I Do, Country-Style

Minnesota’s farm country boasts picturesque venues perfect for a rustic-chic affair
From: Spring/Summer 2015 edition

Rows of white wooden chairs face a towering oak tree growing in a lush green pasture, as the sun slowly starts to set over distant cornfields. Tree branches dip in a graceful arc at the end of the aisle, framing the waiting groom, and guests turn to witness a beauty in white emerge from a historic red barn.

It’s hard to resist this kind of bucolic image, with cows serenely grazing in a distant meadow and quilt-covered hay-bale seating waiting for guests to settle onto them at the outdoor cocktail hour. There’s a sort of lovely nostalgia to the weathered colors, pastoral setting and easy pace that accompany any outdoor wedding, but nowhere will you find more beautiful barn settings than in Minnesota. And couples are coming from all corners of the state—and now even the world—for the rustic elegance.

country-wedding

country-wedding

photography by Janelle Elise Photography

No Cowgirls Necessary

When Katy Johnson and Max Evans began planning their summer wedding, they originally looked at venues close to their current home in southern France and in Portugal, where Max’s parents live. But after an illness interrupted family travel plans, the couple turned their attention stateside. “We wanted something charming and outdoors since we both love nature and adventure,” says Katy, who grew up in Iowa before relocating for her modeling career. And while Max, a professional rugby player, had never lived in the United States, he readily agreed that the distinctive countryside beauty of Rochester’s historic Mayowood Stone Barn was the perfect backdrop for their rustic chic nuptials.

country-wedding

country-wedding

photography by Janelle Elise Photography

“We’re seeing such a variety of couples opting for a barn wedding,” says Amy Fuerstenberg, wedding planner and co-owner of Minneapolis-based Mi Mi Design. “Some love nature, others are metropolitan couples who want to get away from the city and really showcase the beauty of Minnesota to their guests, and still others want the casual feel that a barn or farm can lend.”

 

country-wedding

country-wedding

photography by Electric Lime Photography

Rural Elegance

With these barns, casual doesn’t have to mean country. “In the past few years barn weddings have gone a little more glamorous,” says Fuerstenberg. “We’re seeing brides keep some of the elements that make a barn wedding rustic and unique, like harvest tables and simple, rustic floral, and then add a sense of glamour with café lights or a grand chandelier.”

For Katy and Max, this rustic elegance was present in every detail. To play up the natural charm of the setting, Katy visited antique shops throughout the planning process, collecting vintage vases, crates, picture frames, keys and even an antique typewriter, all of which would be used throughout the venue. Vintage bottles held chic single-blossom peonies, garden roses, mums and dahlias, while whiskey barrels overflowing with baby’s breath adorned the ceremony aisle.

country-wedding

photography by Electric Lime Photography

Lighting also offers a great way to add a touch of elegance. One easy and inexpensive way to add romance (assuming ample power sources) is by stringing tiny white lights or softly glowing lanterns throughout the space. “Not only do they add a gorgeous ambiance, they also lend an element of safety for guests on uneven pathways or unfamiliar areas after a night of celebrating,” says Nicolle Sellers, owner and lead planner at Mother of the Bride Wedding Planning & Design in Minneapolis.

Power sources are not standard in this kind of venue, however. “We often bring in a generator because these old barns don’t have enough power for everything like extra lighting and a band or DJ,” says Sellers. When booking entertainment (or catering and rentals for that matter), be sure to ask whether the vendors have experience with rustic venues. Seasoned vendors will already know the ins and outs of working in non-traditional settings and with the elements.

country-wedding

photography by Electric Lime Photography

Creature Comforts

Even with a large dose of glitz and glamour, the rustic charm of these barns still says to your guests, “Relax, let’s have some fun.” But that fun can be dependent on creating a comfortable environment. “Any venue that’s used regularly and advertising as a wedding venue should offer all of the necessities like water, power and garbage removal,” says Sellers. “But in some places where it’s more rural or an actual working farm, you’ll have to bring in the comforts yourself.”

While toilets are not the most glamorous part of an event, they are a non-negotiable essential for any wedding. And they can be a fun place to add an unexpected touch of elegance. Bringing in a luxury restroom trailer with lighting, air conditioning and running water will make your guests will feel right at home. If that’s a budget-breaker, don’t be afraid of more affordable porta-potties. Just don’t line them up like a festival, says Sellers. Consider transforming the blue biffs into a high-end restroom tent, with a central hand-washing station and floor-length mirrors separating men’s and women’s facilities. Whatever the setup, it’s always nice to spruce up the space with some simple floral and a comfort station with combs, blotting papers, hairspray, mints, bug spray, allergy medicine (because even the most organized guests don’t always plan ahead) and other personal items.

country-wedding

photography by Melanie Mahonen Photography

And don’t forget about the weather. “September weddings may start at 80 degrees for the ceremony and then drop to 50 degrees by the end of the event,” advises Sellers. To make sure guests stay comfy even in the strappiest of sandals, she recommends providing comfortable blankets, baskets laden with cozy pashminas or even a coffee bar set up with warm drinks like espresso, hot cider or hot toddies. And because many of these historic barns lack air conditioning or heat, consider renting forced-air heaters or mushroom space heaters for use after the sun sets.

Plan B

Perhaps one of the best parts of a barn event is the chance to host at least part of the event outdoors. But, cautions Fuerstenberg, “even in the middle of a spectacular Minnesota summer, rain is always a possibility, so it’s important to have a back-up option for each of the evening’s different events.”

For Katy and Max, having a plan B turned out to be crucial. “Our ceremony was meant to take place under a beautiful oak tree at Mayowood, but it had been storming in the weeks leading up to the wedding,” says Katy. Though morning showers had given way to blue skies by the time they said their vows, the ceremony had been moved indoors to the barn’s loft. “There had been so many mosquitoes during our rehearsal, I couldn’t imagine standing up there swatting at bugs and having our guests be uncomfortable as well.”

country-wedding

photography by Melanie Mahonen Photography

While these settings may be rural, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about the neighbors. “It depends on the specific venue, but there are a lot noise ordinances that amplified music needs to be off at a certain hour or that a party needs to end by a certain time,” says Fuerstenberg. “In these situations we’re just bumping up the timing of the events so that couples still have the same amount of time at the reception and dance.”

Close to Home

Even with the rural beauty of these weddings, couples desiring a barn venue won’t need to travel far. A mere 30 minutes from downtown St. Paul, the 150-year-old former dairy farm Dellwood Barn boasts 40 acres of land and a charming 3,800-square-foot red barn. Gale Woods Farm, a picture-perfect working farm on Whitetail Lake in Minnetrista, sits approximately a half-hour from downtown Minneapolis.

For Twin Cities couples who want to explore more far-flung areas, there are many barns within easy driving distance of the Twin Cities that offer a variety of both ceremony and reception options. Romantic rural venues dot the Minnesota countryside, just waiting to be discovered by adventurous brides and grooms.

country-wedding

photography by Melanie Mahonen Photography

Whether you’re scouting locations on the outskirts of town or somewhere farther afield, be sure to make a plan for guest lodging and transportation to and from the venue. “Finding hotel accommodations in the middle of nowhere tends to be more difficult than for couples hosting a wedding within the Twin Cities,” cautions Fuerstenberg. “In these cases, we often like to have a designated pick-up point for guests in the nearest city and then bus them to the location. The extra cost is worth the added safety of not having guests try to wind their way through unfamiliar back roads after a night of celebrating.”

Tour of the Countryside

A selection of some of the area’s best barn venues.

Birch Hill Barn

Approximately 60 minutes from St. Paul, this newly restored 100-year-old dairy barn accommodates up to 250 guests. Glenwood City, Wisc., 847.732.1997

Bruentrup Heritage Farm

Less than 20 minutes from downtown St. Paul, this red rustic barn offers an on-site bridal suite, hayrides, tent rental, handicap-accessible facilities and ample parking. Maplewood, 651.748.8645

Camrose Hill Farm

Wed among the gardens at this picturesque 1880s farm, which includes a vine-covered gazebo for ceremonies and a chandelier-laden tent and pavilion for receptions. Stillwater, 651.351.9631

Coop’s Event Barn

This fully renovated barn accommodates up to 350 guests with outdoor ceremony and reception options throughout 10 acres of meticulously manicured country property. Dodge Center, 507.696.3280

Dellwood Barn

Thirty minutes from the Twin Cities, this former dairy barn accommodates up to 240 guests and features a full bar, dance floor and bride’s room. Dellwood, 612.325.5388

The Enchanted Barn

Located 90 minutes east of St. Paul, this restored mid-1800s dairy barn is nestled on 160 acres and features both outdoor and hayloft ceremony sites. Available year-round. Hillsdale, Wisc., 715.254.1557

Fairhaven Farm

Twenty minutes south of St. Cloud, this 50-acre working fruit farm features a rock garden, renovated barn and tent event sites, catered exclusively by Cottage Gourmet. South Haven, 320.236.7685

Gale Woods Farm

Part of the Three Rivers Park District, this working livestock and vegetable farm’s signature red barn overlooks Whaletail Lake and the farm’s pastures and gardens. Minnetrista, 763.694.2001

Green Acres Event Center

This historic Eden Prairie barn event center features fun retro décor and was recently renovated to include heat, AC, updated bathrooms, elevator, a sound system and theatrical lighting. Eden Prairie, 952.942.5220

Hope Glen Farm

Surrounded by Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park, this restored Civil War-era barn includes indoor and outdoor event spaces to accommodate up to 300 guests. Cottage Grove, 651.459.4220

Maple Ridge Farm

Just outside of Taylors Falls, this venue features a restored dairy barn and a pavilion with seating for 300 guests, a large landscaped yard and a renovated farmhouse that sleeps 10. Taylors Falls, 651.210.9520

Mayowood Stone Barn

Stone walls, vaulted ceilings and original plank floors lend this century-old horse barn and historic grounds rustic elegance. Seats 300. Rochester, 507.529.2900

The Red Barn Farm

A working vegetable farm complete with pasture-raised chickens, this barn includes all tables, chairs and dinnerware for 200 guests, and an option for wood-fired brick-oven pizza. Northfield, 507.664.0304

Rubies and Rust

Located 40 miles south of Minneapolis, Rubies and Rust’s rustic white barn rental also includes use of the house, tables and chairs, décor items, sound system and choice of two arbors. Belle Plaine

Rum River Barn & Vineyard

This historic white barn, just an hour northwest of the Twin Cities, features covered ceremony locations and countless photo options throughout the grounds and vineyards. Also offers a campground on the property. Hillman, 612.801.0546

Terra Nue

Just outside of Taylors Falls, Terra Nue offers year-round weddings (including ice skating and bonfires in winter) and three-tiered rental packages, from basic facility rental to full service coordination. Shafer, 651.332.4191