New 22-acre Hamilton Place wedding venue at Pursell Farms in Sylacauga offers awe-inspiring options to celebrate love stories.
David and Ellen Pursell smile as they think of the weddings celebrated at Pursell Farms. Weddings for their son and two daughters were hosted at the farm, as were the nuptials for numerous friends. With an increasing number of guests choosing the farm for their special day, it seemed only natural to create a wedding venue.
For the many golfers, attendees of corporate retreats and sports enthusiasts who’ve visited the farm over the years, this may come as a surprise. After all, the resort’s 3,200 acres are home to the FarmLinks golf course, a Hurdzan-Fry design consistently rated GolfWeek’s No. 1 all-access course in Alabama; a high-tech conference center; the South’s only Orvis Shooting Grounds; and handsome, spacious accommodations housed in cabins, cottages and a 14,000-square-foot lodge.
Even so, the Pursells were committed to their concept: to present bridal couples with unrivaled indoor and outdoor settings, and make the venue second to none in convenience and versatility. How that concept would translate into a finished physical product was an unknown.
“We had land and scenic views, and had hosted some great weddings at the farm, but to build a new venue from the ground up we needed to hear from the customer,” David Pursell, CEO of Pursell Farms, says. “We talked with brides and grooms, met with professional event planners and learned about the ways bridal couples want to celebrate their weddings today. It was an education.”
Millennial couples are customizing their ceremonies, foregoing traditional hotel ballrooms and country clubs, and opting for locales that reflect their personalities and individual style. Indoor and outdoor locations, natural surroundings, scenic views, light-filled interior spaces and ease of bringing their dreams to reality were key factors.
“We carved out an extensive lawn, set aside space for a patio and garden, then situated the new Hamilton Place ballroom to take advantage of views and have proximity to these venues,” David says. “We added special touches, such as an isle in the lake to create a natural stage for the bride and groom. The result is 22 acres designed specifically for weddings and celebrations.”
Couples may pledge their vows in the Hamilton Place ballroom with a garden-view bay window framing the couple, lakeside on the ceremonial lawn and isle or under a canopy of twinkling stars at the patio and formal gardens.
All locations plus the Spring House Spa are connected by gently winding walkways. Ample parking is adjacent to the venue, with the option of valet parking or attendants to whisk guests from the parking lot to the ballroom via golf cart.
The design of Hamilton Place, the 4,600-square-foot air-conditioned main building and ballroom, was influenced by Tidewater Colonial architecture, a less formal style that was used for important residences following the Georgian period. The style was chosen for its compatibility with the existing surroundings and its elegance appropriate to significant occasions.
The living room is appointed with furnishings, art and antiques reflective of a fine Southern home. A stately fireplace with a surround of famed Alabama white marble is the room’s focal point and is already a favorite spot for arriving guests to snap a photo.
The light-filled ballroom features a creamy white color palette, 20-foot vaulted clapboard ceilings with skylights, graceful 7-foot crystal and aged bronze chandeliers, and an oversized bay window facing the formal gardens. Handsome oak hardwood floors throughout are reclaimed, resawn wood from Avondale Mills, which operated in the area for 106 years. A glass-walled porch spans the length of the ballroom, offering panoramic views of the lawn, lake and the mountain beyond.
“The ballroom feels historic and natural without being rustic; sophisticated without being formal,” says Ellen, who also led the design of the farm’s clubhouse, cabin, cottage and lodge interiors. “Although the palette is soft and easily adaptable to colors and themes, the interior is beautiful on its own. Brides don’t need a huge budget for décor to have a lovely ceremony or reception here.”
An iconic setting for an outdoor ceremony, the ceremonial lawn and Isle creates a memorable vignette for seated guests. The extensive lawn may also be staged for receptions and seated dinners, with ample room for live music and tents. The patio and formal gardens are designed for luncheons, dinners or pre-dinner cocktails prior to a reception in the grand ballroom. The space may be tented, or enjoyed in the open air.
More than ever, couples let photos tell their love story, and the expansive grounds at Hamilton Place offer many possibilities to capture memorable moments. Think of a carefree bride in a billowing gown at sunset with the last of the sun’s rays reflected on a lake or black-and-white photography of the couple whispering under a canopy of tiny glittering lights and an unobstructed night sky.
And yet, there’s more than meets the eye at Hamilton Place. Efforts were focused on alleviating challenges faced by event planners, such as coordinating catering miles away from a kitchen, tenting a field and even a lack of electrical outlets when staging a space.
“Event planners gave us their wish lists, and we translated those into blueprints,” David says. “Our ballroom has electrical outlets in the floors, walls and ceiling along with more than enough power to support lighting installations, décor and live entertainment. Supports for tents and electrical outlets are built into our patio and gardens, too.”
The convenience of an on-site kitchen assures guests that food is freshly presented throughout an event. Chef Andrea Griffith, formerly with the Greenbriar and Primland resorts, creates farm-to-fork-inspired dishes with as many ingredients as possible sourced from Pursell Farms, nearby farms and renowned regional suppliers. Couples opting for a seated dinner can offer their guests a selection of artfully plated courses. For a buffet-style reception, guests may choose from stations brimming with tasting plates, appetizers prepared in small cast iron skillets and lavish charcuterie displays. Beverages get the star treatment, too. Selections for traditional champagne toasts, wine pairings, craft beers and signature cocktails are overseen by José Montalvo, one of only four certified sommeliers in Alabama at last count.
“The food and beverage experience must be as exceptional as the venue,” David says.
Sharing the 22-acre venue, the historic Hamilton Home is a Greek Revival antebellum house built in 1852 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The home is popular for the bride and bridesmaids to share the ritual of dressing for the wedding. Couples may choose to spend their wedding night at the spacious home, which features a romantic master bedroom suite. Pursell Farms’ Jimmy and Chris Pursell, married for 63 years, lived in the restored home for 30 years. Following their example, David and Ellen celebrated their 36th anniversary recently.
“This is a wonderful place to start a life together,” Ellen says.
For information about weddings, corporate parties and retreats, golf stays, and weekend getaways at Pursell Farms, please call 256.208.7600 or visit PursellFarms.com.