Our wedding venue makes memories every day. If you’re craving a more meaningful wedding experience and want to be a part of something special, you’ll enjoy reading these fun stories and facts about Honeysuckle Hills in the mountains of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Over the past thirteen years we’ve never been ordinary or boring… It’s always an adventure. Here’s hoping we’ll be telling your story soon!
We almost didn’t use the barn! Regina’s first idea was to build a traditional wedding chapel across the creek in the field. During a family gathering her Aunt Sharon spoke up and asked, “Why don’t you use your Daddy’s barn?” Even though it was built in 1950 it was still in excellent shape with a solid block foundation. After unanimous agreement, contractors were hired in 2006 and a beautiful chapel and dressing rooms were constructed in the barn loft with tongue and groove pine. Old hay and farm implements were removed from downstairs for reception hall construction . Barn poles that once hung tobacco became part of the railing in a covered picnic pavilion. Every year forward saw expansions and additions as the Honeysuckle Hills reputation for beautiful, family-style weddings increased and the need for space became clear. Every tree, flower or shrub you see in the landscaping today was lovingly planted by Regina or another family member. Over the years the farm has become more like a private botanical garden. The most recent upgrade was the removal of Regina’s apartment upstairs in favor of a spacious bridal suite. (Yep, Regina raised two children in the barn!)
Movie stars Casper Van Dien and Jennifer Wenger married here on June 9th, 2018. When Jennifer first contacted Regina, she never said a word about who they were. On a subsequent phone call, Jennifer asked Regina if she’d ever heard of the TV Show “Starship Troopers.” Regina just giggled and explained she was a hermit mountain girl who didn’t even watch TV. Alas, Casper starred in this show, along with a few other movies like, “Tarzan and the Lost City.” It turned out Jennifer is quite the star herself, well known for her Comic Con appearances as Wonder Woman. Throw some gut-busting comedy and horror movies like “Jack vs Lantern” on her list (along with an appearance in “True Blood,”) and you’ll discover this woman truly rocks the stage! Needless to say, a movie set is exactly where she met her soul-mate, Casper. The passion between these two is too intense to describe… No one to date has matched it, and likely never will. Their wedding was a whirlwind of fun, with 100 of their closest family and friends. Jennifer’s family is from Maynardville, TN, so the wedding took on a laid-back, country feel with a hay bale couch beneath our willow tree and cowgirl boots on every bridesmaid. Pinto beans were on Chef Tony’s reception menu, among other southern favorites! Family met for a second wedding reception the next day at Dollywood, since Jennifer is Dolly Parton’s biggest fan. (Regina is Dolly’s second biggest!) You can watch Casper’s latest film, “Dead Water,” this July. If you follow our Instagram feed, you’ll be able to see Casper’s frequent devotions to his lovely bride. #TarzanLovesWondy #RicoLovesWondy #vandienwedding
Nationally acclaimed Eagle, Challenger, flew an engagement ring to a lucky girl here. Challenger is now retired, but when he still traveled with Al Cecere of the American Eagle Foundation he was hired in 2015 to make one girl the happiest she’d ever been in her life! Her fiance contacted Regina to set up the surprise and the sweet girl thought she was simply coming to a beautiful farm for a picnic. Lo and behold an eagle descended with an engagement ring in his claws at the same time her fiance did to his knees to pop the question! (She said yes.) You may have seen Challenger on Fox News among other famous media outlets before he retired this year.
Gambler, a retired show horse from Dolly Parton’s Stampede was the first horse used in our photography, and made it to the cover of an International publication! Previously known as the Dixie Stampede, Gambler’s photograph may actually still hang in the entry way of this beloved Pigeon Forge dinner show as you walk in. He was a famous barrel racer in his day, and Regina’s sister, Elaine, brought him to our farm around 2002. Before the Honeysuckle Hills wedding venue, Regina photographed high school seniors on the farm. One of her images of a high school senior with Gambler scored the first perfect 100 in a Tennessee Professional Photographer’s print salon, and went on to grace the cover of the 2004 PPA International Loan Collection book. Look for this book in our photography gallery downstairs, as well as the large wall portrait with Gambler in the upstairs waiting room. It’s too beautiful to miss! Gambler crossed the rainbow bridge in 2014 at the age of 25, shortly after his best buddy, Scout, who lived to a ripe old age of 31.
Wedding photography with horses! Honeysuckle Hills is still one of the only wedding venues where you can have heart-stopping photographs made with running horses. Our white appaloosa, Sugar, especially loves prancing around you. She’s known to steal the hearts of grooms even more than brides! She tends to gravitate more toward males than females, and she loves to interrupt a good kiss. Ben, our quarter horse paint, is really nothing more than a food hog who will work a little if he absolutely has to. But make no mistake… he’s a handsome addition to your fairy-tale wedding pictures, too! Plus, all your guests will enjoy taking their own pictures of the horses as they hang around the fence waiting for a good head scratch or tasty snack.
Couples from all over the world get married at Honeysuckle Hills. We’ve had two couples from the Virgin Islands, two from Sweden, one from Canada, and two from Ireland. Couples travel far and wide for the unique wedding experience provided by Regina and her family staff. No one knows the real Smoky Mountains better than the ones born and raised here. Their grandmothers instilled good old-fashioned southern hospitality in their souls, and nothing beats that! Just about every state in the United States has been represented so far by either couples who married here or family and friends who attended the wedding. Statistically, we have a 90% RSVP rate. If those you invite are in good health and can afford to travel, they will be at your wedding regardless of the distance they need to travel. Couples are drawn here from Hollywood, tropical beaches, Texas ranches, Louisiana swamps, or from right around the corner.
The “Better than Paula Dean Chef,” Tony McClanahan, hosts 90% of our all-inclusive weddings with receptions. Regina gave Chef Tony this nickname many years ago after over-hearing a wedding guest brag to another that the reception meal was even better than their previous night’s visit to the Paula Dean Restaurant in Pigeon Forge. Now, we’re certainly not discrediting the mouth-watering food Ms. Paula dishes out! Mercy sakes, no… but we are here to tell you that you won’t be disappointed with your reception meal by Chef Tony. We wouldn’t dream of using another caterer to please our couples and their families. They’re simply too important to us to use a caterer who takes short cuts by pouring from a can. While Chef Tony is in demand all over East Tennessee, Honeysuckle Hills is on his priority list. He always makes sure our brides are well cared for, and some of our couples have even refused to get married here unless Chef Tony could host their reception!
Owner, Regina, has rescued a baby squirrel or two. If you’ve stalked her personal Facebook page you’ll find loads of videos of her first rescue named Sassy. Regina’s husband brought Sassy to her just before they married, and she was only six weeks old with closed eyes. She had fallen from a tree cleared by her husband’s excavation crew. Regina bottle-fed her and later released her in their wooded back yard. To this day Sassy returns for sunflower seeds and pecans, and will still eat out of Regina’s hands. She has had two litters of her own to date. However, when Regina brought in a little baby boy named Whiskers, Sassy refused to take the little tyke in. Alas, Regina raised and released him as well. They both swing tree to tree happily every single day and peck on the windows and doors when the feeders go empty. The 4-H photography children’s summer camp is held on a summer day every year at Honeysuckle Hills. In 2019 Regina asked official wildlife rehabilitator, Lynne McCoy, to bring in some baby possums, squirrels, and baby birds for an educational experience. (See, I told you there was never a boring moment here!). Watch Sassy in our 2016 video about pet friendly weddings. We’ve had several venue additions since then, but we will always be pet friendly!
Our elopements are more adventurous, and our photography is more creative. The number one reason couples choose Honeysuckle Hills is for our photography. Even couples who bring their own photographer choose our venue because we have more scenic locations than any other in the Smoky Mountains. While it’s true that a good professional photographer can make beautiful pictures in any situation, the over-all experience is better when guests have an atmosphere with plenty of eye candy. They are filled with a sense of awe, and a desire to return again. Regina is best known for her different lighting techniques, use of props, and artistic collages.
We have another venue that borders the Smoky Mountain National Park called “Little Mountain Hideaway.” If you’re searching for a rustic mountain venue where you can decorate on your own (or simply enjoy the beauty God gave the land,) you’re going to love this place! Elopements are our favorite at the Hideaway, but Saturdays are often rented by families of 50 or less who want to celebrate a wedding mountain style! This can often be a God-send if your wedding date is already booked at our Honeysuckle Hills location, but you still want the same loving service we’re so well known for. It’s also perfect for couples who want to get married in the Smoky Mountain National Park, but don’t want the hassles of permits, super-strict rules, and nosy tourists. This venue sits on eight acres of land with a mountain ridge view, creeks, a 100 year old house, and a spacious covered pavilion with steps leading down to a popular ceremony deck in the trees. In case you’re wondering, Chef Tony will also bring his mouth-watering delicious reception menus to this venue, too! It’s been in the Starkey family for many generations, and we’re pleased to share its beauty with you.
Thank you for reading this article all the way to the end! We hope you enjoyed these interesting facts and stories about our beloved wedding venue. Our cup has over-flowed with blessings over the past thirteen years, and we look forward to sharing even more stories with you in the future! Who knows? Maybe you will be a part of those cherished memories we’ll share with the world one day!
Contact Regina today to share your ideas and love story, and start planning an unforgettable wedding.