Building a wedding business

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, the 24th of May.

Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.   

Coming up next: What does it take to start a business?

We’re about to introduce you to one family now eight years into a wedding business. It grew in what they call a “bit-by-bit, piece-by-piece, step-by-step process.”

REICHARD: It’s a business built on the passion to follow the Lord’s leading and build up community. WORLD Radio’s Susan Olasky brings us this story.

AUDIO: Music Zion springs 

John and Chris Tigges have hosted more than 100 weddings over the last 8 years at their bed and breakfast and wedding venue in Hamilton, Virginia.

AUDIO: Music Zion Springs

Tonight, some 40 persons have come for a barbecue tasting. A half-dozen sit around an outdoor fire pit.

AUDIO: Crackle of fire pit and beginning of Moon River

Others check out the five guest rooms and the outside staircase that provides a dramatic entrance for brides.

AUDIO: Cinderella staircase. It’s subtle, but there’s something about descending down into a wedding that is very romantic.

The Tiggeses love putting on weddings—although it isn’t a business that John ever dreamed about.

AUDIO: If you had told me 30 years ago, John, you’re going to be running a wedding venue outside of Washington, D.C., as I was growing up in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, I’d say you’re nuts.

It’s a business that grew out of ordinary life. They had a large family and an ailing father-in-law who needed care. So Chris and John built an apartment for grandpa— and that eventually became the bed and breakfast.

AUDIO: But the bed and breakfast began with simply being faithful to God’s command to take care of your relatives. By taking care of grandpa and building a place, we suddenly had extra space. And that extra space got used for a bed and breakfast.

Guests who came to the B & B asked about weddings—and those weddings led to more weddings—and gradually they had a viable business on their hands.

They’ve had to overcome plenty of obstacles…many of them related to a county ordinance that conflicts with state law. This year, before they could hold the first wedding of 20-18, their barn had to pass county inspection on two wheelchair-accessible entrances.

AUDIO: We had to convert this from an ag building, which was exempt from building codes, into a commercial building in order to continue to operate based on the county ordinances. That required 2 accessible exits. We already had one–16 foot wide. They also had to be 46 and 1/2 feet apart.

They couldn’t just build one additional entrance—it wouldn’t be 46-and-a-half feet away from the existing 16-foot barn door. So they had to build two—one on either side of that door. Those doors are the required distance apart. The work cost $10,000. It finally passed inspection—but with only an hour to spare before the cocktail hour for that first wedding was supposed to start.

The total cost of bringing their building into compliance with the county ordinance: about $100,000 dollars.

AUDIO: We are now compliant with the county ordinance, even though the county ordinance is not compliant with state law.

Despite those aggravations, the Tiggeses love the wedding business. They like working together and employing some of their children. And after a career in the military and as a consultant, John likes working from home.

AUDIO: The other piece …you pay us so we can come to your party. That’s not a bad business model.

They have a clear idea about the kinds of clients they want and are willing to turn away some people.

AUDIO: A lot of people look at weddings as a transaction. You rent a place, you get stuff, you check all the boxes, and they go out the door. For us, we’ve always believed that God’s called us to authentic relationships.

They look for clients who are relationally oriented.

AUDIO: I’m interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing me. I will literally tell people this is not a good fit for you.

And after a year working together, they get to know their clients really well. And their clients get to know them.

AUDIO: And because we’re a large family, they’re always watching us and wanting to find out more about us.

That’s Chris Tigges. She says her family developed an open-door philosophy during their time in the military.

AUDIO: Being a military family for 20 years, because home was never where we grew up, our children learned that if you would like to bring somebody new that we haven’t ever met to the table, or of if there’s a new family on base, invite them.

Things can go wrong—and they’ve experienced some real doozies. Like two years ago, when their head chef walked off the job one morning. They had 175 people coming that night.

AUDIO: Anna picked up the ball and has never stopped since then. She comes alive in that environment.

At the barbecue tasting, John introduced 20-year-old Anna.

AUDIO: Chef Anna come on out. [laugh] She’s been working since 4:30 in the morning.

And Anna described the food she’d prepared.

AUDIO: A 12-hour brisket and pork shoulder… some garlic mash potatoes. Some roasted Brussel sprouts with a balsamic glaze.

Before the next wedding they have to have hoods installed in the commercial kitchen.

AUDIO: Andrew and Michelle are just two weeks out from today. Oooooh [clap]

They also have gardens to prepare, nervous brides to reassure, and momzillas to manage. But they’re happy.

AUDIO: We’ve been encouraged by it. A lot of hard work. A lot of hiccups and burps. Overall we’re pleased as punch that we’ve been allowed to live and work here.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Susan Olasky, reporting from Loudoun County, Virginia.

(Photo/Zion Springs)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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