My sister Ruby is a professional photographer and specializes in wedding photography. Over the last 10 years or so I have had the opportunity to work as her second shooter countless times. We have shot at wedding venues and locations all over North Carolina and over the years I have developed a list of preferences for things I look for in a venue. I of course have classic favorites like the Tessentee Farms in Macon County or the Pretty Place In Greenville – but last weekend I found my new favorite venue in The Parker Mill.
I got to shoot a beautiful wedding at the venue last weekend – but the spot is so much more than just a wedding venue – it is the kind of place that has me thinking of a party or event I can plan just to be able to have it there!
Why am I gushing over this venue so much? Well – what better way to tell you than with my top 5 reasons why this place is my new favorite!
1)I am OBSESSED with the story and history of the venue!
The Parker Mill is located in Whittier in Jackson County. The Kress Family owned the entire Smokerise Development in the 1930s and built the timber-frame structure used as the venue’s main building to process lumber to construct their large family lodge further up the road. Over the years the building changed hands serving as a community training point for members with special needs before turning into a full production mill making furniture parts for Stanley, Kincaid, and Thomasville Furniture.
The entire dimension mill ran off a steam system, powered by an outside boiler room with a flawlessly constructed soaring chimney. Many years later, after decades of abandonment and another recent ownership change, that very chimney is now the focal point of the property’s outdoor fireplace. Throughout the entire renovation process, the new owners prioritized preservation of the building’s historic significance which can be found throughout the mill.
2) The one-of-a-kind details around the venue are really all the décor you need!
When they crafted the venue, they wanted to make sure guests are able to appreciate the same breathtaking qualities that they themselves fell in love with upon first glance. From insanely gorgeous hardwood floors and over-sized barn doors to copper roof vents, unique cart tracks embedded in the flooring to mechanical fans/gages, this venue’s details and charm is beyond captivating!
3) The property amenities are TO DIE FOR!
So as a photographer, the main space for the ceremony or reception are typically the focus of most venues – you know that wherever the ceremony is going to be held or wherever the reception is going to be nice – but what often gets forgotten are the places where the bride and groom get ready before the ceremony. Some places don’t have more than an extra-large bathroom. That couldn’t be further from the case for The Parker Mill.
The space for both the bride and groom and the wedding party to hang out before the ceremony made for some incredible shots before the ceremony. But more than just how insanely well decorated and comfortable the spaces were – they actually were super convenient. Both the groom space and the bridal space have showers and ample seating. The bridal suite even has multiple chairs and mirrors – like a salon for tons of space for all the bridesmaids to get ready at the same time. The groom area has a pool table and a nice wet bar and huge TV. I was so blown away by how well it was all designed and all the comfort and thought that went into the design. Really this part alone steps it up when compared to most of the other venues I have ever been to.
And while this venue is already hella sweet in terms of day-of amenities – they are literally planning more to make it even better. By Spring 2021 they plan to start construction for the first on-site lodging option: the honeymoon suite. It will be fairly close to the venue but privately nestled further down on the 35-acre property so the bride and groom can dance the night away with their guests and then slip away whenever they are ready. Then long term, the owners plan to add more cabin-style on-site private lodging for the family and wedding parties.
4) The functionality of the venue is unmatched.
I have shot a ton of weddings with Ruby – and a lot of times you have a venue that is being used for a wedding – but it wasn’t built for a wedding. So you spend a ton to bring in your own dance floor, or you have to rent tables and chairs. But the fact that The Parker Mill is designed FOR events like weddings means you have everything you need which makes this venue way easier than others I have been to.
I am talking high top tables and a bar for cocktail hour – beautiful long formal tables and chairs for the reception with a BUILT-IN BAR WINDOW INSIDE AND OUTSIDE of the reception area. There is a kitchen and commercial fridge to store cake or other treats that need to be kept cool. A serving line for buffet-style parties that is super easy. A dance floor and DJ booth area. Not to mention you can be indoors or out – so it literally comes in with a BUILT-IN RAIN plan. I mean seriously – I WAS BLOWN AWAY.
5) The ceremony site has VIEWS FOR DAYS.
The Parker Mill is pretty new and is nestled on the side of a mountain that overlooks miles and miles of beautiful Western North Carolina scenery. The ceremony site is covered and is lined with beautiful wooden benches right on the edge of the mountain. This spot is already incredible – but imagine how tickled I was to learn that this is just the begging for the venue. The owners gave Ruby and our bride a personal trip up the mountain into the clouds. The area had just started to be leveled off and provided an endless mountain view. The sunset – miles above the world – was intimate and romantic and seriously the stuff dreams are made of. What sealed the deal for The Parker Mill to be my new favorite venue was when I learned that the mountain top views will soon be home to a SECOND ceremony site to give future brides and grooms more options! Hopefully, by this Fall, the venue will have the option for smaller weddings – up to 50 people – to use a pavilion type ceremony site that extends off the mountain. I literally text Nick while at the venue last weekend and told him that since we never had a wedding – that I wanted to plan a wedding for our next anniversary at the Parker Mill because it is just that dreamy!
And as quickly as I fell in LOVE with this venue – I am even more geeked out to learn that it is only going to be getting better. They are currently focusing on completing the outside landscaping and design near the building/pavilion with more grass/rock work, signage, ponds, and water features. They have the neatest antique truck parked at the entrance that is already stunning – but by the time they are done, the truck is going to have WATER coming out the side of the truck bed through a large stack of logs into the small pond! WHAT?! They are also adding a dock and gazebo at the bigger pond with some fish stocked for a day-of groomsmen activity, and making a little waterfall in the lower pond.
For as much work as they are doing on the outside, they want to improve the inside – even though to be honest it doesn’t even need it. But their attention to detail is SUPER appreciated and cuts down on needing decorations of your own! In the next few weeks, electricians are going to be adding more lighting to the inside and outside areas with up-lighting on all the beams/timber frames, more lighting in the parking areas, and possibly some “spotlights” at the front of the pavilion to counter the sun washing out the ceremony in pictures – um hello could a photographer love that effort ANY MORE?
See what I mean – I bet you are thinking about what kind of party you can plan just to get to do it here!