You’re engaged! Congratulations!
When is the wedding? Where are you getting married? Sound familiar?
To the newly engaged, it can be frustrating how little you are allowed to revel in your engagement before the questions begin. In their haste to answer the when and the where, some couples can book a venue that sets them on a path to blowing their wedding budget. Don’t let that be the case!
Weddings are expensive. To give you a hand in planning, we’re focusing on the essential elements of a great party — the food, drink, music, stationery, and favors. We’ve already discussed how sourcing your own wines for your wedding can help save you big bucks. For our second installment, we’re talking venue — because location does matter.
Once you know the total amount you can spend on your wedding (please don’t even think about anything wedding–related until you know this number), assume about half of it will be spent on the combination of venue, food, and beverage. Whether your budget is ample or modest, keeping the site fee to a minimum will allow you to spend more on other things.
When you are looking to save, you need to think beyond posh event spaces or hotel ballrooms to locations that are under-utilized for weddings. Here are four strategies to consider.
Out of Favor Locales
Consider a venue that's better days are behind it — it’s added money in your pocket. These venues are often grateful for the business and willing to be flexible. Some candidates that come to mind are roller-skating arenas and single screen movie theaters. (Photo courtesy of Michelle Hayes Photography)
Before you scoff at these ideas, consider the built-in advantages of each. A roller rink (right) is a large open space with a sound system and polished wood floors perfect for dividing into ceremony, cocktail, and dinner areas. Many have lighting systems that can be used to create a beautiful ambiance.
Movie theaters (left) have ample ceremony seating and a stage perfect for exchanging vows. Many traditional theaters have grand lobbies which can easily accommodate cocktails and dinner. And, of course, you’ll get to personalize the marquis for your wedding. (Photo courtesy of Zasey Photography)
Parks and Recreation Fields
Public parks can offer spectacular settings at unbeatable prices. Think Glen Span Arch in New York City's Central Park or Ash Cave in Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio. A permit is usually required, but is often around $25. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Castrop)
Besides providing lovely settings for vow exchanges, parks can be the perfect place for a casual picnic or barbeque wedding reception (or a float, at top). Just be sure that music is allowed if you want it and that there are adequate restrooms nearby. (It's an added plus to have the weather gods on your side.)
If you are marrying in a religious building, consider using their community space for the reception. Many churches and synagogues have private gardens that are ideal for hosting a cocktail hour, as well as large, if nondescript, halls which can be used for dinner and dancing. While the aesthetics may be lacking, the modest fees to use the space will leave you with extra cash for décor and music.
Unusual Places with Significance
One of the most meaningful weddings I worked on took place at a camp that was next door to the bride’s childhood home. By a weird coincidence, the groom, who grew up several thousand miles away in another country, had gone to the same camp as a child. The camp directors rented the entire camp to them for a steal for the weekend. We used a converted barn on the property for the reception and guests stayed in the campers' cabins. (Photo courtesy of Julie Mikos)
Be creative and consider unlikely locations that resonate with you and your partner and see if any would be appealing for a wedding. Bookworms? Rent the local library. Baseball nuts? Get married on home plate at the nearest Triple-A field. High school sweethearts? Have it in your high school gym. Ski buffs? Rent the lodge at your favorite mountain, off-season. Or your backyard (right, photo courtesy of Laura Murray Photography).
A little ingenuity and the willingness to buck tradition can significantly reduce the amount you spend on your wedding venue. Happy location scouting!