Illinois Brides and Grooms Tie The Knot at Barn Weddings (VIDEO)
“Going to the chapel” may be a longstanding tradition for brides and grooms, but wedding parties across Illinois and the entire United States have headed for a new kind of venue – barns. The rustic, outdoorsy feel and quiet country setting of a barn accented by magical twinkling lights or cascading fountains provides the backdrop for an unforgettable ceremony with plenty of room for guests to roam.
“There is a feeling in a barn that makes you feel so welcome and comfortable,” says Kali Livengood, who owns Livengood’s Barn in Chadwick with her husband, Ed. “Also, some of the most beautiful pictures come from inside barns. I love a ceremony picture taken from the floor with the couple holding hands and the lights against the aged wood. It’s just beautiful.”
Livengood’s Barn sits on 20 acres of peaceful pastures and gently rolling hills in northwest Illinois. Ed and Kali Livengood purchased the land in 2014 with the intention of using it for their herd of cattle. When some friends asked if they could get married in the barn, the Livengoods spruced it up with a deep cleaning and springtime makeover. The first wedding at Livengood’s Barn happened in May 2015.
“After some discussion, we decided it would be fun to do a few weddings per year and celebrate with couples on their special day,” Kali says. “We have been having a blast ever since. We hosted over 20 weddings in 2016, and 2017 is looking much the same.”
Despite its rural setting, the barn has modern conveniences.
“Our barn is a little unique in that we are completely climate controlled with heating, air and indoor plumbing,” she says. “Along with the barn, we have a few acres available to our couples that includes a pond and beautiful areas for ceremonies and pictures.”
The Livengoods continue to farm with Ed’s parents, running a cow/calf operation (which means raising cows to give birth to calves) and growing hay, rye and corn silage (compacted plants stored in airtight conditions) to feed their cows. They belong to a growing trend of farmers across the nation who have added value to their farms by renting their property for special events.
“I work in education, and Ed works in agriculture, so this is something we do together with our three kids. The barn project uses the abilities of both of us – I’m in charge of bookings, organizing and communicating with couples, hired help and vendors,” Kali says. “Ed keeps us running, doing projects around the barn with the help of my dad, along with constant maintenance and upkeep. Our kids get to see what it means to put your heart into a project, and they help set up for events.”
The opportunity to provide a place of happiness for couples has made the barn rewarding.
“This is a place they will have memories of for the rest of their lives,” Kali says. “It’s amazing to watch couples come to the barn, each a little different, but each rooted in love and what their lives will mean together. It’s hard not to make your own life that much sweeter, even with the countless hours of work that go into getting to that moment.”
Summer Breeze Barn Venue & Bridal Cottage
Tammy and Mark Lash of St. Elmo own Summer Breeze Barn Venue & Bridal Cottage in central Illinois, but they got started differently than the Livengoods. They live in a rural area, but don’t farm – Mark has a construction business, while Tammy has a kitchen cabinet business, and together they flip homes. In 2012, they bought and remodeled an old country cottage, turning it into a wine bar and event space for bridal showers and birthday parties.
“Literally right across the road was a 4-acre property that had a barn,” Tammy says. “The weeds were so tall you couldn’t even see the barn, but I knew it was there. Lo and behold, the property came up for sale, so we bought it in 2014.”
The Lashes cleaned out manure and hay and hauled off old equipment left behind in the circa-1875 barn. During the next couple years, the barn underwent various remodeling projects.
“We poured concrete, added bathrooms and a screened-in porch, and put insulation and siding on the outside,” Tammy says. “We also added heat and air conditioning, took out the hay loft so you can see up to the barn’s 25-foot ceiling, and added a chandelier. We used an old farm sink to create a water feature that creates a waterfall flowing in a circle, symbolic of a wedding ring.”
Now in its third season, Summer Breeze Barn Venue & Bridal Cottage hosts about 15 weddings each year as well as Brownstown High School’s prom, an annual Christmas Eve church service, and two festivals on Memorial and Labor Day weekends.
“We’ve become a destination for out-of-state brides because we’re centrally located for families spread out across the country,” Tammy says. “We’ve had brides from Alaska, California, New York and New Jersey. The fact we do all-inclusive weddings is a big deal, too – we can provide the caterer, baker, florist, hairstylist and the DJ. Brides can just show up and enjoy their wedding day.”
The appeal goes beyond the barn and bridal cottage. Wedding guests have four acres to spread out and relax.
“They can have a fire pit in the evening or set off sparklers,” Tammy says. “Wedding parties can do things here that they can’t do on a concrete parking lot. More city girls are seeing Pinterest images of barn weddings, and they want to capture that laid-back country lifestyle. They enjoy having pictures taken on a country road or in a cornfield.”
Sometimes the experience is about coming home.
“Occasionally, we get brides who used to live around here and moved to the city, and they want to relive that experience and show their friends what a day in the country feels like,” Tammy says. “Every time a couple says their vows, I get goosebumps. I love being part of a couple’s history and new beginnings.”