If you’re a true wedding lover, owning your own venue seems like a dream come true. With the popularity of venues like barns and farmhouses becoming more popular, that dream is closer than ever for many of us.
But running your own barn wedding venue is not as simple as finding the perfect rustic space to host a party (see our guide on starting a wedding venue for more details!) Barn venues are a labor of love with many moving parts, commitments, and risks.
Despite the difficulties, owning a barn wedding venue can be an incredibly exciting and rewarding endeavor. Follow these steps to make your dream venue come to life!
- Find Your Why
The most important thing to consider with any business venture is… “why?”
Why do you want to start a barn wedding venue? What is your mission? What do you hope to achieve? What is your driving purpose?
Take the time to deeply consider why this is the path for you. This not only helps you focus on your brand mission and audience, but it also fuels your fire when things get tough.
Stacey and Joe Hogge, owners of Vista West Ranch in Dripping Springs, Texas offer some sage words of advice to hopeful barn hosts:
“I believe a barn wedding venue isn’t for everyone, it has to be personal and have meaning, so that every wedding feels like a warm welcoming family experience.
“Our venue was something that started organically in 1996 as my husband and I were married in what was then the backyard. This started a trend of family and friends wanting to do the same thing.”
Stacey and her husband Joe hosted several parties in their “personal family party barn” until they outgrew the space. In 2006, they built what is now their impressive Vista West Ranch barn in its place and carried on their barn party tradition bigger than ever.
“The new barn made out of old materials was similar to the one my mom played in as a child and we even used materials from that very same old barn.”
For Stacey and Joe, their barn wedding venue grew out of a deep love for bringing family together and keeping tradition alive. As you contemplate your “why” for starting a barn wedding venue, what comes up for you?
- Ask the Tough Questions
No matter how much you are dedicated to bringing your dream barn wedding venue to life, few businesses take off without a hitch. To make sure you’re ready to take on this exciting endeavor, first sit down and ask yourself the tough questions:
- Can you afford both the venue and the risk? Purchasing a venue is not just about the price of the barn, furnishings, and staff. You also need to be prepared for the unexpected and the possibility that the business goes under.
- Do you love a hectic lifestyle? Weekends, evenings, and bustling weekdays are ahead…
- Can you handle the responsibility? Running any venue is a massive undertaking, but the pressure is even higher when you’re hosting the most important day of someone’s life.
- Will you be going in alone or with a partner? Be sure to weigh the pros and cons of both options and research the necessary legal implications of both.
- Do you have a steady safety net? It’s never fun to think about what might happen if we fail, but having a plan in place in case that happens is the smart way to start a business. Consider your savings, living arrangements, and ability to re-enter the job market should things take a turn for the worst.
- The second biggest mistake I see venue owners make is biting the hand that feeds them. Huh? Venue owners and vendors NEED to have a mutual respect for one another. Vendors need to respect the enormous investment that this venue is. On the flip side, venues need to respect the work that vendors do and try their best to not only deliver a good experience to their brides but also to their vendors. Here’s the good news… you’re already a vendor and know how you like to be treated. In other words, our mommas were right – treat others as you would like to be treated.
- Do Your Market Research
Starting any business requires hours upon hours of research. Before diving into the wedding venue business, you’ll want to understand more about your competitors, collaborators, and customers.
- What other wedding venues are in your area?
- What are the other venues’ prices?
- What services do local venues offer?
- What are the demographics of couples in your area?
- What are the current and local trends?
- What other wedding businesses are in the area (planners, cakes, florists, etc…)?
- Develop Your Barn Wedding Venue Business Plan and Financial Strategy
Writing up your business plan may not sound as exciting as decorating the reception space or dreaming up your Instagram feed, but it lays the groundwork for a successful business. If you’ll be taking out a business loan, working with investors, or creating a partnership to fund your barn venue, this is the first step. Part of this planning includes getting your finances organized.
Wedding venue expert and consultant Lindsay Lucas offers some sage advice for anyone starting on the path to venue ownership:
“The first mistake I see new venue owners make is not including business expenses in their loan application. If you only account for the “sexy” things like cost of land, construction, and pretty furnishings, but completely forget about the “unsexy” things like insurance, attorney fees, utilities, permits, software, a venue consultant, marketing and advertising, etc., then you’re already digging yourself into a hole. You need to account for all costs involved.”
It might be the less exciting (and even sometimes scary) part of opening your new venue, but it’s a necessary step for success. Get organized with these questions:
- Will you be renovating a barn, building a new barn, or taking over an existing barn venue?
- Do you have a down payment?
- If you have a business partner(s), who is financially responsible for what?
- What kinds of financing will you use (loans, business credit, SBA loan, equipment financing, other)?
- What kinds of tax responsibilities do you need to plan for?
- What kinds of business and/or liability insurance will you need?
- How many employees will you need to hire?
- What kind of licenses, certificates, or permits are required by your state?
- Settle on Your Event Space
Once you’ve tackled all the business and logistic issues of running a barn venue and are still on board with this adventure, it’s time for the fun part! Perhaps you’ve already found the perfect location – or even the perfect barn.
But, if you’re still searching for the one, you’ll first need to decide where you want your venue. Will you stay in your hometown or venture elsewhere?
Then, start doing your research. Look for barns on property sites or consider building your own on the perfect piece of land. How much will you offer on-site? Be sure to keep any extra offerings (kitchen, accommodation, storage, etc…) in mind when doing your research.
- Make it Official and Start Marketing
You’ve got your wedding barn and all the business basics figured out – now it’s time to make it official with your branding. You’ll need to decide on a name for your wedding barn venue, a brand identity, a logo, and a website.
One of the most important parts of launching your wedding barn marketing strategy is establishing your “USP” or unique selling proposition. What makes your wedding barn irresistible? How does your mission align with your ideal client’s wedding dream? How do you offer a service that is unlike any other?
After focusing in on your wedding barn’s unique identity, it’s time to show the world:
- Hire a professional photographer to capture your venue’s charm.
- Work with a brand and web designer to create an online presence that welcomes guests even before they step foot on your property.
- Reach out to local wedding vendors to forge solid relationships that benefit both parties.
- Create social media accounts to further your reach and attract bookings.
- List your wedding barn on venue directories or marketplaces.
- Advertise online and in wedding-based or local publications.
Start Making Dreams Come True!
Starting a wedding barn venue is quite the endeavor, but it’s all worth it once you open your doors to the amazing couples who want to share their magical moments with you.
Before you head off to planning your new barn wedding venue, take these words from our venue consultant Lindsay to heart:
“Remember when you planned your first wedding or when you shot your first event? You had no clue what you were doing, but you figured it out. The best gift you gave yourself was courage. Dig deep and find that again. When you find it, use it to do your homework and set yourself up for success by making a business plan, figuring out a finance option that works for your situation, keep your head up, and surround yourself with trustworthy cheerleaders. Opening a wedding venue is definitely a long game but the greatest success stories came from individuals who were relentless in the pursuit of their dream. Being relentless takes courage; find yours and own it. You’ve got this, my friend!”
P.S. Ready to get inspired? Check out these gorgeous wedding barn venues and start fantasizing about your vision!
- A classy, minimalist’s wedding barn dream
- A rustic and cozy place to say “I do”
- A creative wedding barn & trolley venue
- A barn wedding – desert style
- A wedding barn that’s full of whimsy