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Should I turn my barn into a wedding venue?

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Home > Education & Events > September 2020 > Should I turn my barn into a wedding venue?
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A decade ago, who would've thought the chic, ritzy — and wildly expensive — wedding industry would turn away from country clubs and hotel ballrooms toward rural America instead? That's exactly the trend.

According to The Knot, an online wedding planning forum and magazine, 15% of couples said "I do" in a barn, or on a farm or ranch in 2017. Up 13% from just eight years earlier. What's more, the trend shows no signs of slowing down.

Savvy people all across the country are tapping into this new revenue stream by converting their barns into wedding venues. It can be a great way to use existing assets to subsidize a rural lifestyle. Should you hop on that hayride and monetize your country property?

The answer is, that depends. Let's look deeper.

What's behind the barn wedding trend?
In a word: millennials. These young people, who are famously casual and laid back, don't want their parents' (or even older siblings') stuffy, formal wedding celebrations. That's not who they are. This is the avocado-toast-eating, man-bun-wearing, beer-fridge-in-the-office generation.

Today's couples are choosing to begin their lives together in ways that reflect their values. That means a suit, not a tux; a wedding dress that's the antithesis of Princess Diana's; local, craft cocktails rather than fancy champagne. All in an atmosphere that's less uptown and more down home.

But that doesn't mean there's hay on the floor, a vague musty smell hanging in the air and Bossie in her stall waiting for milking time. The current catchphrase for barn weddings, "rustic chic," pretty much says it all. Imagine a barn owned by Jeff Bezos and you'll have a good picture of what these venues look like.
Think gorgeous, vaulted ceilings adorned with fairy lights, chandeliers or Game of Thrones-worthy hurricane lamps, hanging from wooden beams, vintage-inspired wrought-iron railings, and a full, rustic bar in the back staffed by serving signature cocktails.

Now, what about your barn? What will it take for you to get it to that level? If you're considering renovating a barn into a wedding or other event venue, here's some food for thought.

Related: Is it time to refinance your rural property? Factors to consider.

Zoning, permits and ordinances, oh my
This triple threat can stop your wedding venue dreams before they start. Most barns are zoned for agriculture, not commercial use. If it's zoned for agriculture, you'll likely need to apply for a variance. Lots of factors can come into play here, not the least of which is your neighbors not wanting extra traffic on their country roads every weekend.

Many areas have stipulations that music and lights need to be turned off by a certain time of night. And, in rural communities, these "gray areas" of life can be political and subject to interpretation. Check with your local authorities or zoning board to understand your options. Best see what you're facing before you spend dime one.

Is your farmland preserved?
Even if it's not a working farm anymore, your property may fall under farmland preservation laws. If it does, you might be subject to restrictions that prevent you from converting it to a use other than agriculture.

Renovate or rebuild?
This is a matter of cost, and of practicality, too. Look at your barn with a critical eye. Better yet, bring in an expert to inspect it. Rotting wood and eroding foundations? Consider rebuilding it. But if your barn has good, solid bones, renovation may be the way to go.

Can you afford the upfront costs?
The final consideration comes down to cold, hard cash. We're not talking about simply sweeping the dust out of your barn and calling it good. This is a significant investment. If you don't have cash on hand (and who does?) that means a loan. Same comment - need to review linked content. It's important to do the math at this point, but with an average barn wedding cost of $5,000 just for the venue alone, you can see the enormous income potential this type of venture promises.

If you're interested in converting your barn into a wedding venue, we can help. How about a free, no obligation financial readiness analysis? Find Your Specialist.
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