MILTON — Sowell Farms is known for its Christmas lights display each December. Now it is becoming the place to go to have a wedding.
Sowell Farms won first place for the best ceremony venue in the 2018, 2019 Best Of The Coast competition. In November, a production team from the TLC network was at the farm to film a pilot for a possible series called “Most Unique Wedding Venues,” according to Ashlie Abbott, mastermind of the wedding venue idea.
“This was my vision and my parent's money,” Abbott said.
Abbott is eldest daughter of the Sowell family that owns the 100-acre farm just outside of Milton.
The entire Sowell family - Terry and Michelle, parents, younger sister Tiffany Bonner and family and Abbott, her husband Ryan and their four children, all live on the farm. They all have their own separate homes and help each other with their business ventures.
Abbott convinced her father to turn his racing car barn into a wedding venue in 2015. Although he had concerns about his daughter's idea, she persisted and he eventually relented.
“Oh wonderful, I'm very happy,” Terry Sowell said. “It's the best thing I have ever done. She's a wonderful daughter.”
“I've always been an entrepreneur,” Abbott said.
Since 2015, Abbott and her husband Ryan have managed the wedding venue business in addition to their regular jobs. They have successfully planned and completed more than 300 weddings since they started.
Their busy time is the fall season. Brides and grooms are planning at least 18 months out for a fall wedding, Abbott said.
July and August are their slow months and the do offer off-season pricing. Call them and they will try to work something out.
That seems to be the secret to their success, Abbott said. They cater to each couple's wants and desires.
“We have brought in fireworks, found real coyote skulls that a bride wanted as centerpieces, and even hired Mickey and Minnie Mouse to make an appearance at one wedding,” Abbott said.
The other factor in their success, according to Abbott, is they are flexible and they work with vendors with the same mindset - vendors who exceed the customer's expectations.
Some of their popular vendors include Tom Schwarz, a D.J. at Tomcat Productions, Paulette Martin at Nouveau Pastries in Milton, and Phocus Photography, LLC., in Pace.
The business is constantly evolving. This year they built an outdoor pavilion that can seat 250 guests. The original venue is an enclosed barn that can accommodate 275 people.
Other features include full bride and groom suites, pool tables, Foosball, and DirecTV.
“We cater to the guests comfort,” Abbott said.