A weathered barn gets a makeover for this couple's dream wedding

It's a good thing Nicole and John aren't afraid to get their hands dirty. The Minnesota duo had spent months scouting for the ideal locale for their October wedding when they stumbled upon Foster Farm in Waconia. "It was like finding an oasis," says Nicole, a photo stylist. It looked picture-perfect, but when they opened the barn doors, they "were overwhelmed by a cloud of dust that filled the air," recalls the bride. The old barn, built in the 1880s, was packed with loose hay and had remained unoccupied for years.

With the help of Nicole's parents, Scott and Darlene, the couple began a major cleanup and renovation. Once the hay was cleared—nearly 1,500 bales' worth!—parts of the floor needed to be replaced and painted, and the rafters had to be wired for electricity. With the major work completed, Nicole brought in burlap table skirts, hurricane lamps, fresh bales of straw, acorns and baby squash to create an autumnal feel. Rather than relaxing with her bridesmaids on the morning of her wedding, she was busy putting the finishing touches on the decor. "I was exhausted by the time it was all done," she says. But dressed in an off-the-rack French gown she overhauled and made her own, she managed to look bright-eyed and beautiful for the ceremony at Zoar Moravian Church.

After reciting vows they wrote themselves, the couple greeted 165 guests at the barn for a down-home buffet of chicken with cranberry and sage dressing, root vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes. And thanks to the family teamwork, the floor held up for hours of square dancing.

Our Favorite Things

Up, Up, and Away: The groom proposed with a bouquet of balloons—a giant red one contained the engagement ring.

How Do I Love Thee: The bride's grandfather and an old friend penned original love sonnets for the couple that were read during the ceremony.

Odds and Ends: Nicole collected dozens of apple baskets, tin pails and old mason jars from the neighboring small towns to use as vases and candle holders throughout the barn.

Nicole carried antique roses and wheat-grass; John, a landscape contractor, wore an earth-toned suit.