In Ferndale, where dairy farms and upscale Victorians define shabby chic, necessity and creativity were the co-parents of invention. While considering possible venue options for their children’s weddings, both the Brodt and Cahill families, the respective owners of At the Bluff and The Barn by Fernbridge, decided to fix up their old barns for the special day. In the process, a labor of love, each family found a romantic new business niche. Just in time for the 2019 wedding season, both beautifully renovated 19th century buildings are now available to book a truly unique and sophisticated — but oh-so-Humboldt — barn wedding. 

“Barns are quintessential Humboldt venues,” explains Alegria Sita, a certified wedding planner and founder at Gala Events and Weddings. With experience working in a variety of settings, Sita believes that a barn perfectly symbolizes Humboldt County’s heritage. “Barn raising was the term used for the community construction of a barn, which often took place in one day with many hands,” explains Sita. “How perfect to begin a marriage in a building that holds the spirit of community, celebration and love within its walls from its first day,” she adds.

Maybe walls can talk.

At the Bluff

click to enlarge At the Bluff. - AMANDA K. PHOTO ART
  • Amanda K. Photo Art
  • At the Bluff.
When Amanda Brodt’s sister-in-law, Callie Alexandre (née Brodt), found herself with a serious boyfriend, she started thinking about the old barn her parents had recently purchased on the bluff above Ferndale. “I have always been in love with the farm,” says Alexandre. And the barn needed some fixing up anyway.

“My father-in-law is super handy and can build anything,” adds Brodt. Before the Alexandre’s 2017 wedding – the first official event for At the Bluff – Callie’s father installed new windows and shiplap siding and restored the old milk barn into a photo booth. Brodt remembers how the whole family spent days pouring concrete for the new barn floor. Alexandre, a professional wedding photographer, says one of her favorite images is of her family’s handprints captured in the wet concrete floor.

“The barn can be dressed up really easily, you can get romantic or even a little fancy,” explains Brodt. Though she manages event scheduling and logistics, Brodt stresses that her entire family worked together to make their first wedding season a success, with everyone playing a key role. Brodt’s mother-in-law, Merritt, who owns The Farmer’s Daughter, a clothing and gift boutique in Ferndale, keeps the venue supplied with adorable serving platters and rustic décor. Alexandre, who now lives in Crescent City near her husband’s family dairy, is often the one behind the camera, capturing the special day for newlyweds to treasure.

After rings have been exchanged and dinner served, At the Bluff’s guests watch the sunset across the Eel River Valley before moving to the dance floor to celebrate the happy couple. Stretching across the bright green pasture, strings of white lights twinkle in applause.

The Barn by Fernbridge

Visiting The Barn by Fernbridge on a windy day in January, it’s easy to visualize the transformation that Lea Cahill describes will take place come summer. The Cahills have owned the old barn, which sits just west of Fernbridge, for 13 years, though locals estimate it was built in the 1880s. Today, the barn still sits amidst a working dairy farm, meaning that every winter during the rainy season the barn reverts to housing livestock and equipment. Inside the barn, huge redwood beams toothpick the main room where hay is stacked ceiling high. Lea points out their resident owl in the eaves as Jerseys graze idly in the pasture out back.
click to enlarge The Barn by Fernbridge. - CALLIE BRODT PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Callie Brodt Photography
  • The Barn by Fernbridge.

It’s a typical Ferndale farm scene but surrounding the giant tractor and farm tools, signs of merriment and revelry are everywhere: In a corner, a small redwood bar sits quietly, discreetly housing a collection of spirits. Along one wall, a 30-foot sideboard runs neatly through the barn, where caterers will put out heaping bowls of salads and platters of local cheese. Bordering the pasture, a large room with a concrete floor is adorned with light fixtures affixed with vintage Edison bulbs. Out front, a waterwheel turns peacefully and each summer the pasture is filled with golden sunflowers stretching their heads toward the big Ferndale sky.

So far, the only newlyweds who have broken ground at the barn are Cahills. Zach Cahill and his wife Kayla married there last August after Zach talked his parents into renovating the old barn into a venue for their reception. Just like At the Bluff, the entire family got elbow deep in rehabbing the historic barn into a stylish venue. In the weeks prior to the wedding, Zach’s younger brother spent days power-washing over a century of cobwebs from the eves. Kayla’s father, Joe Spini, built the custom waterwheel along with new barn doors. He also catered the entire wedding. Up until the moment she left to get her hair done, Lea was there stringing lights while her 80-year-old mother-in-law weed whacked the lane out front.

“The dairy business is a family affair,” Lea explains. While Zach is her oldest, the Cahill’s younger three children are all college-aged and out of the house. After fixing up the barn for Zach’s wedding, Lea realized that using the barn as a wedding venue was the perfect outlet for her empty nest syndrome. With her creative eye and her family’s dedication, The Barn by Fernbridge is ready for the 2019 wedding season and accepting bookings with up to 600 guests. She explains that their “hay bale couches,” and the milk tank room photo booth are fun touches that allow the barn to be both practical and stylish. “We have everything a bride needs other than tablecloths and flowers,” says Lea.

For more than 100 years, the barns have endured the sometimes harsh natural conditions of Humboldt County, as evidenced by the 12-foot waterline from the flood of ‘64 marking the hand-hewn redwood beams at The Barn by Fernbridge. Still standing proudly today and more beautiful than ever, both barns are expansive, elegant Humboldt County venues to gather round family and friends and make promises to last forever.
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Nora Mounce

Nora Mounce

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