Chris Engelbrecht knows he won’t be taking much of a break from everything weddings until after Christmas.
He runs Engelbrecht Farm, a barn wedding venue near the Ford County city of Paxton, and people love colorful autumn and holiday weddings, he said.
“It’s always been the busy season in the fall with all the colors,” Engelbrecht said.
People come from as far as Texas, Colorado and Michigan to say their vows in his big white barn. Usually October weddings are booked a full two years in advance, he said.
At the beginning, he didn’t plan to run a wedding venue. The farmer was just fixing up the house.
“I had to because Grandma asked me to,” he said of restoring the home on the farmstead his grandparents bought in 1962. “It was in bad shape. It took a while to make it structurally sound.”
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But the old farm house with its 1890s oak floors came back to life, he said.
After more than two years of delays and cancellations, weddings are bouncing back with a bang.
His family held Thanksgiving and Christmas at the house before he had the idea of fixing up the barn for ceremonies and using the house as a beautiful place for the bride, groom and families to stay.
Engelbrecht, who farms and also owns a manufacturing business, was told to expect maybe three or four weddings a year. That sounded like something he could manage between his other endeavors.
But by the second year he had 10 weddings, and by the third year it was fully booked with 27 weddings.
The barn is larger than many in Illinois. That combined with the historic house for overnight guests made his reservation list grow.
When the pandemic struck and there could be no weddings for a while, Engelbrecht took the opportunity to do major maintenance and improvements to the barn, including adding a second heating and cooling system.
Bookings were boosted with people holding weddings that were delayed by the pandemic.
The venue is fully booked the rest of this year, next year it’s close to full and he is already receiving reservations for 2024, he said.
Maggie Taylor of Delight Flowers in rural Champaign County says her wedding business took off when the pandemic disrupted flower farms in South America.
The pandemic also affected the flower business of Maggie Taylor of Delight Flowers in rural Champaign County. Before the pandemic, she supplied flowers directly to weddings.
When the pandemic disrupted South American flower farms, which were the largest suppliers of retail flower businesses in Illinois, Taylor stepped in to serve retailers with local flowers. Many of the South American flower farms went out of business so Taylor continues to supply local retailers.
“It changed the flower industry,” she said.
She said she is still seeing the surge of demand for weddings from people who postponed because of the pandemic.
“Dahlias are one of the most popular flowers now,” she said, and they don’t ship well, so it is best to buy locally.
“They are a diva of flowers,” she said.
The blooms are big and have to be staked. Pests like them, and dahlias don’t overwinter well. She has to dig up and divide the tubers to be planted again in the spring. As for pests, because she grows organic flowers and doesn’t use pesticides, she individually nets each bud before it blooms to let the light and moisture in but protect the delicate dahlias from pests.
In the past, fall weddings were more burgundy and blush. Today, peach and terra cotta colors lead the trend for fall weddings. Terra cotta isn’t common in flowers — but the dahlia does come in such shades. Varieties of rudbeckia, similar to black-eyed Susans but in a copper color, are also popular this year.
Millet and eucalyptus are also popular for weddings today, she said.
Engelbrecht often gets inquiries from other farmers thinking about making a barn into a wedding and event venue.
He cautions them to think of all the consequences, and realize that during harvest season, their farm will not be their farm. Engelbrecht can’t harvest on the weekends during wedding season and has to get any equipment out of the barns on that farm and move to another location to be ready.
He said he could never live on the same farm as the weddings.
Sometimes farmers think it would be a “cash cow” until they learn that they might need to install an elevator to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and also have fully accessible washroom facilities, buy liability insurance and add security cameras to cut down on thefts.
Farmers with wedding venues also must install “physical barriers” at their grain bins or anywhere else people might get hurt. Just posting a sign is not enough to protect you from liability, he said.
There are other considerations. The venue requires “nonstop” maintenance. The farm owner has to manage employees. Engelbrecht has six.
“If you want the Fourth of July off, probably not. If you want Christmas or Thanksgiving, probably not,” he said.
At one point he had two weddings back to back when the guests were rude and disrespectful to him, he said.
“I would have pulled the plug if the next wedding had not been a Norman Rockwell one that brought my spirit back,” he said.
Tips on saving money for outdoor weddings
Tips on saving money for outdoor weddings
There’s something special about outdoor weddings, whether on a beach, in a scenic garden, or against a breathtaking mountainous backdrop. The natural elements add a unique aesthetic to the occasion.
According to a February 2022 survey of more than 15,000 U.S. couples who were married in 2021, The Knot found the average overall cost of a wedding was $34,000, while venues cost $10,700 on average. It also found that 62% of wedding ceremonies occurred either fully or partially outside.
The common reality many couples face when budgeting for a wedding is the costs are usually higher than they’ve anticipated. Giggster compiled this list of 10 ways to help save money on an outdoor wedding using research from across the internet.
When planning an outdoor wedding, it’s important to take the guests’ experience into account. If you have an outdoor wedding in the middle of the summer, factor in a possible heat wave and its effects on elderly guests or those who may be prone to summer allergies. And don’t forget about the bugs.
Whether it’s getting creative with the type of locale for that special day, opting for DIY items, or trimming down the guest list, read on for more ideas on how to pull off a memorable and affordable outdoor wedding.
Try nontraditional venues (or free public options)
You and your fiance are set on having an outdoor wedding at a nontraditional venue but haven’t decided where. You both know one thing: You don’t want to go into debt for your special day.
This is where creativity is key. Whether you’re considering securing a treehouse venue, exchanging your vows with a scenic mountain view or at a park, or hosting your wedding in a relative’s backyard, nontraditional wedding venues not only cut back on costs but create unforgettable experiences for guests. For public options, be sure to check with your local officials to see if you need a permit.
Don’t schedule the wedding on a Saturday
The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed how people plan celebratory events, including weddings. Saturdays have often been the go-to day for the occasion. Many guests travel from afar to partake and even make a weekend out of it. Since many people typically have off from work on weekends, Saturdays have become the de facto day for wedding celebrations.
Weekday weddings however are becoming increasingly popular for budget-conscious couples. Vendors are most likely available on Mondays or Thursdays, while Fridays and Sundays can sometimes be challenging to secure. This is exacerbated by the logjam from pandemic-driven postponements in 2020 and 2021, which are now spilling over into 2022 and even early 2023.
Book somewhere with on-site catering
The average cost of catering for a wedding is $75 per person, per The Knot. And with the ongoing supply chain issues and inflation not abating, these prices will most likely increase. On-site catering, if available, can mitigate costs and save time on trekking in food from another location.
Choose a location with bathrooms on-site
While some couples may get caught up in the rustic aesthetics of a farm wedding—from the lower cost to the idea of getting to decorate to your heart’s content—many fail to consider electrical or plumbing logistics for guests and vendors. Many farms do not have the septic ability to handle more than around 20 guests at a time.
Renting bathroom trailers can cost thousands of dollars. While portable bathrooms for these types of events can be more upscale than what you might see at a street fair, the setup could require water and electrical access, which could place the bathrooms in an awkward location.
Hold the ceremony and reception in the same place
Having the wedding ceremony and reception in one location saves money and time for the wedding party and guests. It also allows more time for photos and saves on having to decorate a second venue. And keeping the entire wedding at the same venue can mitigate the chances of something going wrong.
Make sure the reception is on level ground
A tented wedding is expensive: Renting floors for the reception can run costs upward by several thousand dollars. Whether you’re having your wedding reception in a garden, at a country club, or in a loved one’s backyard, having a plan for the reception setup is key.
In addition to having a layout that allows guests to move around freely, having the reception on level ground can cut costs significantly.
Ensure reliable power sources are nearby
Make sure any outdoor location is fully equipped with the appropriate power source to ensure the wedding reception goes smoothly. For some outdoor weddings, a generator may be needed. The DJ will require adequate electricity so their equipment can run without glitches that could ruin the moment, and a microphone and speakers must sufficiently amplify toasts by friends and family.
Bring your own liquor
The Knot 2021 Real Wedding Study found the average amount spent on alcohol-related services for weddings in 2021 was $2,300. It’s a good chunk of change just for drinks, but for many couples, libations at a wedding are a must. There are ways to lessen the costs if a budget doesn’t allow for an open bar.
A self-service bar can save some money for small weddings held in private spaces—you can select the drink offerings and guests can help themselves. However, if you’re leaning toward providing your own alcohol, check with the venue for details regarding liquor licenses and permits.
Crowdsource chairs, tents, and more
Rather than renting items necessary for an outdoor wedding, such as canopies, tents, or other decorative items, couples can consider borrowing items from friends and family. Basic items that many people may already own, such as tables and seating, can be spruced up with decor.
In many cases, loved ones will be more than happy to help, knowing they are contributing by helping you save and making your celebration special.
Plan as far ahead as possible
People are often surprised how many items for a wedding celebration are rented, rather than purchased. There’s the tent rental, tables, chairs, pole covers, and if the wedding is in a rural venue, a generator, as well. While these items may seem simple to get, it’s helpful to finalize everything two to three months prior to the wedding.
It’s also beneficial to purchase a wedding dress, if needed, as soon as possible. This helps avoid rush fees, which can cost as much as $500, and pricey last-minute alterations. Overall, proper planning helps to cut down on last-minute fees.
The average length of time that a couple is engaged in the U.S. is 12 to 18 months. While the engagement phase is usually an exciting time, it also calls for a great deal of planning and preparation. For outdoor weddings, extra planning is crucial to ensure things go as smoothly as possible.
This story originally appeared on Giggster and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.
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