Why is everybody getting married in a barn?


It’s early May. Which means it’s wedding season. Which means a whole lot of Americans will soon be partying in a barn.

Millennials, in staggering numbers, are choosing to start their married lives under high eaves and exposed beams, looking out over long, stripped-down wooden benches and lines of mason jars.

According to an annual survey from The Knot, an online wedding-planning platform and magazine, 15 percent of couples chose a barn, farm, or ranch for their wedding reception in 2017, up from just 2 percent in 2009.

Meanwhile, more traditional wedding locales are losing their appeal. (The number of couples choosing to celebrate in banquet halls dropped from 27 percent in 2009 to 17 percent in 2017; similarly, hotel receptions dropped from 18 to 12 percent.)

Even if a couple isn’t actually getting married in a barn, there’s a good chance they’ll make their venue look like one, said Gabrielle Stone, a wedding planner based in Boston, Massachusetts.

“There is this term that people use now: rustic chic.” Typically, that means couples will fill the space with homemade chalkboard signs and distressed, vintage furniture.

“And wooden water barrels,” Stone said. “Lots of water barrels.”

When I asked my first question—are barns popular because they’re cheap?—Gwen Helbush, a wedding planner from San Francisco, laughed. “Don’t we wish it were so,” she said.

While there are, surely, many relatively inexpensive barn weddings thrown in actual barns, by couples who actually live in rural areas with easy actual-barn access, anecdotal evidence suggests those probably aren’t what’s driving this trend.

Over the last few years, a wave of faux-barns, designed exclusively to host weddings, have popped up across the country.

Venues like Virginia’s Pippin Hill Farm, built in 2011, offer an experience that its owner Lynn Easton Andrews called “expensively understated.”

“We’re not seeing bales of hay in the middle of the barn,” Stone said.

“No one is wearing overalls, per se.”

The tarnished brass lamps and faded couches are generally hauled in from boutique vintage rental companies—another business booming with the barn-wedding industry—more akin to props than random, left-over farming accoutrements.

Like earlier generations of Americans, Millennials want a beautiful (read: expensive) wedding. According to one widely-cited set of statistics, the average wedding cost has been steadily increasing, from US$27,021 in 2011 to US$33,391 in 2017.

But, despite these price tags, many young couples today don’t want to be showy about it.

Happier at a brewery than a fancy restaurant, accustomed to wearing jeans to work, many Millennials are proudly casual. Continue reading

  • Caroline Kitchener is an associate editor at The Atlantic. She graduated from Princeton in 2014 with a degree in History and Gender and Sexuality Studies.
  • Image: Yale

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