Walking down the aisle of a barn has been all the rage in recent years. Brides looking for a rustic or country feel have been setting their sights on aged barn wood to contrast their wedding white and the venue owners have had fully booked weekends because of it.
Cindy Russell’s grandparents, Fred and Dorothy Cornelius, built their barn near Kellyville, Oklahoma, in the 1940s, and Russell’s father, Randall Cornelius, now owns it along with her mother, Donna. The property is known as Mountain Creek Lodge of Oklahoma.
“Before my grandmother passed away, she wanted to see the barn restored,” Russell said. “Over time the barn had started taking some hits with age and weather. We wanted to restore it correctly so we got a rock mason and shored up all the original walls to it and made sure everything was safe and structurally sound.”
Next, the Cornelius family went in and reinforced the beams for the roof. Originally the barn had a dirt floor, but Russell says her family decided to go in and level everything out and pour a concrete floor, which was later stained.
“We didn’t go into this project to renovate it for a venue,” Russell explained. “Originally it was to be used for offices for a sister company on the property, but then people from our area started approaching us asking to use the barn for weddings and parties. That gave us a clue that there might be a need that we could fulfil in the community.”
A country bride’s dream
The barn is about 2,000 square feet and Russell says the family added 20 feet to each end of the structure for more space. All of the rock on the outside of the barn was sourced from the ranch itself. The weddings and events take place on the original barn’s floor. Downstairs is a new addition and spiral staircase. The original tack room has now been converted to a full bathroom. The full kitchen is located in what was once the feed room. Upstairs, which used to be a hayloft, is now divided into two suites, one for the bride and bridesmaids and the other for the groom and groomsmen. The suites are both fully equipped with separate restrooms. The venue also has air conditioning and heat along with two gas fireplaces. In 2013, Russell says Mountain Creek Lodge started booking events and has not slowed down a bit. She says so far they have held around 150 weddings at the barn.
“It was a labor of love, but it was also time consuming and it did take quite a bit of financial resources,” Russell said.
One topic Russell says is crucial to running a successful venue like this is insurance.
“You’ve got to carry liability insurance,” she said. “If an event has alcohol served, we require wedding insurance that has host liquor liability to make sure our couples are protected.”
Russell says she encourages others to consider turning their barns into venues, but warns it is not as simple as just transforming the venue. You have to consider customer service, advertising and a lot of intangibles you might not see on the surface. However, she says the pros have far outweighed the cons during her barn venue experience this far.
“We’ve been able to maintain our connection to the community, but we’ve also been able to expand out of our community and help others in the area,” Russell said.
She says having joyous celebrations in the family barn has been meaningful and she knows her grandparents would delight in the barn providing so much use for years to come. Russell says repurposing aging barns also prevents these historical structures from slowly deteriorating, along with their rich history.
“Restoring these barns as well as building new ones to use as venues is not only providing extra income for rural landowners, it is also keeping our agricultural roots alive.”
Lacey Newlin can be reached at email@example.com.