Radio Interview Transcript


Welcome to Wedding Details Radio brought to you by Now here is your host, Damien Allen.
DAMIEN: Good morning and welcome to Wedding Details Radio. My name is Damien Allen and joining me today on the phone is Beth Henderson of White Pines Inn of Mount Morris, Illinois. Good morning, Beth, welcome to the program.
BETH: Good morning, Damien. 
DAMIEN: Now you specialize in a very unique business. Tell us what is the history of the White Pines Inn, Beth? 
BETH: It has a long history. It is located in the state park in Illinois, a really beautiful park filled with streams and rhinestone bluffs and hills. When people think of Illinois, they usually think of corn fields, but this is a really gorgeous area filled with trees and forests and in the late 1920’s the area was saved as a state park and in the early 30s during the depression, they built log cabins, lodge, and cabins and shelters very similar to Yellowstone Park’s giant lodge only this is in a miniature in Illinois.
DAMIEN: How big is the Inn? How many cottages are involved in this property?
BETH: What we have is the lodge which consists of a restaurant and a gift shop and then for lodging there are 25 one room log cabins. They are quaint and charming, authentic, hard wood floors, open beam ceilings, log walls. They all have fire places. They have log beds with old fashion trundle beds underneath that pull out so they are modern, but they are very authentic and sort of feel like the Hansel and Gretel days or Laura Ingalls on the Little House on the Prairie type feel.
DAMIEN: This place has had a long history. How long have you been the owner of the White Pines?
BETH: I’m not the owner because it’s a state park. It’s one of the very few things where government and private business work together. I’m called the concessionaire and I lease the property from the state of Illinois and in 10 year increments. I’ve actually been here 23 years now. I feel I’m part of the woodwork.
DAMIEN: Now the White Pines is kind of intertwined with the wedding business as well. What makes the inn such a special place to get married and how did you get started in the wedding business at the inn?
BETH: Well it came to me when I started 23 years ago, the very first weekend I was open we had 2 wedding receptions. Prior to me being here, there was no liquor service, and when I got the bid the state told me you will have a liquor license which to me was awesome because of restaurants, weddings, banquets, a liquor license goes a long with that so it quadrupled the business for weddings instantly by being able to serve alcohol or kegs of beer or wine. We were off the ground running, but the facility has only one banquet room and there was no place to do ceremonies and with it being gorgeous outdoors and the trend for the last 20 years has been a little bit away from churches and to do outdoor services, so we started doing outdoor weddings and then the reception at the Inn, but weather always a factor such a hindrance you had to think constantly and I’ve gotten a lot of gray hair over what the wedding was going to be the day of a wedding and if the weather was inclement then we were tripping over trying to do the ceremony indoors and then set up for the reception at the same time. We eventually purchased a beautiful huge garden canopy tent and flagstoned a courtyard and that helped a little bit so you could do a ceremony under the canopy and then the reception inside, but then at the same times, weddings were growing and growing so we would do an indoor/outdoor event and the same problem the people were constantly in bad weather right under our feet as we were trying to get set up. So we somehow came up with an idea right across the street from White Pines State Park is an old abandoned stone quarry of which some of the limestone that was quarried there was used to build bridges, the fireplaces, the walkways here, so it is very tied to the area. Steel and iron that was used here was foraged right here, the hinges and the chandeliers, it is beautiful. But back to the wedding story, we were looking for a place to expand and the quarry was there and we just sort of came up with the idea to redo the old quarry into the wedding canyons for outdoor ceremonies and we have taken it and run with it and we now have 9 sites bride and grooms get to choose whatever site they want. There is only one wedding going on at a time, we have upwards of 100 weddings a season and the season is mid-May till mid-October. We have ponds, waterfalls and a euro-design tent that holds up to 275 people so if it is raining they can still get married outdoors just with the protection of the tent, air conditioned dressing rooms, lots of parking, a million places to take beautiful pictures in the canyon, floral areas, and again waterfalls and then White Pine State Park itself is a gorgeous area for pictures. And then with all that, we only had our one banquet facility, so we have expanded and purchased another building just 7 miles west of the Wedding Canyon and it can hold up to 350 people and has two banquet rooms. So we have kind of completed the circle now for weddings. Along with that and not just book your wedding here, but we can provide a pastor, we provide a carriage ride, a photographer. We can do your bridal flowers, so it’s almost a one stop shop. We also have lodging for cabins so families can come have a getaway weekend and invite people for the whole weekend not just to come for their wedding. It’s sort of a destination type wedding, although we aren’t Jamaica.
DAMIEN: If a bride wants a certain look, can you handle a theme wedding there as well?
BETH: Oh definitely. From bales of hay for a country western wedding; we’ve done Halloween weddings. After you do reception after reception, each one is different, but it’s fun. I enjoy picking up a challenge. I love coming up with a themed wedding. We have two bridal consultants so that’s their full time job. The bridal consultant does not charge for our services so once a bride and groom book a wedding, they automatically have a person for the next 6 months or a year, however long prior in advance that they book to help them through the whole process. It’s one of the most important days of a couple’s lives and for the majority of them it is the first time they have been through it so we walk them through, hold their hand and take them through the whole process. The things that we don’t offer, we provide information on our website; if you need a DJ, if you need another hotel, if our cabins are full or you need more than what we have for space, transportation like party buses, limo services. You can find it all on our website along with our bridal consultants are so knowledgeable because they have been doing weddings for 23 years.
DAMIEN: So you are really able to give the bridal couple the perfect wedding by providing all those services they need all in one spot?
BETH: Yes, definitely with 23 years of experience in the same location we are connected to all aspects of the weddings in the area and can help couples find musicians, and we have quite the plethora of events. We had a bride and groom leave by helicopter. We have couples, of course, who have their dog walk the bride down the aisle or bring the rings down as a ring bearer. We had somebody who wanted to, which we did not allow, they wanted to repel down the cliff to the bride. We didn’t allow that. But we encourage people to get creative.
DAMIEN: How far in advance should a couple book the Inn for their wedding and reception?
BETH: That’s a tough question. In order to get everything you want, I would say a year to a year and a half out. That’s how far we, we actually book as far as a couple years out, but in order to get the photographer you want, the rooms that you want, the ideal time frame you want, that’s what I would recommend. It doesn’t always happen for couples, and we can make weddings happen in less than three months if you want them. Some brides can’t handle the idea of throwing it together at last minute, but that’s where we step in and help you out.  We can plan them, but ideally a year to a year and a half is what a couple should use and that is anywhere whether they are here or anywhere else.
DAMIEN: Now can the entire Inn be rented for a wedding party?
BETH: Besides the 25 original authentic log cabins, we also have 3 family cabins that are across the street from the park. They are designed for families and weddings. They work ideally for weddings. They have a living room and kitchen, two of them sleep 12 people and one of them sleeps 6. Then we also have a honeymoon cabin. So a total of 30 cabins. We allow bridal couples to hold and rent 13 of those as a bridal block. They get special attention, they can rent the room for only one night where our cabins have a two night minimum on a weekend and the bride also has the right not to pay for the cabins until 8 weeks ahead. It gives them lots of time to plan and collect and try to figure out who all is going to be there. But if they want all 30 cabins, they can rent them. There is a way around it. That’s when you have to do it way in advance, because our cabins fill up so quickly on weekends. They just would have to have their ducks in a row and have all their other family members call in and book their reservations on their own, and they would have to follow the other rules which the cabin has to be paid 10 days from when the reservation is made in the year of the wedding. If it is made prior to a year, they just hold it and then early in the season, February, March, April, they get billed for that.
DAMIEN: Well very, very cool stuff, Beth. Anything new coming up for the remainder of 2011 or in 2012?
BETH: Just the fact of our brand new banquet facility. We just opened it at the end of March. It is called White Pines La Branch, beautiful cedar building, cedar sided inside and out, chandeliers, granite waterfalls, it’s all carpeted. We are very proud of the way it turned out. That’s just really kicking off and getting going. I anticipate lots and lots of wedding receptions there in the next upcoming years.
DAMIEN: Well if someone wants more information on the White Pines Inn or the packages or ceremonies you offer, where do they go, where do they get the information from, Beth?
BETH: On our website we have well over 100 pages of information. We have a simple one page brochure printed that is a teaser to direct you to the website, because there is so much information. We put everything on the website which is under the head of weddings, we put every price out there so a bride knows exactly what we are charging including tax and tips. They can use it as a comparison shopping wherever they are. We believe in really being up front. We want a couple to know what they are getting into, whether they can afford it, and what is the bottom line. They can also call us anytime. We don’t put availability on the website. They would have to call and check with a bridal consultant and that number is (815) 946-2400.
DAMIEN: We’d like to thank you very much for joining us today, Beth.
BETH: Thank you.
DAMIEN: We’ve been speaking with today with Beth Henderson of White Pines Inn in Mount Morris, Illinois. You have been listening to Bridal Spotlight on Wedding Details Radio. My name is Damien Allen. Everybody thanks for joining us, everyone have a great afternoon.
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