British Columbia

New Agricultural Land Reserve rules make it easier to book a farm wedding in B.C.

That dream barn-yard wedding just became a little bit easier in British Columbia. The provincial government has announced greater flexibility in hosting weddings, concerts and other non-agricultural events on Agricultural Land Reserve properties.

Provincial government has removed permitting requirements for some farm weddings, other events

Last year Bottega Farms, an alpaca farm that hosts many weddings, had to tell several couples their weddings were cancelled due to violations of ALR rules. (

That dream barnyard wedding just became a little bit easier in British Columbia.

The provincial government announced on Tuesday greater flexibility in hosting weddings, concerts and other non-agricultural events on Agricultural Land Reserve properties.

"Our job is to protect agriculture land not just for today but for future generations. But it's also to help farmers gain more income on their farms so they can be more sustainable." said B.C. Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick. 

Restrictions in Place

Before the changes were put in place, farm owners said they had unclear rules of what non-farming activities could take place on ALR land. 

Under the new rules, no new permanent structures can be built for the event, parking must be on the farm and can't interfere with farming activities, and the number of guests must be capped at 150 or less.

Also, the farm can only host a maximum of 10 events in a calendar year. 

Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick speaks to a farmer at Emma Lea Farms in Delta. (CBC News)

A special non-farm permit application is required to the Agriculture Land Commission if any of the new requirements are not met.

"This is the compromise," said Letnick

"The challenge is finding that balance. There are some people that don't want to see any activity on farm land, but there are others who want to open it right up."

Farmers hosting weddings for their own family and friends, for free, are still exempt from applying for the permit. 

Won't Limit Farming

The provincial government has been examining the issue for a few years.

The ALC started a crackdown on farms last summer that irked brides and grooms forced to find new venues weeks before their big day

Many farm owners are embracing the changes announced by the provincial government and say they're satisfied the right balance between agricultural and non-agriculture use has been met.  

"Ten weddings in a calendar year, it's very fairly limiting from a revenue perspective. So it really doesn't allow you to ... do away with your farming," said Jamie Rose, co-owner of the Rose Family Orchard. 

One of the main concerns brought forward by land owners during the public consultation was the amount of noise and traffic these events could create.

To deal with those concerns, the province has put in very specific rules about where vehicles must be parked, including off local roads. But the rules also state farm owners cannot build permanent event parking on farm land. 

"It's good that we now have a clear set of rules," said Phil Christensen, owner of Phil's Farm in Victoria.

"I like a lot of the new rules. If all the vehicles are off the road that's a really good thing. I thinks it's important to be aware of your neighbours."

With files from B.C. Almanac