Story By Caroline Shively Sucher
Photography by Tara Zarilla, RG Social
When Patty Sparks says she knows weddings from every angle, she means it. Patty has been a caterer for decades and most recently a venue owner and events coordinator. But the job where she learned the most about weddings was in a very different role.
Mother of the bride.
“When I was seeing it before, I knew the moms and daughters were fussing, but when we went through it, I finally understood it,” the owner of The White Rose explained with a laugh. “Now I can read the room and guide them through those rough spots.”
You might call that dynamic her specialty – making sure everyone is satisfied, including the wedding party, guests, groom, mom and most especially the bride.
Or as Patty puts it: “I have to come up with a plan that meets the mom’s budget but gives the bride her Pinterest vision.”
Patty is taking all that experience and pouring it into The White Rose, a wedding and events venue in Callaway, Md., located in the Shops at 5 South. The white brick and black trim of the elegant building houses a stunning interior that can hold a 600-person wedding or a more intimate event of just 30.
Patty is also the owner of Personalized Touch Catering, which can provide the food for weddings at The White Rose or brides can choose their own. At every job she’s catered over the years, Patty took notes on the different venues about what worked and what didn’t. From parking to the location of the catering trucks to how far guests had to walk to get to the ceremony.
Before she opened The White Rose in May 2022, she consulted that notebook to put together an elegant, functional venue where the wedding party can focus on the fun and Patty and her team can take on all the little details.
“Our venue is geared to weddings,” Patty said. “It looks like there should be a wedding there as soon as you walk in. The only thing you need to do is come in with centerpieces, and maybe a backdrop behind the head table. It’s a very easy set up for a wedding because everything is pretty much already there.”
The main room can be cleared out to make room for huge weddings or broken into what Patty calls “conversation areas,” groupings of chairs and tables and bistro tables where guests can gather and catch up with old friends.
“It feels homey, and people gravitate to those areas, especially women. It’s basically a couch and a couple of seats. It gives it another layer and makes it feel more intimate.”
The venue also has a farm table and wooden cabinet for desserts and an antique table that can be used for cake.
Then there’s the bridal suite.
“It’s really huge,” she said. “We have four stations, the girls can get made up, there’s a coffee table with a couch and table and a counter with food on it, a changing room, a bathroom. We bring you food so you’re ready and happy when the ceremony starts.”
Patty said she likes to guide the process from “birth to death,” from the planning to the cleanup. She estimates that 25 percent of brides come in with a book and an idea of exactly what they want, and 75 percent don’t know what they’re doing. It’s up to Patty to turn those “Pinterest visions” into reality.
“We do their timeline for them and lay out their wedding,” she said. “We will sit down and say, ‘Hey, this is the beginning all the way through to the end,’ and I usually give them a sample of how things can go.”
With the venue that can hold dozens or hundreds, and a menu of plans for food and decorations and rentals, the possibilities are only limited to the bride’s imagination.
“There is no tradition anymore. It used to be that most weddings were all alike, but people are all over the joint now, you can do whatever you want. My daughter only had two females in her wedding party. The rest were males.”
The same goes for food. While some brides and grooms go for the traditional cake, Patty has also done weddings at The White Rose with cheesecakes and donuts and even pie.
The White Rose is also seeing more and more wedding parties from outside the St. Mary’s area, more from Washington, DC and Annapolis.
Patty says one reason is affordability. “If you compare a $10,000 wedding in St. Mary’s and one in Annapolis, the difference is night and day. If I go to Annapolis and think I’m going to rent a place for a couple thousand dollars, then they’ll probably just laugh.”
Another reason is the setting.
“I feel like in St. Mary’s, the people will be different than what you see in the city. Everyone is pretty gracious and different from what you see in the city. When someone gets married here from up the road, they feel like it’s more peaceful here, a little more scenic,” Patty said. But she also cautions, “If you’re a bride who wants hustle and bustle this may not be your location.”
No matter what the size of the wedding or the food served, Patty says she focuses on the wedding party, marked by her experience as mother of the bride.
“I can feel the bride’s nervousness, the mom’s love for her, I know what they are feeling like because I’ve been there.”
That experience has also helped Patty understand where to save money and where to splurge, and she passes on that knowledge to her brides.
So, did that work at her own daughter’s wedding?
“Oh, no. Her wedding blew the budget!” Patty admitted with a laugh.
For more information on The White Rose and vendors across the St. Mary’s area, wedding parties are invited to attend a bridal show February 19th from 1-4 p.m. The location is 21030 Point Lookout Rd, Callaway, MD 20620. In addition to the vendors, the winner of the Southern Maryland Love Story contest will be announced, with the grand prize a free wedding package at The White Rose Hall.