So you think you want a Barn/Outdoor Wedding? 

Have you picked a date?   If you are flexible you will have a lot more option and a lot less stress when trying to pick a venue as well as vendors.   If you are in love with one specific date, don't wait to book your venue.   If there is one you like, book it now or you risk being disappointed.   Most places only hold a date with a deposit and signed contract.   Don't think that because you called last week and asked about your date or even yesterday that the date will still be open on Saturday when you go for your tour.   This is not trying to scare you but we have seen several couples disappointed by waiting to make a decision on a venue and then run out of options for the one and only date they had to have.   If you have a favorite photographer, band or pastor that you can't live without for your wedding be sure to check their availability before selecting your dates.  

Budget:  Be realistic.  What is your overall budget and who will be helping out with expenses?   Some venues can be super affordable based on what is included and the latitude they give you to use your own vendors.  We have met many couples who have started out planning on doing a wedding at a family member's home and after researching table/chair/porta potty and other rentals not to mention the wear and tear to that person's property and the time they need to spend to prep the property...they rightly come to the conclusion that they aren't saving any money and often times will spend more money.   That is how they finally decide to look at actual venues for their special day.  

Choose a venue:   Now that you have a date or range of dates in mind and a budget, pick your venue.   

Questions to ask and things to consider:

Not all barns are created equal.   You cannot compare based on price alone.  

Number of guests and who should you invite? - Do you really need to invite 300 guests to your big day?   Is that in your budget?   We have met with many couples who start out with guest lists over 200 and by the time they actually get married have fewer than 150 at the wedding.   Do you want to enjoy your wedding and actually be able to spend a little time with your guests?   Are you the kind of bride who cares about the comfort of your guests?   Do you need to invite your 2nd cousins you haven't seen or talked to in 15 years?  You don't even know the names of their spouses, what they do for a living or the name of their kids.   Do you need to invite the barista from your local coffee shop that you say good morning to every day?   NO!   How about your mom's red hat lady's group?   NO!   Your sister?  YES!!!  Every girl who was ever in your sorority?  NO!!!  There are many articles written on this such as this one...  I especially like the advice of not inviting someone you know will get wasted and cause a raucous at your wedding.   

While on the topic of numbers, I am going to call out to your kind rational side...5 foot  round tables are made for 8  guests.   Please if you care at all about your guests comfort and want them to enjoy and remember how awesome your wedding was, do NOT try and squeeze 10 at a 5' round table.   Some venues will claim they can seat xyz number of guests.   Ask exactly how many people they are seating at each table to accomplish that number.  If they are squeezing 10 at a 5' round please re read this last section.   Just because a venue claims they can accommodate xyz doesn't always mean they should or you should want to in that manner.  

Accessibility - New barns built specifically to be a venue are your best bet if you have wheelchair bound guests.   Otherwise look to see how close grandma and grandpa and other mobile challenged guests can be dropped off by the entrance.   And PLEASE indicate on your invitation that the event is at a barn so your guests don't show up in stilettos unless they don't mind walking on grass in stilettos. 

Barn materials - Type - Old vs New

   -Some barn venues really aren't about the barn but rather about one or two focal points on the  property.

     - Is it an original barn on an actual farm or was it built solely to be used as an event venue?

     - Does the inside feel like a banquet hall with white or metal walls?   If so think again why you want a barn venue to begin with?   If it rains and your special day is   moved inside will all the charm be lost?

Permits and Zoning -  PLEASE ask this question!!!!   With the popularity of barn weddings, many people think they are going to put a sign out and start hosting events.   They don't realize that they need to have a public hearing and obtain permits and proper zoning.   In just our first year in business we witnessed as many brides approached their big day only to find out their venue was not actually allowed to host events.    DO NOT let this happen to you.   The other consideration is financial stability.   This crosses over to traditional banquet type facilities.  We had several panic brides call us weeks before their event because their banquet facility went bankrupt.   We suggest due to the large investment, obtaining event insurance to cover things like this.  One company to look at is

Climate  - Do you have heat or A/C?   This is an interesting concept for a barn venue.   Please once again think about why it is you want this type of venue and not a boring white walled banquet room.   In the summer months do you have visions of the barn doors being wide open or shut closed?   Do you vision your guests having cocktails on the back patio or dancing under the stars?   Playing outdoor games or relaxing by the fire pit?   Well if you want A/C that will actually work, you will need to keep the building shut.   So places that advertise they have A/C...well that is nice I suppose.   But is it real?  Remember your mom yelling at you to close the door because we aren't heating or cooling the outside?   That is about how well climate control works at a barn venue that actually incorporates the outside aspects of the venue.   Fans are a great option.   Even if a venue touts A/C, we recommend you ask if they have fans.   Also, consider renting mister fans which are relatively inexpensive.    

Activities - Does the venue allow for outdoor games?   Do they provide outdoor games?   Is there a fire pit?  What activities are there for kids?  When the kids are happy the parents stay longer.   When the kids melt down, parents head out.    

Decorations - What décor items are on site?   What is the charge to use these items?   Spool tables, Whiskey barrels, metal beverage tubs, tree slices, jars, fabric, chandeliers/lighting, vases, old ladders, wooden crates, old doors, bar, flower girl basket, chalk signs, wood directional signs, ring pillow... Ask your venue what they provide before you buy or bring your own.  

Vendors - Some venues require you use their specified vendors or even their own in house options.   This works well for some people.   Perhaps you are choosing a venue because you love their food.   But many couples want to let their creativity and ideas shine through on their day.   They don't want to be limited in options.  They might have a close friend who owns a catering business or is a wonderful photographer that they wish to use.   For those couples a venue with an open vendor policy works best.   You might even save a few bucks on the same vendors that other venues promote because they don't have to pay a fee to the venue to be on their exclusive list. 

Your vision vs. their vision - Is the venue an open slate or cookie cutter?   Can you have the wedding the way you want it or the way they have envisioned it?  If your friend was married there will the weddings feel very similar or will you be able to customize it to express your vision? 

Where do you get ready?  -  For venues that allow you to get ready on premise, there can be transportation cost savings.   You also don't have to feel rushed since you can have your vendors come to you.   What about the people helping setup for your event?   Is there a place for them to get ready?  

Parking?  Does the venue have parking attendants? Is it on site?  Is it right next to the event space causing it to look cluttered with cars?   Can cars be left overnight if a guest has had too much to drink? 

Where do your guests go to the bathroom?  Inside bathrooms or do you need to rent portables?   Are portables included in the price?  

Lodging?  What are the local lodging options?   How far is it from the venue and what are the price ranges?   Are there shuttle options available from any of those locations? 

Access to venue - Is the location easy to get to?   Will your guests be able to find lodging if they wish?   Is it convenient to get to the airport for out of town guests? 

Engagement photos - Does the venue rental include time for engagement photos scheduled with your photographer? 

White walls vs barn wood walls?   Once again...what do you want to look at inside the barn?   A metal pole barn doesn't exactly scream rustic chic to me.   So you saved $1000 because lets face it the barn really isn't that photogenic.   Now what?  I have heard of all the creative decorating techniques people have employed to pretty up the inside of an ugly venue.  At the end of the day did you really wind up saving anything?  It is one thing to add décor because you want to.  Another to need to add it just so the place doesn't look the like the inside of a box. 

Rentals? - Not all rental companies are created equal.   This isn't directly related to barn weddings but we have been shocked by what we have seen.   Ask them if they deliver their own items or contract it out.   Ask them to send real pictures of what the chairs actually look like, not a stock photo.   Ask if they will deliver and pick up the next day. 

Linens?  Some venues include linens with the rental.   Many don't.   Some caterers provide linens.   Some decorators and décor rental companies provide linens.   We don't provide them at our location because there are so many different options available and the reality is if you want basic colors you can buy them for under $7 a table and there is always the resale space to get rid of them after your event.   Check out on Face Book NW Indy Wedding and Event Resale Page as one example.   There are also many companies who rent linens that do a beautiful job.   This is a great option if you want fancier costly linens.  

Alcohol policy? - The law is the law and if you don't want to risk or worry about the excise police showing up and shutting your event down, be sure to book at a location who requires events follow the state and local alcohol laws.   In Indiana a caterer with a 3 way liquor license is the only legal way to have liquor served at a barn venue that doesn't hold it's own license.   All liquor must be purchased through the caterer and must be served by a licensed server.   For beer and wine, the law allows for a one day permit to be obtained.  Again it must be served by a licensed server but may be purchased directly by you.   That doesn't mean a venue has to allow this option but at a minimum they should be requiring this if they are following the law.  

What are the extras?   So you are comparing venues and pricing...why does xyz venue cost $2000 less than ABC venue?   You need to weigh all considerations here.   Is one venue requiring you to use their vendors?  If so you are most likely paying a premium to do so.   Are tables and chair and bathrooms included in the price?   What items do they charge extra for?   How many hours access do you have to the property?   How far is the venue from you and most of your guests?   If the venue is $400 less but 30 minutes farther away is it really worth the extra drive time?  

Are you a DIY kind of person?   Ask your venue/wedding planner for a link to their Pinterest boards.  Check out the resale pages on FaceBook for discounted items and use coupons for Michaels and Joann Fabric.  There are a lot of great buys on line too.  Ask family and friends to borrow items rather than buying for one time use.  If your venue doesn't have jars you may use, DO NOT buy jars at craft stores.  The best prices I have seen are at Menards, Walmart and sometimes Meijer when on sale.  Do you want to be a DIY kind of bride but don't really know where to start?  If so the ladies at Staged Events can help get you started. 

Do you have friends and family who are helpful?  That is great.  Just remember that day of , you and your mom and bridal party cannot be the coordinators.  You will have plenty to do that day including relaxing and enjoying this special event.