Props are key to maximizing profit.....several key pieces can add the Umph! to an event that makes all the difference.
What pieces do you use? pix would be great!
ok, looks like I'll start this thread off.....
Garden Shops are notorious places to get props......
Large bird baths make great platters
We've got French antique 28" handled wood platters that make great cheese or charcuterie platters
Punch bowl bottoms for dips
Great quality silk flowers.
Wine boxes to use as risers
Glass boxes to use on the outside of chafers
Shroom, don't forget cheese boxes. They make great risers, and can even be used as deep platters. Best of all, they're free.
Although it sounds weird, consider metal trash-can lids for foods that need to stay cold. Invert the lid (skirting it, if necessary), fill with crushed ice, and lay out oysters, etc.
Garage sales, if you've got the patience for them, can, literally, be gold mines. Somebody else's junk turns into your display treasure.
Develop a contact-network with historic reenactors. They have all sorts of clothing and equipment that you can borrow for an appropriate themed party. Include SCA in that network, as its members are a great source of fantasy gear.
Costume shop owners can often direct you to sources of other props. They tend to be in touch with that sort of thing.
I don't do much catering, hardly at all really and typically just rent what I need. However one time I went to a friends wedding was helping set up chairs and such and the caterer dropped the ball on (can you believe it) tiers for the wedding cake. That's right no tiers for three half sheet cakes designed to look like a castle with moat and surrounding countryside and village. In a brilliant moment I went to the local deli and asked for pickle buckets and got three of them. Then raided the Churches tool closet for a saw. cut two of the buckets into different heights and draped with a table cloth. looked good, no one was the wiser. till tear down and then the caterer kinda got in trouble.
Lentil, are you saying that because the weddings are being held in barns that you're looking for a farm theme? And, if so, what sort of farming is most prevalent in the area? That, alone, should provide some clues.
For instance, if I were doing such down here I would decorate with old-style tobacco farming tools: Tobacco baskets, and chopping knives, and spikes, and tobacco sticks, etc. Maybe use a pair of tobacco setters to support tabletops. That sort of thing.
I'm guessing that where you are dairy is the big thing. If that's the case, old-fashioned milk cans, and three-legged spoons, and milking pails would work. Dairy cows are belled, and those would work as props, too.
I know there are miniature, decorative milk cans available. You could use them as centerpiece elements. Lot's of gingham, as it always says "farming." Maybe do the tablecloths out of it?
Canning jars are a great element for a farm theme. Use them decoratively, and for service (drinks, condiments, soups, salads, some apps and desserts can be served right in them). The larger (i.e. half-gallon) can also be used to hold floral displays and as elements in the centerpieces.
For larger props, don't forget chicken crates. You'd use them pretty much the same way as lobster traps and the like.
Check out the pix under my profile, a few of them may be helpful.
Glass milk pints or quarts, either for water or flowers.
old scales, Large jars full of ?....mine were morels and other wild mushrooms because I was serving morel duxelle on buttered crostini.
Farm weddings....wheat grass, sunflower shoots for decorative shtuff....I've had large platters of sunflower shoots and skewered baby veg coming out if it.
Chalk Boards for menus
wire baskets of eggs.....I've got aracana blown out (blue/green, some shades of browns)
grain sacks, potato sacks....we had old ones hanging on a wall behind a mashed potato bar
pitch forks, old scyth, toy tractors, hay bales,
What's your menu?