- Associated Press - Thursday, April 10, 2014

LINWOOD, N.C. (AP) - Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote, “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” This is exactly what Debbie and Michael Phillips were banking on when they started using their 65-acre farm as a nature-themed wedding and special events venue.

The couple bought the property in 2001 when they had four small children. They began adding rooms to the house because at the time they needed the space. As the children grew and hopped the nest, the couple was left with a big house and nothing to do with it.

“We considered selling the property, but we just couldn’t do it,” Debbie Phillips said. “It was after our daughter got married here last July that we began contemplating using it as a special events venue.”

Approximately two months later, the Phillips family started L'Abri at Linwood, which is French for “the shelter.” Phillips and her husband had previously discussed starting their own business.

“We did a lot of work to get it ready for the wedding,” Phillips said. “We relocated horses and spruced up existing buildings, and we decided since we had done all of this work, let’s just do it. We have always wanted to have a family business, and we wanted to stay here.”

L'Abri is a business that takes advantage of the talents and skills of the entire family. Their son, Coleman, is the property manager and DJ, but he also owns upscale portable restrooms that are heads and shoulders above the normal Port-a-Potty. Their daughter, Mychal, is their on-site wedding coordinator and marketing director. Their other daughter, Ally, is a photographer, and even their youngest daughter, Gracie, who is still in high school, does hair and makeup.

Phillips said they offer these services to make the day go as smoothly as possible. Basically the only thing they do not provide is transportation and catering. The venue does have amenities for these services.

The property consists of several outbuildings, barns and acre after acre of unspoiled farmland. They have a small pond where they installed a floating fountain that many brides choose as a backdrop on their special day. There is a separate building for grooms and their groomsmen and a suite for the brides and her attendants.

Phillips said because they have so much space, brides have a multitude of options.

“We have many different facilities,” she said. “You can use the barn for the wedding or the reception. We have so much space, I tell the bride ‘this is your show, we are just the stage.’”

But L'Abri is not just a place for weddings. Phillips said they offer venues for all kinds of special events including family reunions and business retreats.

“It doesn’t have to be a wedding,” she said. “Lexington Youth Theatre is having a summer barn dinner theater here with a pirate-themed show. We have an arts group out of Winston(-Salem) holding a day to put together art kits for ill children. It could be a company picnic or rehearsal dinner. We are trying to individualize whatever their needs are. We take it on a case-by-case basis.”

Although the business is fairly new, they already have every weekend booked between May and October. The couple has been reaching out to other businesses to create partnerships. Phillips said the Holiday Inn Express at Childress Vineyards is offering special rates for people holding their event at L'Abri.

Phillips said their focus is to make the day as calm and an enjoyable as possible and to take some of the stress off. She said they are there to make things run smoothly and make it as relaxing as possible.

“It is a big day for people,” Phillips said. “We want to let them know everything is going to be OK. They have room to spread out and have all the privacy or attention they need. We are here to create a stage for whatever they want.”

Phillips said outdoor weddings have become an immensely popular trend over the past few years. She said although many people still opt for a more traditional setting, nature is its own spectacular decoration.

“What we offer is rustic elegance or Southern charm with a twist,” she said. “Our goal is to show God’s love to anyone who is here. Churches are wonderful, but when the sun is setting over the pond, you can’t ask for a better backdrop.”


For more information, visit www.labriatlinwood.com or contact labriatlinwood@gmail.com or 240-3368.


Information from: The Dispatch, http://www.the-dispatch.com



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