Hidden River Events expresses it sincere grief, disappointment, and anger over the continued marginalization of African Americans in our country along with other people of color. We remember George Floyd and his family along with the countless others–sadly too numerous to name–who in all too recent history have likewise suffered from the prejudice and systemic racism still rampant in our culture. As a business that has at its core a philosophy of LOVE ABOVE ALL, we wish to stand in solidarity with any individual or group who feels minimized or disregarded and who worry that their very lives are threatened by those for whom ignorance and fear holds more sway than love and courage. We proudly stand with our brothers and sisters to celebrate that black is beautiful and we understand that none of us are truly free until all of us are truly free.
One of the nicest things we hear from our couples is the truth of what they experience with their partners: an all-inclusive kind of love. What does this mean? It means that your partner accepts all of you; and that includes the parts of yourself that you might not even want to accept. It means that when you see each other, you really SEE each other. You aren’t projecting onto the other person what you hope for them to be. You are seeing each other as you are and, even with seeing all the fragility, you can say to yourselves: “I will have this person’s back.” You are on the same team. That’s what Hidden River Events is about, we’ve got your back!
You are getting married. This is the most crucial decision–other than whether or not to have children–you will likely make in your life. It’s about a choice that will affect the trajectory of your life from this point onward. It’s not about something you have to do. It’s a choice. Because this is such a crucial decision, there is this period known as an “engagement.” In our society, this period has become about stress. It turns the most crucial decision of your lives into a matter mostly of dollars and cents. Instead of enabling you to work on your relationship, to make plans for your future, to do the things young people are often doing around the time of getting married (i.e. finishing school, buying a house, moving to a new location, etc.) weddings often force couples to get caught up in endless details related to one day in your life. It is easy to become lost to yourself. Even the most laid back couples tell us that they know themselves well enough to know that they do not want to spend much time and effort planning a wedding because they will likely become a version of themselves they do not recognize or like. This often gives rise to the thought: “Why don’t we just elope?” But then they discover what Hidden River is all about.
As we have evolved through the years, so has our philosophy on marriage. We have some qualitative strengths that you will likely not find elsewhere, because our business is value driven more than profit driven. We want everyone who works with us at Hidden River to make a reasonable living, not a killing. This is a moment of real LIFE! To work at Hidden River, as an employee or as a vendor, means that you share in our understanding that this is not the business of getting married, this is the work of getting married, and all of our staff and vendors are “engaged” with you in this process. What does this mean? It means that, first and foremost we hold a space for you to actually to do the work of engagement. By taking away the stress and financial insecurity associated with wedding planning, we enable you actually to be engaged and, when we encounter you for the decision making components of your wedding, it is not a meeting about dollars and cents, it’s a meeting about matter of fact decisions that will enable you to go about the rest of your day focusing on what matters most: cultivating your good loving. It means that when we meet with you, we are ready for it all: your joy, your fear and insecurity, the real stuff of life that is messy and beautiful and, well, LIFE. We have cultivated relationships among our staff and vendors that are purposeful and real. There’s nothing fake about who we are. We consciously work to cultivate a work environment that is based on authenticity, real care, and service. This has an effect that flows through every aspect of our business, just like this gorgeous river flows through our property. When you book with us, you hire a partner, not a competitor. We are your allies in saving money, time, and emotional duress. Most importantly, we are proactively your allies in creating good loving between the two of you. Without being preachy, we will remind you that this is about creating a life together. We have cultivated our work family to make healthy choices so we can enable you to do the same thing in your new family.
Good loving matters. You will see on our website the by-line “Love Multiplies!” This means that if we can work to support and foster healthy loving between the two of you that will stand the test of time and experience, this will have an effect in the world: together you will create more loving than you could ever have created were you to remain on your own. This is not an easy task. In many ways it is much easier to be single. But you are creating an “all-inclusive” love in a world that is often selective, a world that often judges and dismisses and excludes. Ideally, you are looking at your partner and are not projecting the idealized version of yourself but you are truly seeing someone who is DIFFERENT from yourself—a different history, different habits, different dreams—and you are saying to yourself: “I want to be a part of that life, not because this person is so like me but because this person will open me up to something beautiful that I could not experience on my own.” And through that process of truly seeing each other as you are, you will likely come to know that you are both made of the same stuff–this messy, beautiful, fragile stuff from which even the stars are made. This recognition is both exhilarating and humbling. This work of real engagement will be tough at times but the pay-off is incredibly valuable because it will teach you things about yourself that you would likely not come to understand without allying yourself with this apparently different, truly fragile, amazing, and messy human being.
These are lessons our world needs truly to come to understand. Instead of fearing and mistrusting people who appear so different from us, we need to learn to see them and understand them, to the degree that is possible. At Hidden River, we believe that transformation of our society begins, first of all within ourselves, and, secondly, in relationship to our most important associations. We believe in marriage and its power to transform the world, not because of any property alignments (you can get this by going to a courthouse and making a legal agreement) but because you are aligning yourself in the most intimate matter possible with another equally beautiful and equally fragile person for the purposes of pursuing, together, a completely unknown future. What a wild ride that is!!! Shy of having or adopting a baby, it is the most vulnerable thing you will ever do.
We hold a space for you to do the work of truly being engaged and truly getting married. Ultimately, that is what all-inclusivity means for us. And this also applies to whether or not you are in a racially mixed marriage, are gay or straight, or marrying for a second time, etc. We are truly proud of the quality and quantity of the products and services that are included in our packages. That’s no small feat in and of itself. But what makes us truly unique is the source from which all of this is born: We believe in good loving and in doing the work that enables good loving to multiply and thrive, not simply to survive or to be for your own sake alone. We even donate a portion of each event to a local non-profit in your honor, to celebrate the beginning of a marriage that contributes to the well-being of the larger community.
When our owner, Jeanne Sommer, began Hidden River Events 16 years ago, she started with a clear understanding that something we were experiencing in relation to weddings was “off.” Without exception, she found that people were coming to their wedding days worn out, jaded, and just “ready to get it over with.” That seemed wrong. Why would anyone spend even a dime on something they couldn’t wait to finish? Jeanne, who had witnessed 100’s of weddings in her capacity as an officiant, decided it was time to try a new model, something entirely different. She wondered how we could begin a wedding venue that was truly all-inclusive for couples, the way the best instances of good loving should be?
At first, she thought all-inclusive meant just having all the infrastructure ready to go for the couple, so what looks like such a simply beautiful, largely outdoor wedding could be as clean and simple as the lines of the tent. There should be no hassles about getting in all the infrastructure and having it ready for your wedding. She did not want to witness a rental truck showing up at the last minute and a mom or bridesmaid, or the couple themselves, setting up chairs and tables–even mowing the yard–on the morning of the wedding. These were all things Jeanne witnessed repeatedly over the years. No wonder people were exhausted before their wedding even began. So she began Hidden River with all of the infrastructure included and we did this for the first four years of the business. Still, however, we found that couples were exhausted, jaded, and just plain “over it.” Evidently, finding their vendors, working with wedding planners, being surprised when prices changed or were not transparent, working from a distance, and not really knowing who to trust, was wearing them down. In 2012, we realized that we could do this part of wedding planning differently too. Our all-inclusive packages (the labor, infrastructure, and all the vendors) were born.
We found a handful of amazing independent vendors and asked them to do something no one in our industry asks: “Will you cut your prices at least in ½ for our clients?” “In return,” we told our vendors, “we suspect you’ll gain a year’s worth of guaranteed work without having to advertise, secure the contracts, etc. We’ll just give you the opportunity to do what you do best.” And that’s what happened: we pre-negotiated highly reduced rates with our vendors so that the overall cost of a complete event would be substantially less than it would likely be anywhere else with the same inclusions. We acted as wedding brokers on our couples’ behalf. Whereas, in the industry, most intermediaries (planners, etc.) receive a 15% commission on whatever couples purchase, we went about it the opposite way and, because our goal was to get your overall costs down, we have no incentive to encourage our couples to “do more,” “buy more,” or “fret more.” The only time we earn anything in relation to our vendors is when you choose to add something to an already complete package and, even then, our commission is 10%. All of our vendors know that they have no need to push you to add or do more, for our packages are truly complete. If you choose to do so, it is completely because you want to, not because you have to solve a problem or feel pressured to upgrade or add. Our packages are completely sufficient as they are, while still giving you ways to customize and add your signature, but without adding costs.
This means that, in 2023 for example, we can offer you catering at $25 per person for the same meal, and with higher quality, for which you’d pay $100 per person elsewhere. For our photographer, you pay $1750.00 when you’d likely pay $2500-$4000 from any other similarly accomplished photographer in our region.
Here are some statistics from the latest research according to the Knot.com.
In their annual “real weddings survey,” the average cost for a 117 person local event in North Carolina for what we include is typically $247 per person at other venues; but, at Hidden River, that average cost is $197 to $231 per person, which is an approximately $2000-$7000 savings. Take into account also that Asheville wedding costs, like the cost of living in our area in general, tend to be higher than in other areas of North Carolina, on average and the savings are likely even more.
According to that same survey, the average cost of a “domestication wedding,” which is a wedding where the couple and/or most of their guests travel for the wedding, is $35,600 and the number of guests in attendance is typically lower than the average of 117 for a local wedding. Since 90% of the couples who get married with us at Hidden River are not from Asheville, and if the average size of the wedding with us remains at 117 people, the savings increase to approximately $8000-$12,000 (at a minimum, since theknot.com data suggests that domestication weddings are actually smaller than the 117 person average), which is what our booked couples who have been searching for venues for a while have been telling us as well.
But monetary savings alone is not enough. We have also eliminated the stress for the couple and their family and closest friends. This is an inclusion that is difficult to monetize. It is priceless and precious because of what it cultivates within you, your partner and your families. We have created a planning process and a wedding day/weekend that is truly stress free. Surely, there will be some degree of stress involved, but your venue and vendors will not be contributing to it. We will create a place of calm where all the details are handled without you even having to know about it or be involved. Once a couple books with us, they receive a special password for a private planning site that includes information about every aspect of their wedding, and more. A year’s worth of planning knowledge is at your fingertips, at any moment you desire to consider it. You do not have to wait or wonder about the information. Our couples tell us all the time that their friends who are getting married elsewhere ask them: “How can you be so calm?” And they reply: “Because I’m getting married at Hidden River.” We do things differently here so the couple can focus on the things we cannot do for them: honeymoon, invitations, wedding attire, and most importantly: spending quality time with each other and the people who join you for your wedding.
We are grateful for the chance to share in your beautiful relationship. To celebrate your love, beginning in the summer of 2023, a gift is given in your honor to the Jeanne Sommer Fund for Women and Girls through the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina (with priority for those who are survivors of domestic and gun violence.) Love Multiplies when you share your love with us! (You may also request that this gift be given to an organization of your choice.)
WE ELIMINATE STRESSWe hope you get a sense of what this means, practically, for you. You do not, for instance, have to go to 5-10 different caterers for tastings; you do not have to wonder what it will end up costing, when all is said and done; you do not have to worry about every trash can, ice scoop, and napkin; and you DO have space actually to be engaged with each other and actually to enjoy your wedding when the date arrives.
Financial savings, elimination of stress and being held within the space our staff and vendors hold for you as you embark on this unique moment in your lives are the core of what it means to be all-inclusive. To add icing to that tasty cake, you also get:
- Proximity to Asheville
- The ability to host up to 60-80 people on site for several days so it can truly be about two families coming together
- Multiple choices of ceremony sites: floral gardens; river settings; ponds; open fields under a huge mountain sky
- The ability to purchase and provide your own alcohol, with no mark ups, for huge savings.
We hope you will find that there is no better place for you to nurture your good loving than with us at Hidden river. We hope that our couples will return to us over the years, to remember their promises, to show their children–should they choose to have them–where they were married, and to find ways to invite other people into their all-inclusive care for each other in a way that is truly liberating and healing of this messy world in which we live. We hope you will plant and water the seeds of your good loving with us at our lovely farm.