By Dana Sleger //
Located in the heart of Florence Gardens’ flourishing 420-acre neighborhood in Gulfport, Magnolia Hall marries Southern splendor with coastal charm.
Sweeping porches lined with rocking chairs, meticulously manicured lawns, a signature red metal roof and majestic white columns are all surrounded by a woodland curtain of Live oaks, magnolias, pines and other lush natural habitat.
The interior of this wedding/reception venue matches the outdoor splendor. Two fireplaces, a kitchen, a bridal suite, and a private dining room accent the large main hall.
There is an additional feature that graces special events with a touch of historical elegance. If the two crystal chandeliers hanging overhead could speak, they would tell rich tales dating back to the 1920s of brides who danced the night away in the Crystal Ballroom of the iconic Markham Building in downtown Gulfport.
After Hurricane Katrina left her damaging mark on the old hotel, Florence Gardens secured the chandeliers and relocated the one-of- a-kind centerpieces to continue their legacy of presiding over events that have been important to families for decades.
Rachel Rath, director of sales and marketing for Florence Gardens, says the functionality and flow of Magnolia Hall provides brides with a world of possibilities to create an unforgettable day.
“We essentially have fives different areas that can be used — inside, front porch, back porch, back lawn and front lawn — and brides have used this space in just about every way that you can conceive,” Rath says. “Some are very formal in the way things are set up with white chairs and trellises, while others have been very informal with guests standing around the front porch as the bride and groom exchange vows.”
Vicki Parkhill, events coordinator for Magnolia Hall, has more than 4,000-square-feet of space from the front lawn to the back lawn to work with brides and grooms to accommodate up to 450 guests. Whether it’s place settings of fine china under a white tent or an open-air dance floor under the stars, Parkhill says she is committed to giving her clients the white-glove treatment from beginning to end.
“There are so many ways brides can take the building and complement their style because Magnolia Hall is designed as a canvas — a clean slate for brides to add their personal touch,” she adds. “The neutral colors allow brides to not be tied to a specific theme. I’ve seen it all: from stark white to burlap to sea foam. Anything can be done. Every bride is unique and different, and I always tell them, ‘This is your venue; this is your day.’”
Parkhill joined the Florence Gardens team a few years after retiring as the longtime special events coordinator for the City of Gulfport, and Rath says her experience brought a noteworthy level of excellence to wedding planning at Magnolia Hall.
“Vicki is one of the best I have ever seen in this field,” she says. “When it comes to a bride walking in the door with a picture of what they want their special day to look like, Vicki embraces it and figures out the perfect way to lay it out. She makes sure their special day is what they have dreamed of.”
Given Magnolia Hall is set up as a venue site only, Parkhill assists clients by working with the hired vendors and/or do-it-yourself brides to coordinate a smooth flow for all large-to-small wedding details. Offsite catering is required for food and beverage service, but a limited number of tables and chairs are provided, as well as access to the sound system.
“It feels like home when you come here,” Rath says. “The wedding business at this venue has multiplied every year, and time and time again, guests always tell us how warm and inviting this place is.”
Vicki agrees and says one of the most common compliments she receives is how serene the ambience is, and admits her greatest joy in this business comes from seeing the glowing smiles on her clients’ faces.
“I can’t begin to express how much I enjoy helping people plan their fairytale wedding and watching their first day of happily ever after,” she says. “This is truly what I love to do.”
One thing is for sure, Magnolia Hall is not just an event space; it’s a Southern gem.
MAGNOLIA HALL AT FLORENCE GARDENS