A stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle on U.S. Highway 59/I69, under a natural awning of pecan trees and stretched along the banks of Caney Creek, you can find one of Wharton’s most picturesque spots.
The Orchard at Caney Creek, once a lodge for huntsmen, offers brides and grooms a natural romantic setting for tying the knot, as well as lodging for up to 46 guests.
Mrs. Virginia Frances Crump, Wharton’s first woman’s hairstylist for men, owned and operated the wildfowl hunting lodge and special event center for just shy of four decades.
Jeff and Susan Smith purchased the 36–acre pecan orchard from Crump nearly twelve years ago with dreams of creating a place to call home.
With very successful catering businesses and restaurants, the pair is no stranger to assisting couples on their big day, but have enlisted the help of staff to ensure each wedding goes off without a hitch.
The County Gin sat down with Hannah Jo McLeroy, who joined the primarily family operation in 2019.
“Susan and Jeff’s family mostly operate the businesses,” she said. “Even though I am not related to them, I do feel like I’ve gained a family.”
In charge of sales and event coordinating, McLeroy said the location and amenities impresses brides looking for an affordable and inclusive wedding.
“When most show up for their requested tour, I hear, ‘Wow! I had no idea this was around here,’ or, ‘I would have never thought this would be so beautiful,’” she told The Gin.
Outside of the Houston–area, there are few wedding venues that offer bridal party lodging in addition to their venue and wedding planning.
“I think a lot of people do want more outside space, more wiggle room and lodging,” McLeroy said.
The Orchard can accommodate up to 400 guests
The venue’s list of amenities include:
- passed appetizers and dinner buffet
- host provided bar
- professional staff, including a TABC bar staff
- reception tables, chairs, linens and china
- stainless flatware and stemmed glassware
- A/V system with drop down screen and wireless mic
- white garden ceremony chairs, platform and doorframe
- cake service, cut and plate
- groom’s house with pool table, poker table and private changing rooms
- and bride’s house with master suite
McLeroy said the venue does have the catering taken care of and even has a list of preferred vendors to share with families, noting, “We do welcome brides and grooms to bring their own vendors.”
“Last February, I worked one where everything was just so thought out,” she said. “This bride was amazing. For the groom and groomsmen, she surprised them by bringing in this company, Old Stoggies Co..
“It was an airstream that was brought in for the men to roll their own cigars and lounge around before the ceremony. That was just so neat; it gave the men something to do and was just a special treat for them.”
One important thing she has learned in her time at The Orchard is that no two weddings are the same and McLeroy feels she meets the most special families with each ceremony.
“The families stand out to me the most,” she said. “You see how fun they are and feel like you can hang out with them outside of here.”
Another highlight for McLeroy is getting to witness the intimate exchanged gifts between couples on their big day.
“The little surprises that I see between the bride and groom just are really cool. Because I’m coordinating, I get to exchange the presents or letters between the bride and groom and get to see their personal sides with one another. It lets me get to know them a little better.”
McLeroy’s favorite part of the day is to see the bride walk from the bridal house down the shaded sidewalk to her awaiting groom and guests.
“I get to coordinate everyone getting in place,” she said. “Once everyone is ready, I go up to the master suite where the bride is waiting and get her started on her walk to the ceremony. It’s really a beautiful thing to see.”
Whether you’re planning a wedding with 10, 20 or 300 guests, the staff invites you to take a tour of the facility and even offer a Love at First Sight discount for those who book a date on their first tour.
“It’s the simplicity of The Orchard that I think people enjoy,” McLeroy said. “The creek, the trees and grounds make for a very elegant, spacious atmosphere.”
To schedule your tour of The Orchard at Caney Creek, visit www.caney-creek.com and for more inspired ceremonies, you can find the venue on Instagram and Facebook.