I grew up riding horses, living and breathing horses, obsessing over horses. So when I was asked to tour the grounds of Ironstone Ranch, I thought, HECK YES! Perhaps I could get some “horse time” in Lancaster, something I have been dying for since I moved here. Little did I know I’d have that opportunity in Elizabethtown, a place I had been only once before.
The long stone driveway was intimidating at first. I was unsure of whether I was in the right place, passing from a town center surrounded by businesses and winding my way down a long, secluded drive. But then I saw it. I was first greeted with a beautiful green and off-white barn, a picturesque farmhouse, and two Texas Longhorns peeking over the fence in the front pasture. I hadn’t expected to see such a beautiful property. I guess I had mainly been focused on the potential for taking a trail ride in the woods.
Mark, the ranch manager, greeted me with a warm and friendly manner, a horseman by passion and training; we talked about his life before the Ranch. Mark had trained a special team of horses to provide the opportunity for special needs children to ride therapeutically. In fact, this was the connection that brought him to Ironstone, having met the owners of Ironstone, the Abel family, while working with their first adopted daughter, Brittany. Brittany was the inspiration for Brittany’s Hope Foundation, “a non-profit 501 (c) 3 foundation dedicated to aiding and facilitating adoptions of special needs children from around the world.” All profits from Ironstone Ranch go directly to Brittany’s Hope Foundation. “Events With A Purpose” has become the tagline of the Ranch, embodying the spirit of having a greater benefit to offer the world at large than just a wedding venue or a trail ride. I found that to be a pretty good reason to plan any type of event there.
As we toured the grounds, I imagined what it would be like to be a bride on the search for the perfect venue. Mark walked me through the entire process, from start to finish, no detail left untold. He has actually thought of everything, and I don’t say that lightly. From the details of the bride quarters, including places to hang your dresses, a vanity hidden behind a dry goods display for the day-of primping needs, to the entrance the bride will make in a white, horse-drawn carriage, he’s literally thought of it all.
You can be wed under a gazebo in the orchard, or if it suits you better, in the mini barn with a picture window looking over the fields and 275 acre property. After the ceremony, the newlyweds are whisked away in their marriage carriage, the wedding party following in a horse-drawn carriage of their own. Both carriages make their way down a trail through the woods, following an old railroad that once carried Lincoln’s body during his funeral procession. Large stone walls, intimate groves of tall trees, wide open fields, I couldn’t count on all my fingers and toes, over and over, how many places existed for beautiful photos on this one trail.
Now you may ask, well what do the guests do while the married couple and wedding party are off exploring? Mark’s thought of that too. Cocktail hour by the barn, lawn games to be played, Banjo and Sweet Tea the miniature donkeys are there for a pet, a fire pit for those more inclined towards a quiet moment, and don’t forget and orchard and ranch to explore. All your guests will want not, that’s for sure.
The reception seems like it would be no less spectacular, with carriages unloading the newlyweds and their wedding party in front of the large barn where their guests are anxiously awaiting their entrance. Cue the large barn doors that open to reveal the bridal party and groomsmen, followed by the newly married couple. The stage is a large, restored barn, the wooden structure itself providing a beautiful environment. New and old rustic touches are on display: an old carriage, whiskey barrels and worn hutches. A bar is constructed of reclaimed wood and the ceiling of the barn strung with beautiful lights. Each piece of this beautiful picture placed perfectly.
Mark walked me through the day, start to finish. I could imagine the groomsmen hanging out in the stables of the mini barn, relaxing before the next event. I could imagine taking my bridesmaids on a trail ride the day before, spending the evening in the old farmhouse, enjoying my last moments of singledom. I could imagine bouncing around in a white, horse-drawn carriage down a winding trail. I could imagine how this could be the perfect place for some, with a beautiful mission that inspires “Events with a Purpose.”
Now you may be asking, did you get to actually ride any horses while you were there? The answer is no, but I was welcomed back, whether I was a potential bride or not.
I’m ready for some “horse time!”
Jocelyn Park moved to Lancaster in 2012 from Media, PA. Having traveled to various cities around the world, this one felt more like home than ever. When not planning creative events and blogging for Transplant, Jocelyn is a freelance graphic designer throwing good vibes and design out into the world around her. www.jocelynpark.com | lancastertransplant.com