Like any wedding, the costs of a barn wedding are usually more than you imagined, especially if you are the type of couple that has your hearts set on the absolutely perfect celebration. Going back to Biblical times, the cost of putting on a big event with hundreds of guests has always required a significant amount of resources. Since you’ll only have this day once, you want to make it the best it can be. But you also don’t want to be stressing over the finances (or having your parents driving you crazy) when you should be rejoicing over one of the most glorious times of your life. Therefore, this is one subject you don’t want to overlook. That’s why we’ve done the homework for you on how to save as much money as possible while still having the wedding of your dreams. In this article, you’ll discover how to determine the true cost of saying your vows in a picturesque country setting, the different ways wedding barns are priced, where not to skimp, how to avoid last minute extra charges, how couples afford the perfect barn wedding on a tight budget and of course, all the different ways to save money.
Cost of a Wedding
According to a recent Real Weddings Study, the average cost of a ceremony/reception in Florida is $30,000. The average cost of the venue alone is $11,200 but you may be surprised by all of the things that are not included in the venue costs on that report. In fact, studies have shown that couples underestimate their wedding ceremony and reception budget by nearly 50%! Using that Real Weddings Study along with a this simple Wedding Cost Calculator, you'll get a better idea of the cost of a wedding. And while that may get you in the ballpark, unfortunately, it leaves out plenty of hidden costs that you'll learn more about in this article.
How Wedding Barns are Priced
Day of the Week and Time of Year
What you'll discover right away when reviewing the prices of barn venues is that Saturdays are far more expensive than the other days of the week and Fall, Winter and Spring is far higher than Summer. For example, in Florida, a barn wedding on a Sunday in July can be a fraction of the cost of a Saturday in November. And while an outdoor wedding in the summer may sound hot and uncomfortable, some Barns have A/C and if the outdoor ceremony is held beneath the shade of a big oak tree, it can actually be quite comfortable and the savings to you can be ENORMOUS!
The size of your wedding guest list can also play a major rule in the cost of a venue. While some barns have one flat rate, regardless of your guest list size, many charge you more as your guest list gets larger. It can be difficult for those with large families to reduce their wedding size beyond a certain point and not including certain people can create lifelong riffs. So plan not to skimp on the size but instead, consider venues that don’t charge extra for a larger guest list.
You Get What You Pay For
The other major contributing factor to the cost of a barn is the quality of the venue itself. The old saying that, “you get what you pay for,” is extremely accurate in the world of wedding barns. The best barns charge the most because they provide the greatest value, quality and service. And oftentimes, the differences can be the little things that you only notice and experience on the day of your wedding. For example, a Barn that has a Bridal suite that is handicap accessible may make the difference between an aging, wheelchair bound grandmother being a part (or not) of the experience of her granddaughter getting ready on her wedding day. Another example is having a back up generator, so if a quick passing lightning storm knocks out the power in the area, it can ruin your wedding unless your venue has a back up generator.
And a truly beautiful wedding is an experience that you and your friends and family can cherish for the rest of your lives. Years later, whether viewing pictures or videos or simply in memory, you want to look back on your wedding as one of the most visually stunning days of your life. So if you find the venue of your dreams but your first-glance review of the cost puts it out of reach of your initial budget, consider a different day of the week and a different time of year. You most likely won’t recall the significance of it being held on a Saturday versus a Sunday, but the venue itself and its strengths or its shortcomings will be burned into your mind the rest of your life.
Inclusive vs A-La-Carte Pricing
While most Barn prices differ based on the day of the week, the time of year and how large your guest list will be, there is also another major price difference that you need to be very aware of; inclusive versus a-la-carte pricing. Inclusive pricing, as it suggests, is one price that includes everything that the Barn venue provides. Whereas with “a-la-carte” pricing, you start with a low base price and then the costs pile up by adding in the features that you need.
The benefit of “a-la-carte” pricing is that you may be able to reduce costs by having a bare bones celebration. The drawback is that you’ll usually end up needing more things than you originally planned and the money you thought you were saving by sticking to the bare minimum eventually gets spent by an ever-increasing list of last minute details that you have to end up adding in.
The beauty of inclusive pricing is that you know exactly what the cost is going to be, upfront, and you know you won’t be "nickeled and dimed" later, when you are at your most vulnerable position for being fleeced (the day of your wedding). Therefore, almost without exception, you will save more money going with a venue that doesn’t nickel and dime you and provides inclusive pricing.
To illustrate this point, here are two comparable Central Florida Wedding Barns, one 2021 average priced a-la-carte, and the other simple-inclusive:
A La Carte Barn
+ Chair Rental: $1,800
+ Vintage Door Rental: $150
+ Wooden Table Rental $800
+ Table Cloths: $300
+ Votive Candles: $150
+ Centerpiece Décor Rental: $350
+ Additional Cost Per a person over 100 guest count: $10 a person x 60 = $600
Inclusive Fee: $9,000
Pricing includes use of a full range of ceremony and reception decor including chairs, tables, lanterns, votive candles, table cloths, centerpieces, table numbers, signage, and more. There are no hidden fees or additional charges per person.
Many wedding venues also offer different packages, ranging from introductory to luxury. As usual, the introductory package is typically a teaser and it’s the higher levels that have all the bells and whistles that you really want (and need). (Shortly, you’ll get an idea of what you really need versus what may not be necessary.)
A relatively new idea that is becoming more popular these days is a package that includes every other aspect of a wedding beyond just the venue, such as the DJ, caterer, photographer, planner, etc. This may appear to be the easiest option for some couples because all the planning “work” is already done for them, but that concept creates its own set of issues that you may not discover until the day of your wedding.
Although it may take a little bit more time, choosing each wedding vendor yourself, ensures that you will choose the best vendor, at the best price and get the best work out of them. Whereas when Barns have packages that already have the Vendors included, they typically choose the Vendors that are the most financially advantageous to the Venue owner, rather than providing the absolute best service at the best price to the marrying couple. Venues that have packages that already have the Vendors chosen for you are notorious for worrying more about their kickbacks than giving their customers the very best results. Rather than looking at the task of choosing your Vendors as “work”, consider it as an opportunity to make your wedding as perfect as it can be and to save you more money. Plus, some venues have a list of their favorite vendors which can be a tremendous shortcut in your research. For example, here's our list of preferred vendors: Ever After Farms Preferred Vendors List.
What You’re Really Going to Need
Whether the top Barn on your list has “a-la-carte” or “inclusive” pricing, it’s important for you to know the minimum of what you need to have a great event so that you can better estimate costs when looking at each venue. Here’s a list of the bare essentials for having a great barn wedding on a budget:
- A place for the Bride and Bridesmaids as well as the Groom and Groomsmen to get ready.
- Chairs for the Ceremony
- Wedding Officiant: Many get their Pastor to play this role.
- Photographer: Hire the best one you can. When its all said and done, what you’ll cherish for a lifetime are the pictures.
- Heated / Air Conditioned Reception Barn: Don’t make the enormous mistake of booking a Barn that doesn’t have A/C or Heat. Extremely bad idea for so many reasons!
- Tables, Chairs, Linens & Centerpieces for the Reception
- Flower Arrangements & Other Decorations
- Cake Table and Gift Table
Sure, you can add in many more details, but if you have the above in place, you’re in great shape to have a wonderful celebration. Plus, there can be so much beauty in simplicity when the bare essentials are as good as they can be. Rather than adding more and more unnecessary extras, make the most important elements the best that they can be.
Best Ways to Save Money
The decision that will potentially save you the most money will be your choice of the wedding date. Picking a Friday or a Sunday during the off-peak times of year could shave your bill significantly. In Florida, off peak tends to be during the summer in May, June, July, August and September. And while some barns may charge you less for having less guests, there are also plenty of venues out there that won’t charge you more just because you and your soon-to-be-spouse have large families and will have a big guest list.
Beyond those two somewhat obvious ways to save, here are some insider secrets to saving even more money on your wedding. And these are tips that many in the industry don't want you to know! In fact, we have had several vendors over the years get very angry at us for even sharing the below information with you. Enjoy!
Savings Tip # 1 - Food: The cost of hiring a professional caterer can be $20-$40 per guest for buffet style and $40-$60 per attendee for plated. That can swell to a gigantic bill as your guest list grows. While some venues offer no choice but to pay for catering, as in the case of a wedding held at a hotel that requires catered food to be purchased, one of the great benefits of a Barn wedding is that you have much more freedom on how the food is handled.
You can save thousands by avoiding catering altogether. One alternative to a caterer is to order a group package from your favorite local restaurant. Many couples choose BBQ, but we have seen plenty Chick-fil-a or Pizza weddings as well. Then, you can have friends and family help spread it out across some tables and let your guests serve themselves. The food will still taste great but at a fraction of the cost of hiring a caterer. And if you order the fancy plastic silverware and plates, even the dinnerware will look beautiful without the need for real forks and plates.
Another alternative to catering, which will save even more money (as well as create a more enduring connection between you and your wedding guests) is for family and friends to prepare the reception dinner. I recently attended a wedding where the mother-in-law made the entire spread for just the cost of food and it was terrific. Plus, the chef was so happy to see so many people enjoying her cooking.A barn wedding is the perfect environment for avoiding catering and doing a family style meal. It will save you an enormous amount of money. Just make sure you ask the venue, before you book, if they allow you to bring your own food or if they require you use their “preferred” caterer. Ideally, the barn you choose will have a Hot Box that can help keep the food warm until it is served.
Savings Tip # 2 - Cake: There are a few options for saving money on a wedding cake.
- Grocery Store Wedding Cake: Many grocery stores have a bakery that makes beautiful wedding cakes and cupcakes at the fraction of the cost of your standard bakery.
- Phone a Friend: Odds are you know someone who enjoys, and is quite good at baking. Find someone you know who would be willing to bake your wedding cake as a wedding gift or at a bargain.
- Home Baked: There are often local Baking Connoisseurs that offer their services on a part-time basis from the comforts of their own kitchens. I have found that these bakers are typically a lot cheaper than a professional bakery as well.
If you choose not to hire a professional wedding cake designer, ideally, the Barn venue will have a big refrigerator to store the Cake until the time of the ceremony.
Savings Tip # 3 – Videography: A video of your big day is wonderful to have, but if you are unable to afford the extra expense, there are other options. Believe it or not, you (or someone in your wedding party or family) can arrange an incredible video of your wedding by assembling the pictures that were taken and using the easy-to-use online software Animoto.com. The professional wedding pictures as well as the amateur pics and videos taken with cell phones can be included. You’ll be amazed by how good an Animoto video can turn out. For example, check out this video: Florida’s Perfect Wedding Barn. If you are certain you want a professional videographer at your big day, you can choose a Photographer that offers a Photo/Video package at a discounted rate.
Savings Tip # 4 - Music: While there are numerous benefits to having a DJ, if you need to shave off a few extra bucks to stay within budget, some Barns have their own speaker system so you can avoid paying for a professional DJ. You would simply organize your playlist and then have someone in the wedding party or a family member ensure that it is played at the proper time. Also, having a family member or wedding party individual be in charge of MC-ing the event can have the additional benefit of being more in tune with your audience as opposed to a DJ that has never met or been around your friends and family. Plus, it can really stroke the ego of those who like to be the center of attention and giving them the mic can be the best wedding favor you could have ever given them! If you are set on having a DJ for your reception, but still looking to save some money, consider using the sound system outside for the cocktail hour to save hundreds on your DJ bill.
Savings Tip # 5 - Cleaning Fee: The best way to save on the cleaning fee is to have some of the many people that just benefited from the big party you just invited them to, to take care of the cleanup for you. Many hands make work light. Look for a barn that includes basic clean up of all of their provided decor, tables, and chairs. That way your guests are only picking up the items you've provided, which will take a lot less time. As you set off on your honeymoon, they can pitch in for 10 minutes and get the place spic and span.
Savings Tip # 6 – Choosing Vendors Wisely: While many of these savings tips have been centered around doing things yourself that would otherwise be handled by Vendors, so long as you aren’t booking a Barn that requires you use only certain Vendors, you can also save a whole lot of money by choosing the Vendors you do hire, wisely. Prices for services really do vary greatly. A very powerful rule of thumb is to always get at least 3 bids. Get a proposal from at least 3 different Vendors (and more than 3 is even better) for each vendor category. For example, reach out to at least 3 very qualified photographers to find out what they charge and what is included. Again, here's our list of preferred vendors: Ever After Farms Preferred Vendors List. Also, thanks to websites like WeddingWire, you can easily research who are the best Vendors are in your area and can quickly contact each one of them.
Savings Tip # 7 - Easy-for-Vendors Venue: And here’s another little insider tip to consider about choosing vendors. Some Barn venues can be a pain-in-the-butt for Vendors to provide their services; such as a Barn with no A/C that can make a bartender’s or caterer's night miserable. Whereas, other Barns may be a Vendor’s dream. Such as a Barn that has A/C and a full service bar already built in. You can also potentially save a few bucks by choosing a Barn venue that the local area Vendors like too. Because the best Vendors pick and choose who they decide to work with too, and if you’re having your wedding at a venue that they hate, they may decide not to work with you.
Savings Tip #8- Choose a Barn that Includes a Wide Assortment of Decor: Save yourself and your sanity, by choosing a barn that provides a wide array of decor and centerpiece options, at no additional fee. The more options and extras a barn provides, the less time and money you will have to spend on items that will only be used for one day. Keep a checklist of items that each venue does or does not provide along with an estimated cost per item. If Venue A is $1,000 cheaper but does not provide linens, lanterns, ceremony decor, or centerpiece options, but Venue B, at $1,000 more, provides options of all of the above plus more, than Option B could actually be the MUCH CHEAPER option. Not to mention, way less stressful! You will be shocked by how fast decor can add up, even if you are buying them from the dollar store. When the barn venue already has an amazing assortment of incredible decor, it can save you thousands.
Here are some decor options Ever After Farms provides, to give you an idea of what's possible:
- Ever After Farms Blueberry Barn Decorations
- Ever After Farms Peach Barn Decorations
- Ever After Farms Ranch Decorations
- Ever After Farms Vineyard Decorations
- Ever After Farms Flower Decorations
- Ever After Farms Stockyard Decorations
- Ever After Farms Citrus Decorations
The Big Lesson
Hopefully this has provided you with an almost PhD level of education on the real costs of wedding barns and how you can save money. As you learned, there are some costs that you really can’t avoid but there are also plenty of ways to save as much as thousands of dollars. But perhaps the greatest lesson you learned was that choosing the right Barn venue can make all the difference in the world. In addition to what you have discovered here, make sure you also check out the 7 Mistakes Couples Make When Choosing a Wedding Barn. Sometimes the Barns that look the most expensive at first glance, upon a much deeper inspection, may save you the most in the long run. If you have any questions, feel free to post a question in the comments section below. We’re happy to provide any help we can on this subject. Thanks for reading this and we wish you all the best on your journey to having the perfect wedding.