Barn Wedding.
October 13, 2010 10:32 AM   Subscribe

It looks very much like we're going to have our wedding in a barn. We're purloining every aspect of it from someplace, which includes willing mefites. Hit me with ideas, page suggestions, etc, to make it both interesting and beautiful. Note: Barn is very large, and very old. It is a small budget, but we're crafty, so hit me with all sorts of ideas, costly or otherwise. All the thanks in the world to you for helping.
posted by Arquimedez Pozo to Society & Culture (36 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: With enough white tulle and white christmas lights you can make any space look magical and weddingy. This goes triple for non-traditional spaces like a barn. I know it sounds kind of kitschy, but it can provide the base for all kinds of less traditional decor.
posted by KathrynT at 10:37 AM on October 13, 2010 [4 favorites]

Is this going to be a shabby-chic affair that just happens to be taking place in a non-operational barn? Or is this a forreals barn on a farm? I think it would be awesome to have some sort of goofy animal be the ring bearer. Like a cow or pig or something. Or maybe a duck. But maybe barnyard creatures won't fit in with your aesthetic.
posted by phunniemee at 10:39 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Ditto on the Christmas lights--they make a gorgeous backdrop for photos, particularly if the overall white balance is warm. I shot a friend's wedding a little while ago, and the shots with the simple strings of lights just made everything look twinkly and magical. Link to a goofus hamming it up, you get the idea.
posted by dam1975 at 10:42 AM on October 13, 2010

I went to a lovely wedding in a barn a few years back. They hired a very nice bluegrass band, they rented long tables that were more rustic style (rather than the small, round traditional reception ones). They decorated with dried flowers and wildflowers -- working with the space rather than against it. The wildflowers were in Ball jars on the tables. They zoned the big space with tables -- meaning there was a very distinct dance floor, cake cutting area, food buffet (barbecue, beans, corn -- very picnic style, but classy), present area. So the space didn't feel too big, because it was broken up into areas and because it was easy to move from space to space or know "it's not the time for that space".

There was a row of old lanterns with those battery tea lights in them lining the walkway and it was gorgeous (I assume they were the battery ones due to fire concerns) and as the sun went down, the lots of smaller lights vs. one big light made it gorgeous and really intimate feeling, even with a large wedding.

I believe custom seed packets were the favor -- although I could be wrong.

The bride wore a very traditional dress and the cake was a traditional very tall white one with sunflowers as the topper.
posted by Gucky at 10:42 AM on October 13, 2010 [6 favorites]

I've always wanted to do music at my own wedding through dozens of boomboxes scattered everywhere, which are all tuned to the same radio station, which is being output by one of those cheapo radio transmitters hooked to my ipod.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:46 AM on October 13, 2010 [5 favorites]

Mrs. Shmoobles and I attended a wedding in a barn! It was originally intended to be in the pasture but the bride dithered until a thunderstorm rolled in, and the wedding was moved into the barn impromptu. The livestock was evicted, but some chickens found their way back in (it is their home after all) and proceeded to crow and cluck loudly during the ceremony.
Make sure that if it's a working barn you get all them critters out before hand.
posted by No Shmoobles at 10:51 AM on October 13, 2010

About the only thing about me and my wife's wedding that I would have changed with the decorations is that we would have used more tulle. We thought we had gone overboard with the tulle but it ended up falling way short of what we thought it would be.

Tulle is cheap and when you have a bunch of it, especially combined with Christmas lights, looks really awesome at a wedding.

Figure out how much tulle you think would be a lot, then double it, then double that. Go crazy.
posted by VTX at 10:58 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

etsy rustic weddings.
posted by anya32 at 11:02 AM on October 13, 2010

I was at an outdoor wedding this weekend that had the reception in a rustic covered pavilion. A really nice touch was that the path from the ceremony location to the pavilion was lined with mason jars filled with flowers, suspending from metal stakes. It was quite charming.

Another thing: instead of flowers for the centerpieces, they used small bowls with apples in them, perhaps 5-6 apples per bowl.

One place where you can save a lot of money but have something actually better than the norm is the cake - a barn wedding would be perfectly suited for a homemade cake. I made the one for this weekend's wedding and it ended up costing me maybe $200, which includes baking pans, other cooking supplies, and a couple of test runs.
posted by punchtothehead at 11:15 AM on October 13, 2010

I used to work for a catering company that owned a barn and used it for all their weddings (this was rural PA). It can be very nice with good lighting and a decent wooden dance floor.

It's also the perfect setting for a band rather than a DJ, with plenty of room , high ceilings, and decent acoustics.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:20 AM on October 13, 2010

I'm jealous!

I think there should be cool edible favors.

Like maybe caramel apples or ... a little bag of homemade cookies. Or a little basket with a blueberry muffin in it... you get the idea.

A few days before, enlist all the foodie types to bake a few dozen for you, etc.
posted by mittenbex at 11:21 AM on October 13, 2010

I would think about adding a surplus parachute (or two) white tulle and christmas lights.They look really magical and would make an easy (and great) canopy to act as a focus in a large space. Smaller white cargo parachutes can be had for pretty cheap.
posted by tallus at 11:25 AM on October 13, 2010

We got married in a barn!

- White Christmas Lights
- Mason jars with candles in them
- Instead of a formal cake we had about a dozen cakes of different flavors/etc, it was nice.
- Rent heaters for the guests, it got chilly.
- We found a bunch of cheap metal stars we hung from ribbon on trees and the barn itself.
- We used flowers from a flower farm near by, centerpieces were in little galvanized steel buckets.
- We ordered a bunch of seeds packets we gave out to the guests.

Lots of other stuff that I've forgotten over the last 4 years.
posted by iamabot at 11:35 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you can paint the ceiling, do it up sky-blue with clouds and birds.
posted by not_on_display at 11:36 AM on October 13, 2010

awesome idea! Just make sure you let people know. Women with brand new suede stilettos are not going to be happy (and if the ground is gravel, then their feet won't be either).
posted by Neekee at 11:47 AM on October 13, 2010

Our wedding was in a not-quite-barn (we were married in a rustic-looking lodge belonging to a local park).

We had:
- paper lanterns strung over the rafters, also some tulle bunting draped across some of the rafters
- table centerpieces made of mixed bouquets, dried flowers, and candles floating in water
- galvanized washtubs full of ice to cool off beer, white wine, and soda
- barbecue food for the reception
- live bluegrass band as entertainment
- outdoor ceremony (we lucked out with the weather and got a beautiful fall day)
- cake with basketweave frosting and sunflower/daisy toppers
- long picnic-type tables pushed together into rows (space constraints mandated the rows, but it worked really well)
- Our place was heated, but it took a LONG time for the space to warm up -- I would advise not just renting heaters, but firing them up early the morning of the wedding.

I wanted to do these things, but was too lazy and/or broke:
- little high-up lights so that it looked like fireflies or something were flying around the ceiling
- place cards/food trays/etc. made out of interwoven branches
- tablecloths made out of fairly rough-textured, natural-color selvage fabric -- I was planning on basically unrolling bolts of fabric across the tables and stamping them at random with stamps shaped like fall leaves
- buckets full of really tall curly willow and/or sunflowers, standing up in random corners of the place to brighten it up.
- some kind of canopy-looking thing suspended from the rafters in the center room
- I also wish we had had more tulle.
posted by kataclysm at 12:21 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, also: I had a small-ish budget (around $8k -- could have cut it down to $5k except we really wanted some specific food items and one particular caterer, and we really wanted live music.) Message me if you want any suggestions/tips about getting a decent-looking dress, good photographer, etc. on the cheap.

And check out the forums on -- when I was getting married, those forums were a great resource.
posted by kataclysm at 12:28 PM on October 13, 2010

We had our wedding in a (converted) barn. I don't know how rustic your barn is, but here's what we did:

There were long wood tables in our barn, and we saw some photos that had them covered with white table cloths but thought that that looked a bit odd, like the decorators were trying to turn the barn into a banquet hall. We went with table runners that my mom made out of natural/cream-colored raw silk; each was about 1ft wide and ran the length of the table, so there was quite a bit of wood visible on either side of the runner. On top of the table runners, we scattered polished river rocks (bought them at Michael's or Hobby Lobby), and we used a large polished rock painted with a number at the end of each table to designate seating. We also had some little clear glass tealight candle holders (from Michael's). Each table got a few square glass vases filled with wheat grass and a few white gerbera daisies (these were done by a local florist).

Other tables had more of those wheat grass and gerbera daisy arrangements. My mom hung some sconce-shaped wire baskets of Spanish moss, (fake) prairie grasses, and sprays of teeny silk flowers from the pillars around the barn. There were windows on either side of the barn, so we lined them with little flickering tealights. We used the attached silo as our bar.

Beyond that, we sort of let the barn be the barn. I think it turned out great. (Memail me if you'd like photos.)
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:40 PM on October 13, 2010

Last year I helped put on an elegant dinner in a barn. It looked fantastic. In addition to the Christmas lights and luminaria, which do a lot, I wanted to share one great decoration idea that really gave the whole thing the feel of a rustic ballroom: a homemade chandelier made of straw wreaths and white Christmas lights.

So you go to your local craft/floral store (or go online) and purchase three or four straw wreaths. They should be 4 different graduated sizes, but make sure the biggest one is really big (like 30-36" diameter). If you can't find ready-made straw wreaths that big, buy box frames and wrap them with straw and fishing line yourself.

Then, attach each wreath to the next largest by tying monofilament around it and stringing the line up the next wreath, securing the other end there. Start with the smallest and work up. Attach each wreath at at least 4 points to the wreath above, leaving about 18" of line between wreaths for the lower one to hang by. This creates 4 tiers. The effect is sort of like this but with straw wreaths, obviously.

Run a wire cross piece several times across the top wreath to create a crosshairs-type, strong central hanging point. Finally, wrap small white Christmas lights all the way around each wreath, spiralling, and run them up to the largest wreath. Suspend the whole thing by a chain or line attached to the crosswires, and hang high in the rafters. It's really stunning looking.
posted by Miko at 12:57 PM on October 13, 2010

My brother-in-law just got married in a barn-like camp building in the Adirondacks. They built a twig canopy over the dance floor by cutting down large branches and laying them across the rafters with christmas lights strung among them. The effect was magical.

They also had a fire pit outside, so we made smores favors that looked like this. They were a huge hit.
posted by elvissa at 12:59 PM on October 13, 2010

If you have any room for music in your budget you could hire some old-time musicians to play music before and after the ceremony. (True story, an acquaintance of mine did this and as an inside joke had them play Hanged Man's Reel as the recessional.)
posted by usonian at 1:29 PM on October 13, 2010

Use and craigslist to find tulle, fairy lights and Ball / Mason jars. If you use actual candles put them in mason jars with an inch of sand for the safety aspect. More Ball/Mason jars for a mix of grasses and flowers.

Come up with an easy menu, like ham, corn bread, beans and green salad. Ask people to bring potluck and suggest beans, cornbread, or green salad; you do the ham(s). Big galvanized tubs of ice with longneck beers, water and soft drinks; wine in boxes or big bottles. Or make a huge batch of punches - 1 alcoholic, 1 non-, or a signature mixed drink. I'd splurge on lots of bubbly for toasting.

Seconding - luminarias, surplus parachute with fairy lights, paper lanterns, twig canopy, Miko's wreath/chandelier thing.

Music is critical; rent a sound system if you must. If you have a friend who can deejay, that's a big help.

I just went to a wedding where the Bride and Groom's parents, siblings, and select wedding party members each made cakes, esp. ones that were favorites of the couple. There were 7 cakes (more, because they made extras of a number of them).

Your wedding is really about starting your life together with the love and support of family & friends; the rest is a party, and you don't need it to follow the dictates of the Wedding-Industrial Complex. Mazel tov, and don't forget to post pictures.
posted by theora55 at 1:42 PM on October 13, 2010

Blue mason jars with wildflowers are lovely.

I just saw a great dessert idea: cupcakes, displayed on racks of various heights. If you did cupcakes instead of *a* cake, perhaps your friends could pitch in and make different varieties.
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:12 PM on October 13, 2010

I don't really have anything to add on what was my wedding like because, well, kataclysm already covered that. However, I wanted to jump in to add this amplifying theora's last paragraph, from our wedding website:
In our minds, a wedding is a big damn party, celebrating, well, us and the life we have together. We'll follow standard procedure and get married at the beginning, but after that, we want people to celebrate and have fun. So we went and got ourselves the shiniest building we could find in the best park in half the county, one of the best bluegrass bands we've ever heard, and some mighty fine barbecue.
Don't worry about making your wedding "magical" and "weddingy" or "rustic" and "country" if that isn't your thing. Just have a big damn party with as many of your family and friends as you can get in one place together.

Mazel tov!
posted by FlyingMonkey at 2:15 PM on October 13, 2010

Best answer: Our band has played a number of weddings and dinners in rustic barns, they are quite popular venues out on the west coast. We've seen some lovely events (using many of the decorating ideas listed above), and some that were, well...maybe...not so well thought out. Maybe I can offer some practical advice, things I've seen go askew::

- Dirt/dust control: we've jokingly nicknamed some barn events 'dining in the dirt', because we've seen events where the guests show up in their brand new shoes, high end dresses, etc. ... then have to walk through mud and cowpiles to get to dinner (I'm only kind of exaggerating). The best events we've been to have made sure the access to/from the barn is clean, any dry dirt is hosed down before the guests arrive so people don't have a dust bowl following them. Sometimes straw or burlap is laid on the ground etc. Rent a dance floor if you can swing it, and make sure someone is assigned to mop it right before everyone arrives, it will be dusty and dirty before the party even starts.

- Suitable plumbing: nothing sours your guests mood at event like finding out right before dinner that in fact, the plumbing at the venue won't support the number of guests. that's all I'm going to say

- Power: if its an old building, make sure it has enough power to supply your lights, pa system for the music, anything needed in the makeshift kitchen area. I've seen plugging in twinkle light blow fuses in old buildings. You made need to rent a generator. If the available outlets aren't grounded, make sure you have adapters, etc. for anybody (band, photographer, etc) that's going to need to plug in a power strip.

- parking, logistics: sometimes barns are at the end of long windy roads you don't want your guests driving at night. Or your guests may have to park in a field, etc. You may want to set up the parking away from the barn (see dust control up above), and possibly shuttle them in (hayride?)

Tedious logistics aside, another cool idea we've seen is to have the barn doors closed until right before dinner, then have someone through them's a cool way to show off the contrast between what the barn looks like from the outside and how it's been transformed inside. Have fun!
posted by snowymorninblues at 2:22 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've been to a couple of great weddings in or near barns. Lots of good suggestions above. The things i recommend nailing down are practicalities:

-footing. Soft, muddy farm track is better for wedding shoes (of guests and you guys) if covered with straw and plywood "path" or similar solution. Expect it will rain for three days solid beforehand - what will your plan be to make it walkable?

-warmth. You can rent heaters. Think about whether you'll close the barn doors, etc. Be realistic about night temps and guests who are dressed basically for an indoor event.

-be clear in the invitations that it will be rustic, possibly muddy, and basically outdoors, to head off bad footwear and inadequate clothing choices by guests

-lighting. think about the outdoor spaces surrounding the barn. It will probably be really *really* dark when your guests are ready to leave, so think about lighting the paths, etc.

-toilet facilities. and lighting/footing for the path to them.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:15 PM on October 13, 2010

I just wanted to second MonkeyToes' suggestion of cupcakes. I helped coordinate that at another recent wedding and I was stunned by how beautiful the cupcakes were. Around 20 of the bride's friends brought them, which meant an huge variety of homemade cupcakes. They were devoured. And it was a super way for all of us to feel included and help our friend. Win/win/win.
posted by punchtothehead at 4:22 PM on October 13, 2010

Get some shots of the bride being chased by a rooster and/or geese. Leading a bull by the ring in his nose would be a great photo as well. Check out Yann Athus Bertrand's book Good Breeding for some beautiful shots with animals.
posted by benzenedream at 4:50 PM on October 13, 2010

Fathers of the bride and groom should hold antique shotguns during the wedding ceremony.
posted by cinemafiend at 5:02 PM on October 13, 2010

Response by poster: Two of my lifetimes strung back to back wouldn't equal the amount of years this barn has been out of use. It's going to take some work to clear it. Less worries about animal debris, more about tetanus.

I really appreciate the practical considerations, as well as the aesthetic. I'm to be the groom, and I'm excited about both aspects. I like things that both look good and function. Which mostly means I'm a control freak who's going to work the logistics until my family tells me to stop.

That said: Shabby chic or country chic wouldn't be far off the mark.

Cupcakes are currently a strong favorite. Affordable or not, they make more sense to me than a wedding cake. Also, I like cupcakes. I have no such attachment to wedding cakes, nor a need to start one.

The tulle was something neither of us thought about, but it looks good. I'm pushing for it.

Christmas lights!

We are trying to get an actual band. We've got a favorite in mind, some folks we saw at a Bluegrass festival, but we'll see. If that falls through we both have people close to us who are musicians, but I feel odd asking them to play. Especially if they don't all know each other (they don't.) It's fun to speculate on, either way.

Finally: This is all about the party. We're both very excited to get our families and friends together. I'll probably forget this at some point, but it won't last. I'll look here again when that time comes.

Thanks for all the help. It's already getting my brain working.
posted by Arquimedez Pozo at 6:08 PM on October 13, 2010

With regards to asking your friends play @ the wedding: I've played and/or sung at a couple wedding ceremonies. I enjoyed playing at ceremonies, but I would not actually want to be the entertainment at a friend's reception. Your friends and relatives are most likely to want to participate in the festivities, not be part of the festivities. When my friends/relatives are getting married, I want to have fun at the wedding (dance, catch up with people I haven't seen in a while, maybe imbibe some tasty drinks). I can't drink if I'm going to be responsible for playing music and having it sound good, and I can't dance or chat when I'm playing and singing. So I would think pretty hard before asking friends to entertain at events to which they would otherwise be invited as guests: to some extent this comes down to Ask Culture vs. Guess Culture. I'm a Guesser, and I would agonize about refusing my friend for fear of hurting their feelings or wrecking their wedding plans or something.
posted by kataclysm at 8:05 AM on October 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

We got married (well, actually 'reception-ed') in a barn a few weeks ago. It looked like this (skip about 2/3 down the page for barn shots). By all accounts, it was a largely DIY success.
posted by bjornarneson at 8:31 AM on October 14, 2010

Someone mentioned parachutes for wall/ceiling coverage. What a GREAT idea. I have no idea how cheap they are, or even how available (though I know I have one thanks to a pack rat mom that thought my son would have fun with it somehow ;) ) But it's a great way to cover very big unsightly... barn things.
posted by lemniskate at 8:55 AM on October 14, 2010

For some useful visuals, you might try to catch an upcoming re-airing of the "Cowboy Bride" episode of My Fair Wedding with David Tutera on the WE network. The bride was from Fort Worth and got married in a barn, and they did some beautiful and creative things to move her squarely from the "hootenanny, podunk" overly-kitschy aesthetic and into "rustic, wild, delightful, we're having a party in the middle of nature."

Even if you don't use any of their décor ideas, it might still help to see film of a party with many of the same elements of yours.
posted by pineapple at 9:57 AM on October 14, 2010

Someone mentioned parachutes for wall/ceiling coverage. What a GREAT idea. I have no idea how cheap they are, or even how available (though I know I have one thanks to a pack rat mom that thought my son would have fun with it somehow ;) ) But it's a great way to cover very big unsightly... barn things.

OP, you're in luck! American Science and Surplus has military surplus parachutes in stock RIGHT NOW for eighty bucks!
posted by KathrynT at 1:17 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

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