Brides are foregoing banquet halls and churches for wedding bells in barns, as farms become increasingly popular wedding venues. It’s the latest trend in agritourism that could mean more revenue for owners of farms.
Agritourism is the act of visiting a working farm to enjoy, be educated or be involved in activities. Some examples are:
Hands-on Chores like harvesting produce
Some farmers look at agritourism as a way of supplementing their income, while others like the chance to educate the public and introduce people to the farming lifestyle. Hosting weddings on farms provides an opportunity to make extra money as well as provide a sought-after vintage venue to brides.
A multi billion dollar industry
Weddings are a $48 billion a year business. About 2.2 million couples get married each year, and their celebrations cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands. In the U.S., the average wedding costs about $22,000. Farm weddings are appealing because they provide a cozy, comfortable environment in a beautiful setting and may be more affordable than traditional ceremony sites.
The historic Henry Breeding Farm in Columbus, Indiana has been a wedding venue for 10 years. It has steadily grown in popularity and now is booked solid through most of the year, despite the fact that it has no air conditioning or heat.
Though the popularity of farm weddings doesn’t seem to be fading anytime soon, farmers should understand that hosting weddings is a considerable amount of work. You will need to take into consideration liability insurance, restroom facilities, staffing, marketing, parking and transportation, chairs and tables, décor, an alternative indoor facility in case of inclement weather and a catering kitchen, among others. Do your homework, especially surrounding the insurance policies and liabilities.
Nat and Alison Bjerke-Harvey got married on their own farm in October 2014 in order to keep costs down. But the thought of hosting other weddings on their land doesn’t appeal to them. They prefer their farm stays closed to the public.
“We worked on a farm for years that hosted dinners on the property every other Saturday, and an occasional Sunday breakfast. But if it’s open to the public part of the time, people don’t understand that the farm isn’t open all of the time. Many times, we had guests show up when we weren’t open for meals. Agritourism provides much broader profitability, but if you live on your farm like us, you also sacrifice your privacy,” said Nat Bjerke-Harvey.
Logistics are a huge undertaking
Logistical management of weddings is a big undertaking. “Event management is a whole other job. Wedding events on a farm are a cool idea, but being a venue is not for us. We wanted to get married on our farm because it was an opportunity to share it with the people most important to us,” said Alison Bjerke-Harvey. “But doing that for someone else doesn’t fit into our current business plan.”
However, being in the unique position of having perspective as both the bride and groom as well as the farmers, the Bjerke-Harveys offer a valuable piece of advice for anyone who wants to get married on a farm: Advise your guests on the attire and footwear they should bring. Since they got married in a meadow, they called the dress “prairie casual” since guests would either have to take a hayride or walk a little less than a mile to get to the location of the ceremony. They got lucky with weather on their big day, but suggest having a contingency plan for inclement weather.
Whether you decide to open your farm up to the public or keep your doors closed, there are a lot of factors to consider before jumping in the agritourism industry.
If you're looking to become involved in farming and agriculture, our farm content hub should help you with your first few steps.