There is something so charming about a country wedding. And for horse-lovers especially, getting married against a backdrop of big sky and sprawling fields, in the presence of friends and family – both two- and four-legged – is particularly appealing.
With the revival of so many century barns and farmsteads in Canada, options are opening up for couples who are looking for a relaxed and rustic setting, which can support the addition of contemporary and elegant themes such as country-chic or romantic-country.
Whether you decide to hold your wedding on your own property or rent a facility, when it comes to farm weddings, there are a number of factors to consider to ensure that you and your guests are happy and comfortable.
Use the following list of farm wedding planning tips to help you pull off the country wedding of your dreams.
Know the laws. Make sure you know what permits or licenses your city/province requires for hosting a wedding on your property beforehand. Breaking fire safety regulations or liquor license laws can result in some extremely high fines, and having your wedding day shut down halfway through by the Fire Marshall would certainly put a damper on the festivities.
Understand the costs. Keep in mind that when you host a wedding in a venue that is not specifically designed for this type of event, you will end up needing to rent everything yourself. This can include toilets, tables and chairs, dishes, cutlery, lighting and even cooking equipment. If you’re not careful, these additional costs can add up to more than you would pay at a regular wedding venue.
Know the lay of the land. Whether you are using your own farm or a borrowed or rented property, be sure to take a good look at the land and plan out how the day will run – from where the ceremony and reception will be held, to where the food, bar and washroom facilities will be set up, to where people will park. Make sure there is enough space to accommodate these and offer a comfortable, sensible flow.
Get help. Events of this size take a lot of coordination and cooperation. Think in advance of which friends and family members you can tag to help make sure the event runs smoothly. Otherwise, hire a wedding planner or other helpers for the day to make sure things run smoothly while you enjoy yourself.
Book vendors well in advance. Look into caterers, liquor licenses and equipment rentals as soon as possible and be sure to get signed contracts for your date when you make a deposit in order to ensure your booking.
Consider guest safety. Not all of your guests may be accustomed to life on the farm. Make sure any horses or other livestock are secure and consider appointing someone familiar with the animals to keep an eye on any interaction between them and the guests. If your horses or other animals (think doggy ring bearer, for example) will be used in the ceremony, make sure you have an experienced handler secured to take care of the animals before and after their part.
Consider guest comfort. Make sure there are enough, clean and well-stocked washroom facilities available for guests. If the ceremony and/or reception are outdoors, be sure to provide a form of shelter from the elements, such as a tent, and enough seating. You may consider giving out ‘sunbrellas,’ hand-held fans and sunscreen, and having insect repellent and blankets on-hand for later in the evening. A supply of antihistamines for allergy suffers might also be appreciated!
Institute a dress code. Be sure to advise guests to dress appropriately for the occasion. You can simply note on your invitations that the attire is “country casual.” The only thing worse than looking out of place at a wedding, is being uncomfortably dressed…who wants to take a wagon ride in a cocktail dress?
Use the farm as inspiration for your theme. You can incorporate touches of rustic charm on your invitations and in your décor, from traditional country to more elegant details. You can also pay homage to the farm through your menu with locally raised and grown proteins and vegetables, and homemade jams and preserves make excellent wedding favours.
Use the space for fun. One of the best parts about hosting a wedding on a farm is the amount of space you will likely have – use it to your advantage. This is the perfect opportunity to add some games during cocktail hour, or host a bonfire and s’mores bar later in the evening. With enough space, you can even allow guests to pitch a tent and camp out, which provides a safe alternative to driving home.
Have a back-up plan. Don’t assume the weather will be good. If the wedding will be outdoors, ensure that you have plenty of space indoors should the weather turn. Renting a tent is a good way to provide shelter – just make sure it’s big enough to accommodate all of your guests and planned activities.
GET GREAT PHOTOS
What’s a farm wedding without photos of the bride and groom on horseback? After you’ve said your vows and provided guests with some food and drinks, it’s time to have some fun in front of the camera. It might be wise to get all of your formal shots out of the way before you pull your horses out for their turn, however. Because, as we all know, no matter how well-groomed, or well-mannered they may be, with horses comes dirt and the unexpected!
Choosing the right photographer for the job is essential. Finding someone with horse experience, who can tell a nice equine expression from a grumpy one, is a bonus. In today’s wedding photography, there is an array of styles that can become the ‘signature’ for certain professionals. Take the time to research several photographers in your area to see how your day will be represented.
“From a photographer’s point of view, a farm wedding is no different from any other wedding,” said highly sought after Winnipeg-based wedding photographer Liane V. Bergen. “For all weddings, you have to roll with the punches, expect the unexpected, be on your game, connect with people, entertain people, watch for beautiful spots of light, keep the timeline in mind and try to keep people on schedule.”
A farm wedding usually lends itself to a large territory to cover, however, so having a photographer that is in good shape to follow you and your wedding party around is relevant. Having two photographers shoot as a team can add a greater ‘dimension’ to your wedding photographs. Two photographers not only means more variety, but more photos as well.
It’s a good idea to create a vision board that showcases your ideas, dreams and inspirations, to share with your photographer before the big day. Do this before you start Googling and referring to boards like Pinterest, so that your own vision is represented. Try not to get caught up in the expectations of others, keep the focus on what is important to you and your groom.Remember, the intimate details of your vision are what guests will remember.
KATY AND JAKE’S SPECIAL DAY
Katy and Jake Drummond’s Heritage Stables served as a stunning location for their wedding.
A horse-drawn carriage will make any bride feel like a princess on her wedding day.
Katy and Jake Drummond were married last year on their own farm in Merrickville, Ontario. Leading up to the big day, the couple worked tirelessly to renovate their 100-year-old barn, and ready the grounds. It took them a year of planning and preparation, and the help of family and friends, to meet their goal.
Set against their richly painted red barn, Katy and Jake went from being “hooked to hitched,” attended by an intimate crowd, a musical quartet, Lexi, the canine ring bearer, and their herd of eight horses in a nearby paddock.
The Drummonds opted for a sweet, but simple country feel with their décor. “We made all of our own decorations,” said Katy. “Our friends contributed time and decorative touches as their wedding gifts to us.” Some of the highlights included: round bales converted to cocktail tables using plywood and topped with tablecloths, candles and field flowers in mason jars; cold drinks served in old-fashioned glass milk bottles; and an antique ice-filled bathtub serving as a cooler.
The Drummonds’ wedding is an example of how a combination of hard work, good friends and good weather can come together and make for a lovely experience.