The Scoop: Many couples had to postpone their weddings at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the owners of Cross Creek Ranch outside Tampa, Florida, have noticed that their wedding schedule is starting to fill up again. The Ranch offers a picturesque, all-inclusive wedding venue with a rustic yet elegant backdrop for ceremonies of all sizes. The property also hosts rehearsal dinners and offers overnight accommodations in its bed & breakfast cottages. Couples who celebrate their relationships at Cross Creek Ranch can benefit from the staff’s dedication and oversight to make their big day even more special.
Bonnie and Sean McSharry have always loved to entertain. But 20 years ago, they didn’t expect to host weddings and other events to honor relationships at a popular venue.
However, that’s precisely what the couple does today as the proud owners of Cross Creek Ranch near Tampa, Florida.
Back in the early 2000s, Bonnie worked as a successful interior designer. She loved her work, but she had always envisioned owning a property where her family could live and work together.
Her decorating business had taken over her entire house. She soon became overwhelmed, crammed between samples and client meetings. So Bonnie began looking for a retail space with little luck.
“My husband said I was always talking about owning a large property, so I should go look,” she said. “That’s all I needed to hear.”
Bonnie called a friend and client who happened to be a Realtor, and soon she had a list of 15 choices in the area. Some real estate options were just vacant land, on which Bonnie and her husband would have to build from scratch, while others had more to offer. The property that is now Cross Creek Ranch included a house on eight acres, with a brick patio, pool, barn, and cottage. Across the bridge was an open-air barn with three stable stalls.
It was perfect, Bonnie said. The property looks much different today, as the couple turned the rustic country ranch into a popular wedding and entertainment venue that hosts events celebrating relationships of all types.
And Bonnie and Sean aim to ensure that all of their guests have a memorable time at the Ranch.
All-Inclusive Weddings and Events Started With Friends
After viewing the property, Bonnie raced home to share the news with her husband. At first, she said he was shocked — it hadn’t been long since they had that conversation. Bonnie said he may have expected the search to take years. But Sean agreed that it was just right and the family closed on the property, and moved in just three weeks time.
Since the couple loved to entertain, they were excited to throw a friend’s 50th birthday party once they settled into the Ranch. People camped out in the backyard, and the couple organized a picnic and games. Then, the best man from their wedding asked if he could get married on their property. They said, “Yes,’” and the rest is history.
“I love weddings. I’d been helping decorate them for years,” Bonnie said. “Then a guest from our wedding asked if they could get married there.”
Slowly the business grew. At first, Bonnie installed her decorating business at the Ranch. When the housing market collapsed around 2005, the couple decided to focus on improving the property. They ended up enlarging the stable twice, eventually enclosing it and adding air conditioning. More couples approached them about starting their relationships off in style with a wedding at the venue.
After a few couples had lackluster experiences with vendors, Bonnie and Sean decided to make the Ranch an all-inclusive venue. Now, they oversee the décor, flowers, catering, DJ, and everything else that goes into the wedding. Couples can bring their own photographer, videographer, hair and makeup team, and officiant.
“We wanted to guarantee the best and exceed their expectations,” she said.
Wedding Packages for Two Facilities Spread Over 18 Acres
The Ranch offers wedding packages for two venues on the property’s 18 acres, which Bonnie and Sean expanded by purchasing neighboring land over the years. The most popular venue is the Carriage House Stable, which is the renovated barn.
The Carriage House Stable has three wedding packages and the French Country Inn has two. The venues offer a five-hour event with a ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception. Couples and their families enjoy the private use of the Carriage House Stable property and choice of their ceremony site. They can select from the Oak Tree, the Enchanted Forest, or the Secret Garden.
The stable can seat up to 150 guests. For more formal affairs, the Ranch offers its French Country Inn, which can accommodate up to 62 guests. The house is located at the front of the property and features a natural outdoor garden setting for ceremonies or receptions.
Bonnie and her team take care of everything, although the wedding couple provides any alcohol they need.
Cross Creek Ranch has already booked 112 weddings for 2021. Many of those bookings were made by couples that included teachers, firefighters, and first responders. Bonnie said most of the couples who come to her venue are in their late 20s and 30s, and the Ranch welcomes same-sex marriages and anyone identifying as LGBTQ+.
“There’s a higher number of people getting married right now, a trend back to marriage, I think,” Bonnie said.
As a result, the couple is building another barn. They’ve also moved out of the main house to a smaller home on the back corner of the property so the main house can serve as another bed & breakfast or as a staging area for couples and their families.
Cross Creek Ranch: A Memorable Place to Forge a Relationship
In addition to its beautiful location, Cross Creek Ranch stands out for its dedicated staff who love working there. Bonnie said its 30 employees care about making every event the best day possible for their guests.
“Down to the groundskeeper who cuts the grass and wants everything to be perfect, they love serving the guests,” she said. “We hear all the time that the guests feel taken care of as much as the parents and couples do. We’ve been fortunate and blessed with the people we work with.”
Just because the venue is all-inclusive doesn’t mean that every wedding is the same. Bonnie said the property has hosted many theme weddings over the years, including a steampunk wedding in which guests dressed creatively, and a down-home country affair where the bride and groom showed up in a “Dukes of Hazzard”-style car and the wedding party arrived on a hay-filled tractor. Another memorable wedding was themed in the Renaissance. They also served turkey legs as part of the meal.
The Ranch has even hosted weddings for free to give back to the community, including one for a military couple. Last year, the property held a free Valentine’s Day dinner and invited all the couples who started their married relationship at the Ranch.
“Every wedding is unique and different because we work with each couple,” she said. “We’ve just met so many incredible people over the years, and we have a wall full of baby pictures and Christmas cards.”