Sunday, August 3, 2014

Barn weddings pit neighbor against neighbor as new types of rural nuisance

The New York Times ran a front-page story today titled,  "Neighbors Say Barn Wedding Raise a Rumpus."  The dateline is Grant, Minnesota, population 4,096, and here's the lede for Julie Bosman's story:
For legions of young couples, there is no wedding venue more desirable than a barn in the country, with its unfussy vibe, picturesque setting and rural authenticity. 
For neighbors of the wedding barns, it is a summer-long agony.
Interesting in spite of that characterization--focus on "rural authenticity"--wikipedia labels Grant a "suburb of St. Paul."  It is in Washington County, population 246,603, part of the Minneapolis-St.Paul-Bloomington MN-WI metropolitan area.  One of the neighbors protesting the the wedding barn in Grant is quoted:
We moved out here for the rural nature, the quiet aspects of it, the open space.
In a similar vein, Bosman quotes Laurie Tulchin, "who lives in a rural part of Iowa City," population 70,000 and the fifth largest city in the state, " next door to a wedding barn."  
They blare music all night long, they have college students out there screaming, and everyone’s drinking.  Rural residents have quiet lifestyles. Sometimes I just think, ‘What the heck happened out here?’ 
Bosman's story continues:
In rural areas across the country, residents have protested that some barn owners flout zoning rules requiring that they operate only as agricultural enterprises. Unlike other businesses, the barns are often not inspected to ensure that they are up to code, and many lack proper sanitation, fire doors and sprinklers, accommodations for people with disabilities and licenses to serve liquor.
Barn owners often argue that these are agricultural enterprises in an era when family farms are rarely economically viable if they don't engage in some agritourism.    They say barn weddings are just a form of that tourism.

Both local government bodies and judges have gotten involved in different places, Bosman explains:
[C]ity council meetings have become stages for disputes in areas where friendly relations are the norm. Some small townships with ambiguous zoning laws have been forced to examine their regulations to figure out whether the wedding barns are legal.
* * * 
In some towns, judges have intervened, leaving trails of anguished soon-to-be-married couples. Last summer, a judge in St. Louis County, Mo., ruled that a historic barn on a property with a view of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers was a potential fire hazard, leaving a bride and groom who had scheduled a wedding reception there only days to make other plans.

1 comment:

Taylor Call said...

I have been to a "barn wedding" before and it was actually really fun. However, it was the groom's grandfather's barn and that was the only time he had a wedding there.

I understand the reasons that family farms that are barely getting by to take advantage of such a fad. Why wouldn't they rent out their barn for a few thousand dollars? I wonder if the neighbors in this story have the ability to put on barn weddings too and choose not to or if they don't have the proper facilities. I think it might matter (I bet they wouldn't be so mad if they were making money off of it). That being said, I would still be pretty angry if I had to listen to a bunch of drunk people dancing to loud music every weekend.

I wonder if these barn weddings will lose their appeal if they have to comply with every code, zoning law, and regulation. I think the setting would lose its authenticity if there was yellow paint on the edge of every step, wheelchair ramps, and sprinkler systems. Who knows what else would have to be done to get the building up to code. The liquor license sounds like a difficult challenge too (depending on where you live).

I recently wrote a blog about how hipsters are getting into hunting and self-sufficiency. Barn weddings seem like they are popular for the same reason. I think urban people have an idealized view of what rural is and are desperate to explore that culture. Others are probably just doing it for the novelty though.

Here is the blog "Hunting with hipsters"