Growing up in Iowa, Ashley Pyle would always pass barns in desperate need of renovation.
She has wanted to open her a wedding venue since she planned her own. Though Abilene doesn’t have many deteriorating barnes, Ashley and her husband, Cason, decided to follow that model and build their own.
Sabrina Cedars, Ashley’s venue on the outskirts of south Abilene, housed its first event in September of 2018 after a few years of tossing the idea around and only seven months of construction.
The two purchased the property in 2015 and built their house first, then the venue.
“We did that per the bank’s advice on ways to get loans,” Ashley said. “Hindsight, it’s good that they gave us that advice. Living here while building has been a must.”
Cason served as general contractor of the barn while also working his full-time job as a school teacher. Time was stretched, so I can’t imagine what it would have been like if we weren’t living on the property. February 2017 is when they poured concrete, and September 2018 is when they had their first event.
Through a company called Barn Pros, they designed the venue to replicate a horse barn. Ashley said the company has standard barn floor plans, but dimensions and window placement can be customized. Then, they give you the lumber for the structure based on how it has been designed.
“It was a fun process, but it also came with a lot of stresses.”
Ashley said they looked at other venues and talked with people who are knowledgeable about the wedding industry. Because there were so many different designs, it was hard for them decide which aspects they would keep.
“We tried really hard to make it our own and make it unique also while pulling in pieces from other venues that we felt were really beautiful.”
One of the most difficult parts, Ashley said, was to not second guess whether they missed something or should have done the design differently.
“Once you’re going, you’re going. You just have to confidently move forward,” Ashley said.
The venue is named after Cason’s mother, Sabrina, who passed away in a car accident when he was 4.
Ashley said though they’ve almost used her name at different points in their life, especially with three daughters, they felt like the venue was a perfect opportunity to honor her.
Though Cason has no memories of her, Ashley said Sabrina was described as joyful and able to love people well.
“We hope that’s what happens here – people have an extremely joyous experience and that they commit to loving each other for a lifetime. It’s special to us in that way, and we feel lucky to get to honor her through.”
The duo decided to stay in Abilene because of the community they’ve built up and support they receive.
“Neither one of our families live here, but we have a great church home; we have tons of friends,” Ashley said. “We love Abilene as far as it being a family-friendly town. With three universities and junior colleges and an Air Force base, there’s a lot of opportunity for people to get married. There’s a lot of good partnership and places that offer partnerships.”
In addition to the people surrounding them, Ashley said Abilene reminds her of the Midwest in that it is down-to-earth and has an easy pace of life.
Ashley said her Cason have been through a lot of steps in their marriage to prepare them for this season. Cason flipped houses for several years while he was going to graduate school and continued to do so in the summers as a school teacher. She organized events at ACU for the admissions office on campus and off.
“Those two things, especially have equipped us well,” Ashley said. “When we look back through every single step of the way from when we found the property to when it all worked out financially, just the doors that continued to open for us were pretty incredible. We felt like we saw the green light of the Lord asking us to trust him and continue walking.”
Her favorite part of the venue is the bridal suite upstairs. Ashley said she put a lot of time and thought into trying to make it the perfect space for a bride to feel super special and share it with her closest friends and family.
“I love going up there when weddings take place because it’s super fun. There’s typically music going and random games.”
As she listed her other favorite parts of the venue, she included the reclaimed wood around the top. The two spent an evening digging through piles of wood to find enough that was all the same style, width and locked together well.
“I didn’t see anything else like that at any of the other venues we looked at,” Ashley said. “Some ant bites later and watching my back for rattlesnakes all night, we came home with it.”
Ashley said the design of the venue is intended to make families feel comfortable on their wedding day, and allow a space for people to make it their own.
So far, she said the upcoming wedding season has been more successful than she could have imagined.
“It’s so neat to see the fruits of your labor come to life. I love watching a ceremony take place when I think back to everything we prayed about and prayed over.”
The hardest part for Ashley, was the juggle of building it all with normal everyday life. Because Cason’s time was committed to the venue, Ashley and their three daughters didn’t see him much unless they were helping at the barn.
“It was a hard season of them missing their dad and not understanding why I had to make my 10th trip to the barn to give my stamp of approval or make a decision. They had a love-hate relationship with the barn initially.”
Now, the girls enjoy visiting the barn and helping their mom when they can. Her middle daughter, 4 years old, enjoys meeting the brides and watching them walk down the aisle.
“My middle daughter is always wanting to catch a glimpse of the ‘wedding girl,’” Ashley said. “I look forward to when they’re older and helping me. I feel like they’ll learn a lot of good life skills and responsibility helping me run it.”
Looking back at houses they flipped, Ashley said they realized it was finally going to work.
“It’s really neat to sit in our spot and look back at the things that did truly just open and really ultimately made it possible,” she said.” We felt like the lord was blessing us through people and doors.”