Appalachian Barn Weddings

Published on March 16, 2015
Written by Ray Access

For the right couples, this is the ultimate experience

Weddings today are family affairs. The bride’s family meets the groom’s family, with a few assorted friends of both sprinkled into the mix. They can be big or small, indoors or outdoors, catered or pot luck, but they always celebrate the joining of two people.

Back in the settler days, Appalachian weddings were community affairs. They didn’t celebrate the joining of two people so much as the joining of two families. And the whole community participated. So the best place to have a wedding was in the barn, of course.

The Bride of Necessity

What is now a fashionable idea began as a necessity. When the whole community (or sometimes two whole communities) wanted to celebrate together, the largest structures in the area were the barns. It must have seemed natural to Christian settlers of the time to join together a man and a woman in holy matrimony in a barn, so close to nature and so like a manger.

While churches could host the ceremony, you couldn’t hold a reception celebration there. Besides, even back then, there were occasional “shotgun weddings” that wouldn’t have seemed right to hold in the church. Plus, barns were more plentiful than churches. So barn weddings became increasingly popular.

Barn Weddings Today

As farmland becomes more and more scarce, the picturesque barns that dot the mountain landscape have become more difficult to find. As the number of farms dwindled, so too did the number of shotgun weddings. The need for barn weddings disappeared along with the number of farmers’ daughters.

But thanks to the magic of marketing, the desire for Appalachian barn weddings is on the rise. Many of the remaining barns now cater to brides, grooms and their families. Rustic barns with modern conveniences house catered affairs throughout the Southern Appalachian region. Wherever there’s a barn -- on a hilltop or in a field, on a working farm or ranch or just on some old property -- you can find someone willing to rent it for a wedding.

Barn Wedding Tips

So if you’re considering an old-fashioned Appalachian barn wedding, find the location you like, whether in the mountains or on the piedmont, and book your date. Then let the planning begin! Here are some fun tips for your big day:

  • Send out old-fashioned wedding invitations. Pretend it’s for a public lecture, circa 1915.
  • Ditch your heels for cowboy boots. Kick up some fun and dance the night away.
  • The groom and groomsmen should definitely wear suspenders. Definitely.
  • Instead of walking down the aisle, how about riding sidesaddle? Daddy can still escort you.
  • Forget the DJ; hire a mountain string band. The music will get everyone in the spirit.
  • Decorate your wedding barn with printed burlap and antique signs.
  • Bales of hay make incredibly apt benches along the walls.
  • Eat on good china, but drink from mason jars. Is it moonshine or punch?
  • Place cards printed to look like seed packets… or you can use real seed packets.
  • Remember the flowers. You will need lots and lots of flowers, especially local varieties.
  • Deputize the largest man at the reception. It’s his job to arrest guests and escort them to the dance floor.
  • Barn games, like cornhole and pin the tail on the donkey, can be a surprise hit.

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