Protea Weddings and Events, a one-of-a-kind wedding venue in Ocala

April 16, 2024

Protea Weddings & Events, a one-of-a-kind wedding venue, is practically in our backyard!

As we explore Ocala’s vibrant community, we’re meeting passionate small business owners who are pouring their hearts into creating something special. This blog is all about sharing their stories and introducing you to the unique businesses that make Ocala such a great place to live.

Today we are meeting with Courtney, the owner of Protea Weddings and Events nestled in beautiful Ocala.

Courtney, What inspired you to start this business?

My mom was born and raised in South Africa. She moved to the U.S. over 35 years ago and has lived here ever since. Our family (on her side) however, still live in South Africa. Back in 2014, my family and I flew to South Africa for my cousin’s wedding. Her wedding took place in the most beautiful old dairy barn venue up in the mountains; I immediately fell in love with the venue and told myself that I, one day, want to get married in a venue just like that one. 
That year, my now husband and I, got engaged. I immediately started researching for a wedding venue like the one in SA and quickly realized that there was nothing like it in FL. We put the wedding planning on hold until we found the perfect venue, as every venue we looked at, just didn’t have that “story” and character to it that I was looking for. Fast forward a few years, we flew back to SA for my other cousin’s wedding. Once again, I was in awe of her wedding venue (different from my first cousin’s venue); an old working dairy barn that just was so different from what we had in the States. Not your traditional banquet hall, but a historic barn with so much history and character that new construction just cannot replicate. That’s when an idea came to me; We need to build our own venue on our farm and bring a Historic building back to life. 
I started doing research on building venues, etc. and quickly realized that our dream was going to stay a dream, as it was going to take a whole lot more financially to accomplish than what I had thought.

During this whole time, I was (and still am when I have the time) a very competitive and accomplished barrel racer. I traveled the country with my barrel horses and we set numerous arena records and won many titles. I had one of the best horses in the country at the time, his name was JSYK Im Famous (JSYK= Just So You Know) aka “JR”. My husband Joe and I bought him together as a 2 year old when we first started dating back in 2010. I trained JR, and he and I became the team to beat during his barrel racing career. He was everything a horse girl could dream of, he was my absolute world.
After months and months of research, business meetings with banks and possible business partners etc., the wedding venue dream had pretty much sizzled up until I got a call from now a good friend of mine, who wanted to buy JR from me to pursue her dream of making the National Finals Rodeo. She was lacking something very very important to accomplish her dream and that was a horse with the caliber it takes to make the NFR. I never ever dreamed of selling JR and if anyone was to have him to make the NFR, I wanted it to be me. I had turned down countless high offers for him in the past, but this time it was different. This sale of JR would help us kick off the wedding venue build and make this dream of our family come true. 
Very long story short, the sale of JR went through and the wedding venue plans and build re-launched. JR and his new owner hit the winners circle immediately and they ranked #1 in the world in 2017, and made the NFR. I was flown out there for the duration the NFR took place and got to be there every step of the way with them; It truly was incredible and something I will never forget. 

Courtney -  Owner of Protea Weddings and Events

What makes your Protea Wedding & Events so unique?

Protea is built around a Historic Hand-Hewn 1850s beam barn that once stood in Canada. It truly is one of a kind and has so much History and Stories to tell. The barn structure was brought from Canada and re-erected using the original wooden mallet and wooden pegs. Ofcourse, we built all new construction around the Historic barn to allow for a climate controlled venue. Protea sits on one of the very first established racehorse farms in Ocala, back when Ocala became “Horse Capital of the World”. So not only does the barn have lots of history itself, but the land it sits on also has its own story of many Champion racehorses being born and raised on this land. 

Let’s talk about wedding photography for a moment . . .

When you choose Visual Arts Wedding Photography, we’ll get to the heart of what matters most to you, and focus on those moments on your wedding day. Give yourself the gift of not having to worry about your wedding photographs, and celebrate your love for a lifetime.

Picture this: Stress-free planning, stunning photos. What more could you ask for?

Schedule your free consultation and let’s chat about your dream wedding.

Courtney, who is your ideal customer/client?

Wedding Couples. Although we hold other events such as birthday parties, baby showers, etc., we specialize in weddings.

What’s your favorite aspect of running Protea Weddings & Events?

Decorating. I feel like I have found my calling when it comes to Design and Decor. I love listening to my couples desired wedding design and decor vision and bringing it all to life for them. It’s a lot of work, but seeing their smiles when they see the finished product makes it all worth it.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

There are two things which kind of relate: One – Time management. I’m a worker and forget that there is life outside of work. I will work for 24 hours and realize I missed bed time, or dinner, etc.. I have had to sell most my horses and I miss out on weekend events for 8 months out of the year (we close the venue from mid June-end of September).

And Two – hiring employees aka having help. My mom is a Godsend. She is my only employee but can, and does, work for the amount of 5 employees. We have tried to hire help, but wedding work hours are not a Monday – Friday 9-5, its a Friday-Sun 6am to sometimes next morning hour schedule, and no one wants to work those hours. 

Protea Weddings and Event Venue in Ocala

What are you most proud of achieving with your business?

I feel as though Protea is a successful business and we have many many happy couples that leave here with beautiful, happy memories they will forever remember. Being a fairly new venue (4 years open in June 2024), we have successfully had over 200 beautiful weddings, with couples that have come to us from all over the U.S.. I feel like a once dream and vision I had back in 2014, came to life. My biggest fear was that the sale of my whole heart and soul (JR) would be for nothing if Protea had not been accomplished and successful but as much pain as I feel on a daily basis about him not being with me anymore, I know that Protea is successful because of him, and that he would be proud of me. Most couples consider their wedding day one of the happiest days of their lives, so for us to be a part of that makes all the hard work and sacrifices worth it. 

What exciting things do you have planned for the future of the business?

Every year we ask ourselves “what can we do to better Protea or how can we expand for our couples?”. We have a long list of things we dream of doing to add to Protea such as a covered ceremony site, or an extended patio area, but we dont have any set time frames for these additions just yet. 

What piece of advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Believe in yourself. Even when you feel like you have hit rock bottom, keep going.

Is there a specific cause or charity that your business supports?

I am a HUGE dog person, you can say I’m obsessed. A couple years ago we rescued a Golden Retriever from China who was on the meat truck at market. Golden Retrievers and Black Labs are bred in China purposely for their meat with the belief that Goldens bring them wisdom and black labs keep the devil away. So when I came across a FB Dog Rescue called “Golden Retrievers of South Florida” who focus on saving dogs in China, I jumped all over it. We hold an annual bridal expo at Protea, and “Chance” our golden retriever from China makes an appearance for donations that are all sent to the rescue to help with funds to get more dogs saved from China’s dog meat market. 

How can people learn more about Protea Weddings & Events and connect with you?

We have a website- and our FB- Protea Weddings and Events Ocala

Protea Weddings and Event Venue in Ocala

What’s your favorite restaurant?

The Cheesecake Factory – I have a major sweet tooth for Cheesecake

Could you list one or two business owners that our community should meet?

I’ll get back to you on this one. I would like to think of some small businesses I have worked with in the past that need some recognition.

“Courtney, Thank you so much for the tour of Protea and the insights. This is absolutely amazing! Wow!”

If you are looking for a unique wedding venue in central Florida, you definitely should check out Protea Weddings & Events in Ocala, FL.

For more information, pricing and to schedule your personal tour with Courtney, please visit:

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