Your venue is more than just a place to have your wedding. Choosing the right one plays a major role in the look and feel of your celebration—and can often account for up to half of your total wedding budget. Yikes! If the thought of writing such a large check is making you consider eloping, don’t panic. There are plenty of budget-friendly wedding venues that don’t sacrifice on style and personality. Don’t believe us? Here are four of our favorite cheap wedding venue ideas, plus some totally stunning examples that will serve up serious #weddinginspo.
Considering an outdoor wedding in a park or garden? Some of the most popular (think Beaulieu Garden in Napa Valley, California, or the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh) can have years-long waitlists and budget-busting prices. National parks, on the other hand, offer special use permits for a fraction of the cost, and give you a chance to tie the knot surrounded by nature. Visit the National Park Service’s website to find the permit requirements for the park of your choice, where fees will run you around $100. Here are a few of our favorite places to host weddings in national parks.
Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite National Park, California
How could you resist a ceremony site with a name like this? Bridalveil Falls is an easy 1⁄2-mile loop near the entrance to Yosemite, and is one of the first falls you’ll see in the park. A special use permit at Yosemite costs $150.
Upper Beaver Meadows, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
A one-and-a-half-mile hike (with both a dirt trail and paved path available) leads you to a gorgeous spot with uninterrupted views of the Continental Divide. The open Upper Beaver Meadows will make you feel like you’re the only ones in the world—except for the herds of elk nearby. A special use permit at Rocky Mountain National Park costs $250.
Running Eagle Falls, Glacier National Park, Montana
The Two Medicine area of the park used to be the primary destination for visitors when they arrived by train, but it’s now an off-the-beaten-path location perfect for a secluded ceremony. Running Eagle Falls is a short and accessible walk from the road, and is actually two waterfalls that cascade with Rising Wolf Mountain in the background. A special use permit at Glacier National Park costs $100.
Timber Creek Overlook, Zion National Park, Utah
Looking to keep your ceremony small? To maintain the area, Zion limits groups hiking to the Timber Creek Overlook to 12 or less—perfect for a mountain elopement. The trail follows a ridge overlooking the Kolob Canyons, and you can even see Mt. Trumbull at the northern edge of the Grand Canyon. Head there in the summer for a spectacular wildflower display. A special use permit at Zion National Park costs $100.
Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park, Washington
Trade an altar for the lush, green canopy of Hoh Rain Forest. Mosses and ferns give the forest an enchanted feel, and a number of short nature loops and longer hiking trails mean you can keep walking until your ceremony spot feels right. A special use permit at Olympic National Park costs $50.
The First African Baptist Church, Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia
JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bessette will always be #weddinggoals, so why not tie the knot in the same church? This one-room First African Baptist Church, established in 1893, overlooks the Cumberland River and nearby salt marsh. Special use permits at Cumberland Island National Seashore cost $50. Don’t forget to make a ferry reservation to access the island.
Moran Point, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
This iconic park is probably the best known in the country, which means finding a secluded spot for your ceremony is key. Moran Point, west of the main viewpoint on Desert View Drive, never gets quite as busy, but still offers those same spectacular views of the canyon and the Colorado River below. A wedding permit at Grand Canyon National Park costs $150.
A city hall wedding doesn’t have to be an elopement. While most are designed for more intimate groups, you can still say “I do” with close friends and family in attendance. Many are housed in historic buildings, so even if the courtroom isn’t gorgeous, the post-ceremony photos on the front steps will be. As a bonus, having a ceremony at city hall is crazy affordable, and is usually a small fee in addition to the cost of your marriage license. Here are a few of the most beautiful city halls across the country.
San Francisco City Hall
Yes, the stunning San Francisco City Hall may scream “luxury wedding venue,” but you don’t have to rent the building for the entire night. Host a simple celebration Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. with up to 100 guests for $1,000. Sure, it’s more expensive than a civil ceremony at the Office of the County Clerk ($83, plus the $104 marriage license fee), but the setting and the history make the investment well worth it.
St. Louis City Hall
For a ceremony only, the rotunda at St. Louis City Hall is a steal—only $150 for a group of less than 99 people. You’ll have access to the space for two hours (including photos), which is plenty of time for a walk down the aisle and a kiss. This dramatic space was inspired by Paris’s Hotel de Ville, and will infuse your celebration with French opulence.
Philadelphia City Hall
The largest city building in the country, Philadelphia City Hall is known for its towering granite facade and Baroque design. Wedding appointments at City Hall are released on a monthly basis, so when you’re picking up your license, ask about when available slots will be released. The fee for a marriage license is $90, but additional fees may apply for the ceremony itself.
Atlanta City Hall
Atlanta City Hall offers a few different options for on-site ceremonies. A number of judges are available to perform ceremonies in their chambers, by appointment, and do not charge an additional fee beyond your marriage license. Some are also available for off-site or after-hours ceremonies, for which an additional fee may be charged. Looking for something a little more formal? Much like San Francisco City Hall, certain parts of the building are available to rent for your wedding celebration. Wed beneath 1929 chandeliers in the Old Council Chambers for $1,500, or celebrate in the City Hall Atrium for between $2,500 and $3,500, depending on the date and time.
Cleveland City Hall
Brooklyn Borough Hall
Brooklyn Borough Hall is a Greek Revival–style building with can’t-miss columns, photo-worthy steps, and overlooks the municipal building where civil ceremonies are held. Twenty-four hours after applying for your marriage license, get in line with your $25 fee in hand, then head to Brooklyn Borough Hall once it’s official for photos.
More than an affordable way to find a place to stay, Airbnb is full of gorgeous private properties that can be (affordably!) rented for your wedding celebration. Bonus: You and your wedding party will have somewhere to crash when it’s all over. You’ll also be able to pick and choose your vendors, which will reduce costs overall. Prices definitely vary based on location and size, but if you’re willing to do a little digging, we bet there’s a perfect spot for you on the site. Here are a few we love.
Lodge on the River
Modern Loft in New York City
Is there anything cooler than a loft wedding in New York City? The owner has a full-service event planning company, making planning your big day so easy. With space for up to 65 guests and the perfect central location (right on 23rd street), your wedding will truly be a celebration to remember. Evening rentals begin at $1,500.
At a rate of only $200 per hour for up to 60 guests (and only a $1,000 minimum in the evening), this spacious Brooklyn loft is a steal. The sunny spot is open and airy, and has a rooftop deck that would be gorgeous for a ceremony or for cocktail hour as the sun sets. Caterers love the open kitchen, which makes prepping and serving easy.
Barn at Madeline Island in Wisconsin
This barn home has serious history. The hand-hewn beams and barn board walls come from a 200-year-old barn in Vermont that was lovingly disassembled, transported, and constructed into this waterfront home. Surrounded by white pine forest and with private lakefront access, it’s the perfect cozy spot for a family retreat —or an intimate wedding. For a group of 35 or fewer, settle in to the property and fill your wedding weekend with kayaking, biking, and long nights under the stars on the back deck. Rates start at $600 per night, and the minimum stay varies depending on the season.'
While having a backyard wedding definitely isn’t free, the amount you’ll save on a venue means you’ll have lots more to spend on the necessities (like furniture rentals, décor, and catering). It also gives you a cozy and comfortable place to get ready, and means you’ll always be able to go back to visit where you tied the knot. Of course, there are few things to consider: Check with your town and county about permitting and insurance. Look into renting luxury portable restrooms (so your home’s system isn’t overloaded). And don’t forget parking. You should check with the local police department about on-street parking permits, or might want to arrange for shuttles from the local hotel so you’re not filling your driveway with cars. Ready to start planning? Here are a few of our favorite backyard weddings to give you a little inspiration.
Devon and Patrick were engaged for four years before they tied the knot, so it's only fitting they went all out for their summer "I dos."
This couple threw one chic celebration full of unique details—like a chandelier escort card display.
With a love story that dates back to childhood, it was no surprise that Sherita and Dion chose the groom’s childhood home as the venue for their backyard party.
The couple opted to say "I do" on the 17th-century farm in Maryland, where the bride grew up. It was the perfect setting for their English garden-inspired celebration—plus, thanks to the acres and acres of farmland, it had more than enough space for their 220 guests.
“I’ve always loved my grandparents’ home in Illinois, and it was the perfect place for an elegant outdoor wedding,” the bride says.
While wedding planning, Samantha and Greg decided to move back to her home state of Arizona, and that they'd get married there too—at Samantha’s childhood home in Tempe. “We wanted to share our love for the state with our family and friends,” the bride says. They invited 225 people to her parents' home for a backyard wedding that was inspired by Father of the Bride.
Santa Barbara Courthouse
The Historic DeKalb Courthouse
While this courthouse may no longer be a government seat, it’s a gorgeous reason to get out of Atlanta. The gorgeous marble building operates as a museum, and offers weekday, daytime rental of a number of stunning spaces for just $650.
Beverly Hills Courthouse
Peabody Public Library, Baltimore Maryland
Boston Public Library
Providence Public Library
Cleveland Museum of Art
American Visionary Arts Museum
deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum
Gibbes Art Museum
Detroit Institute of the Arts
American Visionary Arts Museum
Hinoki & the Bird
Coohills Restaurant and Bar
Gem Theatre, Detroit