A different vision

Family opens Douglas Manor to offer better option for special events

By Emily Sparacino

Photographs contributed

Tracie Howard and her family have witnessed countless weddings over the last six years, but not just as guests. They have played integral parts behind the scenes of those weddings.

Howard, her mother and her two brothers own and operate Douglas Manor, a special event venue in Shelby County named in memory of Howard’s father, Doug Joseph, who died in 2004 following two heart transplants.

The idea of opening an event venue on the family’s 32-acre spread of land off Shelby County 47 between Columbiana and Chelsea came to Howard and her mother, Kathy Joseph, after Howard’s brother Daniel Joseph and his wife, Ashton, got engaged.

“We had just purchased this land and building, and we had no idea what we were going to do with it,” Tracie said.

As Tracie and Kathy accompanied Daniel and Ashton on visits to potential wedding venues, they noticed some had strict event guidelines, including early end times and vendor restrictions.

They believed they could offer something better for people, starting with Daniel and Ashton.

In six months’ time, the family – which also includes Tracie’s husband, Ricky, and her other brother, Seth Joseph and his wife, Ashley – prepared the property and transformed the storage building to a 9,000-square-foot indoor event facility with a built-in bar, a stage, dressing rooms, restrooms and a kitchen.

“They got engaged in October, and we had their wedding the next April (at Douglas Manor),” Tracie said of Daniel and Ashton.

During the first year Douglas Manor was open, the family built their house on the property.

In addition to the indoor facility, Douglas Manor features three outdoor ceremony sites, a lake and a pond.

The sites boast different elements that serve as focal points for outdoor weddings, including a rock arch at one site and a fireplace flanked by trellises at another site.

Since Douglas Manor is removed from the main highway, its outdoor venues offer couples a scenic, quiet setting for their wedding ceremonies and receptions.

Clients may decorate their chosen venues as little or as much as they want to at Douglas Manor. Tracie has a room full of decorations – candelabras, plant stands, vases and much more – that clients may use to complement their events.

Tracie said she has seen a variety of wedding themes, from rustic to contemporary, and added, “Every bride has a different vision.”

A particularly special feature in the indoor facility is the bar. Its surface consists of wood from a pine tree that stood on Tracie’s family’s property in Chelsea before the tree was struck by lightning in 2005.

The tree was the site of Kathy and Doug’s first date, and would have held the state record for largest tree if it hadn’t perished after the lightning strike 12 years ago.

No hourly limits are placed on clients’ event days, and all outside vendors are welcome.

Two golf cart shuttles are on-site to transport guests from the parking area to each venue location.

Douglas Manor only allows one event per day, and typically only two weddings per weekend. Weekends tend to be the busiest times.

Most couples book weddings at Douglas Manor from nine to 12 months beforehand, Tracie said.

Douglas Manor can accommodate about 300-500 people at each event.

About six people, including Tracie and Kathy, comprise the staff.

They are responsible for cutting the grass, cleaning the building, setting up before events, cleaning up after events and ensuring things run smoothly during events.

“We handle it all,” Tracie said. “It’s an all-week process. We’re doing something all the time.”

Amid the never-ending list of tasks, she said her family members get along well with each other as they work.

Prior to opening Douglas Manor in 2011, Tracie built houses for 15 years.

Now, she runs a venue that holds nearly 50 events every year – weddings, rehearsal dinners, school activities and local organizations’ events.

“Getting to work with families is probably the best part,” Tracie said. “You never see the same thing twice.”

Package pricing includes the use of outdoor and indoor facilities until midnight, rehearsal time before the event (two hours), dressing rooms for the wedding party, caterer prep kitchen, interior and exterior setup, cleanup, parking directors with the use of two six-person golf carts, built-in bar, built-in stage, seven uplights, 300 white composite chairs, 100 white plastic chairs, four 7-foot barn style tables, one 8-foot barn style table, 10 72-inch round tables, 12 60-inch round tables, five bar top tables, seven 6-foot rectangular tables, four decorative tables for sign-in, cakes, gifts or favors and all use of Douglas Manor’s decorative items.

Twenty wooden church pews are available for a $500 rental fee.

The Saturday Package is $5,475, the Sunday/Friday package is $3,975 and Friday Rehearsal Dinners are $1,500.

Douglas Manor offers a 10-percent discount for the months of December, January and February, and a 10-percent military discount.

Tracie said she would love to build a chapel or an open-air pavilion on the property someday.

For now, however, she and her family will continue serving clients from near and far looking for a venue to make their celebration unforgettable.

“Our brides are the sweetest, and we are just blessed by that,” Tracie said.

For more information about Douglas Manor, call (205) 369-8714, email info@douglasmanorevents.com or visit Douglasmanorevents.com.