All about barn weddings…

Earlier this year, our weddings coordinator Janet shared her knowledge and experience with OX Weddings magazine, showcasing Fison Barn and offering top tips on DIY barn receptions.

Fison Barn at Earth Trust

Fison Barn is a stunning and beautifully maintained nineteenth century barn, nestling at the foot of the Wittenham Clumps. Set amidst 1,200 acres of spectacular countryside, it is conveniently located just 11 miles from Oxford.

The Victorian barn is named after the Fison family who used to own the farm. The original oak beams have been lovingly restored and local Western Red Cedar has been used on the exterior cladding. The large barn doors open onto a tranquil courtyard where bats and swallows have made their homes in the barn eaves, red kites swoop overhead and there are floral displays of herbs and plants attracting butterflies and other insects. The courtyard area provides an ideal extension for events in good weather or an area for a marquee.

Fison Barn can accommodate 85 guests for a licensed ceremony and seated meal. For a standing reception numbers can increase to 200 by adding a marquee to the courtyard area.

What makes Fison barn so unique?

Fison Barn offers a picturesque ‘blank canvas’, we offer our couples the flexibility to organise the catering, decoration and entertainment exactly as they want it.

Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do; our eco-friendly biomass boiler provides under floor heating during winter for the barn. We harvest rain water for our toilets and our solar panels generate greenhouse-free electricity to meet a substantial portion of our electricity requirements.

Earth Trust is an environmental learning charity and our mission is to give everyone the opportunity to engage with the natural environment through the beautiful green spaces we look after. As a charity, we rely upon the income generated from the hire of the barn to enable us to carry out our work. The funds raised help us look after our beautiful green spaces and allow people to connect with nature through our education, engagement and volunteering programmes.

Why are barns such popular wedding venues?

More and more couples are wanting a less formal wedding, and barns instantly give off that relaxed vibe, making guests feel more at ease. This more easy-going plan to the day lends itself perfectly to street food, sharing platters and wood fired pizza ovens, which have been extremely popular this season. This allows guests to graze throughout the day taking away the pressure of a tight schedule.

Barns offer couples a blank canvas and a beautiful one at that! With a barn venue, less is certainly more and they are such a versatile space that you only need to enhance what’s already there. Done cleverly your budget for décor can go far.

With barns, couples can add their own unique touches to the space. Quite often I feel our barn has been lifted from the venue and placed in the family’s own garden – couples can really create a home from home feeling and a true expression of their identities. The trend of layering textures, rustic furniture and loose bundles of locally grown floral tablescapes in rich colours all fit perfectly with a barn venue.

What photo opportunities can you recommend to couples?

I always suggest couples bring their photographer to the venue close to the wedding date. Not only is the visit about getting to know the venue, it gives couples some quality time with the photographer before the day. The fantastic thing about rural settings is that the backdrop is forever changing. One week we may be surrounded by a patchwork of golden rapeseed fields and the next week our rose gardens and wisteria have come into full bloom. The iconic Wittenham Clumps are close to many people’s hearts and there are numerous spectacular photo opportunities. Speak to the venue and ask them to show you all their hidden gems for photographs. There are often additional beautiful rustic buildings close by and some gorgeous vistas that you don’t want to miss. Remember, for the best shots you may need to lose the stilettos! Make sure your photographer is clued up on when the sun sets. I have seen some breath-taking shots taken here as the sun goes down on a wedding day. And when the sun does set, think about the lighting in the barn; with LED uplighters and masses of twinkling fairy lights it’s so simple and cost effective to bring the barn to life in the evening, making those evening shots as dynamic as the daytime ones.

What advice can you give to couples who are looking at having a wedding in a barn?

Depending how much of a blank canvas you are looking for, you should be clear before confirming the venue what you may need to hire in. Here at Fison Barn we do include furniture, guest loos and a kitchen space, but this may not always be the case and all these extras can add up.

Make sure the venue gives you plenty of time to add your personal touches. What I love most about the weddings here is actually the day before! As part of the hire, we give couples the day to decorate the barn and outdoor courtyard. It’s so lovely to see the couple arrive with their family and close friends, often relieved that the spare room is finally emptied of all their gorgeous crafting and collection of props that have been slowly filling the space since their engagement!

The freedom of bringing in your own wedding suppliers is a very attractive option and can help with that all important budget. But it is always worth asking if the venue can recommend suppliers who have experience of delivering weddings in the barn. Don’t forget, barns weren’t built for weddings! They all have their own unique challenges especially for caterers, so to work with a team who know your venue inside out can take away a huge amount of stress for you.

Controlling the climate in a barn is a little trickier than a standard hotel function room. In the summer barns generally keep cool, and with their grand doors you can create a breeze through the space on a warm summer’s evening. For the cooler months make sure you are aware of what heating is provided. Here at Fison Barn we keep the barn nice and toasty with our underfloor heating, but this may not always be the case. With their high ceiling’s barns are notoriously difficult to heat, so any heating equipment brought in needs to be up and running well before the start of the day.

This article appeared in the summer 2019 issue of OX Weddings magazine.