After you’ve decided your wedding budget and guest list, the next most important thing to investigate is wedding venues—and there are many options when it comes to venues. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you start your search and realize so many places can host your big day. In this post, we’ll discuss everything from obvious options such as halls and hotels to more unique options such as aquariums and theaters. The type of venue you pick will change the whole mood and aesthetic of your wedding, so choose wisely and make sure it’s your dream spot.
You don’t have to be in the Caribbean to get married on a beach. It’s warm enough year-round in the southern United States to have a beach wedding. Or if you live in the north, you can still have a beach wedding from April through October. Hubby and I actually come from Florida and relocated to New York City, so the beach was our second home growing up, and we decided to go for a beach wedding ceremony. The best part is that you don’t need much decoration, and you have the beautiful sound of the waves. Beware of wind though… my veil went for a ride!
Nothing in Spring may be more beautiful than a botanical garden! With all the flowers in bloom, you are bound to capture endless stunning photos as if you are in your own secret garden. You would definitely save on decorative florals, as your venue naturally comes with an abundance of backdrop plants. Allergies aside, it would smell divine.
Reading this in the United States, you may not think that we even have castles except Cinderella’s… but think again. I recently posted about a ceremony venue castle in Central Park, NYC, and there are many northern options for castles. If the Cinderella ballgown princess vibe is what you want, it’s not out of reach.
A possibly more affordable option would be a local community center. This could be a gymnasium, a firehouse hall, or a large room in a multi-purpose community center facility. You may have to rent the furniture if the space comes bare, but the good thing about this is that you can totally customize what you rent. Or if your space comes with all of the furniture, you would save a bundle! In most community center scenarios, you will have to hire a caterer, but the center will usually have a kitchen space for them to work from.
Photo Credit: Lakeside Community Center
An existing country club member may receive a discount because they already pay annual fees to be a member, whereas the non-member would pay a higher fee to use the private club’s space. So whether your family belongs to a country club, or not, this option isn’t as exclusive and out of reach as you may have thought.
Photo Credit: Here Comes The Guide @ Silver Lake Country Club
You have two options when it comes to cruise ship weddings. You can actually have a wedding ceremony on board the boat before it departs the origin port. Then guests who don’t want to go on vacation after the wedding just depart the ship and forego the reception. Guests who plan to vacation with you stay on board for the reception. This may cut costs for the couple, because there will be less people to feed. Or you can do your wedding on the boat while at sea, and whoever wanted to go on the vacation gets to share in your big day. The cruise ship will probably organize a group rate, private dinner, flowers, photography, and literally everything in a one-stop-shop package.
Photo Credit: Disney Wedding Podcast
Large beautiful homes are a gorgeous backdrop for weddings. I will caveat that statement with the fact that a lot of estates will only allow the house to serve as a backdrop, but not actually allow you inside. That would mean you are having a large tented wedding, and possibly renting in your own trailer bathrooms. The benefits to this option are that the space would be private, you wouldn’t be sharing the venue with any other events for the day, and you would have freedom to do things, like bring your own alcohol, that venues with caterers wouldn’t allow. Bear in mind that there may be separate “rules of the house” that the estate owners would want you to adhere to. Read your contracts thoroughly.
The rural country bride’s dream wedding has become increasingly popular over the years, and now you can find barns all over the country that serve as wedding venues. Whether the barn was rustic (non-renovated), a renovated older barn, or a new-build barn, you would have have a different venue, so ask lots of questions. Factors to consider are air conditioning, catering, bathrooms, and dirt.
Photo Credit: Wayfaring Wanderer Boone NC Photographer @ Overlook Barn
Getting married in a forest is a dreamy venue. I’m going to go totally nerdy on you, but I always think of the Lord of the Rings character Galadriel from the Lothlórien when I think of forest weddings. Total fairy ethereal aesthetic can be found in a forest, and I am all for this. Hubby and I almost chose a forest wedding for our nuptials.
Fore! Golf and extreme manicured grass enthusiasts will love a golf course wedding venue. Golf venues could be outside, tented, in a large pavilion on the property, or in the clubhouse. Golf cart and golfing photos would be adorable. If you love to golf, then don’t forget to ask about a group rate to hold a round of golf. Maybe an activity for just the bridal party to capture awesome pics, or maybe an in-between ceremony and reception full wedding guest-list activity. This would give the couple time to escape and take their own romantic just-married pics with one photographer while the second stays behind and captures family and friends enjoying themselves.
Photo Credit: Slowmotiongolfswing.com
Wedding and special event halls are very common up north. The sole purpose of the property is to house events. A large hall will have multiple event spaces inside and host possibly more than one event per day. You are usually greeted with valet parking, followed by a multi-room affair with ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception taking place in three separate spaces. If you have many guests from out of town, you may have to organize transportation to and from a nearby hotel block room.
The one-stop-shop! Hubby and I chose to get married in a hotel, because half of our wedding guests were from out of town. This is the most convenient option for weddings like ours where lots of out-of-towners will need to stay at a hotel and would have to pay for transportation to and from another venue. We booked our rehearsal dinner, beach-side ceremony, cocktail hour, reception, next-day brunch, and hotel room blocks all through the one hotel. The more you bundle, the higher chance you have to receive a break on the price. Never hurts to ask! Also, if getting ready, ceremony, and reception are all in the same place, then the whole bridal party and couple also save on not having to book transportation. A win/win!
Photo Credit: Historic Hotel Bethlehem
If you love art or books, then let your passions drive your venue. Museums and art galleries will sometimes have changing exhibits, so ensure you know what is scheduled to be on showcase during your wedding day. You wouldn’t want it to clash with your color palette or be something super modern when your wedding is supposed to have a traditional vibe, for example. A beautiful large library room is ever so “tale as old as time.” Be the Belle of the ball in your own Beauty and the Beast inspired wedding. I’m seeing centerpieces of small stacks of books with a mix of tall and short florals. Stunning. You will likely have to work around the hours of these venues and be limited to when they close for the evening.
Photo Credit: Ruffledblog @ Fernbank Museum
Your local municipality’s Parks Department may allow weddings to take place on their public property, but permits will likely be needed to use the space. In New York City, you will need a permit to hold a ceremony or reception on park land. Parks Departments may be strict on tenting or additional décor you want to bring on site, so be sure to read their FAQ pages and the contract prior to booking.
Place of Worship
Ceremonies are not the only thing a place of worship can host. If your church/synagogue/mosque/etc. has a large roomed space, ask if they ever rent it out for events. For example, if your church had an outdoor space large enough for a ceremony, then an indoor building where they can clear the chairs and host events, you can utilize both spaces. Or perhaps up north your church has a basement that can be used to hold the reception. Get creative here. You can save a bundle by hosting your whole wedding itinerary in one location.
Photo Credit: The Old Church
If someone in your family owns a large property, you have found yourself a free wedding venue! This will be the most affordable. You will have to probably rent the tent, tables, and chairs, but your caterer can use the existing kitchen to cook, and you can have guests use the indoor bathrooms (so no bathroom rentals). Or you can find a private property on a site like AirBNB, where you can filter for “suitable for events.” This will allow you to find mansions where you can rent the whole property for a few hundred dollars a night. Allow your full bridal party and immediate family to sleepover for the weekend, and invite everyone to celebrate the ceremony and reception on the property.
Photo Credit: Brides of Oklahoma
Some restaurants have party rooms, while others will allow you to buy them out for the evening and you have the whole space to yourselves. It depends on the restaurant. Guests can either order whatever they want off the menu or do a set menu.
Photo Credit: Lafayette
Rooftop cocktail parties in lieu of stuffy sit-down traditional receptions are a new trend that I am here for. Hubby and I ALMOST booked a rooftop cocktail reception, and in the end caved and went the traditional hotel route. Although our wedding was awesome, I do sort of regret the choice because it would have been so unique, a stand-out affair. The rooftop venue we looked at had a ton of sofa lounge furniture and large cocktail buffet grazing tables in the indoor section, cabanas with low tables and fire pits outdoors, multiple bars, and a big dance floor. I have that one in my back pocket for a future event.
Photo Credit: The Loft at Prince
Movie theaters as well as Broadway-style theaters are unique options for events! You could do the wedding in the theater where guests sit in the chairs, bride walks up the aisle onto the stage (in front of the dropped curtain) for the ceremony. Then after the ceremony they raise the curtain and reveal a seated reception ready and waiting for guests on the stage. Sometimes the theater hosts the event in the lobby. So many options here. Theatre buffs, or people who want to WOW your guests, really consider this one. Also ask if you can use the front marquis to put your name in lights! Just imagine the photos!
Photo Credit: Jess + Nate Studios @ Fox Theatre Detroit
I’ve written a post on Florida Disney wedding venues, but there are many theme parks around the world that would allow you to host an event on their property. Just like libraries and museums, you will likely have to hold your event in off-hours, before the parks opens or after the park closes.
Photo Credit: Disney Weddings
Wine fanatics, this is the spot for you! This type of venue is seasonal. Consider a wedding when the grapes are still on the vine for more beautiful pictures. Some wineries even do mini bottles with custom event-specific bottle labels. What a great favor!
Photo Credit: Presqu’ile Winery
Imagine going out for a dinner cruise with all your closest family and friends. A sunset ceremony on the water followed by dinner and dancing as the evening went on. In NYC, there are several boats that ride around Manhattan to give you panoramic views of the city skyline as you dance the night away. Smaller boats are available to be rented out by one party for the evening. Larger boats may be able to support a separate event on each floor of the yacht.
Photo Credit: Water Fantaseas
You are at your aquarium wedding about to seal the wedding promise with a kiss, and you are beautifully photobombed by a school of fish. Now that’s a photobomb I can live with. Large aquariums and zoos have spaces to be near to the animals during all elements of the day. The photos would be adorable, and minimal décor would be needed as your guests are immersed into an almost interactive experience where the walls move and everywhere they look they are mesmerized by the scenery.
Photo Credit: Carrie Wildes Photography
Now that you’re more knowledgeable on wedding venue options and have maybe narrowed down your preferences, you can start searching in whatever town you want, near or far, for that specific type of venue. The narrowed-down search will save you time from skimming through dozens of venues that don’t meet your needs. Happy planning!
If you can think of other venues that we may have missed, feel free to write them in the comments below!
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