There’s something very romantic about saying “I do” in a barn.The exposed wooden rafters, the sunlight peeking through the wooden slats, that rich, old musky smell that you couldn’t duplicate if you tried—it’s all there.
Brides love barn weddings because they can be as rustic or as elegant as you want, says Karin Hlywiak, owner of Kingston-based Cinderella for a Day. Barns allow couples tremendous room for customization. Favor a backyard barbecue or a sit-down dinner? Either will work in a barn venue. After the music’s over, light a bonfire and roast marshmallows. Hlywiak once arranged an outdoor lounge area, complete with a projector screen, to create a drive-in theater vibe, so guests could watch movies late into the night.
Although some barns’ décor includes antique cars or tractors, there’s no precious art to worry about, like at a museum venue, or a ballroom floor to avoid scratching up. “Guests relax and have fun,” says Daniel Giessinger, co-owner of Shadow Lawn in High Falls. “The setting shakes off a formality that people expect at a wedding, and that makes for a great party.”
Photography: Barn weddings offer amazing photo opportunities, but weather plays a big role in making those shots unforgettable. Sure, rain can put a damper on things, but so can heat. So if you’re planning on getting hitched during the hottest part of the summer, don’t hesitate to ask about alternative locations for photo opportunities just in case the lawn isn’t at its greenest.
Power and Bathrooms: When you’re saying “I do” in a banquet hall, it’s understood that you’ll have everything you need: enough electrical power, plenty of restrooms, and an ample kitchen. But out on the farm, things don’t come as easily. Some barns have built-in restrooms, but one bathroom won’t accommodate 200 guests. A general rule of thumb is one restroom per 35 guests. Turned off by Porta Potties? Instead, consider renting modern, elegant, heated restroom trailers.
Cooking: The caterer can make or break a wedding. Some barns include working kitchens, but caterers also often bring their own catering tents or trailers. Figure out in advance where the caterer can get water and store ice. The caterer should also know when to bring out the cake, which could melt in the summer heat. And a buffet meal should only be presented when guests are ready to eat; otherwise, insects could get to it first.
Breakdown: Unlike traditional urban venues, barn weddings abide by town ordinances, so things sometimes wrap up earlier. Find out when loud music has to be shut down. You can remain at the barn and have a bonfire or other nighttime activities, but some staff should stay behind to help out. Also, check with your venue about breakdown. Many couples don’t realize they have to clean up the property once the reception is over. Is there a cleanup fee…or is your caterer willing to take on the breakdown?
The Bottom Line: Although these details sound overwhelming, barn weddings are just like any other wedding, with countless moving parts. There’s just a different set of hurdles to consider with traditional venues.
When your family and friends gather for a destination barn wedding, the experience is unforgettable. From the rehearsal dinner through the weekend outings, ceremony, and reception, to the farewell brunch, your guests will be entertained, at ease, and saying, “This was the best wedding ever!”