It was during the Christmas Holidays of the winter of 2010-2011 that we decided to start a part-time business of hosting weddings here at the farm. This now means that we have begun our tenth year. We have come a long way, baby, and I thought that reflecting back on some of our story would be of interest to you.
I always have said that I should write a book about “the farm’s story” because of some very unique twists of fate moments that have come together to change my history forever. Though I won’t go into all of those details at this point, I will tell you a bit about the wedding side of things.
Any story about our wedding business beginnings has to start with telling you about my daughter Jill’s wedding in 2005. Barn wedding events were virtually unheard of. The internet was mostly useless back then, but you could find a couple of pictures of these very rustic barn-sheds all decorated up with straw and white curtains. Mostly these barns were to be more or less backdrops for a country farm style wedding or reception. We began to move forward with plans for an outdoor ceremony in the field and a barn reception.
Though our barn was full of horses, goats, and stalls and we were only planning for this one wedding, we still had much to do to prep our barn for a “shabby chic” country style wedding reception. We ousted animals, mucked stalls, and sewed very large curtains. We made many trips to local thrift stores to collect vintage china plates, mis-match candle votives and glassware, mis-match pastel cloth napkins, and such. We borrowed these awesome vintage wooden folding chairs and tables from our church. We hung string lights in the barn, hung curtains, and sprinkled fresh straw on the floors.
After the ceremony, we moved chairs outside of the barn as well as inside the barn around the tables. With long tablecloths over round tables set with mismatch china all around and tables lit up with candles and fresh flowers, it was a very one-of-a-kind experience for all. No one had ever been to a barn wedding or much less even pondered the idea of a barn wedding. Jill was the mastermind let me state for the record, and I was just honored to have been able to help her vision come to be. Even our goats got to be part of the farm entertainment as we had them in a pen near the barn for guests to enjoy. (Some things never change.) After Jill’s wedding, life moved on with animals returning back to their stalls in the barn, curtains and lights removed, and Jill and John deciding that they wanted to live on the farm so the old farmhouse renovations began.
As I stated above, it was the winter of 2010 into 2011 when we made the plunge and decided to just go for it – to begin hosting a few weddings each year at our barn. This particular winter was especially cold with even a heavy snow in December that lasted a couple of weeks. I can’t quite say that life stood still during our snow storm because there are always animal chores to continue plus we had lots of winter baby goats born during the storm so we were hustling trying to keep them all alive and kept warm. We had little haybale igloos in many of the barn stalls plus several of them in the block house/Milkhouse to keep all of those baby goats warm. In between all of that craziness, though, were me and Jill pow-wowing about what all we needed to do to get the barn ready for some weddings.
Ever since Jill’s wedding, we would bant around with each other about “what we would do if……” if we were to host weddings. Most of this jargon was just sharing ideas but mostly assuming that we would never actually do it. It seemed like a great idea but like so many great ideas, most of them aren’t attempted. Even in 2011, this whole “barn wedding” thing was still a far out idea. Anybody who knew us and Jill and who had seen pictures of Jill’s wedding always thought it was a great idea. Anybody who did not know about it was supportive but skeptical. Even we had few expectations about the ultimate success. Our simple initial goals were to host “a few a year” so that we could pay the property tax and help to maintain our property. Little did we know what interesting journey we had begun.
We ousted all of our animals from the barn and purchased a guardian dog. This is Bear, our Great Pyrenees who would protect our animals.
We cleaned out and cleared out the barn. We began to add more electricity capabilities for what was to come.
We had to find a new location to park the old tractor.
We built restrooms for the barn.
We moved fences, leveled out the paddock, and laid sod.
We planted some trees.
We painted the old masonry Milkhouse. With a good coat of paint and accent colors for the doors and windows plus planting flowers and vines, then adding window boxes, a big bench and mock window…., this building totally transformed.
We added some funky doors, curtains, and strung lights everywhere.
We found a few vintage church pews and a cool old vintage cast iron tub (for drinks). We made some signs. We designated a room in the farmhouse for a bridal suite.
While all of these very logistic chores and projects were being built, purchased, or made….., of course there were all of those other things that have to happen when you start a business.
We had to come up with a business name, create a website, find insurance, and then actually find a few brides who could envision what we were offering. Somehow a name and a website was created in early January. Within a couple of weeks of technically being “up and running on the internet” there was an anxious bride who found us and secured us for a May 1, 2011 wedding. How excited we were but frankly we were also daunted by the task knowing that we had to do all of our project list between mid-January and May 1st! Keep in mind that we were still in the midst of a hard long winter where the animals needed the barn until mid/late February before we could scoot them out of the barn. The clock was ticking, we had our list, and we were driven to be prepared so all hands were on deck.
We did get all of our list completed. Stay tuned for Part II as I highlight our first year of weddings and as we looked ahead to 2012 with a new set of winter projects to achieve in order to make our venue better than before.