{review} Hessenland Country Inn

Venue: Hessenland | Photo: A Simple Photograph

Hessenland Inn & Vineyard is the ultimate Ontario West Coast wedding destination offering gazebos, overnight accommodations, waterfalls, lake access and gorgeous in- & outdoor wedding spaces

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Since 1984, Hessenland Inn & Vineyard has managed to bring heritage, idyllic landscape and refined elegance together with a multitude of ceremony and reception spaces. This family owned and operated retreat offers overnight accommodations, a vineyard, inside and outside reception spaces, two pavilions, two gazebos, a waterfall feature, a pond and a lookout tower with panoramic views of the gardens, grounds and Lake Huron shoreline.  Situated along Ontario’s West Coast, just outside the hamlet of St. Joseph, Hessenland offers unique, picturesque wedding backdrops that brides and grooms fall in love with over and over again.  Celebrating 35 years of business and the launch of their Estate Winery in 2019, 
Staff at The Ring met with Liz Ihrig, Hessenland’s wedding coordinator, to get a closer look at the evolutions taking place at one of our favourite destination-wedding-style locations – right here in Southwestern Ontario.

A family affair

Hessenland was brought to fruition by Ernst and Christa Ihrig in 1982 when they immigrated to Canada. Together they raised their family and grew Hessenland from the foundation provided by the nineteenth century Bedard Homestead. In the 1980s through until the early 2000s, Hessenland established its restaurant, restored its ‘Coach House’ event space and grew to become a popular 20-room accommodation provider, all while keeping in touch with the bounty provided by the love and landscape of Huron County.

It’s easy to imagine that their family-run approach to service and weddings has helped win over the hearts of brides through the years. In the interview and review process, we met almost all of the Ihrigs.

Natasha Fisher felt like family when she first visited Hessenland, too. One of the main reasons she chose to host her wedding ceremony and reception at Hessenland was because of the location and how well they create a wedding setting. “Their gardens are beautiful and everything is so convenient for the wedding party as well as the guests,” she told The Ring.

Ernst enjoys greeting new and familiar faces alike as the second generation of Ihrigs take the helm at the Inn. The legacy of the Hanovarian horses once boarded onsite has been lovingly repurposed to house a growing family of eight grape varietals. Green-thumb goddess Christa indulges in the design of the property gardens. The passion and skill she has put into the gardens has given Hessenland the classic look so many people have come to know and love.

Ernst and Christa’s son, Frank, is the Head Chef and Viticulturist (someone who studies the science and production of grapes). He returned to the family business in the early 2000s after developing his culinary skills and passion for wine in Europe and Australia, as well as through regular sojourns across Ontario’s established and emerging wine regions (Niagara, Prince Edward County and Lake Huron South Shore, included!). In 2014, Frank initiated the family-run micro-vineyard and continues to tend to the common and hybrid grape varietals situated across 5 acres.

Frank’s wife, Liz, is the on-site coordinator for all of the Hessenland weddings and events. She came to the location with six years experience in convention services and event planning at the Westin Harbour Castle in Toronto and is passionate about curating unique experiences for each and every Hessenland guest. This includes taking the lead on offering a variety of wellness programs throughout the calendar year.  Imagine practicing yoga in the gardens on the morning of your wedding day!

The options are endless

Hessenland is infused with both heritage and innovation at every corner.  This includes the expansion of the original buildings, which involved turning the original barn into The Coach House – a reception hall that seats an average of 160 guests at any one event. Throughout the process, the Ihrig family paid special attention to preserving the romance and history of the property. The original roof and top half of the walls were carefully laid down by the Mennonites to preserve the integrity of the structure. The remaining walls were then sandblasted to show off the beauty of their original stone. The top of the walls and the roof were rebuilt to complement both the stonework and the surrounding property.

Jenni De Block Kreller held her wedding ceremony and reception at Hessenland and told us that the Coach House and restaurant area are both beautiful. “There is a natural warmth to the rooms,” she adds. “It’s like a destination wedding in your backyard. You get the luxuries of having everything done and taking the stress out of the wedding planning… [and] they do such a beautiful job keeping the grounds maintained.”

The Sunset Tower is a silo that’s been converted into a lookout tower. Liz says it’s one of the favourite spots on the property for photos. “From the top of the silo, there are opportunities for great sunset photos with Lake Huron in the background,” explains Liz. “You can also pose for the Rapunzel-type picture with the groom below and the bride up above, or capture a panoramic shot of your beloved guests in attendance for your big day!”

Jason and Nicole McFalls held their wedding reception and post-wedding brunch at Hessenland and highly recommend it to anyone who asks – and even those who don’t. They loved the unique and rustic charm of the Coach House and felt that the room had a great flow with the bar set outside the main room with a great view of the beautiful grounds. But what the couple particularly loved about their experience at Hessenland was their amazing photos that were taken up the Sunset Tower. “The sunset was amazing! Overall, we are left with memories of great service by Liz and Frank Ihrig and their staff.”

But the spaces don’t end there. The renovated Garden Room has also become a popular spot for weddings at Hessenland. Smaller in scale than the Coach House, it’s ideal for brides who are looking for a more intimate setting for their wedding. The Hessenland property also offers the Wedding Pavilion, the Grand Gazebo, the Cherry Tree Pavilion, the Willow Tree, the Anniversary Gazebo, the Waterfall feature, and the beautifully manicured gardens that Christa has designed and continues to maintain with love.

At Hessenland, it seems as if no matter what space(s) you utilize for your wedding, there will always be beautiful backdrops close by. Liz says, “You can select the ceremony location and photo locations that best suit your taste and wedding style. We’ll accommodate you any way that we can.” And, Hessenland is open for weddings year round and is gorgeous in both the summer and the winter. Plus, winter and off-day weddings are 10% off.

Natasha felt that her ceremony and reception spaces at Hessenland were absolutely breathtaking and better than she could have imagined. “I think the staff decorates and sets up as if it’s their own wedding,” she says. “They have a very elegant and sophisticated look but with accessories and flowers that can easily be switched to suit the mood.”  Hessenland also works closely with area vendors, specializing in wedding decorating and design, to help couples customize the venue for their unique wedding experience.

Staying overnight

When you book your wedding at Hessenland, you will receive ‘The Coach House suite’, complimentary from noon onward. “Some brides like to come in early and get ready right on-site,” Liz told us. “From The Coach House suite, you can see most of the property, and they can see their guests or their groom arriving.” Tying in with the history of the land and their building, The Coach House suite offers a four-poster bed, fireplace and antique-style furniture throughout, not to mention an in-room Jacuzzi tub for optimal relaxation.

There are twenty guest rooms available at Hessenland Country Inn, which are tastefully decorated and offer historic charm met with modern comfort and amenities. Your wedding guests can use these recently renovated rooms for the rehearsal night and/or the wedding night. Liz can arrange for a block of rooms to be reserved for your guests, and out of town couples will get a discount on guest rooms.

Hessenland offers a Tasting Banquet for booked Wedding couples during their popular Wedding Open House held annually on the last weekend in April. Enjoy a curated banquet of flavours from delicious appetizers to entrees and desserts, plus an assortment of local wine and beer (including their very own Hessenland Helles). The executive chef is also on hand to answer any questions you may have. A customized note sheet is provided to assist you with your preferences and selections, so that when you meet with Liz, you can work out the final details for your perfect wedding menu.

NEWS: With 5 acres of flourishing vines planted since 2014, Hessenland looks forward to establishing their Estate Winery in 2019. They look forward to pouring their inaugural glass of homegrown Petite Pearl vintage in the summer of 2018!

 A destination-style weekend wedding getaway

Liz says she’s seeing many more couples booking during the week and for weekend weddings. With the weekend wedding getaway, she says the couple often hosts the rehearsal party Friday night, the wedding ceremony and reception on Saturday, and the brunch and gift opening on Sunday.

Bride Kimberly shared the love for this destination-style getaway following her July wedding at Hessenland.  “If you are thinking destination wedding make that destination Hessenland Country Inn! We visited Hessenland for the first time last January and we knew this venue was for us. You could feel the magic and see the beauty hidden under the snow. My husband fell in love instantly and we booked that day for our July wedding. Liz is fantastic to work with and the staff are top notch. Frank is an amazing chef our guests are still talking about the food and venue! So many choices on the property to choose to host your ceremony my husband had a hard time deciding! Beautiful venue for your wedding pictures from the grounds to the beach and now the vineyard! You truly won’t be disappointed choosing Hessenland Country Inn for you special day! I know my husband and I will be back to Hessenland to celebrate our first anniversary and many more!”

Packages

You can choose one of the following three distinct wedding packages at Hessenland – they are priced per person and are based on your selected food service.

“They put the packages together very well; everything is laid out for you so there are less questions to ask,” Natasha says. “They have packages that would suit every different person and they are very accommodating.”

‘Deluxe’ Package | from $62.95 to $74.95 per person includes: banquet hall rental • the grounds (for your ceremony and pictures) • ceremony set-up • chairs and umbrellas • dinner (3 course or buffet) • 2 bottles of wine per table of 10 • linens, tableware • bartender and wait staff • late night cake cutting service

‘Premier’ Package | from $77.95 to $90.95 per person includes: everything from the ‘Deluxe’ Package (above), as well as champagne cocktail & hors d’oeuvres served by staff after the ceremony • cheese & crackers • punch for cocktail reception • breads & spreads • fresh fruit selection

For an additional cost per person you may add a 2-hour host bar to the Premier package.

‘Signature’ Package | from $120 to $132.95 per person includes: everything from the ‘Premier’ Package (above), as well as 6 hours of open bar • décor – head table décor, cake table décor, coloured floor length linen, Champagne Chiavari Chairs

Décor options are available from Hessenland.

Jenni loved the variety and options that Hessenland offered. “We really liked how they had set packages that were reasonably priced, and the fact that you could also build your own to suit your needs as well,” she says of Hessenland’s flexibility.

Details, details, details

• Hessenland is a popular wedding location so try to book a year in advance
• A deposit of $2000 is required to reserve your day.  The balance is due seven days before the event. Bar and other expenses are due the day after your wedding. Any additional costs incurred during the function must be paid within 24 hours of the wedding
• Taxes and gratuities are extra and not included in quoted prices.
• The balance of your wedding amount is due 7 days before your wedding.

Contacting Liz at Hessenland…

Liz, her family and the team at the Inn welcome any questions or booking inquiries that you may have – whether it’s for the location, accommodation or off-site catering. You can reach them by email using the form below. The Inn is located steps from Lake Huron between Grand Bend and Bayfield on Highway 21, 45 minutes North of London. Their website is regularly updated with events, details and photos: www.hessenland.com. Hessenland is active on social media, making it easy for the team to engage with guests before, during and following their stay at this home away from home.

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Read what other couples & experts have said…

★★★★★
5 5 1
I have had the absolute good fortune of photographing a few weddings now at Hessenland and am thrilled when I find out that one of my couples have booked with them. Hessenland is simply stunning. It has charm, elegance, and a genuine feel of a family home. The rooms are lovely, the grounds are beautiful and the hall, with it's old stone walls, has an architectural warmth and beauty that is hard to find elsewhere. It is also mere minutes away from Lake Huron should you want to escape with your bridal party for some amazing shots by the water. The staff have always been incredibly organized and helpful with the couples as well as all of their guests. I do not hesitate to recommend this gem to all who would desire to get married along the shores of Lake Huron.

★★★★★
5 5 1
I think the title says it all. I have had the pleasure of working with Liz on a few weddings this summer and was blown away everytime. The decor, staff and natural backdrop at the Hessenlad Country Inn makes me want to get married again....so i can do it there this time! I never hesitate to tell brides about the Inn in hope that they will visit. I can honestly say it is a gem along the Huron shoreline, I was amazed to realize that just over half of my wedding cakes booked for next year are being delivered to Hessenland!