Swiss Acres offers up new wedding venue in the Iowa Great Lakes

When Carly and Aaron Janssen moved to an acreage complete with two barns in rural Terril, they weren’t planning on starting a wedding venue business.

It just sort of happened.

Swiss Acres Weddings and Events is a new business to the Iowa Great Lakes. Just minutes outside of Milford, Swiss Acres is a wedding venue that features two recently restored barns and offer brides and grooms another location option to celebrate their big day.

It all started with a love story.

Carly and Aaron’s love story.

Carly grew up in Ankeny, while Aaron is an Emmetsburg native; they met while both were students at the University of Iowa. After parting ways for a few years, they got back together in 2013 and when Aaron was offered a job in northwest Iowa in late 2013, he convinced Carly to give it a try — with a promise.

“I told him that the only way I was moving was if we had land and if we could get dogs. That’s what I wanted and then this farm came for sale and we didn’t even buy it with the intention of becoming a wedding venue,” Carly said.

In fact, if Aaron had gotten his way, the property would only have had one barn.

“I actually wanted to tear this barn down,” Aaron said.

“But I wouldn’t let him. It was so pretty. I didn’t know what we were going to do with it, but I just loved it. I’ve always loved barns.”

They purchased the property, complete with two old barns in 2015. But those two old barns were fated for a face-lift. After Aaron proposed on Feb. 9, 2016, the two made a decision that would change their lives and, unbeknown to them at the time, be the start to a new business.

“We thought, why not just get married here?” Aaron said. “At first we thought we would just get married in the front yard, but my dad had started tearing into that south barn.”

They decided to hold the wedding in one of the property’s barns after putting in countless hours and lots of blood, sweat and tears into fixing up the South barn.

They were married on Sept. 24, 2016, seven months after Aaron proposed.

And that’s where they thought the story would end.

But it didn’t.

“After we got married, one of my co-workers asked us if their son could get married here,” Aaron said. The couple said yes, and with that one wedding, they were wading into a new business as a wedding venue.

They discovered that they had stumbled into a good side business that they enjoyed. And they rolled up their sleeves and got to work renovating both barns.

With the exception of one wedding in 2017, the couple has been hard at work renovating the two barns on the property. The South Barn is the spot for receptions and the North Barn is set up for ceremonies. There is space by a stand of cottonwoods for people to have an outdoor ceremony if they choose to.

The North Barn now features a Groom’s Suite and a Bridal Suite so the wedding party has a spot to get ready on site. They both feature comfortable seating, a changing area, mirrors and TVs with cable. The groom’s area also features a pool table.

The reception space is filled with beautiful wood from the walls to the arched altar to the chairs to the wagon wheel chandeliers. There are also church pews that were rescued from a 100-year-old church in Alexandria, MN, that lend a hand to the romantic, historic ambience of the space. The barns both have capacities of 250-275 people and are both temperature controlled.

The South Barn is now the spot for the reception complete with a catering kitchen, dance floor and a loft space for even more seating. Handmade tables, branded with the Swiss Farms logo, add some extra character.

They were also able to reclaim four grain bins that someone offered up to them and transform them into gazebos that are used as an outdoor seating and cocktail area near the South Barn. Construction wrapped up in March of 2019 after extensive work that included lifting and moving the North Barn so that a new foundation could be put in.

The renovations of both barns, which were originally built in the 1950s, took a lot of time and effort, but the venue has already proved a popular one. Swiss Acres had 24 weddings in 2019 and they are currently booked to host 31 weddings in 2020.

When booking a wedding at Swiss Acres, you are booking the entire weekend. They don’t do separate events on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Bridal couples rent the space for all three days.

Plans for the future include adding a split rail fence around the property and possibly an addition onto one of the barns, but they are waiting to see how things go.

“We really just fly by the seat of our pants, well his pants,” Carly said with a laugh. “Each year we will have to see where it takes us.”

For two people who didn’t start out wanting to own a wedding venue, the couple is having a great time with it.

“We love working with people and doing our best to make them happy and making sure every aspect of their celebration is as great as we can,” Aaron said.

“It’s all about building those relationships with them,” Carly said. “For us, the best part of this is about the people.”