The Barn at Gully Tavern: Tying the knot in the Heart of Virginia

Published 4:00 pm Friday, January 28, 2022

Nestled inside of a family farm on Gully Tavern Road in Rice is a stunning and elegant wedding venue which has taken the area bridal market by storm.

Today, The Barn at Gully Tavern serves as one of the area’s top venues for couples looking to tie the knot, but the origin behind this local hidden gem can be traced back to a story of a mother and father and the special bond they share with their daughters.

Robert Schmidt, a diesel mechanic and former dairy farmer, was born and raised in Rice. His wife, Dawn, was originally from Cartersville and works as a teacher at Fuqua School. The couple reside on the family farm on Gully Tavern Road. According to the Schmidts, the couple’s entrance into the wedding business began when their oldest daughter, Taylor, got engaged in December 2017.

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When Taylor expressed interest in getting married on the farm, Robert and Dawn decided to build a barn on their property to hold their daughter’s wedding and planned to later use the barn as a shop for Robert’s mechanic work. They began to build the barn in March 2018, and in May 2018, middle sister Kendall announced her own engagement.

With Taylor’s wedding scheduled for October and Kendall’s scheduled for December, both to be held on the farm, the Schmidts hoped to have the barn constructed by 2018. But with record rainfall that summer, the barn wasn’t finished until two weeks before Taylor’s big day.

The two weddings were huge successes, but when the special days came and went, the Schmidts realized their labor of love was just too beautiful to turn into a diesel shop. As the months went by, Robert and Dawn began to receive inquiries from others hoping to rent out the barn for their own wedding receptions or special events.

In 2019, the Schmidts began advertising The Barn at Gully Tavern as a wedding and event space. The business immediately took off and has been thriving ever since.

Transforming the farm into a dream wedding venue has been a labor of love for Robert and Dawn. Stepping into the barn, it’s clear to guests just how much work has gone into the space.

Although you may see a cow or two on your drive through the property, you won’t find any cattle or hay bales in this barn. The gorgeous, stained-wood structure is decorated with billowy, white fabric draped from the ceilings. Chandeliers hang overhead.

The barn has two women’s restrooms and two men’s restrooms, both of which are ADA-accessible, and with heating and cooling also available throughout the building, the comfort of guests is a high priority. The building can fit up to 200 guests inside.

Amenities are not limited solely to the barn, however. According to Robert and Dawn, with the help of Green Front Furniture, the couple have transformed the first floor of the family home into a bridal suite specifically for brides and their bridesmaids to relax in and enjoy as they prepare for their special day. Recently, the Schmidts also constructed a groom’s house for the groom and groomsmen to enjoy as they get ready for the wedding.

Back inside the barn, couples have access to eight oak farm tables made from wood harvested off the farmland. For a charming and quirky touch, the Schmidts provide couples with 70 assorted wooden chairs, and over 200 white folding chairs and more than 20 white round tables are also available for use.

Couples are welcome to any of the countless decorations the Schmidts have accumulated for customers to use over the years. The Barn at Gully Tavern has plenty of vintage and antique items which can be used to decorate the space, including whiskey barrels, decorative milk cans, lanterns, buffet equipment and a specially-made movable stone fireplace.

Couples have several options for both their ceremony and reception space. According to the Schmidts, the interior of the barn is great for both the wedding ceremony and the reception, but many couples choose to hold their ceremony in front of the barn. Vintage pews and wooden benches are available for a charming take on out-door nuptials. Other couples have enjoyed hold-ing their ceremony or cocktail hours among the oak trees on the property or down by the farm’s pond. A portico and stone staircase were recently added to the location, which overlook the water.

The Schmidts have also worked over the years to collect various antique furniture pieces, including sofas, arbors, door frames and other vintage furniture items which can be rented out for events and photo ops. The farm is a popular site for local photographers to hold engagement sessions.

And though The Barn at Gully Tavern has established itself as a premiere wedding venue in the area, the farm is also an immensely popular location for other events, including baby showers, bridal showers, anniversary and birthday parties, Christmas parties, police and fire department events and much more.

Building the barn, the Schmidts noted, was a community effort, and maintaining the business is something all family members, including daughters Taylor, Kendall and Abbie and the Schmidts two sons-in-law love to help with.

There’s a lot of work that goes into preparing for somebody’s big day at the barn. Aside from maintaining the land, the Schmidts work with couples every step of the way to make that dream wedding venue a reality. Couples have access to the barn the day of and the day before the ceremony, and Robert and Dawn are also on hand throughout the couple’s special day to make sure things go smoothly.

When asked about future plans for the venue, Dawn added she hopes to one day have a bridal cottage available on the property as a peaceful getaway for the bridal party. The couple are also getting ready to add a fire pit to their list of venue features.

While getting into the wedding industry was a little unexpected for this couple, the experience has been a blessing. And as each wedding comes to an end, the Schmidts find themselves having made some new friends.

Inspired by the love they have for their children, the Schmidt’s family home has turned into a beautiful space where other families join together to become one.