By Sue Moore
For couples getting married who want to celebrate in a country setting, The Meadows at Leslie Family Farm in Fulton could be just the ticket. It is something out of the ordinary, located at 11586 S. 48th Street just north of the village.
The setting includes a family farmhouse that has been remodeled to accommodate the bride’s preparation time. It is located in a pasture-like meadow for an outdoor wedding if desired. It has a barn that seats 299 guests for a wedding and reception, with plenty of shelter in case of rain.
Two sisters, Kristin Leslie, 40, and Meghan Miller, 38, inherited the 20-acre farm from their grandfather, Donald Leslie, when he passed away in 2016. It included the homestead, built in 1874, and a barn that had been hit by lightning in a thunderstorm. With an assist from aunts, uncles and cousins who live in the area, they built a brand new barn for weddings and other events. It has 3,000 square feet of space with a catering kitchen, an outdoor covered patio and restrooms.
The sisters live on the east side of Michigan but made many trips to oversee the building project and make their dream of keeping the farm in the family come true. Miller has four children, so it has fallen to Leslie to trek to Fulton more often to meet with couples and their families. She has plenty of experience in this type of work; she has been bartending since she was in college at Delta in Saginaw where she also played basketball. “I hurt my ankle and couldn’t play my second year so I needed to learn the art of tending bar to pay for my education.” That led to stints in Colorado and then back to Sterling Heights. She started a business seven years ago doing event planning, wedding consulting and coordination along with bartending.
The new barn structure in Fulton opened in late 2018 and hit full stride in 2019 with 12 weddings performed on the property. “We wanted to keep it at that as we were learning what was required. We have booked 15 weddings already for 2020 and expect to hold it at 18 for this summer. We will keep it the same for 2021,” Leslie said. “We have such good memories of holidays spent at the farm with our extended family in the Athens area. It was a complete surprise to find out that our grandfather had left the property to us in his will. Grampa was a carpenter by trade so he kept it up real well. He saved most of the wood from the collapsed barn and we have used that in building the new facility.”
Leslie has done lots of event planning at other venues, so she knew what they charged and what was included in those charges. “We wanted to be slightly under that and include most everything needed for a rental property. Their price is $3,500 for Saturdays and $2,500 for other days of the week,” Leslie said. “We offer use of the farmhouse, tables, chairs, trash pickup and clean up after the wedding is over. The couple is responsible for the minister, caterer, photographer, DJ or band, linens, place settings and flowers. One of the couples even had their own pig roast as part of their reception last year.”
They do have a liquor license but are choosing not to use it right now. Families can bring in their own drinks and The Meadows will retain the bar tender. They can’t charge the guests for the alcohol as it is a private party. The sisters were surprised when they were first notified that their request had been turned down by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission: Wakeshma is a dry township dating back to Prohibition. It took an additional township board meeting to get this overturned, Leslie said.
Couples are encouraged to bring in their own DJ. The facility has large party box speakers so they can even do their own music. The trend is for people to put together their own playlist and have a friend run it with DJ, lights and all. They could also bring in a band as well. There is an 11 p.m. curfew even though there aren’t many neighbors to be bothered by loud noises, Leslie said.
They do have a unique offering for the entire weekend rental which is their most popular booking. It costs $5,500 and includes the rehearsal dinner on Friday night, all day Saturday and the family can relax and come back on Sunday to pick up items, have a gift opening, perhaps even a brunch. The Meadows staff will clean up trash and put tables and chairs away. Teardown is included as part of the overall rental fee.
“We designed the landscape and barn with good wedding pictures in mind. There is a wildflower field that blooms in the summer. Couples are given the option of having their ceremony anyplace on the 20-acre property. The barn faces west so the sun sets right behind the barn. It lights up the whole property and the barn for great photographs,” Leslie said.
Although the sisters do a lot of driving back and forth, they have plenty of family in the area who help with the weddings. Aunts and cousins live in Athens and Portage. Their dad’s twin brother, Ron, and his wife, Penny, are on call from Portage. Tim Leslie, another brother, and his wife, Jodie, provide a lot of help because they live in nearby Athens. They take care of the lawn and mowing and have gotten the gardens of their grandmother going again. They all help on the day of a wedding, then turn into janitors at the end doing clean-up.
Leslie may be reached at 269-978-8702 or http://www.lesliemeadows.com.