There are plenty of cheap wedding venues available if you look around. Where you choose to get married and hold your reception afterward significantly impacts your budget. The average wedding price is heavily influenced by the number of guests and the venue you select.
But your wedding budget isn’t the only thing affected by your choice of venue. Your venue influences everything else surrounding your big day. The wedding location affects the type of ceremony you have, the number of guests you can accommodate, the wedding food, how people dress, who can make it, and how everyone gets there. You don’t need to spend a fortune or max out your credit cards to have a perfect wedding. You don’t need to find a cheap place to elope, either.
You can find an affordable wedding venue with some effort and creativity. If saving money on your wedding is a priority, consider the cheap wedding venue ideas below.
1. At City Hall or a Courthouse
You can always make an appointment with your local city hall and get married without fanfare. Heading to the courthouse is probably the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of cheap wedding ideas.
Before you dismiss the idea of a city hall wedding ceremony, consider that some city halls are beautiful examples of period architecture, making for some fantastic photos. Some also have rooms, courtyards, atriums, or unique special event spaces you can rent for a ceremony for much less than any hotel ballroom, country club, or banquet hall.
For example, you can get married at San Francisco City Hall with a one-hour, two-hour, or more sophisticated wedding with hundreds of guests. Booking your wedding at San Francisco City Hall gets you private use of some beautiful space. The building is a 500,000-square-foot historic landmark that opened in 1915.
Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and several other cities throughout the United States have grand city halls. They can make for breathtaking photo backdrops, provide more than just a quick ceremony, and save you money over more traditional wedding venues.
2. At Home
Having your wedding at your Home or the Home of a friend or family member could be a low-cost or no-cost option. You can make it work as long as there is plenty of space. However, several expenses will probably be associated with transforming a backyard, garden, or house into a beautiful wedding venue.
Table and chair rentals, catering services, a wedding photographer, decorations, and more will add additional costs. A backyard wedding might still be your best bet for keeping wedding expenses down, especially if the venue costs you nothing.
3. On Your Street
If you’re friendly with your neighbors and your neighborhood is used to block parties, a block party wedding could be a blast. It won’t be the most intimate wedding ever, but a block party could be fun and affordable if raucous is more your style.
Check with your city on a permit to close the street. City ordinances could also cover alcohol and loud music, so research everything.
Catering can be as simple as a barbeque or hiring a food truck or two. You’ll also need solutions for a dance floor, bathroom availability, and bad weather.
4. In a Park
A backyard wedding or a block party aren’t your only options for an affordable outdoor wedding. If you and your fiancé love nature, a park is a perfect venue for an outdoor wedding.
Imagine getting married amidst the lush greenery of New York’s Central Park or a picturesque national park like Yosemite, Zion National Park, or Joshua Tree. With the vast number of parks in the U.S., you have plenty of options no matter where you live.
You’ll need a permit whether you choose a national, state, or local park. Costs vary according to the park type and event, with most national, state, and city parks charging a small fee.
For example, you can get an event permit and have your ceremony in The Public Garden in Boston. The cost is $50 if you live in Boston or $100 if you’re a non-resident.
Parks also have special rules for events regarding dates, times, duration, noise, what you can or can’t bring, and more. The main things are to clean up after your wedding party, avoid disturbing wildlife, and leave the area the way you found it.
Familiarize yourself with the rules and follow them to the letter. You don’t want to get fined or shut down on your wedding day.
5. On a Beach
The sun peeking out over the horizon, the sound of waves crashing, and the smell of the sea air. A beach wedding can be incredibly romantic and budget-friendly.
A permit from the city or county might only cost you $100 to $200. Compare that to the average cost of a hotel or other venue, and you’ll see beaches are a more budget-friendly wedding venue than most.
Weddings in outdoor spaces usually require more planning. Beach weddings come with unique challenges that other outdoor wedding venues don’t.
How accessible is the beach, and is there ample parking? Is there some shade available? Are there any rules or restrictions regarding decor or what you can and can’t bring?
The sound of the water and other beachgoers can drown out your ceremony. You might need a sound system and a way to power it.
In addition to the weather forecast, be aware of the tide. Be prepared for windy conditions. Knowing which months make up the rainy or hurricane season when you set your date helps.
6. At a Community Center
A community center is another cheaper option for an affordable ceremony and reception space. Community centers are gathering places by design, so most should be able to accommodate you and everyone on your guest list.
Some have everything you need for a ceremony and reception: the space, the kitchen, a sound system, tables and chairs, and even event staff. You will likely cover decorations, catering costs, and other basics, but saving on the venue will help.
7. In a Library
You don’t have to be a book lover to want to get married in a library. Several of the country’s libraries are spectacular buildings in their own right. Many libraries rent out space for events at an affordable price.
Some, like the New York Public Library or the Providence Public Library in Rhode Island, will cost you as much as or more than a traditional wedding venue and require a wedding planner. That doesn’t mean getting married in a library is out of your price range.
Libraries that aren’t famous or located in major cities offer lovely spaces for a wedding at reasonable prices. Check with branches in your area.
While you might rent the space affordably, a smaller public library probably won’t have a list of preferred vendors. You’ll likely make arrangements for wedding essentials yourself.
8. In a Museum
If you’re an art lover, scientist, or history buff, a museum provides a unique setting for your nuptials. World-famous museums come with a steep price tag, but smaller local museums might be the perfect option at a reasonable price.
You’ll likely have to rent the basics and work within the limits of the available space. Beautiful paintings, artifacts, and displays occupy most of the area, so you might not have much say regarding layout, wedding colors, or decor. Fees might include a donation or membership, admission for your guests, and a rental expense.
9. At an Airbnb or Vrbo
Airbnb and VRBO are not just for short-term stays or vacations. You can book some rental properties for weddings. You can find budget-friendly wedding venues on either site by searching for properties that contain the words ‘wedding’ or ‘event’ in their descriptions.
Message the owner before booking. Go over the wedding and type of party you’re planning. Confirm that you won’t be breaking any house rules or local regulations.
Rental rates depend highly on the type of property, time of year, and location, but there are affordable options. If you do your research, you could find a property that will let you hold your wedding in a dream location for much cheaper than a conventional wedding venue.
10. At the Zoo or Aquarium
Zoos and aquariums make excellent wedding sites for animal lovers. Imagine you and your guests surrounded by exotic animals, birds, butterflies, or marine life while you and your partner start your story together. Having animals in attendance gives you and everyone on your guest list something to remember forever.
Call them if you have a favorite zoo, aquarium, bird sanctuary, or butterfly reserve near you. Many will happily host your ceremony, wedding reception, or both.
11. On a College or University Campus
Many college campuses have beautiful grounds, botanical gardens, cathedrals, churches, and unique architecture, making the perfect backdrop for attractive wedding photos. Some schools require affiliation with the university if you want a campus wedding, but others are open.
St. Paul’s Chapel at Columbia University in New York does not require you to be a student, faculty member, or alum. You can hold a modern or same-sex wedding there as well. The price depends on the day of the week you book and ranges from $1,250 to $1,750.
Call your alma mater as they may discount alums—research schools in your area. There may be several inexpensive wedding venues on college campuses near you.
12. In a Barn or on a Farm
If a rustic wedding is your dream, a farm or a barn in the idyllic countryside might be the perfect wedding venue. With lots of open space, high ceilings, and exposed beams, there’s potential for decorating any way you can imagine.
While barns are typically affordable venues, be aware that not all barns have electricity. Most don’t have heating and cooling systems.
Also, you will likely need to rent everything and find vendors yourself. Barns aren’t built with weddings in mind; farmers don’t typically keep a preferred vendor list or have event staff. Even if you do more legwork, barns can make for a low-budget wedding venue.
13. On a Boat
Getting married on a boat can be very cost-effective and an absolute dream. Hosting everything from an intimate ceremony to cocktail hour to a sit-down dinner on board means less planning and dealing with vendors. Get married on a cruise ship, and you can combine your wedding and your honeymoon.
Many boats and cruise lines offer all-inclusive wedding packages at different price points. The package can include food, flowers, music, a professional photographer, and more. There’s usually a wedding planner who handles all the details for you.
14. In a Restaurant
Not everyone thinks of restaurants, cafes, or coffee shops as potential wedding venues, but don’t be too quick to dismiss the idea of being wed at your favorite restaurant. Many restaurants can accommodate large groups. Some have private spaces like patios, rooftops, or event banquet rooms.
Restaurants can be budget-friendly, even if you buy out the entire restaurant. There may be no rental fee on top of the food and beverage costs. Also, there’s usually no need to rent tables, chairs, or flatware.
Tips for Saving Money on Wedding Venues
So now you have a comprehensive list of inexpensive wedding venue ideas. Here are a few ways to save even more money and make an affordable venue even more affordable.
1. Check prices on package deals
Venues that offer extensive wedding packages seem more expensive, but that’s not always the case. Cheaper venue types might require you to provide everything but the space. Figure out how much you would spend on buying, renting, and hiring everything you need to make accurate comparisons.
2. Consider off-peak times
You can save a lot of money if you choose less popular times since there’s less demand. Getting married on a weekday or during the winter months could lower your venue prices and most of your other wedding services.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate. You might get the base price, event fees, minimum food charges, and other fees discounted or waived. If you don’t ask, the answer is no.
4. Choose one location
Hold your ceremony and your reception in the same location if you can. That will save you from paying rental fees for two venues. You also won’t have to worry about transportation from the wedding to the reception.
5. Trim your guest list
Review your guest list. Fewer guests mean less space needed and lower costs all around. Go over the names again; there might be some you wouldn’t mind leaving off the list.
Image Credits: Unsplash
Sara Graham is a frugal living and household budgeting expert. Her writing has appeared on MSN Money, The Good Men Project, Fairygodboss, and several other online publications. She is the co-founder of KindaFrugal.com, a personal finance and frugal living blog.