The average wedding costs about $35,000, according to a 2016 study by TheKnot.com. That includes everything: the dress, catering, photographer and — one of the largest expenses — the venue.
A quick poll of my recently wed friends found they paid anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000 for their wedding spots, and that’s not even on the high end of possibilities. But you don’t need to spend nearly that much.
Let’s hash out a full list of beautiful, memorable and inexpensive wedding spots.
1. Local, state and national parks
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If you want an outdoor wedding, check out your local parks. They might have a pretty gazebo or a beautiful pond perfect for wedding snapshots. If you find a spot you like, contact your local parks department about permits and rules; most have them.
Many state and national parks also allow weddings. For example, the National Park Service says the fee for a permit to get married in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is $200. How cool would it be to get married with the Rocky Mountains as the backdrop? You can find information on more than 400 national parks at the National Park Foundation website.
Get more money-saving tips for your wedding plans: “Wedding Costs Soar: Here Are Ways to Save When You Say ‘I Do’”
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Public beaches are a cheap alternative to the private beaches owned by hotel chains. Just make sure you know the rules and apply for the proper permits in advance. The Environmental Protection Agency’s National List of Beaches can help you narrow down the perfect spot.
3. University campuses
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Universities have churches, ballrooms and reception centers that they rent out for special events like weddings. They’re available to the public, and many can accommodate wedding parties of 100 or more. They’re often cheaper than other spots. For example, the University of Louisville’s ShelbyHurst Campus charges $750 for a party room and $1,200 for a ballroom.
Want to look like a princess without spending a king’s ransom? Check out: “Pay Less for Your Perfect Wedding Dress”
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The bookworm in me loves the idea of getting married in between the Mystery Fiction and Science Fiction aisles, but even if you don’t love the idea of books in your wedding photos, school and public libraries still have something to offer: reception halls. Many have banquet and meeting rooms and, because they’re not always booked, as it were, you’ll get a deal.
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Want to save 100 percent on the cost of your wedding venue? Why not walk down the aisle in your own backyard? Host your own wedding, and you’ll have total control of everything. Just make sure your city doesn’t require permits for large outdoor weddings before the big day.
Don’t have the space? Ask a friend if you can borrow their yard for the evening.
6. Historic sites
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With a choice of turn-of-the-century homes, art deco buildings, Southern plantations and more, you might find your ideal wedding venue at a historic site. Many of these locations let you rent out the entire space. Need some inspiration? Check out the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places database.
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If you’re planning a smaller wedding, you might find a great deal at a local restaurant. Many have banquet or private rooms you can book for the evening. Some spots may also let you host your wedding while the restaurant is closed, providing more privacy.
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A bed-and-breakfast can be a cheaper alternative for destination weddings. As a bonus, out-of-town guests may be able to rent a room right there. Check out BnBFinder.com for a database of B&Bs.
Before you get too far along in planning a wedding, know the potential rip-offs out there. Read: “How to Avoid 5 Common Wedding Scams”
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Your local art museum probably boasts high ceilings, ornate woodwork, giant chandeliers and other decor that would look great in your wedding photos. Artcyclopedia has a database of art museums by state.
10. Botanical gardens
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Botanical gardens are typically owned by cities or nonprofit organizations, so they often have great rates. For example, the Norfolk Botanical Garden in Norfolk, Virginia, has both indoor and outdoor event venues. Outdoor venues cost $900 to $1,150. Indoor venues cost $1,000 to $4,500.
Have you attended a wedding lately — your own or someone else’s? Share unique venue and other wedding ideas in comments below or on our Facebook page.
Christina Majeski contributed to this post.