Whether you’re saying “I do” in your own backyard or at an ornate chateau in the French countryside, your venue plays a pivotal role in your wedding festivities. “The wedding venue essentially forms the boundaries and sets the tone for the wedding,” planner Eva Clark says. Since the spot you tie the knot helps determine your aesthetic and the overall vibe of your big day, selecting a locale that reflects your style, personality, and relationship is crucial. Another important factor you can’t overlook when browsing locations? Your budget.
While planning your nuptials, your wedding venue will probably be the most expensive item you’ll pay for. According to Brides, the average wedding venue costs $5,000 in 2021, with a low of $3,000 and a high of $12,000. “The venue is covering costs of cleaning, utilities, staffing, insurance coverage, advertising, and the like in order to open its doors to you,” Clark explains. Planner Kia Marie mentions that you’re also paying for the site’s time, including communication and the setup of furniture if it’s included in the price tag.
Luckily, you don’t have to forgo the locale you’ve been eyeing just because you’re on a budget. Below are some of the most cost-effective ways to book your dream venue without breaking the bank, according to the experts.
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Host the Ceremony and Reception at the Same Venue
Instead of hosting your ceremony and reception in two different locations and forking over two separate checks, settle on a site that can serve both events. Not to mention, choosing one venue will also cut costs on transportation since guests won’t need to shuttle to and from the various locations. The only exception to the rule would be if you’re trading vows in a church and need a separate site to host your post-wedding celebration.
For an even more affordable price tag, throwing your rehearsal dinner or welcome party at the same venue as your wedding will also keep costs down and get you a better all-inclusive price. “Every booking is a negotiation, so don’t feel awkward asking for their best rate,” Clark advises.
Consider Alternative Venues
Rather than marrying your partner at a luxurious resort or a private vineyard, explore some more cost-effective locations that are just as beautiful. National parks, public libraries, courthouses, and restaurants are some of the most inexpensive options since they offer lower site fees than hotels. Swapping vows at your childhood home or a family property is another budget-friendly choice with sentimental value that will make your ceremony even more meaningful.
Avoid Expensive Locales
This goes without saying, but steering clear of the highest-priced states and cities will save you big bucks. New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Miami are some of the more expensive places to say “I do” thanks to high vendor competition and items and services usually costing more, financial research company ValuePenguin reports. Some more affordable spots include Nashville, New Orleans, Cleveland, and Denver, according to a 2021 study from financial technology company SmartAsset.
Host a Weekday Wedding
Although Saturdays are the most popular day of the week for weddings, making your marriage official on any other day will lower costs. “Some venues will give you a discounted rate to have your wedding on a weekday because it isn’t in high demand,” Marie notes. By getting married on a Thursday or Friday, you can still extend your festivities into the weekend. If you’re hosting a destination wedding, asking your guests to travel during the week might not be feasible, but if you’re staying local, considering the other six days of the week might be worthwhile.
Explore Off-Peak Dates
Generally speaking, wedding season starts in May and lasts until October. Since venues are in high demand during those months, they will naturally cost more money. If you opt to tie the knot in January, February, or March, you’ll have a better chance at negotiating with vendors and getting a better price for your locale. “Venues know that they can easily book popular wedding months and are eager to attract clients who are willing to get married outside of those peak times by offering reduced rates,” Clark shares. Not to mention, you won’t be competing as much with other couples, so you’ll have a higher probability of booking your ideal site.
Trade Vows Earlier in the Day
There’s no doubt that swapping vows with your person while the sun sets is a romantic way to become newlyweds. However, since 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. are coveted times, an evening ceremony will make costs skyrocket. To store some extra cash, consider a morning or afternoon time slot. Your venue will be able to book another couple later in the day, and they could significantly lower the expense for you.
Cut Your Guest List
Capping your guest list might be a tough ask, but having a smaller wedding will provide you with plenty of venue options at a more budget-friendly price point. “It’s possible that your dream venue is affordable, but the caveat is that you can only have 100 guests,” Clark says. “In many cases, this is worth the sacrifice.” Inviting fewer friends and family members means that you’ll need less space to throw the affair, so you’ll also end up saving money on food, decorations, and rentals.
Rely on Readily Available Resources
Since the price of rentals can quickly add up, ask your venue what items and resources it offers onsite. “If the venue includes tables, chairs, and linens, use them so you don’t have to pay extra to rent these items,” Marie recommends. Even just selecting the china and glassware that the site has will go a long way.
ValuePenguin. "Average Cost of a Wedding: By State and Feature." October 12, 2022.
SmartAsset. "Best Cities for an Affordable Wedding—2021 Edition." May 12, 2022.