The past several years have brought about a trend leading away from traditional wedding venues like churches, reception halls, golf courses, and mansions towards the rustic barn venue. Having done many ceremonies and receptions at barn venues I have seen some common issues that come up and I'd like to offer some tips on how to improve the quality of your event if you are choosing a barn venue.
Every couple has a different definition of 'success' when it comes to their wedding day and the things that are most important to them can vary greatly. Some couples put a priority on food, some on photographs, some on decor and for some 'the party' is the most important aspect of the day.
And that's what I want to talk about today. As a DJ, obviously I want everything to go smoothly from beginning to end. Even when every other aspect of the day goes great, if the dance portion of the evening is lack-luster I leave with a feeling of failure.
Do not get the wrong idea here, Barn Weddings are great! I've seen some awesome decor, great views, they can make for some great photographs, and they're a great departure from 'the city.' Not all couples are looking for a high energy dance party, some are happy to relax and hang out with their friends and family after the formalities. If that's you then a barn wedding is probably a great fit for you. If a big, fun, dance party is one of the things that's most important to you, a barn wedding might not be right for you. If you're set on a barn wedding and a dance party here are some tips on how to make the most of it:
Most of the barn venues I've worked with have to abide by a noise ordinance because they have residential neighbors. That usually means music off by 10pm.
TIP: If you can find a barn venue that will allow you to go until Midnight (even if it has to be at a reasonable volume) you may find that to be more conducive to a great dance party.
It's HOTTT & Bright!
Here in Washington we don't believe in air conditioning. We don't put it in our apartments, we don't put it in our houses, even our schools don't have it. So it's no surprise that a barn venue isn't going to have it. If you've chosen a barn venue with a 10pm cut-off chances are your ceremony is around 3pm meaning dinner and dancing will be around 5 and 6 o'clock (the hottest part of the day.) It's really tough to get people in the dancing mood when it's hot and bright. This is especially true in July and August. The closer you are to spring or fall, the less this applies.
TIP: Fans. When choosing your venue look to see if they have fans or ask if they provide any. If they don't be sure to include some money in your budget to buy or rent some fans. It will make a huge difference in the comfort-level for you and your guests.
TIP: If it's at all possible, schedule your ceremony for 5pm. Yes, it's the hottest part of the day, but it's only about 20 minutes and then your guests can head for shade. This will move your dinner to around 7pm and dancing to around 8 or 9 o'clock. That will make a huge difference in how many people are in the mood to get their groove on. Even if you end up with only an hour or 90 minutes of dancing this way, that might be better than no dancing if you planned dancing too early.
Many barn venues have a distinct indoor and outdoor element. Some even offer yard games, outdoor lounge areas, etc.. This is the biggest thief to the dance party. If you've had an early ceremony and dinner your guests will flock to get outside to escape the heat in the barn right as dancing begins.
TIP: Make sure your DJ can setup near the door to the outside hangout area. This way they can set up a speaker or two outside so your guests can hear announcements and most importantly the music. Even if they aren't dancing, at least they'll have some music to enjoy.
TIP: If you can, rent a dance floor for outside. Even if it means you have an indoor dance floor and an outdoor dance floor. If it's cooler outside, your guests will be more inclined to hit the dance floor there than inside especially as it gets darker and cooler. Wedding guests are more likely to dance on a well defined dance floor than an general area that we call the "dance floor."
Your Guests & You
One of the things I try to impress up on the couples I work with is:
Your guests will be where you are. If you want them on the dance floor, you need to be on the dance floor.
Things rings especially true at barn weddings. It's your day, and you're the center of attention. Your guests will go where you do.
Love your vendors
As I was writing this post, another wedding vendor posted in a group I'm apart of talking about the perils of rustic venues. If your cake maker has to roll your cake on a cart across dirt and gravel that can stir up a bunch of dust that covers everything, including the cake. And that's if it doesn't get rattled to pieces first. Every vendor needs a close place to park to unload, setup, etc.. Lack of storage and/or refrigeration can be a hurdle too. Try to keep those types of logistics in mind and choose your venue wisely. Some are better than others.