So, you got engaged — congratulations! Now comes the part that some consider fun… and most others consider stressful: planning the actual wedding.
One of the first and most important parts of planning a wedding is selecting the venue. You might have your ceremony and reception in the same venue, or hold the ceremony in a place of worship and the reception in a separate location — but either way, you’ll want to lock down your location as soon as possible since many popular venues book up months or even years in advance.
The average couple spent $14,000 on their wedding venue in 2014, according to the Knot – that accounts for almost half of the average American wedding budget of just over $31,000. For some, that $14,000 was just the price to rent their venue, and as such, they still had to pay for equipment rentals, catering service, alcohol, and a band on top of that. Others likely found that many amenities were included in their venue rental. It depends on what a location offers, so it’s important to do your research.
If you’re looking to have an affordable wedding, the venue is one place where you can definitely save a lot of money, as it comprises one of the biggest parts of your budget. For advice on how to do just that, read on.
Tips for Finding an Affordable Wedding Venue
- Go off-season: The most popular month to have a wedding is in June, so try to go off-season. Choose a month where people are less likely to get married. For example, my wedding day was on Jan. 2. The big plus was that our venue was already decorated for the holidays and we didn’t have to spend any extra money on flowers or decorations. The downside was everyone was a little burned out from all the holidays, or still out of town. But by going off-season, we were able to save a significant amount of money.
- Choose an unusual time of day: If you and your fiance love waking up early, you could have a wedding early and have a brunch. That way, the venue has time to clean up and have another — more expensive — wedding in the evening and can offer you a big discount. It’s a win/win for both of you.
- Pay up front: Most venues will require an initial deposit to hold the date you want. However, you can ask to see if they will offer you a discount for paying everything up front. Cash is king, so use it and your negotiation powers to get a better rate.
- Don’t go traditional: Most people think of banquet halls and hotels when it comes to wedding receptions, but you don’t always have to go traditional. Local parks, interesting museums, beaches, and even aquariums can be great places to hold a wedding celebration.
- Check for work discounts: Do any of your friends or family work at a local historic home? Are they a ranger at a local park? Are they a curator at a museum? Do they work the front desk at a hotel? If so, ask your connections if they can get you a discount.
- Check your college: If you graduated from a college or university, chances are there are many venues where you can get married on campus. If you’re an alumnus, you’ll typically receive a discount, so don’t hesitate to ask. I know my alma mater, William and Mary, allows alumni to get married in their Wren Chapel.
Five Affordable Wedding Venues
I selected five amazingly affordable wedding venues from all across the country. From California to Colorado, from New York down to Virginia and Louisiana, all the venues below are beautiful, memorable — and even better, cost half or less than what the average American couple spent on their wedding venue in 2014.
Option #1: The Old Governor’s Mansion in Baton Rouge, La.
Price: $3,500 for 250-300 people
I couldn’t help but include my own wedding venue, The Old Governor’s Mansion in the capital city of Louisiana. The Governor’s Mansion was the first venue I saw, and I immediately wanted to book it. I majored in history in college and grad school, so I loved the home from the moment I stepped in it.
I also liked how I wouldn’t have to do anything in terms of decorating it. The gorgeous chandeliers, beautiful wall colors, and historic furnishings were all the decorations I needed. And since we got married on Jan. 2, there was a large Christmas tree right when you walked in and several other holiday decorations that fit in perfectly with our wedding colors of red and white. Plus, as you can see, the venue is remarkably affordable.
Option #2: Brooklyn Historical Society in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Price: $5,000 for first-floor event space package, various options for seating.
New York City is one of the most expensive places to get married in the country — the average Manhattan wedding cost more than $75,000 last year. With prices for hotels and banquet halls sky-high, a bride on a budget needs to look for hidden jewels.
The Brooklyn Historical Society is one of those jewels. Get married surrounded by books or in the equally enchanting and classic Great Hall. There are many different places to get married and have the reception within the Brooklyn Historical Society, so contact them to find a location that would best suit your wedding needs.
Also, ask about becoming a member, which may help you get a better rate. Because membership fees are tax deductible, this venue might cost less than you’d imagine. For photos of weddings in the Brooklyn Historical Society, check out their Pinterest Page.
Option #3: Piedmont Community Hall in Piedmont, Calif.
Price: $3,800 for Saturdays (8 hours)
This attractive city-owned property in Northern California makes a remarkably affordable wedding venue given its Bay Area location. And hefty discounts are available if you’re willing to wed on a Friday or Sunday or in the off-season (Nov.-April). Local Piedmont residents also get a price break.
You can also rent their outdoor plaza or Tea House, either in conjunction with the main hall or separately, at rates ranging from $400-$700.
Option #4: Sunshine Mountain Lodge in Allenspark, Colo. (near Boulder)
Price: $990 for you and 30+ guests to celebrate and stay the night
If you’re interested in a complete do-it-yourself wedding to save money, the Sunshine Mountain Lodge in Colorado might be the perfect place for you. Not only can you have a lovely ceremony and reception here, but you can have access to all their facilities — so your guests can stay the night and you can cook some meals, too.
One bride in particular describes her amazingly well-thought-out and sweet wedding where she had a blast with all her friends and family and only spent $2,000.
Option #5: The Mariners’ Museum Courtyard in Newport News, Va.
Price: $1,800 for Saturday
The Mariners’ Museum is an award-winning museum set on a 550-acre park. It’s in a beautiful part of the country near many other historic locations like Norfolk, Va., and Colonial Williamsburg, so out-of-town guests can easily be convinced to make the trek.
There are a number of different parts of the museum that you can rent out, but the least expensive on a typical Saturday evening is the courtyard. The best part is that you’ll be supporting a museum that preserves some pretty significant history while having a unique venue for your special day.
Other Ways to Save On Wedding Venues
Go smaller: I know your mom wants you to invite all your third cousins, but the truth is, by keeping the guest list smaller, you’ll have many more options for a cheap wedding venue. A wedding with 50 guests or fewer can have a reception in a nice restaurant or other small space that might be much more affordable and offer a lot more charm per dollar than a big wedding factory. Plus, it’s not only the space that will be more affordable — because you have fewer people to feed and entertain, everything else will cost less, too.
Go shorter: Many venues will rent the space for about three to five hours. You can always ask for a 2.5-hour reception and ask if you can save on the price by shaving off 30 minutes. A lot of people won’t hang around for a full three-hour or longer reception (we only had a few people waving goodbye to us at the end!), so don’t pay for time you don’t need.
Go outside: While hotel ballrooms and function halls can cost thousands of dollars, the great outdoors is often completely free. State parks and beaches and city parks often allow wedding ceremonies and even full receptions on their grounds, although they may require you to purchase a permit. Alternatively, does someone in your family have a sprawling, lovingly landscaped back yard? Ask if they’d be willing to let you use it for your wedding in lieu of a gift. Just make sure to come up with a contingency plan for bad weather, such as renting a sturdy outdoor tent.
Ask for a discount: If you might be eligible for a discount — for instance, if you served in the military — don’t hesitate to ask for one. Even a 5% to 10% discount can make a huge difference when planning a wedding.
Elope: Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the cheapest wedding venue is none at all. Ask around and you’ll find more than one bride who wished she would have eloped instead of spending thousands of dollars on a wedding and reception. Sometimes, it’s better to save your cash and pay off debts or put a down payment toward a house instead of burning it all on a one-day party.
A Final Note
Planning a wedding can be extremely hectic, but also fun. As long as you stay organized and take a break when you feel stressed, you will be able to enjoy the process.
When I got married, I kept a large binder with all my wedding receipts and contracts, and I appreciated being able to find things when I needed them. So, as soon as I booked my wedding venue, I gave “Venue” its own folder in my binder, and that’s where I kept contact numbers and receipts.
Your wedding venue is one of the most crucial decisions you’ll make when planning your wedding. It could end up being the most expensive part of your budget, but it can also be the one thing that really creates a unique setting for your wedding day. You don’t have to go overboard and tour 40 venues; just select a handful once you nail down your budget, tour them all in close succession, and then choose one with your fiance.
Trust me, once you select a venue, you will instantly feel like this wedding is really happening now — because you’ll need to pick a date that the venue is available and put a deposit down.
It’s exciting, but it’ll be even more exciting when you find a venue you love that’s unique, memorable, and most of all, affordable. I hope the above ideas can help you get inspired to find the wedding venue of your dreams without breaking your budget.