Barn weddings may be a blast for young couples who want a picturesque rural wedding, but they might not be as much fun for locals who just want some peace and quiet.
Old wooden dairy barns are everywhere in the Midwest, but they don’t serve much of a purpose anymore. Many don’t have doors large enough for modern equipment and cost a great deal to keep standing. Turning those lofts and wide spaces into mingling areas, banquet spaces and dance floors has allowed many barn owners to make extra money on the side.
Soon-to-be married couples eat them up, often seeing them as part of a shift away from traditional weddings. Table settings are usually charmingly mismatched and the food is rustic and casual. Ceremonies can even end in bonfire gatherings outside if weather permits.
According to the barn owners who host these weddings, they’re just responding to a market demand with a resource they already have at their disposal. They also believe they’re preserving historical barns and building agritourism the same way hayrides and petting zoos would. To many of their neighbors, though, they’re violating building codes and creating a public nuisance.
Many barns are not inspected for code violations like other businesses, so they often don’t meet proper sanitation requirements, and most don’t have fire doors and sprinklers. Many of the barns also lack proper accommodations for disabled attendees and liquor licenses.
“There are many options available for individuals who want to have weddings in barns that still meet proper code requirements available,” says Robyn Mangrum, Publisher of Weddings Magazine. “For example, Shady Wagon farm in Newhill, NC, had to go through the ringer in order to meet all of the proper requirements of their particular county to continue to host barn wedding events. I think it is imperative that a bride ensures that these barns meet proper safety regulations in order not to have any sort of disasters occur that could either harm people or come back on them.”
Even barn owners who’ve paid the extra money to get their wedding barns up to code may still face lawsuits and pushback from their rural neighbors. Many city council meetings have become battlegrounds, especially in smaller towns with vague zoning laws.
Many neighbors cite concerns for guest safety, especially with older barns, and others object to the loud music that plays often from nearby barn venues. In some instances, sudden shut downs of barn venues have left couples with only a few days to find a new venue.
Regardless of local attempts to block the rise of barn weddings, the industry continues to boom, at a growth rate that many zoning codes can’t keep up with. Locals may just have to make some compromises and face the fact that barn weddings are here to stay.