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Wedding dos and don’ts for farm brides-to-be

Callie Curley for Progressive Dairyman Published on 13 June 2016
dairy barn bride and groom

From gowns to guests and everything in between, planning a wedding is no simple task. Add in factors like arranging a planting and a harvest, working around the schedules of guests and groomsmen who need to be home for morning and evening milkings, and the struggles of planning a ceremony or reception outdoors on the farm when the weather could turn at any moment, there is no doubt that incorporating the farm into that special day will take time, energy and many helping hands.

If you’re a bride-to-be wondering where to begin with planning your wedding day on the farm, check out these tips from ladies who have been there, done that and lived to tell about it.

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DO ...

Plan ahead

Whether you’re getting married on the farm, hosting a reception in the haymow or simply planning on a few backdrops for wedding photos, don’t underestimate the amount of time needed to bring these places to picture-perfect condition.

“It is not going to take just a couple of weeks to create an entire venue on the farm,” says Amber Sime, who married her husband, Bryce, on his family farm in Stoughton, Wisconsin, in October 2015. “It takes several months of hard work and preparation just to get the farm ready for guests. Even then, it won’t ever be 100 percent perfect, especially if it is on a working farm.”

wedding in barn

In addition to venues and planning for the event itself, aspects of the wedding that are “just for fun” should also be arranged in advance if they are important to the bride and groom.

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“Several months before our wedding, we came across a Culver’s booth at Farm Technology Days,” says Ashley Jung, who married her husband, Doug, in April 2016. “When we saw their ‘Thank You Farmers’ campaign, we knew we wanted to make it a part of our wedding day.”

thank you farmers wedding

Ashley then reached out to Culver’s and eventually was given not only T-shirts for the bridal party to wear during the reception, but also free Culver’s custard in lieu of wedding cake at the reception – a welcome and appreciated surprise.

“We knew we wanted to pay tribute to farmers during our wedding day,” Ashley says. “And our own family history combined with the gifts from Culver’s made that possible and really fun.”

Enjoy your guests

Utilizing the “Thank You Farmers” campaign by Culver’s, Ashley and Doug also chose to make their families’ farm histories a part of the reception décor. The photos and other items displayed in the reception hall helped their guests to get to know them as a couple and learn about the history of their families.

reception decorations

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“You may think your wedding day is ‘all about you,’ but in reality, you spend much more time thinking about your guests and how to create an atmosphere where they will be comfortable and have fun too,” Ashley says.

As an added gesture for her guests and with some help from her mother, Jessica and her husband, Joe Spangler, created goodie bags for the children who attended her reception. Each bag was filled with coloring books, bubbles and small toys she found at the local dollar store for their June 2010 wedding.

“Both the kids and the parents really appreciated the distractions we provided with those gift bags,” Jessica says. “It meant a lot to them that we had thought of their children while we were planning our reception.”

wedding party

Consider logistics

It may not be as exciting as choosing flowers and painting signs, but there is an important place for logistical planning in any wedding day, particularly one on the farm.

“Do a walk-through of the farm and everywhere guests might be able to access,” Jessica suggests. “If there is a piece of equipment or a manure pit or another potentially unsafe area on the farm, be sure to rope it off and place signs asking guests not to come closer. Some of your guests may not be from farms, so they might not know the danger associated with things that many of us are already aware of.”

Embrace the experience – and everything it involves

“There’s a reason you wanted to get married on the farm,” says Raechel Sattazahn. “And odds are it wasn’t because you think life on the farm is perfect in every way. It’s OK to have a plan, but it’s OK to laugh as parts of that plan fall apart too.”

bride and groom and green truck

Raechel married her husband, Doug, on her family’s farm in Pennsylvania. Together, and with the help of their families, the couple prepared the farm for guests – making some memories of their own along the way.

“There were plenty of times getting ready for our wedding and even throughout the day itself that I just couldn’t help but laugh,” Raechel says. “Life on the farm is imperfect and unpredictable, but that’s all the more reason to embrace the beauty in those imperfections. That’s what makes farm life special. I wouldn’t have traded those little moments for a ‘perfect’ wedding.”

DON’T ...

Underestimate the investment involved

While having a wedding or reception on the farm may seem like money saved from paying a venue and staffing a reception hall, there are many hidden costs to be considered and planned for. From catering to rebuilding floors to installing electricity to renting tables, chairs, lights and other necessities, the costs of getting married on the farm have the potential to add up quickly.

“Those hidden costs could really surprise you,” Jessica says. “By keeping track of what is being spent and where money might be saved by having the wedding on the farm, you can be better prepared for making purchases. I’d also suggest reaching out to local groups that may have tables and chairs to be borrowed or rented at a lower rate, rather than purchasing them outright.”

Expect perfection

When Ashley and Eric Kennedy were married in October 2012, an absent dad meant starting the ceremony later than scheduled. When he finally arrived, the wedding went on as planned and no discussion was had until the next day, when Ashley found out the reason he was late: The skid steer had caught on fire during morning chores on the barn floor where they were planning to take photos after the ceremony.

“I didn’t know until the next day that my dad had been taking care of that and everyone decided not to tell me so I wouldn’t be worried,” Ashley says. “It was stressful at the time, but now it’s just another story we look back on and laugh. If I could give one piece of advice, it would be to smile and know that those little things are not the end of the world” (Photo 1).

Forget about the ‘big picture’

“Fifteen years later, there are many things I don’t necessarily remember about my wedding day,” says Jenny Spoke, who married her husband, Jeff, on his family dairy in Waterloo, Wisconsin. “What I do remember was a beautiful start to the rest of my life surrounded by people we loved. I’m sure little things went wrong here and there, but when I’m looking back on our family, our farm and life we have built together, I don’t worry about those things. All I can do is smile, because that day brought me to where we are now.”

bride and groom

So, whether you’re knee-deep in wedding boards on Pinterest or laying floorboards in an old haymow, take the time to pause, smile and know that getting married is about much more than planning the perfect event. It’s the beginning of your life as husband and wife. And take it from these farm wives when they say that the best is yet to come.  PD

Callie Curley is a communications student at Penn State University.

PHOTO 1: Ashley and Eric Kennedy of Bad Axe, Michigan, were married in October 2012 at a church in their community. They chose to have photos taken on Ashley's family farm after the ceremony, proving that regardless of location, the farm can always be a memorable part of your wedding day. Photo by Moments Captured by Vanessa.

PHOTO 2: Getting married in a barn isn't as easy as stringing up lights and opening the doors, says Amber Sime. The couple spent months cleaning and preparing to invite guests into the barn for their wedding. Photo by Creative Look Studios.

PHOTO 3: "We had to plan when and where to plant based on what fields we wanted to take our photos in," Amber Sime says. Photo by Creative Look Studios.

PHOTO 4: While they weren't married on the farm, Ashley and Doug Jung of Randolph, Wisconsin, knew from the start they wanted to pay tribute to farmers in some way. Photo by Ryan Ebert.

PHOTO 5: Including family mementos and personal connections can bring an added touch to any wedding, either on or off the farm, just like this display at Ashley and Doug Jung's reception in April 2016. Photo by Ryan Ebert.

PHOTO 6: Jessica and Joe Spangler of New Berlin, Pennsylvania, included one of their cows in the bridal party photos. Jessica and Joe were married June 12, 2010. Photo by Harpel's Photography.

PHOTO 7: No farm wedding would be complete without a little history. "When we couldn't move the old farm truck from our reception site, we thought, 'Why not?' and made it a part of our wedding day instead," Raechel Sattazahn recalls. Photo provided by Raechel Sattazahn.

PHOTO 8: Jeff and Jenny Spoke of Waterloo, Wisconsin, pose for photos during their on-farm reception in 2001. Photo provided by Jenny Spoke.

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