- Who are you, what you do and who do you serve?
I'm Tammy Belanger, and together with my husband Robert, we own and operate Hawthorn Estates in southern Manitoba. It's been quite a journey getting to where we are today, but it's been worth it. It's so fun meeting people who are in love and then helping them, their friends, and their family celebrate such an important life milestone.
Being a wedding venue operator is hectic, but it's also very fulfilling! We get to see all the fun and great memories being created when people celebrate their special day. It makes everything worth it.
We help people celebrate milestones in their lives in our rustic yet elegant indoor and outdoor spaces. Our year-around venue provides modern amenities and a timeless aesthetic with friendly support every step of the way.
- How and when did you get started in the industry?
Our journey began when we moved to the country across the road from a run-down barn. Instead of leaving it to the elements, we moved it onto our property knowing we could give the structure -- and perhaps ourselves -- a new calling.
As an interior designer, the wheels started turning after I saw the trend of repurposing barns and rural buildings into event spaces. I realized we could turn this historic structure into a modern yet timeless space where couples could start their lives together officially and celebrate with their friends and family.
Over the next five years, we worked hard in our spare time to turn the 1940s structure into a modern venue. In 2013 we hosted our first wedding and had the pleasure of hosting many more over the next three years, but it came to a crashing halt.
Tragically, in December 2016, our beautiful renovated 40s barn was completely destroyed by fire. It was a really difficult time for me and my family, but the outpouring of love and support from the community of wedding professionals as well as couples and friends who had celebrated at our venue inspired us to rebuild.
We were completely booked for 2017 and well into 2018 and were fortunate to have many of those couples keep their dates with us because they believed in our vision. This gave us the motivation to work night and day to rebuild Hawthorn Estates.
After a lot of hard work, we had the venue ready for our first wedding in May 2018. I think that day was just as emotional for me as it was for the couple getting married. They were starting a new life together and my family and I -- in a way -- were starting a new life together as well.
- Where are you based and where do you meet with clients?
We are based a scenic 25-minute drive northeast of Winnipeg near Selkirk, Manitoba in the municipality of St. Clements. We usually correspond with our clients by email or phone before they come to visit the venue to see it for themselves. We have seven acres of land surrounded by beautiful forests, farmland, a winding creek and rural roads.
- What services do you offer?
We designed our venue to be adaptable to the style and aesthetic of the people who use it. It's elegant yet rustic, modern yet timeless. Our main venue has 30 ft timber ceilings with an elevated mezzanine, lounges, gender-neutral washrooms, dressing room, modern kitchen with staff entry, bar, plus heating and air conditioning for year-round use.
Outdoor spaces include a covered Solarium attached to our main venue, Marriage Hill, a beautiful altar where couples can read their vows, and a bonfire area. The groomed grounds are full of breathtaking photo opportunities in the forests, prairies, and rural roads surrounding our venue.
Couples are welcome to use our tables, chairs, speakers, curtains, and other amenities. But it's not just the space we provide, we also do our best to give every couple personal service up to and on the event day. It's important to us that their day goes exactly as planned.
- How many people does your venue accommodate?
We welcome you to celebrate with up to 150 guests in both our indoor and outdoor spaces.
- What is the biggest trend you have seen since being in the industry?
It goes without saying that recent events have changed the way we celebrate. Many weddings have had to be downsized, but we've been fortunate to work with great couples who've been patient and accommodating.
Communicating with our couples and offering alternatives to traditional, larger weddings, such as intimate packages and pop-up ceremonies, has allowed many couples to take the next step together and tie the knot despite all this adversity.
The best part of 2020 was seeing these couples persevere through all the challenges with the help of their family and closest friends. They managed to pull together and still celebrate their special day even if it was very different from what they planned for. To me, this proves love prevails. I cried at almost every wedding this year because it just reinforced how important marriage is to so many people.
For 2021 we're looking forward to the rapid distribution of vaccines so we can all hug and be with one another again!
- How far in advance do your clients typically book you?
Of course, our bookings have experienced unprecedented upheavals, however under normal circumstances in peak wedding season we typically book two years in advance.
Openings vary depending on the season and the day of the week, and we love using our experience to help couples find a date that works for them.
Sometimes people come in with a date in mind and don't realize the pro and cons of that timing, especially under their personal circumstances. Because of that, we always encourage people to reach out and work with us!
- Can you give us one of your industry tips that brides or grooms don't often know?
I would say careful planning of your event day is key! Making sure you have seating arrangements, a schedule for the ceremony, reception, and more is so important. I know this seems obvious, but it's also very easy to overlook some pretty big details. But with the years of experience, we now have with weddings, Robert and I usually pitch in and help make sure our couples have all the proper plans in place.
How do you stand out?
For myself and my husband Robert, we don't just provide a place for couples to celebrate, our mission is to bring a high standard of service leading up to and on every couple's event day.
A big part of this goes back to our tip on planning! From sending seating plans to meeting with couples, to helping out with rehearsals, and so much more, we genuinely want to ensure every couple's day goes as planned and that everyone has the best experience possible.
- Anything else you would like to mention?
Our favourite part of hosting weddings is meeting amazing people and helping them celebrate one of the most important milestones in their life. We feel that all love is created equal and enjoy hosting weddings from diverse cultural backgrounds. Each wedding is unique and this truly makes this part of what we do so interesting!