Build a barn and "they" will come.
In the last decade, farming has seen an increase in challenges that have driven farmers either away from the profession or that have motivated them to find alternate ways to earn supplementary income with their properties (i.e. vegetable farming, seasonal activities such as corn mazes, places to host workshops, and beautiful rustic barn wedding venues).
In fact, a recent poll found that converted barns are the second most popular choice of wedding ceremony/reception venues and the market demand continues to grow. This is no real surprise - scroll Pinterest, IG and FB and you will see that the style of wedding ceremonies has changed from formal to more simple, casual wedding ceremonies and receptions. Barn structures are a mark in history and in our opinion, are beautiful works of art that need to be preserved. These structures absolutely offer a warm, elegant, back-to-basic rustic charm that many are craving.
What many clients fail to recognize though, are the many challenges that accompany converting a workable barn to a place of gathering that complies with local/provincial building code and laws. Full transparency, we began the process pretty blinded. We had no real idea of what this process would look like (aside from the actual retrofit and restoration process anyway), but we knew that we had a vision and a dream to be entrepreneurs. The income potential in owning and operating a barn wedding venue is solid, there's no denying that, but the initial investment in this dream came with a hefty financial price tag and a huge personal commitment and sweat equity.
The first step in our journey as wedding venue owners began with contracting a team of Land Surveyors (Goodridge Goulet Planning & Surveying) to consult with and to support us in navigating the property conversion from uniquely agricultural zoning to an agricultural/commercial zoning and to have this recognized by our municipality.
One would assume that this is a simple and straightforward logistical process however, this was by far the longest "marathon" of our journey. It saw us attend multiple municipal meetings to which we presented our idea to our municipal council members, and they consulted with the local agricultural board and together they voted on whether or not they saw this business model fit for our community. Truthfully, many were against this idea for various reasons and to say that it was a terrifying process is a huge understatement.
Once the idea approved, our municipal staff determined, according to the Ontario Building Code, specifics required for this type of space such as types of doors to install, fire safety systems and other electrical demands, signage, number of washrooms, airflow requirements, structural compliance, parking layouts, etc. There is just so much liability to consider before inviting 300+ guests to celebrate on your property. In such, several Architectural and Engineered drawings were required prior to starting the project and as was a building permit. As I am sure you can imagine, the cost of this type of expertise adds up quickly!
Another consideration in our journey was our immediate community of neighbours. It was required to advise them of the plans and to ensure that all were onboard; we all need to live together before and after hosted events and, we need to endure change together (i.e. increase traffic, noise, guests). We did erect a beautiful rustic to fence to protect our neighbouring farmer's crop fields and to ensure that this is respected, we are clear about physical boundaries of guests while visiting our property. We were fortunate that our neighbours were in full support of our project and now, we are able to invite them to many functions and celebrate the success of the venue together.
On the topic of contracts - boy, was this ever an undertaking. It was a learning process that required multiple legal consultations. Our contract is lengthy. It is pretty specific on things such as liquor license requirements, insurance requirements, requirements of guest behaviour (i.e. underage drinking, disrespect, trespassing, etc). We want guests to enjoy their time on our property and inside our venue whilst maintaining respect of our structure, respect for us and of our neighbours. Its main purpose is to protect all parties involved (i.e. clients, venue, vendors) and guarantee that we can operate and make wedding dreams come true for years to come.
Like with any wedding the cost of a barn wedding is likely more than you imagined (cue the above description on liability and reflection of work involved in opening and maintaining a venue of this type) but, the cost of putting on an event with hundreds of guests has always required resources. We don't want our couples stressing about finances instead of enjoying the most amazing day of your life and this is why we have a "flat rate" rental rate with very limited "add-on" fees associated with booking with us. When booking with us, clients know almost exactly what the cost is going to be upfront and will save more money this way in comparison to "à la carte" style venues. We offer an assortment of decor (included in our rate) and we have also sourced the best vendors (both in experience and in price point) to help keep clients within budget while not comprising their experience.
And in closing, we are still young in terms of business and we are dreamers. That being said, the development of the property and offerings though currently amazing, is far from where we are going to take this business. You will need to stay tuned and check-in often to see what is next ;)
Kyle + Kait