Bob Waddell and his wife, Debbie, liked wine, so he decided to make some of his own. That turned out to be more than they could drink, so they started selling it. And while the wine has done pretty well, it’s the vineyard that’s become the star of the show.
“We started as an accidental winery that turned into an accidental wedding venue,” said Chris Hoover, who runs the venue with his mother, Debbie Waddell.
Hoover was married on his parents’ property in 2013 and posted some of the photos to Facebook. At the time, Waddell Vineyards had a small deck around a single tree and about 4 acres of wine grapes, but little else. But someone saw the photos and called to ask if the vineyard would be available for a wedding.
“We sold our first wedding for $300, if that,” Hoover told The Journal Record . “Then their photos started taking off and we started getting more calls. We had no idea we were a wedding venue.”
The family learned a lot about the wedding business at a 2014 conference and got serious. They built a chapel and a reception barn and installed a commercial kitchen. Now they charge $4,000 for a weekend wedding, but they give the bride and the vendors all day Friday to set up and all of Saturday for final touches, the ceremony and the reception. The fee even includes a night in the honeymoon suite and time Sunday to gather odds and ends.
There were just three weddings in 2015, but there were 16 the following year and 20 last year. Hoover said he hopes to host 20-25 in 2018 and book as many as 45 in 2019. They host other events, too, such as wine-and-painting gatherings two or three times per month, and the tasting room is open Thursday through Sunday afternoons. The wine has taken grand champion ribbons from the Oklahoma State Fair each of the past two years, among other awards.
Bob Waddell’s heart may be in the wine, but Hoover loves the weddings.
“They start out on Friday, putting the beginning of their new life in our hands,” Hoover said. “Come Saturday night it’s all wrapping up, and to see someone’s face who’s 22 or 23 or 24 years old, and they’re that happy — it doesn’t seem like work on those weekends.”