Tying the Knot: Something Old is Something New

knot_sum15[s2If is_user_logged_in()]

PDF Click here to view this article as a PDF[/s2If]

After transforming a family cotton gin for their own wedding, a young couple is sharing the history-filled venue with others who appreciate its authentic charm.

story by BRETT JAILLET | photography by DEEDRA PIKE

When Whitney and Andrew Meeks were planning their wedding last May, it became obvious the best place to hold their ceremony was at Andrew’s family’s cotton gin in Pisgah, Ala. The building itself was no longer in use, though the family still farms on the 10-acre property, and the wide open space was the ideal spot to accommodate plenty of guests for their elegant affair. Their families pitched in to get the gin ready. Much of the original machinery is intact and provided a visually interesting backdrop for the festivities. The couple even put together a one-of-akind chandelier that served as a focal point.[s2If !is_user_logged_in()]

To read the rest of this article, pick up a copy of the Summer 2015 issue OR Subscribe Now for instant access to our online edition, which offers more photos (including those not published in the print edition).

[/s2If][s2If is_user_logged_in()]After the wedding was over, the Meeks realized they might have something special.

“We were on our honeymoon and started thinking that it would be a great wedding venue to share with others,” Whitney says. “So while we were still on our honeymoon, we made a Facebook page for it — just to see if anyone would be interested.”

Before they even made it back from their trip, they had calls from couples who wanted to have their own weddings at the cotton gin. So Andrew and Whitney worked all summer getting the space ready. The renovation work included a new electrical system and additional space. Since Meeks Grain and Gin Co. officially opened in July 2014, weekends have been filling up fast with couples looking to hold their celebrations in a place oozing with history.

The gin was built in 1947, and the Meeks family operated it into the mid ’70s. Once cotton was no longer profitable, the Meeks switched to potatoes, corn and soybeans. Andrew and Whitney grow the latter two today. The original grain bins are still in use, and the property also features an artesian well that was drilled in 1924. It provided water for the steam engine to power the cotton gin and is one of only three from that time period left on Sand Mountain, Whitney says.

Couples can use the space however they choose, holding their ceremony inside and reception outside or vice versa. Whitney says couples typically bring their own vendors for catering, flowers and entertainment, though she is happy to guide them through that process. Families also can rent the space for a day or for the weekend. Whitney says people often decide to host rehearsal dinners on the property.

“We just leave it open for people to do whatever they want to do,” she says. “It’s their day.”

When Kali and Blaine Bradley saw the venue, they knew right away they had found the perfect spot.

“It suited the theme of our wedding and our personalities to a tee,” Kali says. “We fell in love with it. We just could not pass it up.”
For their April wedding, they chose to have both the ceremony and reception inside. They used half of the space for the ceremony and the other half for the reception and Kali says the dimensions were perfect for their 100 guests.

To complement the chandelier Andrew and Whitney created, lights were strung on the front of the building. The couple took a hands-on approach to the rest of their decor. Kali’s father made the archway where they were married, and her stepmother accented the event with signs and arrangements. But Kali says they added few details to the antique equipment, original signs, old cars and mosaic of materials inside the gin. “We didn’t have to decorate that much,” she says. “The place is so beautiful.”

The reasons the venue seemed so right to the couple came down to comfort for themselves and their families.

“I’m from a small town, and my husband is, too, so we were looking for a place that felt comfortable and like home,” Kali says. “And that’s exactly how this felt. It just felt good.“[/s2If]