‘The Perfect Fit’
After years of hosting weddings and other special events at its properties in Philadelphia, Finley Catering returns to its roots with a welcome new addition, The Ballroom at Ellis Preserve
by Theodora Malison

Weddings in Delaware County are about to get a much-welcomed upgrade. Finley Catering Co., which has been gracing flamboyant weddings and monumental events with delectably unique dishes since 1976, is embarking on a long-awaited expansion. Rather than moving boldly into new territory, however, Finley will return to its roots in Delaware County, where the business began 40 years ago.

The Ballroom at Ellis Preserve, built in 1932 and located on 500 acres of vibrant green preserve, stands as the company’s fourth historical landmark among its other noteworthy Center City estates: The Ballroom at the Ben; The Crystal Tea Room; and Union Trust. This Greek revival facility, which was constructed by Charles Ellis, historically served as a college to fatherless girls from 1918 to 1977. Its location and stunning architecture made it the ideal choice when the Finley Catering brain trust went looking for a new jewel to complement its iconic Old World-inspired venues in the city.

“For quite some time we were searching for a building in Delaware County—more so, the right place to integrate the company back into the area,” says Tom Finley, who owns Finley Catering with his brother, Steve Finley. “This opportunity opened up and the minute we toured the inside, we immediately knew the layout would work perfectly for us. From the architecture on the outside of the building to the pillars and stone, we knew this was the perfect fit.”

Finley says prospective brides have much to look forward to within the coming months of renovation; the nature of both the facility and surrounding preserve allow brides who envision an extravagant indoor celebration or a scenic outdoor wedding to experience the best of both worlds.

“This venue is ideal for brides who want something new that guests haven’t seen before, or who want something different,” Finley adds. “This isn’t a country club or a standard hotel with an accompanying ballroom; we’re creating something different, which is what we’re accomplishing. Brides can have an outdoor ceremony and cocktail hour on the soon-to-be spacious outdoor patio.”

Despite the facility’s exquisite interior and exterior presence, Finley says there is more renovation work to be done in order to bring the facility up to par with Finley Catering’s fellow properties in the city. The project is a major first for the company: The Ballroom at Ellis Preserve represents the first facility the company is building from scratch, as its other venues were tastefully refurbished.

“One of the biggest challenges we faced when working with our designer was where we were going to place the outdoor patio,” he notes. “We realized the easiest part to work with was the ballroom because there was a huge space located in the center. From that point we worked our way out to the kitchen, the restrooms, the bridal suite, etc. Rarely do you have a ballroom feel where you also get an outdoor feel, which is what we’ve created.

“In the city, our spots were uniquely targeted by us due to their location and size,” Finley continues. “We have one facility that can hold up to 900 guests, another than can hold 500 and one that can hold up to 200, so all of our venues are different in size. However, we most commonly find that the average wedding size as of late is 150 to 200 guests. We wanted to be sure our next facility could more than accommodate this. Everything is getting made from scratch, but the vast ballroom and the outside pillars blend both The Ballroom at the Ben and The Crystal Tea Room to create a chic and exclusive venue.”

With the new facility, the company will be able to accommodate weddings of up to 250 guests, as well as 500 for cocktail hour, but Finley adds that the space will allow for parties with as few as 40 attendees, due to the availability of two smaller separate side rooms in the venue. Even better news for brides-to-be interested in hosting their big day at The Ballroom at Ellis Preserve: Not only is it scheduled to open earlier than its anticipated deadline of fall 2016, but it is currently taking reservations for the upcoming wedding season and into 2017. The venue’s first wedding is scheduled for August 20, 2016.

“We’re opening earlier than originally planned,” Finley states, anticipating a completion by the end of July 2016. “We have 43 weddings booked as of now,” which Finley’s wife, Tricia, has been handling. “She has 19 events booked for this year and 24 already booked for next year, which is incredible considering construction has just begun.”

With a significant amount of curiosity thus far among local brides, Finley attributes the new property’s early success to both the striking nature of the property itself and the allure of what’s to come.

“When people walk in, they’re falling in love with the facility instantly,” he says. “They love the feel of the entire campus and the image they can envision from our other locations, all seamlessly blended into one space.”

In addition to the expansion and renovations implemented at The Ballroom at Ellis Preserve, another of the company’s acclaimed properties, The Ballroom at the Ben, recently underwent a complete transformation, with major renovations to the ballroom, cocktail area and Viennese room, as well as a new bridal suite. Other upgrades include four newly installed oak bars—one of which is adorned with a 60-inch flat-screen television—and a state-of-the-art lighting and sound system. Also, a camera now hangs atop the ceiling over the dance floor, in which guests can watch live footage while enjoying a cocktail at the bar.

“After each wedding, the bride receives the tape of her special night and can watch the entire night over again caught by the camera installed,” Finley mentions. “The brides love it—it’s been a huge hit.”

For more information regarding The Ballroom at Ellis Preserve and its other properties, visit www.finleycatering.com.

Photograph by Philip Gabriel Photography