Bells will be ringing

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Al Key/DRC
Hidden Springs general manager Kathy McNaughton, left, and assistant manager Nan Bullock are shown behind the events center in Aubrey last week.
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New wedding venue strives for rustic elegance in Aubrey

It was just a few weeks before the big day, and Holly Hunnicutt and Jace Drew were about to see their wedding venue for the first time, even though they had booked it six months in advance.

But it wasn’t completed, and the future Mrs. Drew was a little edgy.

When they booked it, there was little more than a promise that a 10,000-square-foot facility would be ready on the 20-acre site in Aubrey in time for their wedding on May 3.

“I was nervous,” she said. “But on the day of the wedding it was perfect.”

The Drews were the first couple to get married at the new Hidden Springs event center in Aubrey, and now more than 80 couples have scheduled their weddings at the venue. The site is part of a growing business, The Springs Events, a collection of event venues in Texas and Oklahoma that are independently managed.

Holly, a sixth-generation “Aubrian,” had been determined to get married at a church in Aubrey and have a reception close by. But when she and Jace got engaged in October 2012, there wasn’t a nearby venue to accommodate the 200 people she planned to have at their reception. After her aunt and uncle learned the venue was planned, and they attended a wedding at a different Springs venue, the couple decided it would be worth the wait to be the first wedding at Hidden Springs.

“I loved the Western look of it, and it’s just so green and pretty,” Holly said. “You wouldn’t expect something like that to be in Aubrey, but it’s awesome. It’s going to bring so much to the community.”

Hidden Springs has the same rustic ambience as the other 10 Springs properties, which are unified in the materials used for the main reception space and the spacious properties. The facilities are all built by the same construction crews, who are employed full time with the company, said Kathy McNaughton, general manager of Hidden Springs.

Before the construction can begin, though, the company looks for a country setting that is serene but near hotels and other accommodations, so Aubrey fit in the company vision, McNaughton said. The venue is also close enough to Dallas and Fort Worth that big-city brides can plan their weddings at Hidden Springs without being far from home.

“You can’t get the rustic elegance down in Dallas, yet we book a lot of Dallas brides,” McNaughton said. “They want this, and what I have found is Texans will drive.”

She is still learning the area and the business since she came to Texas a year and a half ago from Seattle, where she worked in medical sales. She and her husband, Matthew, now director of sales, were ready for career changes. Their nephew is the chief financial officer of the company, and after the couple invested and saw the growth, they decided to join in.

“We just knew we were doing well with the investment, and when we came down we immediately went to a wedding,” she said. Seeing the venue and how happy the business made people, they knew they were ready to change careers.

The business aspects are a bit unconventional, which is part of the appeal, McNaughton said. The prices to rent the space are printed on the promotional materials, ranging from $2,850 for a Monday through Thursday wedding, and up to $6,950 on Saturdays in March through June and September through October. The prices don’t change for holidays, and they include a 16-hour venue rental, tables and chairs, all of the operational costs and taxes.

“It’s like pre-qualifying for a home — you don’t want to come in and say, ‘This is way over my budget,’ or come in and be surprised,” McNaughton said.

By having the venue from 8 a.m. to midnight, the renter can get ready and comfortable at the venue, and not worry about shuffling from a hair appointment to a nail appointment to the venue. By having things included and an on-site manager — normally McNaughton or assistant manager Nan Bullock — it takes a lot of the stress off of the big day, McNaughton said.

“We tell the girls, ‘This is your home for the day,’” she said. “You are leasing the space, and they take care of it and treat it as their own. We want you to enjoy it and take ownership of it. The stress level for a wedding is nil. They aren’t pressured or hurried in or out. They get to totally enjoy it.”

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.

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