Rural Weddings

wedding on natureOverview

Weddings are a $60 billion a year industry. About 2.5 million couples get married each year. Weddings cost from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands, with the average U.S. wedding costing around $30,000. An outdoor rural wedding is appealing to couples because it offers a beautiful setting with lawn, trees and flowers and is in more of a unique setting than the traditional church and reception venue. A rural wedding could take place on a farm, in a barn, at a winery/vineyard, at an orchard, and more. 

Marketing

Get in touch with a wedding planner as they are your best source for bringing clientele. They are familiar with the wedding industry, venues, latest trends and can market your property for weddings. They can also pitch your property to their clients if it meets their requirements. Using social media is a definite marketing channel you need to invest your time in. Create a Facebook page, Instagram, blog and post plenty of pictures of your venue. Even hiring a professional photographer to take photos of your venue set up for an event is a great way to market. 

Host an open house. This is a way for local planners, photographers, and caterers to find out about your venue and view it. Advertise the open house on social media so those looking for a wedding venue have the opportunity to come out and look around as well. 

Get to know your market. Millennials are going to be the bulk of the wedding market for many years. Get to know the latest weddings trends and play up on those. Learn how to market to this group of people. 

Production

Hosting weddings is considerable work. Important factors that need to be considered include:

Liability insurance: speak with your attorney and your insurance carrier about protecting your property and yourself from liability.
Restroom facilities: make sure they are clean and will pass an inspection.
Staffing: you may need to hire out for things like catering, cleaning, planning, bar services, music etc. 
Parking: you will need a large parking space preferably close to the venue. If your parking will be far from the venue, think about providing a shuttle or transportation system for the guests to get to and from the venue and parking lot. 

What will you provide? Will you provide tables, chairs, dinnerware, etc. Decide if you want to handle that or if the bride and groom will need to provide their own. 

An alternative indoor facility such as a barn or pavilion in case of inclement weather: Having the outdoor site is what may draw clients to your rural venue. However, providing some space for an indoor ceremony reception is a great marketing strategy. Brides are always worried about the weather, so having an indoor space in case of bad weather will really make you stand out. 

Space: will you have a large venue that can hold a number of people or a smaller more intimate atmosphere? Will you have a kitchen and bar area? 

Management

You will need to keep the venue and property in tip top shape throughout the wedding season. You need to keep up on repairs during the week if you will be doing back to back weekend weddings. Have a list of what you provide and what the couple will need to provide. Being organized and up front on the services you offer is key. Go over in detail with the couple on rules, regulations, and what is expected of them in the contract, and what they can except out of you. If you are not offering full service, have a list of local resources for the couple such as a florist, caterer, photographer, and music that is available and has worked with you and your venue before. Allow your guests to choose their own vendors, but offer the list of resources as an option for them. Having a wedding planner on hand or on staff that has worked with rural wedding venues before will really help keep you organized and help market your venue.

Price

Look at surrounding rural wedding venues and see what price point they are in. Most couples today are on a strict budget and are looking for ways to cut costs. If your venue is too large, you may end up pricing your venue out of range that most brides can afford. Have a base price for what your rental cost is for the property and venue for a certain day and work up from there. You can always offer add ons and extra services for the couple if they choose to select those. Make sure you give detail as to what is included with each price such as services, other facilities, hours, furniture, pieces and décor and other logistics. Having several packages may also appeal to couples looking for a rural wedding. Offer something very basic for a low cost, and work up from there with different levels of packages you offer such as a decorating package, hired staff, two day packages and more.

Financial

While there is great income potential for hosting rural weddings, you may need to invest a significant amount of money in order to get started. First, you need to make sure your venue is up to code (fire, safety, environment, accessibility, and structurally) and secure liability insurance which all costs money. When starting up a rural wedding venue you may need to retrofit your barn or other space, install restrooms, kitchens, and make sure it all meets health and safety codes. Every city has different zoning codes and getting a permit can be costly and complicated.

Other Links

Host Weddings on Your Farm - University of Vermont Extension

So You Want to Start a Wedding Business? - My Farm Life

Barn Weddings Can Mean Big Income Boosts – My Farm Life

Agritainment; Weddings, Reunions, and Organic Dairy Products, Stevinson, California

The Barn at High Point Farms – Flintstone, Georgia

Hosting Happy Endings – South Texas Ranches

The Cotton Barn at Peneola Farms, Fort Valley, Georgia 

Orr Family Farm, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma