Barn Weddings – Buyer Beware

Creemore barn wedding | rustic venues Ontario

Private Barn Wedding | Southern Ontario | Photo by Jennifer Klementti



It’s a couple’s worst nightmare.

Just months before the wedding they’ve been planning meticulously for over a year, they learn that their dream barn venue has locked its doors. Possibly for a few months. Possibly forever.

Why? A neighbour’s complaints escalated, and now the venue’s future is tangled up in the courts.

I wish this was a fictional story, but sadly it’s true. Recently I received a call from a bride’s desperate mother. Her daughter’s spring 2017 wedding is now in jeopardy while her barn venue shuts down to sort out sudden legal issues. Guests are coming from overseas. Flights and hotel rooms have been booked. With only months to go, a bride and groom are without a wedding venue. The bride’s mother called to enlist my help in finding another venue.

Barn venues are hugely popular, but not all barn venues are created equal. Barn venues must meet many specific criteria before they can open their doors. It takes an enormous amount of research, money (so much money), and obsessive adherence to local by-laws to operate a barn venue that is both legal and well managed. A few minor permit violations, or complaints from grouchy neighbours, and suddenly your dream becomes a nightmare.

If you’re dreaming of a barn wedding keep these few tips in mind. They are no guarantee that you won’t experience issues with your venue, but your first responsibility is to ensure your eyes are wide open.

  • check with the local municipality to learn what is required
  • ask to see all permits (they should be posted prominently)
  • the most important permit is the Occupancy Permit – the only permit that allows a barn to host a function in a barn, and is proof that it has met local requirements for zoning, building and fire codes
  • ask how long the venue has been open (newer barn venues might be “getting the bugs” out and vulnerable to problems)
  • read on-line reviews to check the venue’s reputation
  • ask a LOT of questions
  • work with a planner who has experience with barn venues

In 2016 a number of barn venues throughout southern Ontario closed temporarily or permanently. Some had to sort out permit issues. A couple closed outright because the owners realised that running a barn venue was a lot more demanding than they expected. There are some barn venues that are operating without the proper permits. If you are considering one of these, please, take my advice and run as far away as you possibly can. I don’t want any more calls from anguished mothers.





One Response to “Barn Weddings – Buyer Beware”

  1. Sarah Bunnett-Gibson Says:


    What a very important topic. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen warning signs for couples booking barn weddings.

    Thank you for sharing the details and of course, how to go about booking a barn wedding to ensure things run smoothly.


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