PLANT CITY – When Blake and Michelle Welch’s son Kyle and his fiancé, Railynne, wanted to hold their wedding reception in the family barn, Michelle was at first skeptical.
The couple’s five sons had grown up using the barn to raise chickens, rabbits and steers to show at the Florida Strawberry Festival, and for more than 30 years it had been used for farming and ranching purposes.
But they had hosted family events and reunions at the barn, and Michelle, a teacher at Plant City High School, had gained experience in organizing events for the Hillsborough County School District.
The wedding reception was so successful that the Welches opened their Wishing Well Barn for public rentals as a unique venue for weddings and other special occasions.
The barn – and the surrounding 10 acres that includes a pond – has become a popular and picturesque setting for weddings as word has spread.
“We had such a blast putting it together,” Welch said, who also offers customers help with event planning.
The Welches plan and host 75 weddings a year as well as baby showers, family reunions and engagement parties, among other events.
Some couples want to say their vows inside the extensively remodeled barn with its exposed beams. Others use the barn or the pond as a backdrop with chairs set outside.
Welch said the popularity of shabby-chic weddings has contributed to the venue’s growing demand, along with social media websites such as Pinterest, which encourage do-it-yourself projects and personalized touches.
“If they can find it on Pinterest I can re-create it,” Welch said. “That’s how we do a lot of our collaborations is through Pinterest.”
Welch said she spends about 100 hours on each wedding with most taking up to a year to plan.
“We really encourage them to personalize their weddings,” she said, adding that some couples bring and even build their own props to accompany their wedding ceremony.
“Being a teacher I’ve always felt like you had that special connection with students and that’s what I like about weddings; you’re part of their love stories.”
Welch said she couldn’t go it alone operating the venue at 4302 Pippin Road.
“It’s really a family business,” Welch said. “We’re really blessed to be surrounded by family and they’re really supportive of us.”
She said that although Wishing Well Barn began with hosting weddings and special events for family and friends, they have enjoyed meeting new people who they have helped in shaping lifelong memories in a variety of ways.
“I think that’s probably one of my favorite parts of this job is you get to meet so many different people but we’re all alike. We all like to live and love and laugh,” Welch said.
For information, go to the Wishing Well Barn’s Facebook page or call Welch at (813) 478-6554.