by Linda DiProperzio
From barns and backyards to country clubs and catering halls, there’s no shortage of wedding venues to choose from. Which location you decide on really depends on your personal style and the theme you want for your big day—and of course, how much money you can spend. In fact, before you start planning your wedding, you need to come up with a realistic budget for the event. After all, the last thing you want is to start your newlywed life off in massive debt. Data shows that the average wedding in the United States in 2019 cost $19,000, down from the previous year’s average of $28,000 (but keep in mind that Covid played a big role in that drop).
One of the biggest expenses—if not the biggest—on your budget will be your wedding venue. On average, couples spent about half of their budget on the venue. Of course, there are several factors that will determine how much your wedding venue will cost.
Cost of Reception Venue vs. Ceremony Venue
A wedding ceremony venue costs less for two main reasons: You’ll need it for a shorter amount of time, and you don’t have to serve guests food and beverages. That’s why the average fee for a ceremony location is just $600, compared to the thousands a wedding reception venue will add to your bottom line.
What You Should Know Before Booking a Venue
Location is key
Where you decide to say I do will play a big part in how much you pay for a wedding venue. For example, the most expensive state to wed in last year was New Jersey, while the most affordable was Utah.
Every venue offers something different
What you get for your money depends on the wedding venue you choose. Some locations, like a hotel, country club or catering hall, will have everything you need for your big day on-site, including tables, chairs, linens, plates, glasses (you get the idea). According to Zingerman's Cornman Farms, the top three services their couples want in a venue to provide are bar service, planning assistance and recommendations of vendors.
But there are venues that offer a blank slate that you can personalize to highlight a specific theme or vibe on your wedding day. However, that means that there will be added costs due to the fact that you'll have to rent all of items needed to pull off the wedding reception. On average, you’ll spend about $650 on event rentals.
If you’re going the more traditional route and booking a wedding venue that offers everything on your list, then the location will most likely charge you a price per head that includes use of the site, food and beverages.
Additional Costs You Might Encounter
Again, if you choose an all-inclusive wedding venue, then some of these extras won’t apply to you. The key is to read your contract over carefully and know exactly what you’re paying before you make a commitment. If you’re not sure whether or not you’re getting a good deal, ask your wedding planner--or a trusted family member or friend--to look it over before you sign on the dotted line. Some extra fees to be on the lookout for include:
Some wedding locations will charge you a site fee, which is a charge simply to allow you to host your event on site. Oher venues might add on a cake cutting fee, corkage cost, service charge, etc. And if you hire a wedding vendor not on the venue’s approved list, it might require an additional fee. This is why it’s important to go over your contract thoroughly and don’t be afraid to ask questions if a charge seems over the top.
Check to see if there is an extra charge for valet parking—or if there is even parking onsite for your guests. If they need to park offsite, you might feel obligated to offer a shuttle service to the venue, which will be an additional cost for you.
Don’t assume that the price per head that you’re quoted by the wedding venue includes taxes. This could wind up being an additional line on your final bill that you weren’t expecting. Wedding Insurance. If you’re venue is mostly outdoors, you might want to take out wedding insurance to cover costs in case the event is cancelled or postponed due to severe weather.
You want to thank everyone working at the wedding venue—wait staff, bartenders, restroom attendants, coatroom attendants, etc.—for doing a great job. Some venues might automatically add it to the final bill, while others leave it to your discretion.
Zingerman's Cornman Farms points out that couples should always make sure their venue has a rain plan in case weather is not cooperative. In addition, you might also want to take out extra wedding insurance in case of severe weather. This way you can reschedule if needed without losing any money.
Tips to Save Money on Your Wedding Venue
Stick with one location
Some wedding venues will give you a price break if you decide to hold both your ceremony and reception there. It will also be more convenient for your guests!
Pick a weekday
A Saturday night wedding is always going to cost more than getting married on a Friday or Sunday. But you can save even more by saying I do Monday through Thursday.
Get married in the off-season
January and February are traditionally slow months in the wedding industry, making it more likely a venue will give you a better deal.
Cut down your guest list
It’s simple: The more people you invite, the more you will spend at your wedding venue. You can give your guests a more unique experience if you have less people in attendance.
Serve limited drinks
Instead offering a full open bar, serve beer, wine and soda—and maybe a signature drink—to cut down on beverage costs.
Hold a brunch wedding
Brunch is becoming a popular choice for wedding celebrations. Not only will you save money by having your event during the day, but you’ll also cut down your alcohol costs a great deal.
Marry outside the city
Wedding venues in major cities—New York, Los Angeles, Chicago—are going to cost way more than if you choose a location outside the city limits.
Choosing a wedding venue that has everything you need all in one place will save you money, time, and probably a whole lot of stress since you won’t have as many things on your to-do list.
Ready to start looking for the perfect wedding venue for your big day? Don't forget to browse and discover wedding venues in your area! And once you find one and have your date set, you can search for your other vendors and start finalizing your guest list!