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Rustic wedding venues

Shabby chic, vintage, rustic, homespun – all are synonyms for one of the most popular wedding trends in recent years. Brides from all walks of life have turned to rustic venues to celebrate with family and friends. Whether you are planning on a shoestring budget or the sky is the limit, you won’t have to look far to find a venue to your liking.

Whitney and Levi Chesher

Affordability was what first drew Whitney and Levi Chesher to The Old Homestead Barn in Rushville. “Besides being affordable, Levi and I were drawn to the location in general,” Whitney explains. “I was looking for a rustic venue, and we wanted that laid back, country vibe where you felt stress-free just listening to the birds and having trees in the background. It was simply unforgettable for us to get married overlooking a little pond while all of our family and friends were sitting on homemade wooden benches right in front of us.”

Whitney suggests that anyone looking to have a rustic wedding, “research, research, research. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of being awed by some of the first venues you see. Make sure you visit multiple locations, ask about pricing, and be sure to find out what is included in the contract. You want to find the location that feels right to you, not the one that is the easiest or most extravagant one to book with.”

Rustic venues can vary from barns, old homes or mansions, parks, farms and vineyards. Some locations offer everything you need while others are do-it-yourself. You are only limited by your imagination.

That farm vibe

©2017 photographybyjeffwilson.com

Higher Grounds LLC outside of New Haven sits on a hill overlooking corn and wheat fields. You can see the Shawnee Forest in the distance. At night, lights from riverboats traveling the Ohio and Wabash Rivers are evident.

The wedding venue is a renovated barn on a farm purchased in 1891 by the great-grandmother of Pam McKinney. The barn has a long history of the family almost losing it, family forgiveness and Pam’s undying love for the family farm.

When she re-acquired the farm, the barn was literally falling apart. “The barn was important to me because my dad spent so many hours of his life out there,” Pam explains. “I knew I had to fix it. I got the roof back on and new siding, but it still had a dirt floor.”

It was never her intent to make a wedding/event venue of the barn. It wasn’t until she ran into a woman who had seen the work she was doing on it and told her she often thought that if she ever got married again, she wanted to do it in that barn. “That’s when the lightbulbs came on,” says husband Doug McKinney. “When the lightbulbs come on, it can get scary!”

It took several years, and a year’s salary, but it has been completely renovated. It now has a concrete floor and windows were cut into the bottom floor to accommodate ones she found from an old mansion. There is a back patio with an overhang where folks can congregate outside or a band might set up.

Pam recalls how linemen from Wayne-White Counties Electric Cooperative helped her to increase the electrical power needed to handle the barn. “They plotted out what was needed for our plans and then put in a new transformer to handle it all. They were even out here one Thanksgiving when the power went out. Now who does that!” she exclaimed.

Higher Ground barn decorated for reception

From the bottom floor you can catch that view of the river valley. Brides have used it for a variety of purposes including the ceremony, serving the food or setting up tables. It will seat 100-120 people. The loft of the structure contains a small chapel with old wooden pews – it isn’t air-conditioned, but the loft doors can be opened for air movement.

For larger weddings, tents have been set up outside for eating and the food has been served inside. The venue offers a full-service commercial kitchen, and Pam’s son, Canaan, works with brides to plan the menu.

Another feature of the property is the 4-bedroom, 4-bathroom farmhouse which can be booked by the wedding party. It also features a 17-foot window she acquired that was once in the Old State Capitol in Springfield. Pam offers a full breakfast to those that spend the night and the bridal party can get prepared there. In the works is a small second floor deck that she plans to offer for those looking for a more intimate wedding spot.

Pam has a cousin, Tammy, from nearby Evansville, Ind., who will be booking weddings at the barn. “Tammy is really creative and already does weddings,” says Pam. “When she saw everything coming together, she and a friend came here and decided they want to offer weddings here also. Since she is in the larger market of Evansville, I expect the place to be very busy.” McKinney has eight weddings booked for 2018 and is expecting many more.

Higher Grounds LLC is a member of Wayne-White Electric Cooperative. It hosts a variety of events including an artisan fair in November.

For more information call 618-265-3527 or go to Facebook and input Higher Ground LLC in the search bar.

Beyond the farm

Kaity and Austin Cameron
Kaity and Austin Cameron

For brides looking for the Cinderella-style wedding, Big Horse Vineyards, Lewistown, might be just right. The farm where the vineyard is built also has a variety of horses including Clydesdales, Belgians and Percherons. Imagine arriving at your ceremony in a horse-drawn carriage.

Owners Don and Trinity Archdale built the vineyard and then added an event center two years ago. The family farm has been in Don’s family for many years, and after inheriting it, he was looking for a way to keep the horse hobby business going. The horses have always been part of the farm, but the 40 acres weren’t enough to do a traditional farm.

“Horses are an expensive hobby to keep,” explains Don. “I was trying to justify a way to keep them and we looked at what we could do with the ground to make some income from it. Trinity and  I have always liked vineyards. We thought the horses would be a good promotion for one.

  “As a kid, I remember my dad’s response when we would be at a fair and people inquired what kind of horses they were. Dad would always say, ‘big horses, like on the Budweiser wagon.’ I heard big horse my entire life and the name stuck with me. Our farm was called Indian Ridge because of its location near Dickson Mounds. I was originally going to use Indian Ridge, but it was similar to the name used by another winery. I thought people would remember it if we called it Big Horse, and it symbolizes what we’ve always been about.”

Carly and Jesse Hall Photo by Mike Osborn
Carly and Jesse Hall Photo by Mike Osborn

The event center includes a wine tasting room and restaurant. It is typically booked for weddings from late May to the end of October. Carly Hall, the wedding planner/event coordinator for the vineyard, helps plan everything except the cake and flowers. The venue includes a horse and soft-sided carriage, food service with a full staff, an open bar, inside seating for 300-350 and an outside patio. A gazebo, used for the ceremony, overlooks the picturesque lake with the white fencing with horses. The vineyard, lakes and trees make for amazing photos.

The bride is picked up at the event center, which contains dressing rooms for the wedding party. She is then transported by carriage around the farm and guests can watch as it comes across the dam and circles around until she unloads at the aisle.

The Archdales have recently opened a 12-room boutique hotel, Big Horse Inn and Suites, in downtown Lewistown. Family and guests of the wedding will be transported to the farm, and having the facility will allow them to draw weddings from farther away.

They also plan to do get-away packages for those looking for a place to spend a relaxing weekend. Guests can stay at the hotel, visit the vineyards for tastings and a meal. There are walking trails across the property and guests can have a one-on-one with the horses. Future plans include a horse park with miniature donkeys and a variety of other animals.

Big Horse Vineyards is a member of Spoon River Electric Cooperative. On Sundays,  the vineyard hosts local bands and a variety of food including fish fries, BBQ, chili cook-offs and various festivals. In the winter, it hosts shows including comedians, musicals, and talent from Chicago and Las Vegas perform.

For more information, contact Big Horse Vineyards at 309-547-2070 or visit bighorsevineyards.com.


Once you decide on a wedding date, ask yourself a few questions before you shop for a venue. How many guests do you expect to have? Quotes are based on attendance. If you want an outside wedding, do you have a contingency plan for inclement weather? A tent will add extra expense.

When visiting locations, keep your budget in mind and ask questions – rustic doesn’t mean the venue will be inexpensive. Shop around. According to The Knot, the average national cost of a wedding in 2016 was $35,329. However, you can create a beautiful experience without breaking the budget. Decide what is most important to you on your big day. If you love flowers, then possibly spend a bit more on those and cut your costs in another area.

Find out exactly what is provided in the contract. Most venues have a wedding coordinator/planner on staff to help make this process seamless. That person’s help will allow you to focus on your family and guests.