LINWOOD – Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote, “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”
That is what Debbie and Michael Phillips were banking on when they started using their 65-acre farm as a nature-themed wedding and special events venue.
The couple bought the property in 2001 when they had four small children and began adding rooms to the house because they needed the space. As the children grew and hopped the nest, the couple was left with a big house and nothing to do with it.
“We considered selling the property, but we just couldn’t do it,” Debbie Phillips said. “It was after our daughter got married here last July that we began contemplating using it as a special events venue.”
About two months later, the Phillipses opened L’Abri at Linwood. Phillips and her husband previously had discussed starting their own business.
“We did a lot of work to get it ready for the wedding,” Phillips said. “We relocated horses and spruced up existing buildings, and we decided since we had done all of this work, let’s just do it. We have always wanted to have a family business, and we wanted to stay here.”
L’Abri – a French word for “the shelter” – takes advantage of the talents and skills of the entire family. The couple’s son, Coleman, is the property manager and DJ. A daughter, Mychal, is the on-site wedding coordinator and marketing director. Another daughter, Ally, is a photographer, and the youngest daughter, Gracie, who still is in high school, does hair and makeup.
The venue offers these services to make the day go as smoothly as possible, Phillips said. The only things it does not provide are transportation and catering; however, it does have amenities for both.
The property consists of several outbuildings, barns and acre after acre of unspoiled farmland. It has a small pond where the Phillipses installed a floating fountain that many brides choose as a backdrop on their special day. There is a separate building for the groom and groomsmen and a suite for the bride and her attendants.
Phillips said brides have a multitude of options because the venue has so much space.
“We have many different facilities,” she said. “You can use the barn for the wedding or the reception. We have so much space, I tell the bride, ‘This is your show, we are just the stage.’”
But L’Abri is not just a place for weddings. Phillips said the venue offers space for many kinds of special events, including family reunions and business retreats.
“It doesn’t have to be a wedding,” she said. “Lexington Youth Theatre is having a summer barn dinner theater here with a pirate-themed show. We have an arts group out of Winston(-Salem) holding a day to put together art kits for ill children. It could be a company picnic or rehearsal dinner. We are trying to individualize whatever their needs are. We take it on a case-by-case basis.”
Although the business is fairly new, it already has booked every weekend between May and October.
Phillips said the focus is to make a wedding day as calm and enjoyable as possible and to take off some of the stress. The family is there to make things run smoothly.
“It is a big day for people,” Phillips said. “We want to let them know everything is going to be OK. They have room to spread out and have all the privacy or attention they need. We are here to create a stage for whatever they want.”
Outdoor weddings have become immensely popular over the past few years, Phillips said. Although many people still opt for a more traditional setting, nature is its own spectacular decoration.
“What we offer is rustic elegance or Southern charm with a twist,” she said. “Our goal is to show God’s love to anyone who is here. Churches are wonderful, but when the sun is setting over the pond, you can’t ask for a better backdrop.”