Vendor Spotlight | Empire Mills

June 8, 2019

Empire Mills. Amanda Olivia Photography

Friend! Congrats on your engagement and upcoming wedding! I’m so thrilled you’ve found your way here.

I know first hand how much work goes into planning and preparing for a wedding day. The planning process can be stressful if you LET it be that way, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s my goal to help you have the most peace-filled and joyful wedding day possible, so I’m compiling the best resources to help make that happen!

So Welcome to my Saturday Vendor Spotlights! Here I’m putting together spotlights featuring all the wonderful wedding vendors that have made my brides and grooms wedding days flow seamlessly.

Today we are featuring our friends over at Empire Mills! Read more about the team at Empire Mills and how they serve their amazing couples!

Who are you? Who all works on the wedding planning/coordinating team at Empire Mills?

Hello! My name is Abby. I am the Media & Marketing Director at Empire Mills, so I handle everything from our social media platforms and website to our online marketing strategies as well as our branded materials. Kathleen, Carla, and Hallie make up our sales team. They handle everything including, but not limited to: responding to inquiries, giving tours, initial catering consultations and tastings, creating event layouts, design and linens. Pretty much everything you can think of when it comes to event planning, they do it all!

Tell us a bit about Empire Mills as a wedding venue.

Empire Mills was originally a cotton seed oil mill that was established in 1913 by the Empire Cotton Oil Co. of Atlanta. This property remained unoccupied for years until Hallie Duan, the current owner, purchased the dormant property in 2012 and restored it following the guidelines of the Georgia State Historic Preservation Division and the National Park Service. A lot of the original infrastructure remains in-tact including all the original brick, windows, and some bay doors-all which have had minor repairing and restoring. The ginnery actually sat in Marsden Hall, where the built-in stage stands now and where all our couples say “I do”. What was the original office on the property is now the bridal suite.

Aside from being a historically preserved property, there are a lot unique features of Empire Mills. A majority of these features include more modern additions. For example, one of our favorite additions of the property is the lofted groom’s lounge complete with a flat screen television, a wet bar, and a vintage-inspired coca-cola fridge.

One of our more popular additions to the property is the large crystal chandelier that hangs in Marsden Hall. It’s definitely one of the more significant features that makes our venue so special. Hallie really wanted to make this space unique so she had a lot of local custom work done including the three large iron-welded chandeliers that hang in The Banquet Hall, as well as our cement trough sinks that can be found in The Banquet Hall bathrooms. We also have antique syrup kettle fire pits on our pasture-side courtyard- perfect for those cold nights!

As of late, we have incorporated a few photo vignettes into the nooks of our property. These offer couples unique photo ops that are different from the natural industrial style our venue offers. Last but not least, one of our favorite aspects of the property is our strung edison lights that hang above the central courtyard. This lighting offers the perfect romantic atmosphere for weddings.

Empire Mills also has its own in-house caterer, Hallie Jane’s Catering, that is located on the same property. Hallie Jane’s Catering is a separate company than Empire Mills, but like Empire Mills, is also owned by Hallie and managed by the same team.

What wedding services do you offer? Can you break down some of the differences in the services you offer?

The majority of the wedding services we offer are through Hallie Jane’s Catering. This includes full-service catering, meaning not only do we offer bartenders and servers, but barware and glassware, as well as plates, chargers, linens, and some other behind-the-scene aspects such as creating CAD layouts of events, as well as creating menus and timelines for your special day.

The chairs and tables are included in the Empire Mills venue rental, but we also have upgrades that clients are able to add on if they wish to do so. Our upgrades include things like our custom made craft beer bar, our glow bar, our large love marquee sign as well as our donut wall and popcorn machine! Just fun stuff that can add more fun and quirkiness to the couple’s special day.

What does a typical wedding day look like at Empire Mills?    

A typical wedding day at Empire Mills is very busy! The chefs will arrive early in the morning to start preparing food for the day. Usually the venue rental start time is around 12 so the wedding parties arrive around that time to greet our venue manager, Phyllis, and start getting ready for the day. Our staff usually sets up the ceremony chairs, as well as reception chairs and tables the day before if there is not another event, so that will already be set for the day.

The bands/DJs, as well as the florists arrive around 12 as well to begin preparing for the event. The catering staff usually show up around 2:45 and start setting up everything around 3. This includes the bar as well as the food display if the couple decides on a buffet or food stations. The event manager, who makes sure the entire day runs smoothly, is typically here before the staff arrives, making sure everything is in place and making sure all the vendors have what they need. The food normally finishes around 4-4:30 and will get transported from our main kitchen to The Banquet Hall satellite kitchen where staff will begin prepping the food.

The ceremony typically begins around 5-5:30 so guests begin to arrive around 4-4:30. After the couple says “I do”, the guests will move from Marsden Hall to our central courtyard to enjoy cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres for around thirty minutes. The bride & groom will then join the reception in The Banquet Hall and will do the first dance, as well as the father-daughter dance and mother-son dance. During this time, the catering staff will be bringing the food out to the stations or buffet table. After the dances, guests are invited to eat.

A few hours later after the toasts and more dancing, the cake will be cut and a late night snack will be served. After everyone is done eating, the catering staff will begin bussing, and will break down the food display. Once the rental time is done and everyone has left, staff will break down all the tables and chairs and collect all the linens, while the florists come to collect their décor. Every wedding day looks different, but ultimately they have around the same timeline and same set of events.

How do you help each bride/groom bring a personal element to their wedding day at Empire Mills?

There are many ways Kathleen, Carla, and Hallie help the couples bring a personal element to their wedding. This typically happens in our catering consultations and tastings. The bride & groom will get to decide what color linens they want, ultimately setting the entire color scheme for the wedding. They also get to decide what type of food they want to be served at their wedding. Our sample menus are generally a guideline for the couples, but we are more than capable of incorporating a specific type of food or recipe that the couple may want. The couple will also discuss the layout they want with Kat & Carla, and if they have any signature drinks or bars they would like. We have a decent amount of grooms do “bourbon bars” with cigars, which can be fun.

How do you and your team help ease the stress of brides on a wedding day?

We have a venue manager and event manager on the wedding day who make sure that everything on our end has been taken care. This includes everything from maintaining the property and making sure the vendors and guests know where to go, to executing the food display. Our event manager works hand-in-hand with the day-of coordinator to make sure everything is achieved in a timely manner.

What makes Empire Mills as a venue stand out?

As HJC, we have been catering in the wedding business for over two decades. We know the ins and outs of the wedding industry and have learned from first (and second) hand experience what to do and what not to do. The property really speaks for itself as well. It’s a very multi-faceted venue with a lot of perks. It’s very flexible when it comes to layouts as well as type of events that can be held here. It’s not only a wedding venue, but an overall event venue. The location makes Empire Mills stand out as a venue as well. Located on our very own road next to the train tracks, Empire Mills is very private- with our own parking lot! We are in the perfect location where there’s a certain degree of privacy, but where you’re close enough to reach anything within 5 minutes.

Our staff is also a very large part of why we stand out as a venue. We take pride in our work. We have an excellent sales team as well as a warehouse and kitchen team that all work together to make sure every detail is taken care of. It’s a lot of work owning a venue, but it’s also extremely rewarding to know that we are helping these couples’ dream weddings come to life.

What’s your favorite part of a wedding day?

Our favorite part of a wedding day is the excitement, yet calm feeling that happens right before the ceremony starts. Everything is quiet, everyone is in the same location, the couple is about to get married, and we get to admire all the hard work that has gone into planning the day.

What advice would you give a newly engaged bride/groom just starting the planning process?

Advice we would give a newly engaged bride/groom starting the planning process is to figure out your budget and hire a wedding coordinator to keep you on track! Know what is really important to you and how you want your wedding to reflect who you are as a couple. Also, to trust the wedding professionals you have hired. We know the business and how things work on the front and back-end of things, so don’t stress too much and let them guide the way!

What questions should a newly engaged bride/groom ask a potential venue when trying to decide where might be the right fit for their special day?

There are many . questions couples should ask!

  • Is the venue large enough to accommodate your estimated guest count?
  • Is the venue in your price range?
  • What all is included in the rental fee?
  • Does the venue provide alcohol?
  • Does the venue have an on-site caterer or other vendors that you are required to utilize for your special day?

What’s one piece of marriage advice you’d give to a newly wed couple?

One piece of marriage advice we would give to a newly wed couple is to learn how to compromise and communicate effectively !

A few photos of Miles and Jameson’s Wedding at Empire Mills