The Brim is a unique wedding venue near I-435 and Skyview
When a young Northland couple envisioned operating a wedding venue planted on bare pastures near their home, they knew they could never launch their ambitious plan alone.
What Kelsie and Aaron Kleinmeyer never envisioned was the more than a dozen strangers, some as far away as California and Texas, who would immediately embrace their plan and jump in to help. The result? Today, the couple is watching as their entrepreneurial spirit blooms on former Platte County farmland.
When their first child was born three years ago, the Kleinmeyers, who live in Kansas City, a 15-minute drive from their wedding property, assessed their future and grappled with some larger life questions. As teachers, the two are accustomed to giving back and wondered how to best do that, believing in generosity and with the desire to serve as an example for their growing family.
“As teachers, that’s sort of ingrained in us,” said Kelsie, on leave from her position as a teacher to care for their two children and Aaron, who teaches at an area middle school. “We want our kids to see us giving back to others” and thought of offering a free wedding venue to couples who otherwise could not afford to rent a site.
“Our hearts are for marriage,” Aaron said of their plan, which over the past few months has grown from an idea to reality. The two first experienced an unbelievable lucky streak when searching for property. They drove around in search of a place, then spotted about 11 acres that seemed not to be used. Because there was no “for sale” sign, they searched online tax records and discovered the property belonged to a woman living in California, one of several grandchildren who inherited former farmland. They mailed her a letter, asking if the land was for sale. Several weeks later, a realtor contacted the Kleinmeyers to inform them the owner would like to sell.
“We scrounged together the down-payment” and successfully made the purchase, Aaron said.
During 2020, they hosted 39 weddings on their land just north of Interstate 435 near the Skyview exit, not far from KCI Airport. They envision eventually hosting 1,000 free weddings a year on their site each year. The first phase of their plan, establishing a free wedding and reception venue (doubling as a tasting room), already is being fulfilled as many Kansas City area couples search for a smaller venue space that meets COVID restrictions.
Until the Kleinmeyers can arrange for a chapel to be built, they offer an open-air tent space in a serene countryside setting. Aaron said they believe a lot of people who either can’t afford another option or, during COVID, aren’t willing to risk infection among attendees, settle for a courthouse marriage when perhaps they’d rather have another option. A lot of them spent thousands on a wedding and postponed their reception.
Early in the planning process, the Kleinmeyers took a weekend trip to Austin, Tex. where they did an internet search for Texas wedding chapels in search of ideas. The owners tout theirs as the first free wedding chapel in the world. They met the couple who owns and operates the venue and struck up a conversation. The Kleinmeyers explained their plan and the chapel operators readily gave them a lot of advice. The impromptu meeting lasted three hours.
As they chatted, the couple introduced them to an area architect who happened to be at the chapel that day and he offered to draw up plans for the Kleinmeyers at no cost. As they left, the chapel owners were so supportive of the young couple’s endeavors that they offered to pay 10 months of their property mortgage to help them get started. When the Kleinmeyers left the meeting, they could barely believe the gift.
“Things keep falling into place, so I guess we’re supposed to do this,” Kelsie said during a recent telephone interview.
Aaron added that they’ve never doubted their idea was sound and just kept moving forward despite only a little savings to launch their dream.
“We never believed money was going to hold us back,” he said, adding “when you believe you are supposed to do something and it’s good for others, you just move forward.”
Although the tent is now the only option, Aaron said they plan to have a chapel completed by mid-June, which, coincidentally coincides with their eighth wedding anniversary. They already have scheduled about 30 ceremonies held beneath tents for the coming wedding season.
The chapel will include large doors that open to outdoor patio space, allowing for guest overflow, Kelsie said.
A reception facility, planned for a later phase of updates to the property, also will serve as a wine-tasting venue and can host other events, the couple said.
While the weddings are free of charge, the couple has launched fundraisers to make their dream financially feasible. They sell bricks engraved with the names of happily married couples and wedding date, some of whom said their vows on the site. Some purchase the bricks to mark the marriages of others. The bricks are $350 each or $250 (the cost of hosting a wedding) for couples who marry on the grounds. The bricks will line the path brides take to the outdoor altar, symbolic of others with successful marriages. In addition, they sell poles that mark the dimensions of the future chapel. That pathway also will someday lead to the chapel. The poles symbolically represent the future chapel and purchase of a pole, which costs $10,000 and includes the perk of three future events on site.
The events could be but are not limited to weddings. Other events might include family reunions, graduation parties, rehearsal dinners, bridal and baby showers and corporate events. The couple have so far sold four poles and five remain for sale.
When their plan was still only a glint, Kelsie and Aaron Kleinmeyer named their wedding venue site “The Brim” to signify that “life is meant to be lived full,” Aaron said. But the couple never anticipated that the title also would signify how their plan also would also leave them feeling fulfilled. That desire led Kelsie to think of a crucial element in reaching the brim (a full life) –establishing a successful marriage.
“Every time people come out they’re gathering and walk away feeling full,” she said of the site.
But when they applied for a special use permit from the county for their land just north of Interstate 435 near the Skyview exit, they learned they were a few acres short, according to county guidelines, to qualify for all they’d planned on the property.
They realized their plans would require more acreage. To fill out the additional acreage, an acquaintance gifted the couple an additional five acres, which the couple counts as another benefit on which they had not planned.
To further enhance their dedication to marriage, they researched the topic and learned that the Kansas City area is host to more than 700 weddings each year. Although pre-marriage courses substantially decrease the likelihood of divorce, less than half of all couples complete such courses prior to the ceremony.
In order to help other engaged couples and newlyweds learn what it takes to succeed in marriage, the Kleinmeyers wrote a short book which they give for free to those who use their venue, Kelsie said. The book outlines suggested conversation topics to enhance their marriages. Eventually, the Kleinmeyers hope to offer marriage enrichment retreats staffed by successfully married couples and experts, she said.
The Kleinmeyer’s plan has grown to include a vineyard and a reception building will double as a winery with venue for wine-tasting events, Kelsie said. The couple already have planted about 300 vines of differing varieties and are waiting to learn which will be the most successful before planting throughout the property. They plan to plant at least another 1,000 vines with plans to commence wine making in two to three years when all vines are mature, Aaron said.
The young couple continue to update the property, always planning for the next phase. When searching for builders, they reached out to an Amish community in Jamesport, Mo., who liked their story and have agreed to construct the chapel for a fair price.
COVID AND FIRST WEDDING
Last March, as government officials began establishing and enforcing restrictions due to Covid, Kelsie was communicating via a wedding Facebook group, with a couple who was searching for a spot to have a scaled-back version of their planned wedding. The original wedding date for Kelsey Painter and Drake Kayser was in April, but the Lawrence, Kan. couple decided to say their vows in March before more restrictions might prevent them from having a wedding for a long time.
They initially planned a 50-person wedding at The Brim, but when health officials announced tighter restrictions on group gatherings and a stay-at-home order loomed, Kelsie contacted the bride-to-be and they rushed to the altar within 48 hours. New government restrictions limited their party to 10 people. (Luckily, the couple already had many plans in place, including the groom’s suit, bride’s dress, and bouquet.)
Their intimate event included his parents, the maid of honor and best man, their photographer and a videographer who read the Facebook messages and offered his services for free.
Newlywed Kelsey said while disappointing at first, the process taught her something about priorities. “At the end of the day, we were married, and it was special and very intimate,” she said and added, “It shined a light on what is really important.”