Spain Ranch: Setting the standard in the wedding venue industry
Spain Ranch has become one of the premiere wedding destinations in this area of the country.
However, the rich soil, green grass and rolling hills surrounded by a forest of trees that give it a natural canopy wasn’t always a “sight for sore eyes”.
The Spain family purchased the land, located at 732 E. 116th St. in Jenks, in 2004. The land was previously owned by Lloyd and Sue Clifton, who had owned it since the 1950’s.
The Clifton’s no longer wanted to take care of the land and had numerous offers, including some big money offers from different groups who wanted to commercialize it, but the Clifton’s decided to sell it to the Spains with a vision to keep the land looking close to the way it had always looked.
John Spain, graduated from Jenks High School in 2007 and attended the University of Oklahoma with a plan to enter the family profession and become a doctor. Spain had both business and science degrees from OU and got into medical school but decided to turn it down to pursue a life in business.
Spain met his eventual wife Bronwyn Tawney at OU, who was getting her marketing degree. Bronwyn was also a Jenks graduate, as she walked the stage in 2008. After they had both graduated college in 2012, they moved back to their hometown to begin their lives together.
John had spent his summers in college coming home to work on the ranch, but never envision what it would eventually become. He took a job out of college working for a furniture company in Tulsa and several design firms.
As the couple was planning their wedding, Bronwyn mentioned to John that she wanted to get married at the ranch in front of the big hill on the east side of the property. John was not excited about the idea.
“It was going to be too much work, so I said no at first,” John said.
The only option in Bronwyn’s mind was the Mayo Hotel in Tulsa, so after many discussions, the couple decided to have their wedding at the ranch.
Following the wedding, numerous family members and friends exclaimed about how beautiful the wedding was and that they should start having weddings and other events at the ranch.
They discovered that there was a need for a wedding venue in the Tulsa area, so they decided to pursue the new dream.
In late 2012, the couple came up with the White Barn venue and they started planning in 2013. After several years of battles with the Jenks city council and the neighbors surrounding the land, construction was finally underway in May of 2015 after one of the rainiest years in state history.
The first official wedding was set to take place in 2016 for one of their neighbors. Going into the final week of preparation for the first official ceremony for Spain Ranch, Bronwyn found John in their house with a blue face and nearly unresponsive. John had been bitten by a tick a week earlier and had gone septic because of the tick bite.
John spent the final week of preparation in the hospital with Bronwyn by his side, so Bronwyn’s younger sister, Cecily Tawney, who had just graduated from OU with a bachelor’s degree in public relations had to take the reins and lead the rest of the crew to complete the final preparations for the inaugural wedding at the new venue.
“The wedding went great,” Bronwyn said. “Cecily did an amazing job. She was wiped out after it was over.”
“It could not have happened at a worse time,” John said. “All of the stuff that happens at the last minute and we weren’t there to help.”
Following the first wedding, the new Tulsa-area wedding venue blew up. Couples were signing up left and right and booking their spots to get married at 4,800-acre Spain Ranch.
One obstacle still remained for the Spains and that was bride and groom suites, which the White Barn did not have.
After a trip to Kentucky, where they saw numerous black barns, they were inspired when the returned home. They decided to build the Black Barn.
“I originally designed the White Barn to be like the bride’s white gown, so with the Black Barn, I wanted to be like the groom’s black tux in a traditional wedding,” Bronwyn said.
The couple decided to put their offices on the second floor, but they had a small space in between the two suites in the Black Barn that they didn’t know what to do with, so they came to the decision of having smaller weddings in that area for those who don’t want the bigger wedding like the White Barn provides.
Suddenly, the Black Barn became the more popular venue at Spain Ranch.
“The two barns compliment each other really well,” Bronwyn said. “The Black Barn can hold 35 people or less and it is more accessible.”
John said they want to set the market when it comes to weddings in the area.
‘We don’t really want to follow what the market is saying to do,” he said. “We want to set the standard. We are a one size fits all wedding venue. Everyone is accepted. Our target market is everyone. We want to be a leader in the industry, not a follower.”
Bronwyn has also recently started a non-profit organization called Project Bloom. The new organization allows for those couples who don’t want their flowers following their wedding to be donated to a local senior center, so the seniors can enjoy the flowers.
“It’s something we have been doing since we started, but we just made it official with the non-profit organization,” Bronwyn said.
When asked what they see out of Spain Ranch in the coming years, Bronwyn said she wants to see it change how the area is viewed when it comes to wedding venues.
“I want to make Tulsa and the surrounding areas a venue for destination weddings,” she said. “I want to get people to come here and come see what a great community Jenks is and what a great city Tulsa is. I believe we can do that.”