The Knot reports that couples spend an average of $14,000 on their reception venues.
—And that’s not even including another $1,900 on a ceremony site. In total, that’s a stunning half of the average wedding budget. If that price tag is way out of your league, you’re probably looking for affordable wedding venues that will hold your guests and fit your needs. We’ve rounded up our best tricks and suggestions for venues that wow, but won’t break the budget.
To start the process, identify which parts of the reception are the most important to you and your fiancé. If you’re both foodies and you want food to be the focus, you might consider a restaurant reception. If you know your guests are dancing machines, a space with large dance floor potential makes sense.
Take a look at our ideas for cheap wedding venues, and tips for lowering the price of your selected venue even further.
How to Find a Cheap Wedding Venue: Tips & Tricks
Some venues charge twice as much for a Saturday fling. Being a traditional and functional weekend day, Saturdays do make sense. But consider saving on costs by planning a Friday night wedding. It even gives guests an extra weekend day to recover.
Skip Summer, Too.
Summer is the most popular season to get married. But if weather isn’t a huge concern, opt for wedding in the off-season. You’ll have a bigger selection of available venues at lower costs, and your guests are less likely to be double booked on weekends.
Try a Morning Wedding.
If you’re set on a Saturday affair, why not have a morning wedding? It gives the venue a chance to double book the day, and you can save by serving brunch.
Work Your Connections.
If your friend is a curator at a museum, see if they can get you a discount there. Same goes with any friends in the hospitality industry, or with catering connections. There could be benefits for sharing the same venue as a friend, too. Check in with recently married friends to see if there’s a referral discount you can both benefit from.
Two Isn’t Better Than One.
Not in this case, at least. Holding the ceremony and reception in the same place is becoming increasingly popular. And why not? Having everything all in one place means less transportation for you and your guests, plus saving on costs and decor. Most venues have a few good ideas of how to arrange a space to accommodate both.
Make It Your ‘Something New.’
Don’t be afraid of freshly-opened spaces. Chances are they’re fully up to code, anxious to please new clients, and are offering lower rates to attract new clients.
This will save you some serious cash as most reception venues who cater alcohol will mark it way up to make a profit. If your space is willing to let you bring in your own booze, head to a wholesale liquor distributor and stock up before the big day.
Most rental spaces rent until 11pm or midnight, but if you’re paying by the hour, consider ending the party at the venue at ten, and choose a nearby bar where guests can keep the party rolling.
Most venues will have you reserve your date with a down payment, and pay the full cost over time. However, some provide a discount for paying the entire sum upfront – just make sure you have a way to get refunded if something goes awry.
Standing Room Only.
If you’re having a quick, outdoor ceremony, consider skipping chairs. If there are wedding attendees who need to be seated, pull a few from the reception area for them during the ceremony.
Our Favorite Cheap Wedding Venue Ideas
Seem like an inexpensive option, and certainly can be. If you’ve got a friend with an amazing backyard, ask about using it for your wedding. A backyard bash can be ultra-glamorous with the right planning. Gatsby did it, after all.
Renting everything from tables, chairs, linens, and tents can get costly fast, so even if you’re getting the venue for free, keep your budget in check as you plan.
Saying “I do” in barns has grown in popularity over the years, making a style that was once seen as an option for country folk a popular choice for city-dwellers alike.
While there are plenty of renovated event barns that provide all of the wedding day services (and operate at higher costs), depending on where you live, you may be able to find a more rustic option to save on costs.
A National or State Park
The great outdoors can make for a great wedding venue. Many state and national parks will rent space in a shelter or other designated space for as low as $5. And those photo opportunities in some of America’s most iconic landscapes? Priceless.
Things to consider with this option include weather variability, privacy, and decorations – you won’t be allowed to attach decorations to much in parks. Contact the park of your choosing for details and to obtain a special events permit.
Churches + Other Places of Worship
For those set on saying their vows somewhere holy, holding the reception there can be an inexpensive and easy reception venue. Ask them about reserving the fellowship hall or other gathering space. If there’s a large, attractive outdoor space, inquire about whether or not that could also be an option.
Getting married near your alma mater? See if your college offers discounts for ceremonies or reception spaces for graduates. Most colleges and universities charge a very low booking fee for an on-campus chapel. And for the after party, you might even be able to snag the football field – if you’re lucky.
A Local Restaurant
If the meal you are serving is important to you and your fiancé, consider having your reception at a restaurant you love. While it may not accommodate a large crowd, you’re guaranteed to have great food and service, along with an ambiance you can’t achieve with decorations.
And if you’re dreaming of a wedding in the city, a restaurant reception can pair beautifully with an intimate city hall wedding. Bring your closest friends and photographer to the ceremony, and meet everyone else at the happy hour to get the party started.
Plus, if you have a friend in the restaurant business, see if there’s a way for them to reserve your day, or better yet, get the space on the day the restaurant is closed.
Today, more and more couples are booking their big day through Airbnb. Not only does it give you a unique, affordable location, but it can also accommodate your closest friends and family for the weekend.
Filter for your location, and boost up the number of guests to 16. It should be pretty clear which spaces are suitable for a wedding reception event, and many will list in the description whether or not they’re interested in hosting a major bash. Of course, contact the host immediately and be transparent about your intentions.
Selecting your venue is one of the biggest decisions in the wedding planning process, and finding a cheap wedding venue can sometimes feel like an impossible task. However, there are hidden gems waiting to be found everywhere. With an open mind and a willingness to compromise, you’re bound to snag your dream reception venue – while keeping your budget in touch with reality.
Featured photo by Robert Mathews.