LEAF RIVER, IL - Their daughter's wedding inspired a Leaf River couple to turn their century-old dairy barn into an event venue.
Brad and Carla Miller, both retired teachers, have transformed their huge barn and grounds into The Barn on the Hill, for weddings, rehearsals, showers, class reunions, and anniversary and birthday parties.
They've even hosted a high school prom.
The Millers moved to their home 25 years ago when their three daughters were youngsters.
The barn was used for storage until three years ago, when daughter Hannah decided she wanted to be married there.
"The barn was heaped with stuff, and Hannah said she wanted her wedding in the barn," Carla said.
Brad got to work with a skid loader and cleared it out, and Hannah's wedding went so well that they decided to offer the barn and their scenic 7 1/2 acres to other wedding parties.
"It just took off from there," Carla said. "This is actually our second year."
Already they have seven weddings booked for this year.
Besides cleaning out the barn, the Millers put in a large concrete patio that wraps around two sides, adjusted the four original sliding barn doors to open easily, and did electrical work and landscaping.
Tall pines, large shade trees, a lush lawn, and well-tended flower beds make an ideal backdrop for outdoor receptions and photo shoots.
The barn's sliding doors open to let in natural light, and thousands of tiny white lights strung from the beams create a comfortable, yet elegant, setting for up to 250 people.
Carla said the most enjoyable part is meeting the brides and helping them plan their dream wedding.
"That's the part I love, working with the brides and their families and trying to make it perfect for them," she said. "I have had the most wonderful brides to work with. You get so attached to them, like they're your own kids."
Weddings can be held inside or out — or both.
"One bride is going to set up on the patio and have it all out there," she said. "There are lots of options — that's the fun part, to see how they utilize the barn and the yard."
The Millers do the setup, a process that usually begins the night before, and "we work right up until the wedding," Carla said.
A wedding coordinator is part of the package.
"She's our own exclusive wedding coordinator," Carla said. "She's here the day of the wedding at the beck and call of the bride."
The package also includes tables and chairs, linens, tableware, lanterns, bartenders, ample parking, and even a variety of outdoor games.
"We've had incredible pingpong matches during the receptions," Carla said with a laugh.
More amenities are being planned. For instance, concrete piers have been poured on the patio to support a second story deck that will be finished this spring.
After that, Carla said they plan to redo the haymow to add more space for their guests.
Keeping the wedding uncomplicated for the bride and groom is their main goal, Brad said.
"We try to make it as user-friendly as we can so that all they have to worry about is 'I do.'"