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One look at Alda’s Magnolia Hill, and you know you have stepped into a special place. This wedding location on a 31-acre private farm surprises guests who have driven into the heart of Little Rock but find quiet, peaceful scenery along the shores of a private lake.
For 12 years, Alda’s Magnolia Hill has served as a wedding venue for brides and families from Arkansas and across the United States. Most of the celebrations held in this historical setting are destination weddings for families who live outside of Arkansas. The welcoming charm of the hosts and warm nature makes it the perfect spot for the Southern bride.
Before she became a wedding planner, owner Alda Ellis was an interior designer. She had sold a business and “retired.” She and her husband, Buddy, knew it was time to think about what came next. While spending a weekend together in Eureka Springs, he asked what she would choose as her dream job.
Her answer: “Buy a horse and carriage and host weddings.”
The following weekend, the couple met with friends to find a carriage at an Amish farm auction in Columbia, Missouri. The next day, they brought it home with horses.
The upscale carriage house that serves as the backdrop for this Southern wedding venue was built in the early 1900s by Dr. Morgan Smith, founding dean of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. At that time, it was a day’s buggy ride from the front door of the home to the university campus in the Old Statehouse building.
Every time a bride rides in the carriage around the private lake, it feels like an homage to the property’s former owners.
A wedding at Magnolia Hill comes with several special features to create a unique personalized experience:
Ellis was born to love people and brings her gift of Southern hospitality and grace to wedding discussions. She walks a bride through each decision and delivers decades of experience in planning and preparation. As the owner of this all-inclusive venue providing music coordination, pastoral support, rentals, and in-house catering, she is ready for every detail.
Although she fills her weekends with weddings and weekdays with the property’s upkeep, Ellis continues to chase new dreams. She is the author of 20 books with Harvest House Publishers but until recently hadn’t written a wedding planner, something her editor had constantly asked if she’d ever slowed down long enough to do.
The pandemic year without as many clients afforded her some extra time to write. A trip to another kind of destination was all she needed to get her creativity flowing. She traveled to her “creative place,” the city of Round Top, Texas, known for its antique shows and history.
“I need inspiration, and in the middle of a field among antique furniture, I can do my best thinking.”
The inspiration resulted in a new book that brings Ellis’ wedding planning experience to the fingertips of brides and grooms. “Our Wedding Planner: Everything for Planning the Perfect ‘I Do’ Day” was released as the 2021 summer wedding season began. The planning tool takes two decades of conversations and puts them on paper. Reviews have described it as “having a wedding planner with you 24/7 without the cost.”
Ellis collaborated with Lori Sparkman, the photographer behind the book, whose unique style and understanding of light and attention to detail sets the book apart. She used her experience with weddings in other parts of the country to strengthen the planners.
The book primarily focuses on the details leading up to the wedding. It also contains a section for planning the perfect reception party. The book ends with a focus on “after the wedding,” where Ellis equips a couple with tools for scheduling a honeymoon and what to do when they get home.
The Ellises and their son, Samuel, who owns Rock Town River Outfitters, launched a new venture with Yacht Weddings by Magnolia Hill. This new intimate outdoor wedding venue features sunset weddings on board a 41-foot yacht. Wedding guests gather dockside for the ceremony, and then the couple cruises the Arkansas River with a golden hour photoshoot en route to a reception at the Little Rock Yacht Club.
This Arkansas experience is charting the waters for a one-of-a-kind adventure. At Alda’s Magnolia Hill, couples can create a wedding on the hill or a wedding in the water.
The dream started with a horse and carriage lives on and grows large as Alda Ellis and her family continue to build deep Arkansas roots in the wedding industry.
All images used with permission from Alda’s Magnolia Hill and released from the photographer.
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