Carnton Plantation Franklin Tennessee

Historic Carnton: A Southern Plantation Wedding Venue

Historic Carnton in Franklin, TN, was built in 1826 by Randal McGavock, a former mayor of Nashville. It sits about 23 miles outside of the city’s center. During the Civil War, Carnton served as a field hospital for the Battle of Franklin. The floors of the house are still stained with the soldier’s blood, but don’t let that scare you away from hosting your wedding here (a good wedding planner can work around anything). The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is owned by the Carnton Association.

I’ll be honest, I have been procrastinating on writing this article for about 2 months. When I was making my list of points to discuss, I discovered that there were a lot of negatives about this venue. But I don’t want to complain; I want to present you all with lots of lovely reviews of excellent local vendors to choose when planning your wedding. However, it just doesn’t always turn out that way. Not every business is going to have all of the kinks worked out. Carnton is one of those that could make a few improvements. But you know what, it is SO beautiful, that it still is pretty high on my list of my favorite historic homes in Middle Tennessee. I’ll point out a few of the kinks, so that you can learn how to work around them.

Historic Carnton Plantation
Historic Carnton – rear view

So let’s start with a positive: Carnton is an absolutely beautiful historic home and property! I mean, just look at these photos. These are my amateur shots, so imagine the possibilities for professional photography. Though different, I love the front and back sides of the home equally. If you want to provide some extra entertainment for your guests, you can pay extra for a tour of the home. This would be a great idea to fill time between the ceremony and the reception.

carnton plantation
Historic tree often used for wedding ceremonies at Carnton

Unless it is raining, you will most likely have your ceremony in the garden, and the venue offers two backdrops within the garden. The first is this very old tree (above), and the second is the flower garden (below). I toured the property in June, and you can see in the first photo that the garden was in full bloom. These white hydrangea bushes truly make the garden, as they are in the center and seen around the edges of the fence beside the tree above. However, our wedding wasn’t held in June, it was in September, and you can see in the second photo below that by then the garden was not quite as attractive. I don’t expect Carnton to control Mother Nature to keep the flowers in bloom, but I do expect them to trim these dead blooms, which were brown, ugly, and in most of our ceremony photos.

Carnton garden
Carnton garden in June
Carnton garden in September

Additionally, other parts of the garden were messy, with vegetable plants falling over and weeds overgrowing some areas. I will give the venue the benefit of the doubt on this one and say that the garden is probably not usually this destroyed. Middle Tennessee had just seen the effects of two major hurricanes, which although milder in here than in the Gulf, were certainly strong enough to knock over some plants. So, this will probably not be so bad for your wedding. But for ours, we really would have appreciated Carnton sending their gardener out to clean up some of the mess. It would have been an easy fix that would have made a big difference in the guest experience of our wedding.

One of the biggest drawbacks of the venue is that they only allow late ceremonies, as the property is open to the public during the day. Ceremonies cannot begin until 5:30pm, and you may only use the venue until 11pm on Friday/Saturday, and 10pm on other days. Flemming center (indoor reception area), patio reception area, and porch all have various beginning set-up times throughout the day. These late times somewhat limit your ability to enjoy the full day, and certainly limit the length of your reception. If booking this venue, I would recommend getting ready off-site (especially since the groom & groomsmen don’t even have a designated “getting ready” space on site). Not everyone will be bothered by these time limits, but if you would like earlier access to your venue, I recommend looking at places such as Andrew’s Jackson’s The Hermitage, which is also open to the public, but has private spaces designated for wedding parties.

Carnton Plantation
Historic Carnton – front view

Now that I feel awful for bashing the venue, let me reiterate some of the pros. The staff are very friendly and helpful, which wedding coordinators always appreciate. There is a ton of parking for guests. Any home that offers alternative entertainment, such as Carnton’s site tours, is a big plus in my book, because just not everyone loves cocktails and dancing (although they have plenty of space for that, too, if you are so inclined). And again, SO beautiful.

Carnton historic home may just be the perfect spot for your wedding. I highly recommend the venue in May or June, when the garden is in full bloom. They do require that all couples hire a coordinator for weddings, so contact us today for help with your event!