The Brides Love the Barns: A Q&A with I Love Farm Weddings

Photography by Emily Walen

It was only a matter of time before brides and barns got together. It seems like every wedding season seems to include at lease one farm-based fête invite, doesn’t it?

Emily Walen is doing her part to fulfill our insatiable need for images and info on these weddings with her website appropriately titled I Love Farm Weddings. Walen is a wedding and lifestyle photographer who herself was married at a farm in Northern Italy.

In 2011 Walen found herself spending her free time daydreaming about owning a farm of her own in the greater Minneapolis area where she lives. While she didn’t end up buying a farm, she decided to showcase all the beautiful barn weddings she could track down with her blog. And when she had a few thousand readers after only few days of launching her website, she knew she had hit upon something big.

But Walen is well aware that the farming isn’t all about the pretty photos.

“I’ve come to learn in detail and completely respect the endless work of a farmer,” she wrote in an email to Modern Farmer. “A good friend of mine owns an organic vegetable farm in Vermont, and I’ve witnessed firsthand the time, dedication, and skill that goes into farming acres upon acres of land. A little of the romance I felt about farming wore off the first time I saw her in action.”

Farms in reality are not the most romantic spots, so what is it about brides and barns? And what’s in it for the farmers? We chatted with Walen about this unlikely but ongoing romance.

Modern Farmer: The average wedding in the U.S. costs $28,000, what’s a farmer’s cut?

Emily Walen: There is a lot that goes into a rental fee for a venue – number of hours, the amenities you will provide (tables, chairs, lights, access to all the grounds, maximum number of guests and so on), but I have been seeing farm wedding venues consistently book their locations for an average of $2500-4,000 plus per event all across the country. There’s definitely money to be made.

MF: Any other benefits for farmers?

EW: Another benefit is the added exposure for the farm. Depending on the type of farm there may be great opportunity to use that exposure to advocate for other farm offerings. Maybe you cater the wedding meals using food grown on your farm, maybe you have summer programs for kids that you can actively market to your wedding couples and guests, maybe you have a CSA that will naturally find more members as guests learn about your farm.

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MF: How much work and planning should farmers expect?

EW: There is a lot of work and preparation to consider when becoming a venue: Do you have the proper zoning permits to legally have events on the farm? Do you have enough open space for guests to park (sometimes hundreds of cars)? You need to make sure you have enough bathrooms (though many farm wedding guests are fully prepared for using a Porta Potty at the event). If you are converting a barn, is there enough electricity running throughout to accommodate lighting, catering set-ups, DJ lights, and so on? Do you have a prep kitchen space for caterers? Do you have the appropriate insurance? Do you want and have the working capacity to advertise, meet with potential couples, set-up and take down after events, while still managing the day-to-day operations of the farm?

I have met several folks who have successfully made the transition to a farm venue while continuing their farming ventures – so it can be done! And the great thing is that you get to set the tone and the rules to match what works for your farm.

MF: Why are brides and grooms drawn to farms?

EW: There are so many wonderful reasons to have a farm wedding! Right now there’s really a mix of reasons why folks are choosing that great location for their weddings. There are couples who are seeking farm and barn venues because of the trend we’re seeing in the wedding industry right now – relaxed, rustic inspired celebrations. And hey, that’s a great reason. Farms are a beautiful backdrop for a celebration regardless of the trend happening in the wedding world. And for other couples, they are choosing farm venues because they have a connection to nature and the great outdoors. For some lucky couples, they have a direct connection to the land itself – a family farm. A place they’ve grown up, a place they’ve celebrated life and hard work with family, handed down through the generations. A place that holds great significance to them. A farm is a perfect place for celebrating love. Farms have so much going that mirror what a relationship has: History. A deep caring about life and nurturing it. An understanding that for things to grow, it takes time and energy, love, cultivation, persistence, patience, flexibility.

Now about barns. They are the icing on the cake. There is no pretense about a barn. They have natural character, and don’t require tons of added decoration to make it an interesting setting to celebrate in. There are often less restrictions at a barn venue (though not always), on the end-time for the event, the noise, the exclusive agreements on caterers and other vendors, which allows couples to really craft their details and feel a little more free in their planning.

MF: What are some current farm wedding trends?

EW: Let’s start with some farm wedding staples. I am not sure I have ever seen a farm wedding without string lights. Somehow rustic and string lights go hand in hand, and make for a dreamy glow inside and outside of the barn, surrounding the dance floor – you simply can’t have too many string lights. Lots of handmade elements: Using old barn wood to craft signs – directing your guests along the highway, toward the ceremony, the reception, the barn, the photo booth – you name it and a barn wood sign can accompany it. And pie bars for dessert are always welcome, along with snack bars.

Something new couples are embracing is simplicity in decor! Whereas a year ago we were seeing weddings filled to the brim with vintage pieces and antiques, we are now seeing couples opt for simple centerpieces and table settings.

A lot of couples are also thoughtfully planning wedding day menus that are focused on locally grown, seasonal food. They want the meal to be a main event – with plated service and beautifully crafted courses.

MF: That’s a trend we can get behind.

The Brides Love the Barns: A Q&A with I Love Farm Weddings