The Complete Guide to Wedding Venue Costs

Wedding Venue Cost Guide

PHOTO BY PAT FUREY PHOTOGRAPHY

You’re engaged and about to embark on one of life’s most beautiful adventures. The next step is to select a date and a wedding venue. It's essential to find a site that is right for your style, fits your budget, and offers value no matter what you are spending. The average wedding venue cost is $5,000 based on a low of $3,000 to a high of $12,000 for the venue’s site fee, not including food and beverage. Location, demand, day of the week, inclusions, and seasonality all affect the pricing of a venue. Here, three experts share valuable advice for booking your venue, including a guide to the costs involved.

“For us at Mt. Hood Ski Bowl up in the rural Cascade Range, it’s our value-added packaging,” says Becca Kolibaba, Director of Group Sales. “We wrapped all of our inclusions into the site fee and minimums. There is great value for the customer and it's easier for the couple when planning. We aren’t into nickel and diming people, and the experience is a much more enjoyable one in the end here at Ski Bowl.”

The Black Walnut Inn’s standout feature is complete privacy. The entire inn is bought out for the wedding, which includes the property's use for two days. “The Black Walnut’s exclusive location at the top of the Dundee Hills, overlooking the Willamette Valley, puts the property in high demand for a wedding venue, says General Manager Leah Schlechter. “Not many wineries in the valley are permitted to host weddings.”

In addition to its distinctive city location, The Porter Portland offers flexibility. “We have a beautiful metropolitan setting in the center of downtown and can host ceremonies from ten to two hundred people,” says Ryan Litsey, Director of Sales and Marketing. “You can have the ceremony on our outdoor terrace and then take your guests up to the 16th floor to our rooftop lounge with panoramic views of the Columbia River, downtown Portland, and the West Hills.”

Typical Venue Prices

Venue site fees fluctuate depending on the date of your wedding. If the venue is providing the food and drink, there will be a minimum dollar amount that you have to spend with them to determine the venue's final cost. 

Moderate

A Ski Bowl resort wedding with world-class views of Mt. Hood is an excellent value for the adventurous at heart. Site fees run $3,500 for Saturdays with Fridays and Sundays at $2,500. Food and beverage minimums range from $5,000-$9,000 for the onsite catering by their culinary team. Per person, food pricing starts around $55 to $150. They’ll create a custom package for you and they offer beverage packages. Everything is included except floral, officiant, hair and makeup, and music. Ski Bowl’s ceremony location is accessed by ski lift and a short stroll or a shuttle up to the historic warming hut with a dead-on view of Mt. Hood. Guests have the option of a thrilling ride down the Alpine Slide to the reception area or pickup by shuttle.

Mid to High

Although Portland's heart will always radiate eclectic cool, downtown Portland is evolving and becoming more sophisticated. The polished Porter Hotel has accommodations, event rooms, a rooftop bar, and two ballrooms that open to outdoor spaces with views of the Columbia River and city lights. The base $2,000 wedding package site fee offers a choice of outdoor or indoor sites. There are food and beverage minimums to meet and wedding packages run $110-$160 dollars per person, with beverage packages available. A wedding night King Room with river views is complementary, with so much included all you have to supply is the officiant, florist, music, hair, and makeup.

Luxe

In the rolling hills of the Dundee AVA in the Willamette Valley is the stunning Tuscan-style Black Walnut Inn. The inn requires a buyout of their nine rooms for two nights at the cost of $6,200 to $9,000. Also, you’ll pay a venue fee of $3,500 to $10,000, which includes your ceremony and the reception site and there are some stipulations. You’ll need to hire a full-service wedding planner to work with the inn. There are food and beverage minimums for a private dinner prepared by the inn’s chef for eight to 24 guests. You have to use one of their preferred caterers for the wedding reception. Chairs, tables, service ware, etc., must be rented and brought in. The maximum number of guests for the wedding is fifty, so the inn is best for a serene wedding for those who want an intimate experience, love wine country views, and fabulous food and wine.

Additional Costs to Expect

Venues differ on what they provide as part of the site fee and catering packages. Makes sure to inquire about the following:

  • Parking: Ask if there is free or discounted parking and valet service available.
  • Rentals: Go over what's included and that you’d have to rent like chairs, tables, linens, silverware, serving ware, servers, basic audio.
  • Event insurance: You may be required to provide event insurance.
  • Wedding planner: A venue may provide a wedding coordinator, but many insist that your planner takes full charge of the event, from execution and cleanup.
  • Catering and use of the kitchen: If you must bring in a caterer, will the caterer have the use of their kitchen? Is there a fee?
  • Taxes, gratuities, and service charges: Ask about these as they can add up.
  • Use of loading dock, storage, and late pickup fees: Is there a charge and a reserved time to use the loading dock? If your vendor doesn't pick up the items on time, is there a fee?
  • Corkage and cake cutting fees: If you are allowed to bring wine in, what is the corkage fee? Do they include or charge for cake cutting and serving?

Your venue contract should contain a proper Force Majeure clause, a detailed cancellation policy, and a clarification on the insurance. There are a lot of liabilities involved when hosting events, especially when there is alcohol involved.

Ways to Save Money

Your venue will likely be the biggest financial investment involved in the wedding, but there are some easy ways to cut down on costs:

  • Know what you want to spend big on and where to conserve, but prioritize guest experience above all else.
  • Check prices before you fall in love with a venue. Be honest about your budget. 
  • Select a venue to host the ceremony and reception with no additional site charge. 
  • Consider the natural beauty of the venue; you may not need much decoration.  
  • Packages are the key to spending wisely but read through and price out. Don’t pay more for something that you can get for less on your own.  
  • Be realistic about your vision. Separate your wants from your needs. 
  • Scrutinize your guest list. Don’t expect to host 300 of your nearest and dearest on a $2,000 budget. 
  • Opt for a venue that offers lodging or has a lodging partner. They may offer a complimentary room or suite for your wedding night and/or discounted room blocks for guests.

Venue Booking Advice

Book early and be flexible.

Saturdays book at 12-18 months out, with Fridays and Sundays 10-15 months out. Reserve as soon as you can to get your preferred venue and date. Flexibility is the key to booking your dream venue. If you are open to it, ask the venue for a selection of Sundays, weekdays, and dates in a less busy season.

Get everything in writing.

Make sure all arrangements, plans, and statements are in writing. If agreements are made over the phone, send an email to ensure everything is documented in writing, and the receipt is acknowledged. Read over your contract carefully and refer to it throughout your planning process. Ask questions until you are confident that you understand everything.

Don’t ask for lots of changes to your contract.

Contracts are vetted through attorneys, insurance agencies, and more during initial execution. If special verbiage is requested from a couple, the contract has to go back to the attorneys and agents. It’s usually a waste of time or can’t be changed at all.

Be kind.

Be considerate of your vendors and venue; you have no idea what they might be giving up in their personal lives to help you achieve your dream wedding.

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