Working farm to welcome newlyweds in Belgium

Brian and Irene Buechler are turning their century-old barn into a venue for events that range from weddings to corporate meetings

BRIAN AND IRENE BUECHLER walked last week through the 101-year-old barn they are remodeling to create a spacious venue for weddings and other events on their Belgium farm. Outside the barn, where Brian checked on his cattle (right), the farm operation that has been in his family for two generations will continue as normal. Photos by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

The 101-year-old barn at Irene and Brian Buechler’s farm on Highway LL in Belgium has a few features few other area barns have — including indoor plumbing and an elegant chandelier hanging from the ceiling.

It’s all part of the family’s plan to expand this working farm into an event venue as well, in this case to use the renovated barn to hold weddings and receptions, showers, anniversary parties, other celebrations and even corporate events.

They’re working to create a parking lot and a second driveway for visitors, to make changes to a pond on the 49-acre property so weddings could be held there, and to develop fields of sunflowers, corn and gourds that can serve as a backdrop for photos.

“It’s really exciting,” Irene said.

The Buechlers are hosting a wedding showcase to give couples a look at the venue and introduce them to a variety of vendors dealing in everything wedding from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 24.

While work on the barn is expected to be completed by the showcase, the exterior work will continue through the summer. Because of that, the Buechlers plan to begin hosting events next summer.

They already have two weddings booked for 2019 — the first on June 1.

Barn weddings have grown in popularity in recent years, something Irene attributes to millennials search for a more relaxed, casual lifestyle.

“They’re not looking for these fancy banquet-style places,” she said. “They’re not into formality, although you can make this very formal. For the most part, they’re more dressed down.”

But the venue also appeals to older people, Irene said.

“The older generation will check it out and say, ‘I’d love to get remarried in a barn,”’ she said.

For some, the barn setting is reminiscent of simpler times or a childhood spent in rural areas.

The farm is where Brian grew up. His parents, Cheryl and Fred operated a dairy operation there. Eventually, they got out of the dairy business and began to raise and truck beef cattle.

When Fred was killed in a trucking accident four years ago, Brian decided to go back to his roots and keep the farm running.

They completed their purchase of the farm last year, Irene said, but even when they first decided to take it over she thought about creating a wedding venue there.

“I thought she was nuts,” Brian said.

But as the couple mulled the idea and began researching the concept, it became more and more attractive.

“I thought this was something we could do together in our retirement years,” said Irene. “We get a lot of enjoyment out of making other people happy, and we like to keep busy.”

But they started out small, getting their feet wet with a pumpkin farm in the fall and then a Christmas tree operation.

“Then a couple people asked us if we would consider hosting events,” Irene said.

Irene said she did her research, attending a number of barn weddings, visiting other venues and looking for ideas online.

Then she sketched out a design for the venue on a piece of paper, delineating three main areas in the barn, and Brian and his friend Larry Burmesch, a retired construction worker, took those ideas and turned them into reality.

The arches and barn boards give the barn a rustic feeling, while the chandelier and other amenities can be used to create an atmosphere as bucolic or elegant as a couple desires.

The barn, which held 32,000 bales of hay when Brian was a child, is now outfitted for as many as 450 guests.

The north end includes a stage and can be adapted to numerous uses, Irene said. During an indoor ceremony, the couple can be standing there. During dinner, the head table can be set up there. And during the reception, it’s the perfect place for a band or disc jockey.

The bar is set up in the middle of the barn, and tables can be set up there during a dance to give people a quiet place to chat while others are dancing on the north end. 

Barn doors will separate the two areas, and they can be left open or closed as desired. 

Two large openings have been created on the east side of the barn, where the Buechlers are in the process of building an 80-by-12-foot deck with steps leading to an outdoor patio complete with a fire pit and bar.

And in the former hay mow, a bridal suite has been created. The suite can be locked, so couples can store valuables or gifts there during events. 

The venue is next to the cow barn, but Irene said the cattle won’t be there during weddings. They’ll be out to pasture.

“They won’t be near the barn,” she said. “Some people like that (they are close) and want them nearby. Others, not so much.”

The farm, Irene noted, is in a good location for a wedding venue. It’s off a major road, near hotels in Belgium, Port and Grafton and close to Harrington Beach State Park — you can see Lake Michigan from the barn.

There aren’t any other venues like this around the area, Irene said.

“I said we’d be stupid if we did not do this,” she said. “There are a lot of things we have to offer.”

The venue can be rented for a wedding for $3,500 to $4,500, depending on the night. Couples get the farm from 9 a.m. to midnight, and the Buechlers will have someone on site to help manage the events.

“Smaller events are much cheaper,” Irene said.

The Buechlers don’t have a liquor license, so they are working with a bartender service to provide alcoholic beverages. 

While couples can use any caterers and other vendors they want, the Buechlers have a list of preferred vendors they can supply to brides and grooms.

The couple have plans to improve the venue as the years go on. Brian has an idea for a man cave for the groom and groomsmen to use when they prepare, Irene said, and perhaps to create some bunk houses similar to tiny houses that could be used by guests or people who imbibe too much.

“We have all these ideas. We’ll have to see where this takes us,” said Irene, who works full-time as an orthopedic nurse.         

“This is what we would love to do for our retirement.”

The wedding venue, which will run from May through mid-September, won’t superseded other couple’s other operations. Brian plans to continue raising beef cattle there — he has about 90 head, including babies,  right now — and the couple will also continue to hold their Halloween pumpkin farm in fall and Christmas tree sales during the holidays. 

Other events are planned as well. The Buechlers are hosting a rodeo at the farm on June 16 and the circus in August. 

And the couple’s son Hunter is starting to take over the family’s other business, Buechler Construction.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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