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Smithwick’s Heart of Texas Ranch, local vendors open hearts to couple on Valentine’s Day

SMITHWICK — In January, the operators of Heart of Texas Ranch were looking for a couple to hold a wedding at the Smithwick venue so the new facility could get some photographs for promotional purposes. At the same time, a young couple was planning their wedding but didn’t have the resources to throw a big shindig.

PHOTO: Army veteran Zach Wallis, 24, and his fianceé, Lindsey Little, 27, will be getting married Feb. 14 after Heart of Texas Ranch in Smithwick offered its facility for free with one stipulation: The couple had to get married on Valentine’s Day. The organizers also wanted a military veteran. Other Highland Lakes vendors are chipping in with services to make the big day even more special for the groom- and bride-to-be. For more about Heart of Texas Ranch, visit Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

“It was probably going to be something fairly small,” said the bride-to-be, 27-year-old Lindsey Little. “We’re just starting out, and we’d love a big wedding, but those cost a lot more money.”

She and her fiancé, Army veteran Zach Wallis, 24, who has one tour of combat and is currently a reservist, were at an Austin wedding show when they came across the Heart of Texas Ranch booth.

Annie Berg, the new facility’s wedding coordinator, and the owner, Dale Fortenberry Jr., were discussing ways to promote the venue. As a new business, Heart of Texas didn’t have books of previous wedding photos and receptions to show to potential clients or post on its website.

In fact, the facility was so new, it hadn’t hosted one wedding.

So, Berg and Fortenberry decided to do something a bit radical: offer the facility at no cost if the bride and groom would agree to one condition.

“They had to have their wedding on Valentine’s Day,” Berg said.

“We also wanted somebody who was in the military,” Fortenberry said. “And we wanted somebody who wasn’t going to have a big wedding.

Berg reached out to local organizations to help locate a couple with ties to the military, but despite numerous attempts, she couldn’t connect with a bride- and groom-to-be.

But, during an Austin wedding show, Berg simply threw out the question to folks walking or stopping by the booth, “Would anybody like to get married Feb. 14?”

Little and Wallis became engaged Dec. 24 after meeting the previous March. Upon hearing Berg’s idea, the couple huddled nearby to discuss it.

They knew they were going to get married. In fact, Little actually had her wedding dress before she had her engagement ring, so it wasn’t a matter of getting married, but just when.

After talking it over, the couple agreed.

“This is like a dream come true,” Little said while recently visiting the Heart of Texas venue. “We were just going to hold a small wedding with a few family and friends, but this, this is, wow, amazing.”

Wallis agreed.

“You can’t really say how much this means to us,” the veteran said. “To take our wedding from what was going to be somewhat small to give us this place, you just can’t explain how incredible it is.”

Fortenberry, who transformed the house and property into a wedding destination, offered just the facility at no cost, leaving the rest of the details to the bride and groom and their families. But things quickly changed as word spread among Highland Lakes vendors about what Heart of Texas Ranch was doing for the young couple.

“All these other vendors wanted to be a part of this,” Berg said. “I’ve been a wedding coordinator in this area long enough to know people were going to help out.”

Now, along with the venue, local businesses are providing the future bride and groom with numerous services from catering (Becca Schafer Events) to photography (Jennifer Rice of Sparrowsheart Photography).

Outback Rentals of Marble Falls is helping with the linens and china, while Dessert Divas and the Flower House, both of Marble Falls, are providing the cake and floral arrangements.

Wallis and Little sat speechless for a moment when asked about the rest of the businesses helping them out.

“Ah, I really don’t know what to say,” Little said with a big smile. “It’s just the most incredible thing.”

But Berg reminded the couple of the one stipulation.

“You have to show up on Valentine’s Day,” she said. “You’re going to be there, right?”

For more on the venue, go to