I recently had the pleasure to visit with Jean & Randy Abrams, owners of Castle Hill and Tess Harris, Director of Operations. Business is booming at Castle Hill.
HottyToddy.com: Tess, your business seems to be growing, especially in the area of weddings. Tell us about what is happening and why.
Tess Harris: Business has been great but I am so excited about the future. With the recent addition of our Ballroom, Castle Hill now offers a wonderful new indoor space that we have been lacking. The phone is ringing daily with inquiries and our 2015 calendar is booking fast. I knew we needed the indoor space, but I didn’t realize just how much until we began construction and people were asking “When will it be ready so I can book my wedding?” I’m thrilled to announce. “IT’s READY!”
HottyToddy.com: The ballroom is a beautiful space with many amenities. Can you describe a few?
Tess Harris: The Ballroom is 3500 square feet of open space. Whether it’s 100 wedding guest or a Greek event for 600, the Ballroom will appeal to all size parties. It opens to the main house with access to the original bar and lounge area that now overlooks the Ballroom. Architecturally, the Ballroom blends seamlessly with the original building. We added beautiful moldings and coffered ceilings with elegant crystal chandeliers giving it a formal feel but not so formal a casual event would seem out of place. The floors are a beautiful gold tone burnished concrete that really shine. We added a classic mirrored ball over the dance floor area that is anchored by a raised stage to accommodate big bands. Bands will also enjoy a private dressing room and bathroom just off the stage. There are also beautifully decorated new restrooms for the guests, a second bar and 3 sets of French doors that open to a large covered porch. The Ballroom was all Castle Hill needed to make it the ultimate wedding venue in Oxford.
HottyToddy.com: Typically, how far in advance do families book Castle Hill for weddings?
Tess Harris: Most weddings are well planned and booked months, if not a year or more in advance. We have had bookings as far as 2 years in advance and some less than 3 months. We have already booked many events for 2016. A recent wedding was planned in less than three months and our bride was beyond grateful to our staff and what we accomplished in such a short amount of time. We took the stress off of her with such a short planning period and successfully delivered the very special day she had always dreamed of.
HottyToddy.com: June, historically, has been the most popular month for weddings. Is this a correct assessment for Castle Hill?
Tess Harris: Not exactly. In the past, we would typically book most of our weddings during the Spring and Fall when the weather is milder because we did not have an indoor space to accommodate a large event. Sometimes clients would have to go to the additional expense of renting a tent if the weather was not conducive to an outdoor event, such as the month of June. Now with the Ballroom, we are looking forward to weddings all year long. For the first time, we have every weekend in June booked as well as several Sundays in June…and July and August are booking too.
HottyToddy.com: Catering also is a major component of Castle Hill. How does this factor into all of the many diverse events you host?
Tess Harris: Castle Hill has a fully equipped commercial kitchen. We are able to accommodate the catering needs of our clients here on property without using an outside catering source. We have assembled a dedicated team of catering professionals that is on hand to assist you in making food selections that will work within your budget with a menu that is unique to you and your guests. Communication is easier when clients are able to meet with the Event Coordinator and Chef at the same time to plan the perfect event. I’m very picky about the food. There is no room for error here and I feel we do an outstanding job with each and every dish we provide our clients. A recent “Delta” wedding gave us 5 stars all around but to get that on the Food means a lot…especially when you later find out that your food was critiqued by anther Chef attending the wedding. We also provide the linens, tables, chairs and all dishes including beautiful serving pieces to our clients as part of our packages.
HottyToddy.com: What services does Castle Hill not provide that a bride will also need.
Tess Harris: That’s a small list. The Cake, Photographer, Florist and live Music. These are not areas of our expertise, but we keep an updated vendor list of local and preferred vendors to help the brides with these services. As I mentioned before, Castle Hill includes so many items and services in our packages. Most brides are very happy with all we have to offer, but on occasion, especially when another wedding planner is involved, brides will opt for a different look and forgo using our included items and rent absolutely everything!
HottyToddy.com: Do you allow outside Event Planners?
Tess Harris: Absolutely! We love working with other Event Planners.
HottyToddy.com: For those of us interested in booking Castle Hill for either a party, private dinner or other activity, what is the process?
Tess Harris: Simple. Just give us a call or email. We will be glad to send out our Event Policy information as well as catering menu. We also encourage clients to schedule a tour of the property to see all we have to offer. I think there may be some misconception out there that we are not affordable, but that is just not the case. Whether it’s a wedding, baby shower, graduation party or corporate meeting, we work closely with our client’s to provide them a great event within their budget.
HottyToddy.com: If you had to project a “guesstimate” right now, how many weddings do you anticipate hosting in 2015
Tess Harris: I am on a mission to book 30…and I’m getting close! With Greek events, corporate meetings, other special events and holidays, that’s a good number for us. We work most weekends with events and many long hours, but it’s so worth. I expect to be very tired at the end of 2015!
HottyToddy.com: What size events can you host?
Tess Harris: We have the ability to host most any size event. The main house offers several smaller rooms for smaller intimate parties such as a bridal luncheon for 12 or a private birthday dinner for 30, but we can also accommodate guest in the Courtyard or Poolside for events not needing a space as large as the Ballroom. With the flow of the Ballroom, main house and outdoor spaces, we can easily host events from 10 guests to 800.
HottyToddy.com: We haven’t discussed the B&B component of your business.
Tess Harris: Castle Hill has 7 available overnight accommodations and our rates are competitive with other hotels and B&B’s in the area. Wedding parties usually book all of our rooms for their event. It’s nice to stay on property when so much is taking place during a wedding event instead of driving back and forth to another location. We have many corporate guests that stay weeks at a time and of course return guests. Football season is always a full house. We have already booked for the 2015 season with many of our favorite return guests.
HottyToddy.com: Anything exciting coming up for the public?
Tess Harris: Yes! We will have a romantic Valentine’s Day Dinner & Dancing in the Ballroom on February 14 and our first live Comedy Night on Feb. 20. Details will be announced soon and both events are limited seating so I suggest calling early for reservations. We are also planning a Spring Open House and another exciting event is in the works for April.
Castle Hill is one of the most beautiful settings for hosting both indoor as well as outdoor functions. The lakes and rolling landscape add greatly to the property’s appeal not to mention the very short driving time from the Square. It doesn’t seem like you’re in Oxford with the contrast from the Square and campus. It’s a wonderful addition right here in our backyard! Check it out.
Steve Vassallo is a HottyToddy.com contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. In addition, he is a certified economic and community developer and currently, a highly successful leader in the real estate business with Premier Properties of Oxford.You can contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 985-852-7745.