Choose a fully equipped space. The less you have to rent, the better. Many restaurants and clubs will supply tables, chairs, linens and most partyware.
Sites that can help you put together a package that includes the caterer, cake baker and florist can help you save time and money.
Hold the ceremony and reception at the same site. You'll pay one rental fee and bypass transportation costs. (Make sure the site has separate rooms for the ceremony, cocktail hour and reception so that you don't incur extra labor costs for the "turning" of the room.)
Book off-season (like February), off-hours (like morning) or off-days (like Friday). Or have your Saturday reception at a restaurant that's closed on weekends. Business-district locales often offer reduced rates for weddings held on their off-nights.
Host a brunch, luncheon, cocktail party, or full tea reception, which will cost less than dinner.
Seek out perks
Host your wedding in a hotel ballroom and you could be eligible for discounted room rates for your guests, free airport shuttle service and even a free honeymoon suite.
Hold your reception in a decorative locale. A terrace with a wrought-iron balcony may supply all the grandeur you need, while a forest in autumn, ablaze in golden leaves, cuts flower costs.
Think outside the box
Sites that don't specialize in weddings but host a variety of events may have a lower per-guest cost. Consider an aquarium, lighthouse, jazz club or bed-and-breakfast.
Some yacht-for-hire packages trump those of hotels, and tourist-industry schooners can make for romantic cocktail-party receptions.
Beware of outdoor locations that charge site fees or require special permits. Botanical gardens, for example, can charge up to $10,000 in grounds fees.
Rent a pole tent. With sweeping, peaked roofs, these tents are the most classic option, and the most affordable.
Choose plain plastic tenting over pricier chiffon or silk.
Check into professional and social memberships. Members of golf clubs or alumni associations, for example, may be eligible for substantial discounts.
Consider renting out space at a smaller hotel or restaurant. Your favorite bistro, for example, may have a lovely private room that costs much less than space at a mega-hot spot.