Romantic waterfalls are a private wedding dream come true
By ALLISON BOLT
When Greg Pallen purchased property in Highlands, NC, to make the plateau a permanent residence for him and his fiancé Marylou Harris, he was overwhelmed with the beauty of their new home. “The natural beauty was so awe-inspiring that we immediately felt obligated to share it,” says Pallen.
The property is home to a waterfall that was once known as Swindler Falls, according to locals Pallen spoke to. “In decades and centuries past, there was much panning for gold in these fertile waterways,” says Pallen. “Mining paths still exist on the property, along the creek, and many of our neighbors have found treasure in the area.”
The waterfall is one of the few that has managed to remain a secret on the plateau because the property has been privately owned for decades. However, the new owners immediately wanted to share the historic property and the beauty of the waterfall.
Today, this private waterfall is known as Secret Waters Highlands, an elopement venue for intimate weddings and various small celebrations. The property offers multiple venues to tie the knot with a beautiful waterfall view. Perhaps the most stunning spot is the stone staircase that leads up to a moss covered alter space at the base of the waterfall. If the happy couple has guests that are not able to make the trek to the base of the waterfall, the venue offers various vantage points with beautiful views for the ceremony.
The venue also offers multiple gathering areas for wedding receptions, vow renewals, photography shoots, birthday parties and so on. One indoor party venue is available upon request for a limited number of guests. Multiple stunning spots for photos are scattered around the property including an enchanting rope bridge in the forest, a private creekside dining area with a waterfall view, a “doorway to nowhere,” a 1956 Chevy pickup truck and even a zipline.
The Secret Waters Highlands experience is curated to create an effortless and perfect day for the elopement couple. The venue offers valet parking and even a personal attendant for the bride on the big day. The venue also works with local restaurants to cater events. From pizza to craft beer or even a personal chef, catering is completely customizable. “Many of our planners bring in their own private chefs that they have worked with for years to provide a totally private and exclusive experience that can only be found at Secret Waters,” says Pallen. “We want our guests to feel like family.” Accessories such as tents, chairs and other add-ons are also available for events.
While each elopement is different and uniquely curated for each couple, every couple can expect complete privacy for their special day on the gated property. On the big day, the couple receives a quick tour with their chosen vendors to select where they want everything set up and their photos taken. The bride has a private area to get ready before she emerges for the “first look,” if she so chooses. The couple then arrives at their chosen spot to tie the knot with their officiant. “After more photographs, the couple departs,” says Pallen. “Some continue their event by cutting the cake, having their champagne toast or going to their romantic private dinner beside the water. All of our events look a little different, depending upon how the happy couple imagines their perfect wedding.
Many couples have chosen to tie the knot at Secret Waters Highlands, all with different but equally beautiful experiences. “Every elopement at Secret Waters is special to us,” says Pallen. However, “our first [elopement] was a young couple whose love was so powerful.” The couple decided to get married in Highlands on short notice. They originally planned to elope on top of Sunset Rock. By chance, they ran into Pallen at the local landscape store, who was struck by their love and offered the venue of Secret Waters Highlands as a gift to them.
The waterfall is also the perfect spot for surprise proposals. Recently, a soon-to-be groom took his soon-to-be-bride to the waterfall for what she believed was simply a romantic picnic at the base of the falls. However, he worked with a planner and Secret Water Highlands to have a hidden photographer capture her reaction when he surprised her by getting down on one knee and popping the question. The couple left the falls engaged and with gorgeous photos of their surprise engagement at the private waterfall. “When you have the honor to share in the happiest day of people's lives, the jubilation spills over, touches you and changes you forever,” says Pallen.
Secret Waters Highlands is currently accepting elopement and various celebration bookings. “During the era of COVID, we feel it is important to treat our customers with total respect and dignity. Even though these are trying times, we must strive for a higher level of customer service because people are looking for peace and normalcy on their special day.”
Secret Waters Highlands
404-520-9279 (call or text)