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Butler County farms, barns offer couples unique settings in which to exchange vows

Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review - An old photo of The Fieldstone barn hangs in the entry of the building at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg Saturday, October 12, 2013. The barn has been renovated into a beautiful destination for weddings.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Heidi Murrin  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>An old photo of The Fieldstone barn hangs in the entry of the building at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg Saturday, October 12, 2013.  The barn has been renovated into a beautiful destination for weddings.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review - Amber Karcher of Butler and David George of Greenville, are wedded on the lawn of The Fieldstone at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg Saturday, October 12, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Heidi Murrin  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Amber Karcher of Butler and David George of Greenville, are wedded on the lawn of The Fieldstone at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg Saturday, October 12, 2013.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review - Bride and groom Amber Karcher and David George pose with their bridal party on a 1954 Chevy pick-up for photographers Ashley Costanzo, front left, and Jessica Marsh at their wedding at The Fieldstone at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg Saturday, October 12, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Heidi Murrin  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Bride and groom Amber Karcher and David George pose with their bridal party on a 1954 Chevy pick-up for photographers Ashley Costanzo, front left, and  Jessica Marsh at their wedding at The Fieldstone at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg Saturday, October 12, 2013.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review - Bride Amber Karcher of Butler, plays around with light sabers with her bridemaid Barbara Kelminsky, during some fun photo shots after the wedding ceremony at The Fieldstone at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg Saturday, October 12, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Heidi Murrin  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Bride Amber Karcher of Butler, plays around with light sabers with her bridemaid Barbara Kelminsky, during some fun photo shots after the wedding ceremony at The Fieldstone at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg Saturday, October 12, 2013.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review - Groom David Geroge of Greenville, hams it up for a photo after his wedding ceremony at The Fieldstone at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg Saturday, October 12, 2013. He and his wife Amber Karcher of Butler had a vintage Irish gangster theme. David is in a 1954 Chevy pick up owned by Jeff Rupp of Butler.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Heidi Murrin  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Groom David Geroge of Greenville, hams it up for a photo after his wedding ceremony at The Fieldstone at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg Saturday, October 12, 2013.  He and his wife Amber Karcher of Butler had a vintage Irish gangster theme.  David is in a 1954 Chevy pick up owned by Jeff Rupp of Butler.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review - The interior of The Fieldstone barn at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg is decorated for a wedding Saturday, Ocotber 12, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Heidi Murrin  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>The interior of The Fieldstone barn at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg is decorated for a wedding Saturday, Ocotber 12, 2013.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review - The interior top floor of The Fieldstone barn at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg, is decorated for a wedding Saturday, October 12, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Heidi Murrin  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>The interior top floor of The Fieldstone barn at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg, is decorated for a wedding Saturday, October 12, 2013.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review - Special details adorn a table for the Karcher/George wedding at The Fieldstone barn at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg Saturday, October 12, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Heidi Murrin  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Special details adorn a table for the Karcher/George wedding at The Fieldstone barn at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg Saturday, October 12, 2013.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review - Bride Amber Karcher of Butler put out special touches for her wedding Saturday, October 12, 2013 at The Fieldstone barn at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Heidi Murrin  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Bride Amber Karcher of Butler put out special touches for her wedding Saturday, October 12, 2013 at The Fieldstone barn at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review - A personalized guest book and table assignments, rear, hang from an old door at Amber Karcher and David George's wedding reception at The Fieldstone at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg Saturday, October 12, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Heidi Murrin  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>A personalized guest book and table assignments, rear, hang from an old door at Amber Karcher and David George's wedding reception at The Fieldstone at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg Saturday, October 12, 2013.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review - Amber Karcher of Butler and David George of Greenville, hold their wedding at The Fieldstone at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg Saturday, October 12, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Heidi Murrin  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Amber Karcher of Butler and David George of Greenville, hold their wedding at The Fieldstone at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg Saturday, October 12, 2013.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review - Special touches adorn the tables at Amber Karcher and David George's wedding at The Fieldstone at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg Saturday, October 12, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Heidi Murrin  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Special touches adorn the tables at Amber Karcher and David George's wedding at The Fieldstone at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg Saturday, October 12, 2013.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review - Bride to be Amber Karcher of Butler, grabs ahold of her father Mike Karcher's arm as she arrives in a 1954 Chevy pick-up (owned by Jeff Rapp of Butler) to her wedding at The Fieldstone at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg Saturday, October 12, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Heidi Murrin  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Bride to be Amber Karcher of Butler, grabs ahold of her father Mike Karcher's arm as she arrives in a 1954 Chevy pick-up (owned by Jeff Rapp of Butler) to her wedding at The Fieldstone at Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg Saturday, October 12, 2013.

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Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

With its bucolic scenery, Butler County has become a popular destination for weddings as couples move toward more casual, personalized ceremonies.

That's what drew Amber (Karcher) George, 26, of Penn Township to Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg when she began to plan her wedding.

“I love everything vintage, so I looked at this as a way to show off pieces I've been collecting,” she said. “And with the rustic feel of the barn, it was really just another way to have this classic, vintage, unique feel.”

George had a “1940s Irish gangster theme” wedding on Oct. 12, honoring both her love of vintage elements and her new husband David's Irish heritage. The barn reception and farmland scenery dovetailed perfectly with her vision.

“In a barn, it's a lot easier to decorate the entire room in your style, and you don't have to worry about the character of the room clashing with your wedding,” George said.

The wedding business in Butler County is strong, said Jack Cohen, president of the Butler County Tourism Bureau. Many traditional and non-traditional facilities are available to couples.

“It's a big boost to our economy,” said Cohen.

The average budget for a wedding in the United States last year was $28,427, according to a survey of 17,500 brides done by TheKnot.com, a popular wedding planning magazine and website. That's a $1,406 increase from the 2011 average of $27,021.

Jan McDonald, owner of the White Barn in Prospect, said it opened for weddings in May 2012 as another way to utilize the farmland.

McDonald hired local Amish to disassemble a 100-year-old barn in New Castle and reassemble it on the property, while adding modern conveniences such as heat, insulation and plumbing. The White Barn is already booked well into next year for weddings, McDonald said.

The Schmeiders, who own For All Family Farms in Butler, built a barn to accommodate activities related to their fall pumpkin patch and began booking it for weddings last year.

“We started booking for next year, and we're already booked all the way through the summer,” said Heather Schmeider. “It's been a wonderful outpouring of people.”

Kathy Allen, co-owner of Armstrong Farms, might have started the trend in Butler County. She said the farm began hosting weddings 14 years ago after she restored three 1800s-era barns into wedding venues.

Allen said the farm is about 95 percent reserved for 2014, as most brides book a year to year and a half in advance.

Jamie Miles, editor at TheKnot.com, said barn weddings are growing in popularity for the casual and personalized wedding experience they offer.

“The standardized ballroom is going out of style,” she said. “The open space and blank canvas of a barn lets them personalize however they'd like. And there's a big contrast element there that's appealing.”

Brides can style a barn with do-it-yourself elements for an informal affair or use elegant pieces “to give a polished look to an otherwise casual location,” Miles said.

“People want to put a personalized spin on wedding traditions,” she said. “They don't want to do what the last bride did, they want to stand out.”

Personalization is key at Armstrong Farms.

“We don't do cookie-cutter weddings,” Allen said. “We don't just have one set-up. And we don't provide exclusivity for any vendors. We want brides and grooms to have autonomy.”

She does, however, recommend that couples use local caterers, bakers, florists and overnight accommodations, to support local businesses.

“That's really an important aspect — that everyone is involved in the community,” Allen said.

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or rfarkas@tribweb.com.

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