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. (Data is not available broken down by race, class, geography, or anything else—a level of granularity that would surely add to the picture of who is buoying this trend and why.)