Married in a Barn

Debbie Hagan on March 4th, 2017

Five farm-tastic places to say ‘I do’

Whether it’s the soaring ceilings, crisscrossing beams and cathedral-like filtered light, or it’s the hoof-worn floors and swinging doors that open to velvety green pastures, an old New England barn speaks of romance. No wonder so many couples want to start their marriage in one.

“I got married in a barn four years ago,” says Leslie Cregg-Hyder, president of Lowell-based Planned Perfectly Wedding and Events. “You can make the barn do anything.” Some couples modernize it with chandeliers and sheers. Others prefer a down-home look, with blue Mason jars, gingham napkins, chalkboard signs and crockery bean pots stuffed with daisies. Cregg-Hyder scavenged antiques shops to find inexpensive curiosities to decorate her wedding at the Smith Barn in Peabody.

Having a rustic venue is one thing. Having it clean, comfortable and convenient is another — “must haves” for most couples. Few are willing to do without good lighting, adequate kitchen facilities, restrooms and loads of comfy, convivial spots for family and friends. With this in mind, we’ve surveyed the Merrimack Valley and found five of the best spots to have a memorable barn wedding.

The Barn at Gibbet Hill

Rustic and glam meet head-on in this 1906 red barn, which sits atop a hill in Groton. The location provides gorgeous views of rolling green hills, vegetable gardens and pastures dotted with Black Angus cattle. Romantic backdrops, including the ruins of a castle, are everywhere. If the outside of the barn is gorgeous, then the inside is jaw-dropping. The main room features beautiful wooden pillars and beams, with chandeliers hanging from the rafters. Renovated in 2004, the barn seats 220 people, with plenty of room for dancing. This is a full-service wedding site, so couples will coordinate bar, food service, room setup and table planning with the staff.

Tips: Typically the barn is booked 18 months in advance. However, if you don’t mind booking a Thursday night, a few dates (with discounts) are open this year.

The Barn at Gibbet Hill
Groton, Mass.
(978) 448-3233

The Barn at Gibbet Hill served as a perfect backdrop for Elizabeth and Peter George Hanson’s vintage spring wedding. Iyyna Melnyk: Iryna’s Photography.

Maudslay Arts Center

Stretching along the banks of the Merrimack River in Newburyport are 442 acres of Edward S. Moseley’s former estate and gardens. When the state acquired the property in 1985, most of the buildings were gone, except for the cedar shake barn. Now restored, the barn features a high ceiling, a big grass outdoor patio, and large windows that open to flowering rhododendrons, azaleas and lilacs. It’s not unusual to see a passing deer or an eagle flying overhead. The barn seats 150 people, with plenty of room for a buffet and dancing. Couples need to make all their own arrangements and choose a licensed and bonded caterer. Nicholas Costello, Maudslay’s executive director, offers a list of approved vendors, as well as local entertainers.

Tips: The barn is available from mid-May through mid-October. Alcohol is restricted to beer and wine. Weekend restrictions apply during the summer concert season.

Maudslay Arts Center
Newburyport, Mass.
(978) 857-0677

Jennifer Bean married Massachusetts State Trooper David Strong at Smith Barn in the fall. The couple embraced their rustic theme from decorations right down to the cowboy boots ( top of page ) worn by the bride and bridesmaids. A Photographic Memory.

Birch Wood Vineyards

This venue in Derry, N.H., opened last March after a $2 million renovation. Technically, it’s not a barn, but it is designed to capture the rustic modern barn spirit while offering the latest conveniences. Wedding receptions occur in two rooms. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres are served in the Vineyard Room, which is decorated with living birch trees. Then the party moves to the beautiful Estate Room, with its barn doors, vaulted ceiling, chandeliers and floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace. Capacity is 215 people. This is a full-service venue, with wedding planners coordinating all the details, including cake and florals.

Tips: It’s not really a barn. However, it does capture the feel of one, with added elegance.

Birch Wood Vineyards
Derry, N.H.
(603) 965-4359

Smith Barn 

This big red apple barn, owned by the Peabody Historical Society, retains its original 1903 charm. “We try to keep everything as it was, except we enlarged the windows to let in more light and open up views of the orchards,” says Tammy Messina, function manager. You can still see the original apple ladders, rusted lanterns and stenciled signage. The barn can accommodate 240 seated guests, leaving room for dancing. In nice weather, the big barn doors are pushed open, creating breathtaking views of the 250 acres of orchards and conservation land. Wedding ceremonies are held in the intimate Woodland Gardens, located at the Nathaniel Felton Junior House, across the street.  The Historical Society operates the bar (cash or open). Caterers must be chosen from a list of approved vendors. Money from wedding rentals support the Peabody Historical Society and its nine historic sites.

Tips: Smith Barn is only available mid-April through November. The place books up quickly, with many spots already gone in 2018.

Smith Barn 
Peabody, Mass.
(978) 204-6345

Erin and Przemek Urbowicz from Chelmsford celebrate their summer nuptials in front of Smith Barn in Peabody. Solare Wedding Photography.

Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm

History buffs will love this working farm, in operation since 1635. Owned by Historic New England, the Newbury farm and its long white barn, built in 1775, are still active.  The barn, however, is only available for those who have a small party and want something really rustic. It accommodates 30 to 40 people, and renters must furnish everything, including lights and restrooms, says Bethany Groff Dorau, North Shore regional site manager for Historic New England. Dining is usually set up at one long farm table. Many couples like to string Christmas lights; however, one couple was creative and hung Japanese lanterns from the rafters, which created a gorgeous effect, Dorau says. She adds, “It’s a great space for someone who has a vision and wants to make this place their own.” Most couples prefer to set up a tent and use the farm, barn and home as a backdrop for their photographs. Tours and cocktails in the historic 1690 home can also be arranged. Couples must use approved vendors for tents and full-service catering.

Tips: The barn is small and very rustic. Since there is no heating in the barn, bookings should be made from May through September.

Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm
Newbury, Mass.
(978) 462-2634


BEFORE POSTING: Please be respectful online as you contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to remove impersonators, advertisements, personal attacks, threats, profanity, inappropriate or offensive comments. By posting here, you are permitting 512 Media Inc., to edit and republish your comment in all media.

Leave a Reply