Ever thought about having your wedding in a barn?

It could be a real swinging time, after all, hay bales, hootenanny and all.

But if you’re into a more elegant affair, and you’d still like the rustic flavor, Heritage Wedding Barns is most likely the wedding venue of your dreams.

Groom’s room and bridal suite; large, custom designed ADA restrooms and handicapped-accessible premises; warming kitchen; indoor serving for 300; 27 acres of private space; two levels totaling 6,400 sq. ft., the lower a custom bar serving area with a DJ stage, the upper a huge dining room with 36-foot beamed ceilings; a 4500 sq. ft. outdoor patio; plenty of electrical outlets; air conditioning; mood lighting…We’re still talking about a barn, right?

Located in the picturesque countryside of Shelby near Silver Lake, Heritage Wedding Barns recently opened its doors after a massive restoration effort that was several years in the making. The brainchild of Jennifer and Sam Stitt, the project was also their love child—a “genuine labor of love,” says Sam, that reflects their strong bond with the land and the old-fashioned structures that both of them have loved since childhood.

If anyone asked Sam, “Where were you brought up, in a barn?” he wouldn’t be in the least offended. On the contrary, his answer would be a cheerful, “Absolutely.”

“I grew up in the mortise and tenon and wood peg business,” he explains. “My family owned Great Lakes Barn Preservation. So I’ve been around barns since I was born.”

To Sam, a barn isn’t just a barn. It’s almost like a person, with its own individual personality.

“I really enjoy the work because of its uniqueness,” he reflects. “Every barn is just a little bit different. And then, to take something old that nobody has used for 50 or 100 years and turn it into a masterpiece—that’s what I love.”

As for Jennifer, she’s just always been a barn fan. “I just love how vast barns are,” she muses. “As a little girl, I’d go past a barn and say, ‘I love that barn. I want to live where there’s a barn.’”

And so, it’s no surprise that their barns have names. Heritage refers to the heritage of the land. The property has been in Jennifer’s family for nearly 100 years. It also refers to the heritage of the barns themselves, which were given new life by the barn preservation business that has been in Sam’s family for four generations.

The two barns are the Legacy and the Patriot, both important concepts to the Stitts. The Legacy, says Sam, refers to the family legacy, which has been handed down to them, and will continue to be handed down through his own children. The Patriot is a reference to his deep feelings for his country—he’s a retired Afghanistan and Iraq veteran who served in the military for 25 years. In addition, Sam notes, both the Legacy and the Patriot also symbolize the military legacy his two oldest sons, both in the marines, are carrying on.

The main Legacy barn, which dates from 1892, was moved from Fischer Tree Farms in Rothbury. Completely dismantled and reassembled, it was transformed into an edifice that has retained its original charm while at the same time boasting a whole new beauty.

The restoration was, indeed, a family affair. Everyone, from the Great Lakes crew that included Sam’s cousins, to Jennifer and their four children, had a hand in the process. Even their youngest child understood the enduring importance of the work they were engaged in.

“Samuel put a penny with the year of the barn up at the bottom of the purlin post connected to the beam up there.” Sam gestures to a point high up above. “So that 200 years from now, if the barn is ever dismantled again, people will know when it dates from. It’s all part of the legacy.”

And everyone who was involved, from the electricians and plumbers to the guy who did the iron work and the contractors who laid the concrete, felt a special pride in their work.

“We had a lot of people enjoy working on the barns,” smiles Sam. “Many hands made this possible to come together. We’re very grateful to all of them. And it became very personal for them. For instance, we had a young guy, Wayne Haas, who was helping me with some small task, and he said, ‘Sam, can I do something unique in your barn?’ I want to be able to say, ‘I did that.’

“So I said, ‘Wayne, you do the toilet partitions.’ And he said, ‘But I don’t know anything about that.’ And I said, ‘OK, then figure it out.’ And he made those beautiful wooden doors, and was so proud.’” The restoration-preservation process took six years from start to finish.

“We took the Legacy down in 2013,” Jennifer says. “We disassembled it piece by piece and labeled each piece. We stood it up on the new timber foundation in 2014.

“In 2017, we did all the planning for Heritage Wedding Barns. And in 2018, we started finishing off the inside. This year, we finished the landscaping and site concrete.”

The entire skeletal structure in the Legacy—posts, beams, rafters and wind braces—is original. Everything is hand-hewn, from the full-length trees for the rafters to the wood hay tracks at the peak of the ceiling, and the original hay cart at the end. The hand-hewn wood beam that goes from one end of the barn to the other is 50 feet long, and the tie beams are 40 feet long.

And no material went to waste. The legs on the long, beautifully refinished farm tables are made from wind braces Sam saved over the years. The antique brick used on both levels is reclaimed Pentwater brick from a century ago.

“They mined the clay in Pentwater,” notes Jennifer. “We used the yellow brick upstairs, and the reds and creams downstairs. The different minerals are what make the colors when the clay is baked.”

“In our work, we try to reclaim and preserve as much as we can,” Sam emphasizes.

The Legacy is a massive barn, perfect for not only weddings but just about any occasion, from family reunions and graduation parties to corporate events. You can have your nuptials on the premises—the bridal suite and groom’s room are heated and air-conditioned—or just have your reception there. Rates are calculated from one day to an entire weekend.

“One day is $4500,” says Jennifer. “We rent the whole space. It’s $5500 for two days, and $6000 for the entire weekend, which would include the rehearsal dinner and set up the first day, the wedding and reception the second day, and cleanup on the third day.”

The Stitts already have a number of bookings, and are eagerly awaiting their first wedding. They’re excited, they say, about giving other families the opportunity to participate in the proud heritage of Heritage Wedding Barns.

“It was a labor of love on two levels,” Sam observes. “For us, and now, for others to enjoy and treasure as a lifelong memory.”

For more information, call (231) 830-7825 or visit www.heritageweddingbarns.com.