Rustic and romantic, barns offer a unique alternative for a wedding reception. Throughout the western countryside of Northern Virginia, landowners with special zoning can offer their properties for wedding receptions a limited number of times a year. Wineries that host weddings are borrowing barn architecture for their tasting room designs. Event centers are popping up with the look and feel of barns, coupled with modern amenities. There’s even a country club in Fairfax that boasts a barn exterior with newly remodeled banquet space.
Barns offer a blank décor canvas. You can play up the countryside with hay bales, barrels for cocktail tables and carnival lights. Or take your design in a different direction with the unexpected elegance of fine linens and china, Chiavari chairs and beautiful floral centerpieces.
If you have your heart set on a barn wedding, here are some guidelines to help you choose the right location — for both your style and budget.
More moving parts can mean more money: If you are hosting your event on an individual’s
property (be they family-friend or someone booking a limited number of weddings), the odds are
quite good that you will need to truck in everything. Think about what that means. There’s the
obvious, of course: tables, chairs, possibly ceremony seating. But what about lighting, heating/
air conditioning (or fans at the least)? And finally, where are all of your guests going to use the
bathroom? Your guests’ comfort should be a high priority if you want a successful event.
Granted, answering these questions doesn’t fall under the “fun” part of wedding planning. But
by considering these basics and your budget, you will go into planning your barn wedding better
prepared. Individuals who have experience hosting events on their properties will be able to provide
references for rentals — from the reception basics to HVAC systems and mobile lounges. And if
you’re going this route, hiring a seasoned event planner to coordinate all of these parts is a wise
Another area of consideration is guest parking. Event centers and wineries have adjacent parking
lots. With an individual property, parking may be in a nearby field. Will you need a valet to park
your guests’ cars? Will there be access to either the venue or transportation (think golf cart) for
those who cannot make the trek from the field to the barn?
When looking for a caterer for your barn wedding, seek out professionals who have either worked
the property or have experience setting up and serving in a similar environment. Often pop-up
kitchens need to be erected the day of the event. Will a generator be required or can the caterer
access the electric at the property?
Barn weddings are beautiful in large part because the venue is surrounded by nature. Individuals
who rent their properties for weddings are usually working the land as well. Please be respectful of
the fields and livestock. The farm is not a petting zoo for your young guests. There may be sights,
sounds — and smells — that are not part of the typical wedding reception.
If you plan thoroughly, think of the comfort of your guests and work with knowledgeable
professionals, your barn wedding will go off without a hitch — go enjoy that hayride and bonfire
with your family and friends!