I have yet to have a couple ask me how to find an outrageously expensive venue, so I’d like to provide a few ideas for locating good value venues based upon my experience officiating over 500 weddings in New Jersey and New York.
1. Civic Centers, Park Pavilions, and other public facilities: Check with your municipal, county and state Parks & Recreation department. Gorgeous historical mansions can be found for a song!
2. Fraternal Lodges: Elk, Moose, VFW, Knights of Columbus, etc.: Look on their national websites to find a location near you.
3. Community Clubhouses (apartment, condo, neighborhood):
4. Garden Clubs: Check your local listings (on-line and yellow pages)
5. Performing Arts Centers: Check your local listings (on-line and yellow pages)
6. Private Homes: Home weddings can be absolutely lovely, but do come with their own set of challenges because they are not created to be event venues. Here are some ideas for making a home a suitable wedding venue. http://brevardminister.com/
7. Museums and Art Galleries: You might be surprised at how reasonable a museum or gallery can be, especially if they are not known for being a wedding venue and would appreciate the incremental income. Check your local listings (on-line and yellow pages)
8. Business Meeting Space: Ask friends or family if they work at or know of a business in town that has hall space and might be willing to rent it after hours. For example, my town clerk’s office has a fabulous meeting area they rent out for weddings at a phenomenally inexpensive rate, but they don't advertise. You have to know they are there.
9. Unitarian Universalist congregations are often willing to rent their space to non-members at reasonable rates. http://uua.org/
10. Unusual Venues: Be creative and think about places you have been that might make a nice wedding and/or reception venue. These can be especially meaningful if they are associated with your relationship. For example, I have officiated weddings at a local nursery where the groom shopped frequently (the plants made a naturally gorgeous background), a bowling alley where the bride and groom met and played in several leagues, a zoo where the couple volunteered, and a marina where the couple fished regularly. In a few of these instances, the bride and groom didn't have to pay a dime because the venue wanted the publicity. It never hurts to ask.
11. Colleges, Universities and Independent Schools; many schools (Including NJ’s own Rutgers University) have galleries, chapels and libraries that are magnificent, and very often they are available to the general public.
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Celia Milton is a wedding officiant and celebrant who creates and performs lighthearted wedding ceremonies and civil unions in new jersey and new york.