For Better, For Worse: Five Steps to Tying the Knot at Barnutopia was first published in the Glamping Business magazine, issue 6, March 2017, page 26
We set up our yurt glamping site with three yurts in 2015 and have since added two stables, a cabin and a bunkhouse. To date, we have earned well over one hundred five-star reviews from satisfied guests. During our first jam-packed summer season, a guest asked us if she could hire our long barn for her wedding. At the time, that really was a romantic dream. The barn was full of junk with broken windows and a leaky roof. But the spark was ignited and, for better or for worse, we decided to set up as a wedding and event venue.
The stunning views of the Shropshire and Powys hills are the perfect backdrop for a picturesque wedding. However, great photo opportunities aren’t enough. We knew that we had to make a real commitment if we wanted to be successful. In the autumn of 2015 my husband and I vowed to make it happen.
- Get Planning Permission
We submitted our planning application in October 2015 and received notification that we could expect a decision by December 31st. That was just the beginning of a long and mostly happy relationship with the county planning department. We communicated often and provided additional information, plans, drawings and statements promptly. The process may have been completed faster if we had used a consultant, but we felt encouraged and supported by the officers and staff at Shropshire Council and we’re very sure it was cheaper doing it ourselves. Nine months later we were granted full planning permission to expand our glamping site, add a tent camping site and convert the long barn into an event venue for up to 120 guests.
The powers-that-be are not out to thwart your plans.
- Ensure the buildings and facilities are fit for weddings
It was love at first sight of Tanycoed Farm but, oh man, she came with a lot of baggage. As with any relationship, it serves no purpose to dwell on the past and we looked to the future. She cleaned up well as a glamping site but, just like brides the world over, for a wedding, she deserves a special makeover for the big day. The cleaning, repairing, painting, decorating, modifying and making good is in full swing even as I write this article. We have installed a sewage treatment plant and rainwater harvester and next on our list is a bathroom block. We plan to add a couple more glamping units and fence off part of our pasture as a car park. The challenges of completing the work are compounded by continuing to receive glamping guests but with careful planning anything is possible.
A wedding venue can be rustic but not ramshackle.
- Engage in Marketing and Promotion
Promoting a wedding venue before it’s ready is a bit like selling a house that hasn’t been built. Some couples can see past the peeling walls and muddy drive but others can’t. We won’t engage in any major paid marketing until we are a bit further on with our refurbishment. However, we add wedding venue-related content to our website regularly and take advantage of unpaid directory listings, Facebook and other social media platforms for free advertising. We take the time to create and post eye-catching visuals. As ever, pictures promote what a thousand words can’t and local reception has been enthusiastic. We have received over thirty-five wedding enquiries to date. We speak to our in-progress and planned improvements when couples visit to inspect the venue.
Promote what you have and not what you will have.
- Apply for Premises Approval
Our local county registrars proved extremely helpful. It seems approval is for individual rooms, barns or wedding arbours. There can be several approved spaces at a venue, but each must be under cover with room for a table, two registrars, two witnesses and the bride and groom. Couples getting married outside, truly outside, are faking it. The actual legally binding ceremony must happen in one of the approved covered spots. There is a non-returnable fee (ouch!) after which the application details are posted on the county website so that members of the public can object or forever hold their peace. We need to produce fire risk and health and safety assessments but cannot do that until we have completed our renovations. We won’t be granted a approval for wedding ceremonies until we have done so.
Submit your application for premises approval at least four months before the first wedding ceremony.
- Book Some Weddings
For some couples, the unfinished barn and empty stables destined to become a bathroom block are too daunting. We understand. Like marriage itself, there’s an element of faith in believing that with work and commitment things will only get better. However, of enquiries received, some couples went ahead and booked their weddings and have this to say:
“We fell in love with Barnutopia the moment we arrived there. The surroundings are beautiful and the barn had the rustic country effect we wanted for our wedding. Mr and Mrs B were so helpful, and willing to make the day personal to us, enabling us to add our own ideas of afternoon tea and an outdoor ceremony on hay bales! Even though the barn wasn’t finished when we visited we could see that already it was a fantastic venue. The glamping on site was an added extra which means that our closest family and friends can stay the night. A perfect venue for a country wedding with a difference!! Can’t wait to spend our wedding day at Barnutopia!”
– H&R, Bride & Groom To Be, September 2017
“Barnutopia offered just what we were looking for in a reception venue – somewhere to celebrate outdoors with friends and family in a relaxed way. Katrina & Steve were so passionate about the project when they showed us around the site and they did such a great job of talking us through their ambitious plans that it didn’t matter that it’s still a work in progress. It already has all the key ingredients for a fantastic party: beautiful location, facilities (toilets, kitchen), outdoor space for games in the daytime and campfires at night, and an indoor space for sheltering if the weather is unkind and for partying into the night. It’s also great that we can make a weekend of it and people can glamp or camp on-site, so we’ll get to spend more time together as a group. I’m also really excited about decorating the site and party barn!”
– T&A, Bride & Groom To be, June 2017
“ … because of the beautiful views, the outstanding hospitality and because it’s right on the Wales-England border. Perfect for us two. It’s just an idyllic part of the world for us.”
– M&K, among our first glamping guests, came to a party in the party barn and Brides To Be, June 2018
Believe in your vision and others will, too. ♥