Finding an affordable wedding venue can be hard. And since it’s the first thing you book when wedding planning, it can make the task all the more daunting – putting you into a tailspin over whether you can afford to have a wedding at all or if you should just elope! That’s why I researched the best options for you to have a cheap wedding reception. Here’s 20 ideas of where to look for affordable receptions in any state.
The best places for a cheap wedding reception are:
My parents had their wedding in my uncle’s backyard. And I’m sure you know someone who has had a backyard wedding. While they can be super fun and affordable, there are some watch outs to keep in mind.
If you’re having a large guest list, a backyard wedding might not be that cheap after all. Renting bathrooms, generators, dance floors, tents, linens and more can add up fast. And you’ll be left wondering why you thought this would be a less expensive option. To read more about whether a backyard wedding is cheaper, check out this article.
The other major con of a backyard wedding is the logistics of putting it all together yourself. To learn more about the pros and cons of planning a backyard wedding, read more here.
A friend or family member’s barn
Barn wedding venues are cheaper overall because of low maintenance costs. You might even be able to use a friend’s for free! Similar to backyard weddings, there can be a lot of unexpected costs. And I would avoid a barn wedding in extreme heat or cold because they’re not typically well insulated.
You can check out more pros and cons of a barn wedding here.
My sister had an AirBnb wedding and it was truly magical. AirBnb has recently changed their rules to ban all events and large gatherings but you can still find individual hosts who are willing to bend the rules.
You can read more about my sister’s AirBnb wedding here in this article about how to use a Spotify playlist as your DJ.
Similar to AirBnb, VRBO has amazing properties to rent for a weekend. And VRBO doesn’t prohibit weddings at their properties so you might have better luck finding a host who is willing to work with you. You can check out VRBO’s article all about using VRBO for weddings here for the best advice.
Depending on your location, a local park can be an affordable ceremony and reception option. You’ll usually need to pay a permit fee to have an event and take photographs there so make sure you check with your local parks and recreation department on what is required. Similar to the above options, you’ll need to provide all of your own equipment and rentals so make sure it’s a task you have budgeted for and are willing to take on.
Your local church rec room
The church or temple where you’re getting married if you’re having a religious ceremony may have a recreation room for you to rent for next-to-nothing or even free! (Note: they usually expect a donation at your discretion.) Recreation rooms are used to hosting events so they might even have some things you can borrow or rent from them, eliminating some of the costs you’d need to worry about with other untraditional venues.
This is one of the tips I share in my article on how to have a $5,000 wedding. You can check out other tips for planning a wedding under $5,000 here.
Kiwanis club or elk lodge
You know that club your grandpa belongs to with all of his veteran buddies or political club friends? Members can rent them for a nominal fee and host events there. This is a great option for a wedding on a budget because they are set up to host events. They usually have a bar set-up, tables, chairs, silverware, even games like pool or shuffle board.
If you know someone in the fire department, the local firehouse usually has an event space you can rent out for a smaller gathering. You won’t be able to fit 200 guests in most firehouses but if you’re planning a smaller affair, it’s worth looking into. They are cheap to rent and have many amenities that you can take advantage of so you’re not starting from scratch.
Public park or campground clubhouse
Some parks and campgrounds have indoor spaces you can rent equipped with kitchens, fireplaces, bathrooms and other amenities. This is a great option for an affordable wedding reception.
If your town or HOA has a pool clubhouse, it’s likely available to rent out for a small fee. Similar to the park clubhouse, it’s usually equipped with a kitchen or grill and bathrooms. They may even have tables and chairs, silverware, etc. that you can use or borrow.
The type of restaurant you’re looking into will greatly influence the cost and affordability of this as a venue option. Having your wedding at a five-star establishment in a major city is not going to be a cheap affair.
Smaller restaurants will let you rent out the whole restaurant or a section depending on the size of your party. Larger restaurants might have private rooms designated for parties. For the best deals, stick to the suburbs or rural areas instead of something downtown.
A major plus is that the restaurant will also serve as your caterer so you’re knocking two things off your list at once. They will likely require you to meet a minimum food and beverage cost and have a lot of rules about what you can bring in and a strict maximum guest count. So be prepared to ask a lot of questions before signing any contracts.
Here’s a check list of what you should ask your venue before signing any contracts.
Destination all-inclusive packages
People are often surprised to learn that destination weddings can be more affordable than local ones. A lot of all-inclusive resorts offer packages that include everything you need from the ceremony to the reception to catering, florist, and more. The catch is that they usually have strict maximum guest counts that are pretty small.
For example, Sandals Resorts offers a free wedding package if you book at least a 3-night stay. The package includes your ceremony and reception locations, cake, bouquet, photography, and more. You can learn more about the wedding package deals here. But a lot of the locations are limited to 50 people, or fewer. Some are limited to as low as 12 people. And of course you have to pay for your flights and stay at the resort.
Like some of the suggestions above, community centers are often available to use cheaply or even free to use in your local community. They come with a lot of amenities you’ll need and can be decorated to jazz them up for your wedding reception.
Depending on your area beaches, you may be able to get married there for free or by paying for a small permit fee. In San Diego, for example, you can get a permit for many of the city beaches right on the city website.
It’s definitely important to get in touch with the parks and recreation department in charge of the beach you’re looking to use, as the rules and permitting fees will vary significantly from city to city. Some may require you use certain vendors for catering if you plan to have the reception there or require you to have a plan for clean up and bathrooms. As with the backyard wedding option, there’s a lot of logistics to sift through to see if it will in fact be cheaper for you to plan.
Some local libraries may let you rent their spaces after hours for events. If you have a beautiful local library and a love of books, this could be a romantic and unique option. Obviously famous libraries like the New York City Public Library in Manhattan will not be cheap to rent out. We’re talking your local, suburban or rural area library here.
Your local museum may also have amazing deals on event space after hours. Again this is highly location dependent. The Natural History Museum is not going to be affordable for most. But your local science museum might have a great package, with the added bonus of something interesting for guests to do during the party on top of the usual dancing and talking. A museum wedding is a great idea for the couple who loves to do activities together and wants to share their love of history or science or art with their wedding guests.
Your old fashioned movie theater or performance theater is a great option to look into for special events like a wedding. Some have been turned into wedding venues which will have the most comprehensive packages but not the best prices. The DIY options will have better rental pricing, but you’ll have to do some more planning and logistical legwork leading up to the big day to make sure everything is wedding-ready. If you don’t mind a project and a unique wedding, a theater can be a great affordable venue option.
Lions, tigers and matrimony. Oh my! Your local zoo is well equipped to handle special events like weddings. They often have catering and event staff onsite. Depending on how busy the zoo is, they can make great, exciting wedding venues at an affordable price.
My brother-in-law used to work at the Jacksonville Zoo and hosted weddings there all the time. The best part is that I don’t think you need a ton of decoration added. Use the natural landscape and animals as your natural decor and keep things simple. Of course you’re welcome to go wild and add lights, dramatic centerpieces and more to make the event as glam or jungle-themed as you want.
Like the zoo, an aquarium makes for a unique wedding experience. And many are used to hosting events with on-site catering, tables and chairs, planning staff, and more of the items you need to plan a wedding.
And your pictures will be truly stunning and original.
Love this idea? For more unique wedding themes, check out this article on the most unique wedding themes.
A botanical garden is another beautiful and unique location for your nuptials. If you live outside of a major city with a botanical garden inquire about their rates and you may be surprised to find that it’s more affordable than the wedding venue in your area.
Some offer packages for events or are limited to photography or ceremonies only. Which is actually great news for couples who are looking for a beautiful wedding photo location for their wedding. You can have the ceremony or cocktail hour photos there and then have the reception at a even more affordable location. Some of the affordable locations are not as picaresque so this is a great solve for that.
Unfortunately for me and my fellow couples in NYC, our options in the city for botanical gardens are NOT cheap. But a short drive away on Long Island there are many affordable gardens to get married in. Old Westbury Gardens, for example, can serve as your ceremony site for $1,000. Or you can get a photography permit for as little as $325.
Botanical gardens are a hit or miss location for affordable wedding venues but worth looking into for your ceremony, photos, or the whole wedding depending on your local options.
Your alma mater or local university
If you are marrying your college sweetheart, you might want to look into getting married where you met! I love this idea for supporting your alma mater and tying in your personal story into your wedding day. And getting married at the college chapel is surprisingly affordable.
Your former university may even have a university club that serves fine dining for your reception. I know mine does!
You might also get a sweet alumni profile in your university’s alumni newsletter highlighting your big day.
Don’t feel stuck planning your wedding a traditional catering hall or wedding venue with high prices and cookie-cutter wedding vibes. If you’re willing to look outside the box, you can find many affordable options for wedding venues near you! From parks, to your local college, church rec room or even your own backyard, there are plenty of options to keep things within your budget.
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