By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

About a year ago, Lisa Elkins took a huge risk and moved here from Florida to open Welleswood Wedding and Event Venue at the historical home which is owned by the Gilbert family. For many years, the venue been known as Madelyn’s, and is located at 1005 Elkton Street, on the north side of town. Lisa has Athens roots, and always told her family here that if the place ever became available, to please call her immediately. Well, they did; she came; and the rest is a marvelous bit of history that is unfolding right before us.

Lisa will be quick to tell you that none of this could have happened without the blessing of God, the help of her husband, her sister Tammy, family members and friends, and the welcoming people of Athens. Everybody has been rooting for her, and it has all paid off. Lisa and Tammy are fast friends as well as “partners-in-non-crime,” and in addition to doing Welleswood, Tammy works with the team that manages the Gilbert family land holdings. Their joint venture has come together to become something quite splendid, and my hope is that it will continue on for years to come.

By way of a bit of history, the stately home with its columns, deep wrap-around porch, eight fireplaces, stained-glass and beveled windows, porticoes, parlors, grand view, and massive trees was originally built by Captain T.L. Wells, and sadly it burned down. The home that graces the property now was purchased 90 years ago by the Gilbert family, and it will stay with them as part of their legacy. In honor of Captain Wells, Lisa and Tammy chose to name the place Welleswood, and they have had a truly wonderful first year of making memories for Athenians.

While still in Florida, Lisa worked for many years for a lawn and garden company, and on the side, she did events. Over time she collected a number of reception pieces that would fit beautifully in a place like Welleswood. They include, but are not limited to, Royal Albert China, silver service sets, linens, theme props, holiday decorations, and more. As the Welleswood business has built up, Lisa has been able to purchase more linens in navy blue, court rose, and sage, which are the current trending colors. They also now have a portable oak parquet dance floor; there are more chairs and tables; they built a pergola; and the landscaping has been brightened. However, there is a heart-warming feature that has become wildly popular that is simply referred to as “the doors.” In this era of fondly re-purposing all manner of items from the past, the Welleswood team built a shabby-chic archway out of old paneled, wooden doors, newel posts, and bric-a-brac that were already there on the property, a tribute to a bygone era before pressboard and vinyl were invented. It has become a monster hit as a featured part of wedding venue amenities. Some people have chosen to get married on the lawn in front of it instead of the stairs and columns of the house. It can be moved and decorated, and as grand as the house is, some brides have chosen to go with Welleswood for their weddings because of “the doors!”

In keeping with combining elegant with rustic, one of Lisa’s favorite weddings this season is featured as part of this article’s illustrations. The bride and groom covered the round tables with burlap, and then layered old Battenberg-style lace tablecloths on top. They used several generations of flower-filled family china tea cups to place around the main centerpieces, and used two distressed and painted chairs for the bride and groom at the head table.

Lisa and I talked about what happens when the weather is iffy. Typically a large tent will be rented as a Plan B, but for one wedding, they moved all of the furniture off the porch, set the tables on it, and had the ceremony right at the top of the stairs. The bride and groom had their first dance under the charmingly-lit north side portico. There have been some parents that have prayed, and the weather has cleared up. You are going to have to decide for yourself if that is a miracle, but I am a believer, and it sounds like the Lord’s M.O. to me! Either way, the weddings have gone on without a hitch, and the resulting word-of-mouth is keeping them busy.

One of the things I appreciate about Lisa, Tammy, and their family is their desire to make the day special for not just the bride and groom, but both wedding families as well as the guests. They labor out of love, and the thank you notes they receive prove it.

Welleswood is not just for weddings, and this past year has seen Christmas and Easter events, bridal and baby showers, and I can also tell you that Welleswood’s prices are more than reasonable. During the interview, we sat on the front porch in the Amish rockers, gazing out into a perfect summer day kissed by breezes and full of fields and horses; and I had to hope that someday I will get a chance to come as a guest. If a stunning venue, versatile package options, and stellar customer service are what you are looking for, then Welleswood is waiting. Give them a call today.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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