1. Create a comparison chart to track what’s included in the price for each venue you’re considering. One company may not include linens and the cake, for example, while another company does.
2. Many public spaces, like parks or the local village green, may be available to rent at a low fee. However, if the space is not equipped to handle events, you’ll have to rent everything from napkins to tables and chairs. Make sure you come out ahead!
3. Choose an unusual venue, such as an aquarium, a zoo, a gallery or an historical site. Site fees are not high and you’ll save on decor because the venue already supplies ambience. But the same caveat goes as for public spaces: Figure in what you’ll have to spend on rentals.
4. Hold your ceremony and your reception in the same place. You’ll save yourselves multiple site fees as well as transportation from one location to the other.
5. If you belong to a community organization or to the military, you may have access, at low cost, to a venue belonging to them.
6. Don’t forget your alma mater—these usually rent for a few hundred dollars.
7. Depending on your venue, you may not need to decorate extensively. If you marry outdoors at a winery, for example, there’s not much you’ll need to add to the gorgeous vineyard backdrop.
8. Rent a vacation home. Even if the owners charge you a week’s worth of rent for the day, it may still be equal to or less than renting a traditional reception venue.
9. If a family member has a scenic property, find out if you can hold your wedding there. One couple held their wedding on the Wyoming ranch where the groom had grown up. Unique and cost-conscious!
10. If you’re a city-dweller, leave town for your wedding. One Boston bride saved more than $50 per person by holding her wedding in Burlington, Vermont.
11. For a garden wedding, look into renting an historic mansion; many of these have gardens that are included in the deal. You may find, as did one couple, that the mansion they rented had no time limit, and the fee was less than half a hall rental.
12. Look for reception packages. Holding your event at a venue that provides catering and food-service items will save you quite a bit of money on rentals.
13. Save on your rehearsal dinner site by throwing a backyard barbecue or a picnic in a local park—both of which will cost you less than a dinner in a restaurant. (These may be more fun too!)
14. Accept a post-wedding brunch at a relative’s home as a wedding gift. You may find that in lieu of a gift, a friend or relative will be thrilled to host this event in their home.
15. Trim the length of your reception. Even doing three hours instead of four or five will save you money. Trust us, everyone will enjoy themselves just as much.
16. Determine early on what you can spend and stick to it. One rule of thumb: Food, beverage and venue should come to half of your budget.
17. Most venues charge a premium for Saturday night. Hold your reception on a Thursday, Friday or Sunday night. An afternoon wedding will cost less than an evening one, as will a Sunday brunch.
18. Consider the season— you’re likely to get a better price for a venue in January than you would for the same spot in June.
19. What about a destination wedding? Because the guest list will be smaller, a wedding away may cost less than a traditional event held in your hometown.
20. Think small. Check into bed and breakfast venues in your area and place firm limits on your guest list.
21. When you’re deciding between an indoor or outdoor space, figure in the cost of a tent rental—if it rains, a tent is worth every penny.
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