How to Decorate a Barn for a Wedding Reception

With the right preparation, you can have a special event

By Steve Smith

Evening Wedding Reception at Red Barn
Photo by Jen Huang PhotographyBookmark and Share

A barn is a beautiful place to hold a wedding reception. Traditional, rustic and full of character, it can provide you with a truly special ceremony. Obviously, barns were not built to host weddings, so decorating them can be difficult. If you plan on decorating a barn for a wedding, be ready for a lot of preparation and work and use these tips.

  • What You Need to Know
  • If it's an active barn, remove all the animals, hay and farm equipment. Allow the barn to air out by opening the doors and windows. Then clean the barn thoroughly. Touch up the paint around the doorways and trim. You may want to lay down a tarp or some other covering or keep it natural. Be sure to guide your guests as to how to dress for the occasion. Also pay special attention to your lighting needs, both inside and outside the barn. Ask your friends and family members if they have any experience or ideas for decorating a barn for a wedding.
Getting the Barn Ready

Step 1:

Measure the barn using a tape measure and create a layout on graph paper at a ratio of one graph square equals one square foot. Then plan where you want to place the tables, altar, chairs and band. Be sure to follow the graph measurements carefully.

Step 2:

Mark the places to put your decorations and use the graph paper to measure how many you will need and what the lengths of the sashes, tulle ribbons and other decor should be.

Step 3:

Decorate each stall post inside with a pew bow and wrap the posts in tulle or sashes to give them a romantic look. String tulle or sashes from the barn rafters, using a staple gun or wire to attach the sash material to the posts.

Step 4:

If you have a bar, set it up inside the barn and decorate it with traditional bar stools and a real antique bar top. A saloon sign is also a great touch. You can find these in antique stores or at bar supply stores. Or have a saloon sign made with the couple's name.

Step 5:

Light the barn with Christmas tree lights or traditional lanterns, which can be hung from the barn posts to add interior light to the barn. You can also use vases with flowers and water lights to create lighted decor at various spots in the barn. Lights are a nice touch near the bar and band area.

Step 6:

Place flowers and potted shrubs outside the barn along the entrance. You can also place some of the farm equipment outside on the lawn to add some atmosphere. Sunflowers and large lilies are best to complement the large barn structure. If it is fall, use pumpkins and squash to line the entrance and add charm to the scene.

Step 7:

Add antique items such as traditional lanterns, butter churners and old farm tools to make your interior look rustic and unique. You can also add a gazebo outside on the lawn.

  • Tips & Warnings
  • Check with your wedding planner and venue owner about restrictions for holding an event in the barn. For example, decorations using open flames may be forbidden because the barn is made mostly of wood.
  • If you hire a wedding planner, find one who has had experience using a barn as a location for a wedding.
  • Be sure there is enough electricity running to the barn and you can handle all yours needs, including power for the band and adequate lighting.
  • If children are going to be running around and if alcohol is going to be served, keep open flames to a minimum, if using them at all.
  • Don't forget: Whatever you put up, someone will have to take down.

About the Author

Steve Smith is a freelance writer on topics including travel and weddings.

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Planning Reminder:

large floral centerpiece on table

Order centerpieces

Determine your centerpiece approach and start ordering. You can't go wrong with traditional floral arrangements. Candles are another option that's easy on the budget -- just group and light them. Don't be afraid of fruit either. Lemons in a tall vase make a lovely accent to a spring or summer wedding.

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Wedding Glossary


A decorative element where fabric is draped to form a curve between two points. Often seen on the skirts of tables or as an effect to create the ceiling of a tent.

View the Full Weddings Glossary
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