The Great Venue Hunt: Why a Red Barn Made Me Crazy, and How I Almost Needed Therapy

So begins the cold, snowy, icy, expensive Venue Hunt of 2010. I’m sure by now you know we are living in Chicago, but we drove all over God’s green Earth (or so it seemed) to find a decent venue for a small-ish (we were hoping), laid-back wedding. No ordinary banquet hall would do, and we have that strict $10k budget nipping at our heels.

And what were we even looking for in our wedding-day locale? Paying homage to our roots in rural Illinois, we ached for nothing but a country wedding ceremony outside with a rowdy reception inside an old red barn. Renovated, of course. We didn’t want our guests to freeze to death after the sun goes down or, God forbid, step in a cow pie.

And so began my first torrid venue love affair with a big red barn, hours away from my hometown.

Source for above images

The Jams would get hitched at a farm, and I didn’t care what anybody had to say about it. Just look at that country inspiration oozing from every photo! Check out the hoards of delicious wedding-y potential! Imagine a bride and her ‘maids carrying wildflowers tied up with twine!

All of that sweetness only added to my ardent love, and when budget was considered, my crush only grew: it was budget friendly and we could bring in our own food and alcohol, and only minimal decorating would be necessary.

I was so in love with the farm venue there was no breaking us up. Ever.

Until I realized that the barn would be a two to three hour drive for most of our guests, and since it’s a country barn, there weren’t a lot of hotel options for our guests to choose from. What did I expect, grandma to sleep in the back of her car? My drunk friends to try and hitch a ride 30 minutes away to the nearest town with a motel?

For a while after this realization, I was a lot like a crazed banshee: I screamed about this barn to everyone I encountered, said that if guests didn’t like it they didn’t have to come, and defended my barn love to Mr. Jam when he disagreed. I may have been hotheaded, but it was my first venue crush. And considering the emotional roller coasters that are most relationships, it was pretty close to normal.

Eventually, I calmed down and tried my best to move on, and being from rural Illinois, we searched high and low for renovated barns closer to home. We talked to farmers and random country bumpkins, reached out to people over message boards, made deals with the devil, etc. How hard could it be to find a red barn closer to home to rent for the weekend?

BUT, being from rural Illinois, one thing was certain: all of the cool barns we found were not wedding options. Why? Because they are filled with animals and farm equipment. A barn being used as a barn! Go figure.

Long story short, we kicked the barn idea to the venues-that-didn’t-work dump to join a too-small one-room schoolhouse and a multitude of state parks we crushed on first. It seemed perfect, I KNOW, but the whole reason for this wedding is to throw a kick-ass party for our guests in celebration of our unique love and lifelong commitment to each other. A cool spot two hours away couldn’t be an option for us, no matter how hard we tried to make it work.

With no suitable barn in sight, we had to move on and plan to give our guests a time they’ll never forget…closer to home…in a unique venue…within our $10,000 budget.

Did we find a place? Was our June Saturday available? How many arguments did we have over the chosen spot?! Stay tuned.

Ain’t nothin’ like a venue crush to take you back to junior high love. Can you relate? Did you turn ‘zilla defending a venue, and then it turned out to not even work for you at all? And let’s be honest…did you and your beloved agree on your final venue decision?


Mrs. Jam

Wedding Date:
June 2011
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  1. Guest Icon Guest
    Sandy Whisker, Guest @ 1:11 pm

    Just wondering where this barn is located? I am a photographer looking for something closer in central illinois around the I55 area -Pontiac-Odell area. Thanks so much

  2. Guest Icon Guest
    Steve, Guest @ 5:47 am

    @Sandy Whisker:
    After reading this blog now I see why we have couples driving all the way from central Illinois to get married at our barn wedding venue. It seems that there are very few in the Midwest to speak of. We opened our venue up for booking last summer and this spring we kick off our first weddings here at Dodson Orchards. Being in the Midwest you would think there would be tons of venues like this, but there just isn’t. Our venue happens to be over 100 years old and we’re located in Fredericktown, Missouri.

  3. Guest Icon Guest
    katie, Guest @ 9:55 pm

    Is this at walnut grove? My fiancee and I are looking for a barn… We found one we love but the only opening they have is less than 5mo away. Though we live in the country on 9acres w our own barn…. Ad a back up plan but rather enjoy our day vs playing babysitter e a guest list of 200. Please let me know of any places. We live in the northwestern suburbs of Chicago. Thanks

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