Do we entertain barn weddings?
Answer: Yes, barn weddings are very popular.
A growing trend in Missouri has couples choosing rustic barn settings for their wedding ceremony and or reception. Some barns still function for daily farm use and others have been modernized as upscale wedding venues. Personal preference is often the deciding factor when selecting a venue but when it comes to renting a barn, there are additional considerations.
What is a barn?:
A barn is a structure intended to store and protect farm implements, feed, and livestock. Barns are traditionally two story buildings. The ground level is for animals that can't climb ladders and storing motorized farm equipment like tractors, brush hogs, blades, combines, skid steers, ATVs, and other tools that need to be accessed most readily. In average barns stalls align the outer walls with an open center floor plan.
The loft of a barn often doesn't span the same floor plan of the ground level. Space is often left at one end or in the center. This is usually because hay and grain is stored up high so that bails can be dropped from the upper level to the ground or the bed of a trailer or truck. Having grain stored in the upper level often simplifies feeding the animals in the below stalls using PVC tubes through which farmers pour the grain directly into the animals' feed buckets below.
Walls are rarely finished with sheetrock because it would mold and dissolve over time since the walls are only loosely aligned. Drywall is not suitable for outdoor use, even on the inside of most barns. Floors are also rarely finished using just dirt, gravel, or in upscale barns there may be a concrete slab or a wood planked floor, similar to the walls.
Barns have been in use since long before electricity was invented. Some modern barns still use very few modern inventions. Rustic barns likely have no heat or air conditioning. They may have no power for lighting or electrical outlets to amplify your musicians or officiant.
Summer Barn Weddings:
Barns are not designed to be air tight or water tight. Gaps between slats in the walls are usually visible. and the roofs often don't stop rain. Some may have ridge vents and wind powered ventilation but these are usually at the peak of the roof and do not bring in cooler air, they only aide in helping heat within the building escape.
Summertime temperatures inside an enclosed barn can kill livestock. These temperatures are equally dangerous for your guests in their tuxedos, or even those who may be in shorts and tank tops. Videographers and photographers may often request the doors and windows of a barn be closed so they can control the lighting inside the venue. Expect that the temperature inside a closed barn full of hot, sweaty people to increase the temperature by 15-25 degrees F. above the ambient temperature outside.
If holding a wedding inside a barn during summer months portable fans are highly recommended. Fans need to be placed where they can cool every guest while drawing as much cooler outdoor air as possible. Placing a fan near a door or window will create a vacuum that sucks the cooler air in, then pushes it toward your guests.
Fans will create a lot of noise. You will need amplification for your officiant and your vows, and likely for your musicians as well. Don't expect to be able to shout above the noise in the extreme heat and dense humidity.
Heat and humidity are the most obvious caveats when planning a summertime wedding held outdoors but don't forget the other elements. Insects are prevalent in and around outdoor venues including barns. You can help protect yourselves and guests from insect bites by providing insect repellant. Citronella candles and tiki torches are also popular for atmosphere and reducing bug presence in the evenings. Bare in mind that they will also emit an odor that may overwhelm the fragrances of your floral settings.
Consider having your indoor barn time scheduled for early in the morning before the sun heats the building. Late afternoon and early evening will be cooler times of the day but remember that the building has been heated all day so it will take longer to cool.
Winter Barn Weddings:
Barns are drafty. This helps keep animals cooler in the summer but makes barns retain little heat in the winter. They block most of the chill from strong, cold winds. Some animals require spending more time indoors during winter months such as chickens whose talons can easily succumb to frostbite, and short haired animals like pigs or horses that don't grow as thick a winter coat as they should.
Barns also help keep animals dry. Sheep can drown in water because their wool becomes too heavy to swim when soaked. Tractors, shovels, hoes, rakes, axes, and other farm tools are less prone to rust when covered, even in an open air structure that has no walls, just a roof.
Expect being inside a barn during the winter to feel much like the same temperature as outside. You will need artificial heat. If using a wood fireplace or stove consider a light fan that will help spread the warmth without creating a cool breeze. Oil burning furnaces should be avoided because they will coat everything and everyone in soot. Propane heaters are effective but must be carefully monitored because they project an intensely hot, noisy flame that can easily catch fire to nearby decorations. Electric space heaters are effective in small areas but they draw a tremendous amount of power and may trip GCFI outlets and breakers. In worst case scenarios the wiring in barns may not be up to code and could catch fire when overstressed by portable heaters.
Consider holding your indoor barn services during the early to mid afternoon when the sun has hopefully been warming the building for a few hours. Once the sun begins to set temperatures will drop very quickly.
Fall & Spring Barn Weddings:
Fall (autumn) and spring are the most ideal seasons for barn weddings. Autumnal foliage can provide vivid splendor as leaves change colors before falling. In areas like Missouri leaf peaking days can be very limited, some seasons lasting only a day. Dying leaves are weaker and more susceptible to being blown to the ground by strong winds and precipitation. Sudden cold spells can also cause many leaves to shed overnight during a hard freeze. Locations in the northeastern United States have longer leaf peeping seasons in places like New Hampshire, and Maine. Planning a wedding date in an area with a shorter, less predictable season can be more challenging but the natural colors can be exquisit.
Spring weddings are less common than fall weddings. Springtime in Missouri often has more strong rain storms, hail, and even tornadoes. Outdoor logistics become more challenging when the ground is muddy. The sound of rain on a barn's tin roof is also very loud if it does rain. But spring can be the greenest time of year in the midwest before summertime heat and droughts burn the grass turning it from a healthy, vibrant green to yellow, brown, and in worst cases, dust. The later end of spring tends to be when most trees and flowers are budding beautifully.
The Matt McCallie Orchestra has entertained events in harsh weather. Even when winds were so strong that tables and chairs were being blown about, roads were flooded closed, and tornado sirens were sounding. At one particular wedding it was all the more fun. The band was setup inside a small barn with the barn doors left open and the dance floor was a muddy driveway. Couples still danced and had a blast dancing to our mostly country music, laughing as they splashed and fell in the joyous chaos. Guests called us the barn trio. As long as our equipment stayed dry and safe we were happy to entertain.
Upscale Barn Weddings:
Some local barns have been renovated for the sole purpose of hosting weddings and other upscale events. These venues have all of the amenities your guests are accustomed to including air conditioning, heat, a dance floor, stage, bathrooms, a bar, dining area, wireless internet, changing rooms, and other residential type features.
Other Barn Wedding Considerations:
The popularity of barn weddings has been on the rise in recent years and will likely remain a popular option. Couples often desire a break from the bussle of city life seeking cleaner, open air and natural foliage and water bodies such as lakes and ponds.
Barns usually reside on a currently or previously working farm. As with other types of venues there is usually a limited amount of spage for parking everyones' vehicles. Part of the spirit and fun of a barn wedding can be having to transport guests to and from the parking and wedding areas using a tractor and trailer type hay ride, golf carts, or horse and buggy or carriage.
Working farms will likely have live animals. Wild Flower Farm has had animals featured in local magazine bridal photo shoots. Animals can add a lot of character to your wedding photos and they certify the rustic quality of your event. Remember that when you visit a farm you are in the animals' home. The grounds will likely be well fertilized by the animals so everyone will need to watch their every step.
Animal farms offer interactive fund for all ages. Children often quickly bond by petting farm animals. Pony rides and hay rides can be popular activities as well as tours of the grounds for older guests.
There is a magical essence to outdoor weddings. A beautiful star filled night sky while dancing to the elegant music of a professional band and tasting delights from your caterers amounts to a classy occasion. The warm refraction at sunset casts a glow during your bridal party photo shoot. Being wed as trees gently dance in the breeze and the water lightly ripples creates a natural concert to accompany your nuptials.
It is very common for one part of the wedding, either the ceremony, or the reception, to be indoors with the other part outdoors. In extreme heat we have seen all of the guests wait until the last minute to take their seats during outdoor ceremonies. The wedding party will sometimes skip all of their processionals and guests will return to an air conditioned building as soon as the ceremony is over.
Consider providing as much shade as possible for yourselves, your guests, and your musicians. The instruments musicians play often require being shielded from the elements including excessive moisture, dryness, heat, cold, direct sunlight, and precipitation. We have experienced damage to instruments when shade was not provided.
Most outdoor wedding receptions rent a covered tent, canopy, or fly. Remember that even if you covere your guests in the dining or dancing area that the area can still flood with mud and water if there is precipitation. Your vendors providing lighting, catering, and music will need their electrical equipment to be setup high and dry.
Power from generators:
Most wedding receptions require electricity. Sometimes the electrical demands exceed what can be provided via extension cords. Remember that the further you run extension cords the weaker the power becomes. If you will be providing enough power for cooking appliances, amplification, or extensive lighting you will want to run the largest gauge wire you can find. We have successfully run extension cords 300-400' to provide amplification for a remote wedding ceremony using 10 and 12 gauge extension cords. The smaller the number, the larger the gauge. 10-3 wire refers to 10 gauge wire (which is the largest you can find at most box stores) with three prongs. Make certain you use the right type of plug like a three pronged NEMA connection, not a plug for 220 volts or appliances such as washing machines or dryers.
Using a generator is a last resort. Many musicians will refuse to use them because sensitive equipment can be damaged. Most power sources are called "dirty" even in homes, schools, businesses, and concert halls. While musicians usually have some equipment to clean the signal and help protect their gear some equipment won't even power on from generator power sources.
The main issues with the power created by most generators is that they fluctuate too much. A lot of electrical devices require a 110 volt power supply to be regulated to within +/- a few volts of their ideal target. When a power outage occurs in a home, or a lightning strike, it is common for telephones, microwaves, televisions, and other appliances to be damaged from suddenly receiving drastically less or more power. Musical equipment is even more sensitive.
Another huge issue with generators is noise. Their engines are generally much larger than those of a chainsaw or a lawn mower. Your guests will be shouting over that noise for hours. And your musicians will likely struggle, barely able to hear themselves or each other while performing on stage. Prolonged exposure to a nearby generator will cause permanent hearing damage.
There are silent generators! If you require a great deal of power there may be no way around a fuel burning generator but there are some silent, solar powered generators employing advanced engineering to provide electrical power that is not only silent, it is clean energy.
Solar panels create power but they do not store energy. As soon as a solar panel loses its light source it no longer produces any power. Solar electrical systems must store the power they create in batteries. You then plug in your devices that run off of the batteries your panels have charged.
You can purchase solar generators that have inverters built in so that they are plug and play. All you have to do is set the generator out during the day to charge. Once fully charged you can use it to power your devices during the day while the panels replenish the generator's internal batteries. Once the light source (sun) goes down the panels receive no more power so you will need to calculate how much energy the generator will have stored by nightfall and how much power your devices will draw to determine how long a solar generator will provide power. You may need multiple generators.
Here are a few farms and barns we have entertained:
Historic Bell Hill
Seven T Farms
The Gentle Barn
The Pour Vineyards
Three Barn Farms
Wild Flower Farm