By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
One of the newest wedding venues in the Findlay area is also one of the oldest.
Scarlet Oaks Estate, located at 13754 US 68, features an historic Civil War-era home and a bank barn built in the early 1900s. Bridal couples can have their ceremonies in the house, in the barn or outside on the estate’s 13 acres.
“It’s wonderful. It’s amazing,” said Kate Manders, one of the owners. “We’ve become quite pros at doing the wedding and the party planning, executing the day and making sure that it’s good. As long as Mother Nature cooperates, we are OK.”
Manders and Bridgett Johnson own the business and became acquainted because their husbands both work at Marathon Petroleum Corp. One day the idea of starting a business came up in conversation. Manders, who attended culinary school, said her dream was to have a bed and breakfast.
“And Bridgett was like, ‘I just love weddings. I love weddings,'” said Manders.
Their brainstorming turned into a 76-page document containing a business plan, which aimed at providing a new venue which included a barn for weddings and receptions.
“Barns have become kind of a fad,” said Johnson. “At the same time, in this area, I think it’s always been a thing (because it’s such an agricultural area), but there are no places (like that) to get married.”
The women hired a Realtor who took them to see the property they would eventually purchase.
“It’s the greatest property. We pulled in and literally I’m sitting beside him and I’m like, ‘This is it! This is it!’ And I knew they said it would be hard to top it once we saw it,” Manders said.
Although the barn was smaller than the women would have liked, it was already finished to some extent and had a floor. They purchased the property in November 2015 and had it rezoned from residential to general business. They made themselves an official business and brought in contractors. One of the projects they insisted on was installing bathrooms by the barn.
“The one thing we said no, no, no to was porta johns. No bride would sit on a porta john,” said Manders.
They envisioned the house, with three large bedrooms upstairs, for the bed and breakfast, and the barn as a reception area. The original brick portion of the house was built by George Arnold and dates back to the 1860s. There are also an abundance of large windows with views of the wooded landscape, which are perfect for bridal portraits.
A second guest house on the property has been deemed the “guys’ house,” allowing the bridegroom and his attendants a place to dress and take pictures and “hang out” prior to the ceremony.
“A lot of stuff we decided to do was based off our experiences with our weddings,” said Johnson, who said one room in the house is designated to accommodate the bride. “Like, I got ready in the coat closet at my venue.”
“We only allow one thing to happen at a time. So if a wedding is staying here, the bed and breakfast rooms aren’t going to be booked out, too, to random people,” said Manders.
Having the rooms available onsite means less travel time and stress for the bride, they said.
The first wedding at Scarlet Oaks Estate was held May 14, 2016.
“We were scrapping right up to that, because the bathrooms weren’t done and it was kind of crazy. But our first bride and groom were the perfect couple,” said Manders.
“They weren’t stressed about anything,” added Johnson. “They understood they were the first wedding.”
That first year, the venue hosted 19 weddings.
“We were hoping to book 15 weddings the first year, then we booked 19. We’ve actually had to set a cap at what we book,” said Manders.
The bridal season for the venue runs from the third weekend in April to the first weekend in November because the barn, which was built in the late 1800s or early 1900s, is not air-conditioned or heated.
“It’s a real barn. It’s not concrete. There are no walls filled with insulation. It’s a barn,” said Johnson.
The 2,400-square-foot barn will accommodate 150 seated guests. For larger weddings up to 400 guests, a tent is included.
This year, a total of 31 couples will celebrate at the estate. Scarlet Oaks is already booked out for next year at 31 weddings, and is now scheduling into 2019.
In preparation for each wedding, Johnson and Manders set up tables, chairs and linens.
“So whenever you come out on Saturday morning and you’re ready to start decorating, everything is ready to go,” said Manders. “We try to make it as simple as possible on our end so you’re not waiting on us to get done what you need to get done.”
The women have seen all types of weddings since starting their venture.
“We’ve had Vanna White weddings with a lot of sequins. Sometimes they go very country and there’s cowboy boots and bales of hay and sunflowers,” said Manders.
“I think it makes it very easy to work with what we have because our barn is literally a white outside and barn wood on the inside. It’s a blank slate, so you can really pull in all the different themes and colors because you’re working with the color brown,” she said.
Some brides have chosen not to do much decorating, said Johnson, because they feel “the interior says enough, so what they do is add their own take on centerpieces and extra tables.”
And no two weddings are the same.
“Every weekend it’s something new and different,” said Manders.
Although they’ve only been open a few years, the women know they’ve made the right choice.
“We always said that we knew we were in the right business whenever we watch the bride walk down the aisle and we see the look on the groom’s face, and it kind of makes us tear up,” said Johnson.
“You know you’re in the right business when you come out and you’re filled with joy for what is happening,” Manders added.
The lower area of the home can be rented to comfortably accommodate a party of 60. Weather permitting, the three seasons room, large patio and scenic backyard are available to accommodate parties up to 100.
The estate can also be rented for birthdays, graduation parties, bridal showers, family and class reunions and corporate gatherings.
“Being in the bridal sector is wonderful and we love it, but anything above and beyond that we can host that is part of the community, too, is something we really enjoy,” said Johnson.
“Making memories, that’s the whole point of being an events venue,” agreed Manders. “In my book it’s all about making memories.”
More information can be found on the website page at http://scarletoaksestate.com; https://www.facebook.com/ScarletOaksEstate/; by calling 567-703-6257 or emailing email@example.com. The business is also listed on The Knot and through Wedding Wire.