know, that I am there for them and anything they need. I prefer not dealing with anyone else unless absolutely necessary. I need to know what the couple wants, not their parents. I do however make sure that parents have private time with the clients before the wedding takes place. That’s always a plus for us! Anything else , was discussed above. As for the neighbors, if there are any issues with the area at the time, I do point it out up front with the client, ie. Dogs present, could bark etc.. we cannot control the neighbors lol. “
In your experience are their client requests that you try to avoid or outright ban at your venue? “We recently had a couple say they were going to have a mechanical bull at their reception, keep in mind, I was being told, not asked. The mother had just ask “ why we require wedding event insurance” I turned and looked at her, I said “enough said on the insurance requirement” she totally understood at that moment. Unexpected surprises. Needless to say, the mechanical bull was nipped very quickly! We also, no longer allow sparkler at send off. Drinking and sparklers, do not mix. Kids and sparklers do not mix. Someone is always getting burned. “
Do you have and tips or advice for new venue owners? “Always be willing to learn and listen, never let it get to be above anyone else. Stay grounded and remember why you wanted to start this to begin with. “
“Whatever, you think it’s going to cost, add more always to everything! Starting this business is not for the weak and google eyed. It’s a lot of time away from family and the expenses never seem to slow down. Always, schedule time away. You don’t have to book something every weekend. Your family needs you too. “
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Can you share a little about venue life during Covid, how has it changed your business? “For us COVID has not really been a factor. Being agritourism, the rules are different in every area. However, we own an all natural cleaning company, so sanitation is a big factor for us to begin with.”
What are some of the features or services that makes your venue standout? “The overnight accommodations, the staff we provide, organization, and they can just relax. We handle most everything. The view, easy to work with, accommodate what we can, cost, the water sites, customer service.”
What are some of the best spots around your venue? “Pond, the hills in the back drop, landscaping, the trees.”
What are the popular catering and cuisine requests you see at the weddings you host? “We do provide foods. Everything is catered. However, seems like there is always BBQ. “
How do you handle parking at your venue? “One of my biggest challenges managing a wedding the wedding party attendants and understanding where they park. “
“Most couples that book with us, want the rustic style atmosphere. We have that covered. But, we can also turn rustic into elegant with no problem at all. “
“As far as vendors. We have not worked with any we didn’t like. Everyone us been for the most part easy to work with. Muletown Aerial, M&M Plus catering, Amped Sound, Brandon Rice films, Are a few of my favs.”
“One of the most unique events I have ever hosted would be a wedding last year, the couple saved their first kiss for the wedding day! It was one of the most special things I’ve ever witnessed. True innocence. “
“Most unique themes thus far would be recently, the cowhide aisle runner. I didn’t know what to think until I saw it. It was absolutely beautiful. The unity was a branding, like you would brand a cow. Truly beautiful.”
How do you hand the vendor set up and load in/out times? “Vendors are allowed to park at the entrance door to unload a reload only. The caterer, if they are using a food truck may continue to park behind the barn out of site for convenience purposes.”
What types of music are played most often at the weddings you host? “Most traditional wedding music is played and of course because we are close to Nashville, it’s country. “
What are the trending cocktails or beverages at your events? “Signature drinks, for us are only allowed during Social/Cocktail hour only. Most choose a TN Mule with local area whiskeys.”
Most dreaded questions or requests from clients? “Will you be setting up decor? Most dreaded, same as above question, because this means they didn’t allow for this and it wasn’t included in their contract. “
How do you handle the clean up at your venue? “Clean up is dependent on the contract package chosen.”
What does a day in the life of a wedding venue owner look like? “Wedding day time for me usually starts around 8:30am and ends around midnight. Exhausted is an understatement. “
What has changed at your venue since you hosted the first wedding to the weddings you host today? “My contract has changed the most since the first wedding and now. So, many things you do t think you need to do “to Strict” is now “not Strict enough”. My time has changed a lot, I’m learning I don’t have to do it myself. Delegate is best.!”
How have you changed as a venue owner from the time you hosted your first wedding? “I have gotten to where I don’t feel sorry for people as much, that has always bitten back. I’ve learned to say no more and I’m not worried about their review and let them do it anyway. If it’s not allowed, it’s not allowed. So, I guess I would say, I’ve learned it’s a business at the end of the day. Not a place to make sure everyone is happy constantly. My job is to stick to what we agreed on and remind them of that. But, with that being said to always remember why I started this, and what the outcome is. A happily married couple that has enjoyed their experience with us. “
EXTRA SPECIAL THANKS to Stacy Hobbs for taking the time out of her busy schedule to share a peak into her life as a wedding venue owner! If you would like to learn more about Echo Valley Farm please visit their website https://www.echovalley.farm/ – the video on the home page of the site is incredible! I always say that a good video is your 24 hours a day sales rep, working hard for your venue when couples visit the site! Find Echo Valley Farm on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/echovalleyfarmtn/about/?ref=page_internal
Instagram: @echo-valley-farm and on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/echovalleytn/_created/
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