|Tying the knot with a country backdrop|
Terry and Marlene Schmidt have been planning their daughter April's wedding for years - and she's not even engaged yet.
When she does tie the knot, though, her parents have the perfect place to do it: at home, on the banks of the Nith River,which winds through their picturesque rural property in Ayr.
The way Terry and Marlene envision it, their daughter's ceremony will be one of many on the farm. They're launching a rural wedding and events business, where couples can enjoy a back-tonature backdrop for vows, reception and the whole matrimonial shebang.
Marlene and Terry Schmidt are adding an amphitheatre
to their Ayr farm to create a unique venue.
"I always wanted to make the farm pay for itself," Terry says.
Not that they haven't already
put it to good use. While they've
never raised animals or crops,
Terry runs a millwright business
on the land and Marlene has a
hairstyling salon in the 19th-century
brick farmhouse. They
bought the 33-acre property from
Terry's parents in 2000.
"My clients often say they'd
love to get married in a place like
this," Marlene says, adding that
bridal parties frequently take
"getting ready" photos in the gardens.
So after helping to put on weddings
for Terry's niece and stepdaughter,
they felt inspired to turn
the property into a dreamy weddingscape.
They purchased a wedding tent
big enough to accommodate 250
people, plus a Queen Victoria carriage
and two Percheron draft horses for escorting bridal parties
in royal style.
They also excavated a stretch of
land behind the house for a terrace,
a carriageway and a parking
And at the river, they've arranged a series of retaining
walls and concrete blocks in a semicircle to
create an amphitheatre,where couples can exchange
The Schmidts have grand plans for NithRidge
Estate Weddings and Events. They intend to install
a pool and a two-tiered fountain on the terrace.
They want stone paths, a carriage house, a sixhorse
stable and a commercial kitchen. The silo
could house washrooms and a lookout.
When they're not hosting weddings, they'd like
to bring music and theatre events to Ayr.
But at present, the sizable fountain sits upside
down by the barn. The terrace consists of a swathe
of ground fill by the patio (it's a work in progress).
And the horses live on another farm.
For the first few weddings, they'll rent supplies,
including a trailer with washrooms. Terry says
he's waiting until gas prices go down to ship their
own chairs and tables from China.
So the Schmidts aren't concerned that no one
has booked a wedding yet. Terry - burly and
tanned,wearing scuffed work boots - jokes that
next year he'll get to scale back to 16-hour days,
seven days a week.
The Schmidts practically (and literally) live at
work. Marlene says brides and their ladies-inwaiting
will even be able to stay overnight at the
farmhouse, for pre-wedding preening at the salon.
The family will share their living quarters withguests from May to October.
"Who else gets a chance to party every weekend
and get paid for it?" Terry asks, ever the optimist.
He can't even imagine what might go seriously
wrong at a wedding.
If it rains, he's got a tent. He figures weddings
guests tend to get into the spirit of the day regardless
of the weather.
If something breaks, he's got $2 million in liability
insurance on the farm, and they'll add other
policies as needed.
If they can't do it all, they'll hire people or call
on friends and family. (As he speaks, his dad shoves
a push mower around the lush lawn).
Terry's not worried about competition, either.
He says there are a few other farm venues in Waterloo
Region, but doesn't want to name them.
"I'm not interested in what they're doing," he
says. "I don't think competition's an issue,when
you see what we've got. The competition doesn't
have an amphitheatre."
As for the cost,well, they haven't nailed that
down. It could be anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000
per wedding, depending on what amenities they
add to the property and what each couple wants.
A neighbour, Mark Millard, wanders up toward
the patio from the amphitheatre with his girlfriend,
Bianca Ruge. "Terry," Millard says, "I took my girlfriend to
see the Acropolis. She's quite impressed!"
As printed in Record LIFE TUESDAY, JULY 29, 2008