Barn weddings can be breathlessly beautiful in their rustic charm. The high ceilings, the comforting scent of wood, and the gorgeous outdoor areas make for a unique and inviting celebration space.
But, here’s the thing: Most barns weren’t built to be wedding venues. They were built to be, well, barns. That means an enjoyable reception requires smart planning from every angle. This guide will cover everything you need to know about planning a wonderful reception in a barn venue.
Other barns may need you to provide some of the essentials, such as tables, generators, and even bathrooms. Talk to the event manager about what will be included in your booking. The sooner you know what your space offers, the better you can plan for a fabulous wedding.
Barn Wedding Tip: Double-check that your venue has the necessary permissions to host events—that includes alcohol licenses and event space permits. While it may seem cool to get married in a black market barn, you’ll rest easier knowing everything is up to code.
Check for a Curfew: Research the local laws and find out if there’s a noise curfew. Depending on property lines and local noise ordinances, you may have to set a strict end time for the festivities. After all, you only want the sheriff to come to your wedding if they are on the guest list.
Vendors: When it comes to rustic barn weddings, most vendors are practiced pros. But, depending on your venue, they might need a little extra help. Discuss the venue limitations with your vendors to make sure they have everything they need. Here are just a few things to consider:
Barn Wedding Tip: Don’t forget to check with your venue’s event director about their vendor policy. They may only allow services from a specific list of vendors. Make sure that you understand their policy before you put down any non-refundable deposits.
Take a look at these weather considerations to make sure that your farm wedding is as comfortable as possible, no matter the weather:
Rain: Ask your event director if the space is waterproof, in case you get rain on your wedding day. If not, work with them to find solutions (tarps are always a good option). And, if you have any outdoor farm activities planned, don’t forget to rent tents.
Wind: Strong winds can blow barn doors wide open and send decorations flying. Make a plan to secure your decorations just in case strong winds decide to make an appearance at your wedding.
Heat and Humidity: Wooden buildings trap heat and humidity. Prepare for warm weather by renting fans and portable air conditioning units.
Cold: Cooler weather can dampen the fun of any wedding. Stay warm by renting space heaters. Just be careful, though, as space heaters can pose a fire risk. Get approval from the venue to use space heaters. Alternatively, place big blankets at every guest table. Nothing makes a wedding cozier or more intimate than having guests cuddled up to watch your first dance.
The barn wedding experience can be a wonderful combination of rustic and elegant, casual and polished, vintage and modern. To make sure your guests enjoy every aspect of your farm wedding, don’t forget to keep these ideas in mind:
The Best of Inside and Outside: Take advantage of your wedding venue by playing up the space with indoor and outdoor fun.
Outdoor Games: Fill the area around the barn venue with lawn games, such as giant Jenga, cornhole, and, of course, horseshoes.
Animal Encounters: Embrace the barn life by offering horse and buggy rides through the nearby field or renting a petting zoo (your nieces and nephews will love you forever).
Swings: Set up a good old fashioned rope and board swing inside or outside the venue. Try twining flower garlands and twinkly lights around the swing’s ropes—it’ll make a great photo area for guests.
Directions: While not as fun as games or petting zoos, how guests will get to your wedding barn is an important factor. Since your venue may be off the beaten path, include clear directions in your invitations and on your wedding website. You can also assign someone to be the official wedding navigator. Include their contact information on the website and in the invites, so that people have someone to reach out to for directions.
Barn Wedding Tip: Most likely, your guests won’t be arriving at your wedding in the saddle. See what parking is available at your venue. If space is limited, arrange a shuttle service from the ceremony (or your guests’ hotel) to the reception.
Safe Guest Access: The pathway from the parking or shuttle area to your reception may not be smooth. Most barns use gravel or dirt in their walking areas. But, that may not be safe for guests who are older, in wheelchairs, or unsteady on their feet. Add “Rent secure flooring and pathway lighting” to your checklist.
Bugs and Allergies: When it comes to uninvited guests, allergens and insects can be particularly pesky wedding crashers. You can add a few personal touches to keep your guests focused on the celebration and not on swatting, sneezing, or scratching.
For Bugs: Light citronella candles to deter insects, and leave a few bottles of bug spray in the bathrooms.
For Allergies: Put Benadryl in goody bags for guests, or arrange them in a basket on guest tables or in the bathrooms. Do you have hay bales in mind for the reception area? Throw saddle blankets or quilts over the bales to help contain dust and pollen. Now that’s functional decoration.
Keep Your Guests Informed: Sometimes, barn wedding venues require your guests to prepare a bit for the experience. The more information you give your guests about the wedding, the better prepared they’ll be, and the more fun they’ll have.
Barn Wedding Tip: The best way to give your invite list easy access to all the important wedding details they’ll need is to create a custom wedding website. Update your wedding website with information about the venue, parking, allergy risks, and weather. If you want a beautiful, accessible, and easy to manage website, look no further than Zola.
Play With the Palette: A barn’s neutral shades give you plenty of room to experiment with color. You can go bright or lean into neutral colors. Try incorporating colors that can be emphasized with flowers, produce bouquets, or other natural elements.
Add Some Country Glamor: You can elevate your wedding with a few polished pieces that will beautifully contrast with the barn’s country chic, including:
Highlight Rustic Charm: If you want to lean into the traditional design aspects of a country wedding, a few vintage accents will immerse your guests in the atmosphere:
Hay! Do You Have a Permit for That? If you’re planning on using hay bales in your barn weddings ideas, do a little legal research. Because hay bales are flammable, some cities require you to have a permit just to have them on the premises.
The beauty of a barn wedding is in its back-to-basics aesthetic. Barn weddings prove that anywhere can be a place of love and celebration. Whether you're hosting a barn wedding at a wedding venue in Nashville, TN or Salt Lake City, UT, You just need the right person at your side (and the right people to help you celebrate). With preparation, creativity, and love, you can create a sensational reception experience in any barn wedding venue.