HAWLEY, Minn. - For 20-plus years, Bill and Cheryl Gottenborg never considered using the historic red dairy barn on their farm 4 miles north of Hawley for anything other than storage.
That changed two years ago when their daughter, Kaitlynn, got engaged to Brandon Borgstahl. After looking at several potential venues, their oldest daughter, Breanne Marshall, suggested they host the wedding at the family farm, with the ceremony outdoors and the reception in the barn.
Cheryl initially laughed the idea off, mainly because they only had six months to get things in order.
"I came in here and it was full of hay and all sorts of things," Cheryl said. "But then I thought, 'It could really look nice.'" She talked it over with Bill, and the couple got to work.
The June wedding turned out to be such a success that several guests suggested the couple go into business hosting other weddings at the farm.
According to The Knot, a popular wedding-planning website and magazine, young couples are increasingly looking for more unique and unconventional places to host their weddings, such as barns, museums and historic homes.
According to the site, bookings at "farm, barn and ranch reception venues increased from 2 percent in 2009 to 15 percent in 2017."
So not only was it a sound business decision, Cheryl said she really enjoyed planning and hosting Kaitlynn's wedding.
"I found it was a lot of fun. When you think about doing weddings for people, it's a pretty happy thing to be a part of," she said.
For Bill, the motivation was a strong belief in family.
"If we can help people start off their lives as a family, that would be kind of cool," he said. "We really believe family is important."
Last month, the couple debuted The Barn at Green Garden Farm to the public and booked their first wedding for the summer of 2019.
A lot to offer
Getting the barn ready for Kaitlynn's wedding was just the start for the Gottenborgs. Bill and Cheryl spent the following year reinforcing and refurbishing the barn thought to have been built in the early 1900s. They also converted a nearby granary into bathrooms and a suite for the bridal party.
Cheryl credits Bill with doing most of the heavy-lifting.
"He is the most humble person on earth, so he would never acknowledge all the work he has done this past year on our venue. He'd be the first to give credit to everyone else. ... He worked every single day on one aspect of the business or the other," she said.
She also gives praise to Wayne Lofgren, their "master carpenter" and family friend.
"I'd give him ideas, and he'd just do it," she said.
Cheryl's job was to dream.
"I got to come up with the ideas - the creative part - and they had to do all the work," she said.
The Barn at Green Garden Farm is available for weddings mid-May through October. Only one wedding will be scheduled per weekend, so families can come in to decorate as early as Thursday evening and do not have to be out until late Sunday morning. Camping sites are available.
Tables and chairs are included in the rental price, but couples will be responsible for finding their own caterer and bar setup.
Many will likely consider the landscape the best feature of The Barn at Green Garden Farm.
Both Hawley Public School teachers, Cheryl and Bill like to spend their summers working outdoors.
Bill plants a large pumpkin patch each year and is also responsible for the lawn and the couple's apple orchard. Cheryl is an avid flower gardener. Flower beds and potted plants are scattered from one end of the farmyard to another.
Cheryl encourages couples to come out and take a look at the venue.
"You need to come out and really see it to appreciate it," she said. "I feel like we provide a unique setting. And we keep it simple, not too complicated. Couples will have the opportunity to make it all their own."
WHAT: The Barn at Green Garden Farm
WHERE: 5992 230th St. S., or 4 miles north of Hawley
ONLINE: Search "thebarnatgreengardenfarm" on Facebook. When live, the website can be found at http://thebarnatgreengardenfarm.net/