Growing demand for barn weddings has caused a surge in farms turning into wedding venues. More and more wedding barns are popping up all across Florida, providing engaged couples with more choices on where to host their rustic themed event, but unfortunately for some, also creating new problems that they could have never anticipated. Understanding the major pitfalls some couples have experienced will ensure you have an extraordinary event with no serious hiccups. Here are the 7 most common mistakes couples make when choosing a wedding barn.
Mistake # 1 – Illegal Barns
The most devastating mistake a couple can make when selecting a wedding barn is choosing one that is operating against local zoning or land use laws and therefore is hosting weddings illegally. Those who booked the Miller Plantation in Miami, FL recently learned this lesson the hard way because Miami-Dade County permanently shut them down and ruined the wedding plans of many couples. It's a mistake that is actually far more common than you may think and even some of the most in-demand Barns in your area may not be following zoning laws correctly.
In order to avoid this catastrophic event, you need to verify that the barn wedding venue you are interested in is operating according to local land use laws. How? You could simply ask the wedding barn you are interested in choosing, if they know with certainty that they are operating legally. But sadly, they may not even know for sure. Alternatively, you could verify yourself using what you are about to learn from the following crash course on the subject. But however you do it, make sure you verify if the Barn you plan to book is on firm land use and zoning legal footing because the consequences could be devastating if you don’t!
Florida's original 2013 AgriTourism law was updated in 2016 specifically to include the right for bona-fide commercial farmers to host weddings on their property. Here's the heart warming Fox 13 News story on how that came to pass. Therefore, weddings can legally be conducted on commercial farms in Florida but there are a few key requirements that must be met:
- 1. Zoned Agricultural: This first requirement is easy because almost all Barns you'll ever look at are situated on agriculturally zoned land so you probably don’t have to concern yourself too much with this one. But if you want to be sure, you can Google search for your local county’s online zoning map tool and then, using the property's address, see what the zoning classification for that Barn is.
- 2. Bona-Fide Commercial Farm: This next requirement is where some Barns are unable to comply. The Barn must be located on a bona-fide commercial farm. Therefore, a few cows in the pasture won’t qualify as a bona-fide commercial farm. Who determines if an agriculturally zoned property is a bona-fide commercial farming operation, or just a few cows grazing? Good question! In Florida, the answer is the county’s property tax appraiser.
- 3. Agricultural Classification (aka Greenbelt): Each year in Florida, every county’s property appraiser assigns an agricultural classifications to bona-fide commercial farms. In order to qualify, the land owner must submit an application, meet the criteria for being a commercial farm and of course, have their request be approved. Searching for whether or not a property has its agricultural classification, or what Floridians call “Green Belt”, is not easily done online. The fastest and easiest way to find that out is to call the County’s Property Appraiser and ask if the property in question has an Agricultural Exemption.
If the above requirements are met, you'll be all good with the wedding barn you choose. However, if any of those requirements are missing, it could be disastrous. For example, Volusia County officials have been working hard recently to shut down wedding barn operators within their jurisdiction that are missing just one of those requirements and that's caused many couples to reach out to us for any last minute availability. Sorry to scare you about this but we'd rather you be in the know rather than be in the dark on this subject.
Mistake # 2 – Disruptive Surroundings
One of the many compelling reasons for having a wedding on a farm is that you will be out in the country and away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Unfortunately, some Barns are located next to train tracks, busy highways or crazy neighbors and rather than being out and away from it all, you are right back in the noisy and busy city life. Imagine your Maid of Honor beginning her speech only to be interrupted by a huge train rumbling by for several minutes. Or thePachelbel’s Canon in D softly being played on the piano, but your guests can hardly hear it because of the roar from semi-tractor trailers rolling down the interstate next door to the property. Or the wedding officiant beginning the speech when all of a sudden, the property’s neighbor’s teenage son begins hammering on his drums in his bedroom and the noise reverberates through your ceremony. Those are all very real examples of what has happened to other couples in the past that didn’t pay attention to the potential for disruptive surroundings, when they toured their wedding barn.
Mistake # 3 - No AC/Heat
While rustic, country Barns can look charming in photos, in the real world, Barns without air conditioning or heat, can be a miserable experience for you and your guests. Picture sweat pouring down your face, smearing your make up, as you try to have your first dance with your father. That can sometimes happen when you choose a Barn that doesn’t have A/C. When you get a bunch of people in a covered enclosure and they’re dancing and drinking, the body heat can drastically raise the temperature. Some put their trust in fans to keep things comfortable, but remember that air conditioning doesn’t just manage the temperature, it also reduces the humidity in the air. Sometimes enough fans can keep the temperature to reasonable levels but it can’t stop that unbearable humidity!
And surprisingly even in Florida, it can get chilly after a winter cold front blows through, so having heat is important too. Depending on the geographical location of the Barn and the time of year, booking a barn without air conditioning or heat can be a gigantic risk that you don’t want to take. You already have way too many things to worry about, hoping that the weather is absolutely perfect shouldn’t be one of them. Instead, book a Barn that has heating and air conditioning.
Mistake # 4 – No Rainy Day Plan
Nearly 60% of all wedding ceremonies in the United States are held outside. And for most times of the year in Florida, outdoor ceremonies go off without a hitch. But it’s usually the father of the bride that asks the logical question, “Honey, what happens if it rains?” Sometimes the couple is so enamored by the venue that they ignore this fundamental question. Make sure you ask yourself if the barn you’re looking at has a rainy day plan. Is the inside of the Barn big enough to move the ceremony indoors or do they have a covered area to move the ceremony to? If the barn or covered area doesn’t have walls, do they have a way to shield rain from blowing in from the sides? Again, you have enough things on your mind, praying for perfect weather shouldn’t be one of them. Choose a rustic venue that also can handle a rainy day with ease.
Mistake # 5 - No Indoor Plumbing
While Barns are supposed to be rustic, you don’t want them to be THAT rustic! You’ve been to those outdoor concerts that have port-o-potties and they are absolutely disgusting, aren’t they? Why would you ever want you and your wedding guests to have that same experience? A step up from nasty port-o-potties are those portable restroom trailers. And while those can be a suitable alternative, they usually cost an additional $1,000-$3,000 per day, and if it is raining, what a mess it can be for your guests to have to use the facilities in an outhouse rather than inside the Barn. Your best bet, of course, is to choose a Barn that has indoor plumbing.
Mistake # 6 - No Space to Get Ready in Private
Let’s face it, barn wedding venues typically don’t offer the same accommodations and amenities as other venue types like banquet halls or hotels. Most won’t even have a private space for the bridal party to get ready, which can result in major issues, such as guests seeing the bride before she’s ready to walk down the aisle, or even the bride and groom running into each other before the ceremony. To avoid these wedding faux-pas, select a wedding barn that offers separate private locations for the bride and groom to prepare in. If you get lucky, you’ll even find a local venue that has bride and groom suites where the entire wedding party can get ready before their walk down the aisle.
Mistake # 7 - Nickel and Diming Pricing
You may already have a budget finalized that you need to work within. Chances are, it’s slightly lower than what’s needed for the perfect wedding you have in your dreams. But, many wedding barn owners already know this and have developed a crafty way to get you locked in without you having a full picture of what will end up being the total cost of your actual wedding. They list a low base price and then charge you “a la carte” additional fees for things like; chair rentals, table rentals, linen usage, bathrooms, A/C, and much, much more. In theory, it seems helpful to you because your brain begins to cross off all the things you don’t think you need. But in the real world, on the day of your wedding, you usually end up needing more than you thought and more of each item than you expected. So rather than the low base price and the “a la carte” providing you with savings, you end up needing to spend far more than you ever expected and by that time, its too late to turn back and change plans.
The better pricing structure for you is the upfront, all inclusive, one price model. You’ll know exactly what it is going to cost, with no hidden surprise fees that may pop up at the end, and although you may not use every amenity that that package has to offer, it will still save you much more money in the end.
Here's a great resource that shows you How to Save Money on Your Barn Wedding.
Choosing the Right Barn Venue for You
Now that you know the seven most common mistakes couples make when selecting a barn wedding venue, you’re ready to begin touring your favorite barns. Keep these seven mistakes in mind, and your wedding is sure to be a huge success. Congratulations and best of luck on your rustic barn wedding journey!