Selecting your wedding venue will be one of the first and most important decisions you make in planning for your big day. The right surroundings can help create the theme and mood you wish to set. Many places can be transformed into the wedding of your dreams, whether you choose an unusual site or keep it traditional.
A Dedicated Wedding Venue
Hotels, banquet rooms, country clubs, and restaurants are all well-equipped and experienced in coordinating weddings. These traditional wedding venues often have wedding planners who can assist with choosing decorations, sound systems, and accommodations for your guests. They may also have associations with caterers, photographers, florists, and other wedding services, which can save you some money. The sites are generally easy to get to, and there’s plenty of parking.
While many people choose to have only their reception at the wedding venue, others elect to save time and travel by holding the ceremony onsite. Often, the venue will set up the ceremony in one room or area, with the reception held in another room.
Houses of Worship
Couples wanting a religious service will usually arrange to have their wedding at a church, temple, or other house of worship. The religious setting adds to the solemnity of the occasion, especially when accompanied by prayers, hymns, or traditional music. Churches and other houses of worship are already prepared to accommodate large crowds. Many religious venues, such as cathedrals, will have stunning architectural features that provide a beautiful backdrop for photographs.
Many brides and grooms will opt to have the ceremony in a church, synagogue, or other religious venue but host the reception in another place, requiring guests to travel and sometimes wait for the reception to begin. Some churches, however, will have basements or fellowship halls, though there may be restrictions on alcohol, music, or dancing.
A City Building
For couples who want to keep it simple and inexpensive, a wedding ceremony at a city hall, courthouse, or county building may be the way to go. Just make an appointment with the judge or justice of the peace, obtain the marriage license, dress however you wish, and show up at the appointed time. The no-frills ceremony will last a few minutes, and you will be a married couple.
You can have close family and friends attend, if you wish, though check to see how many will fit in the room and whether they will have to stand during the ceremony. You can still hold a reception or wedding dinner at another location, if you want.
Backyard weddings can be intimate, casual, fun, and inexpensive. You can tailor your event to your space and facilities, whether it’s a patio, deck, gazebo, or large expanse of lawn. It can also be as simple or extravagant as you want. You can rent a tent and seating, or take some of your indoor furniture out. Just be mindful of the weather. Wood furniture should be kept out of the sun to prevent damage.
Inclement weather is always a risk for outdoor weddings, but your house can serve as a Plan B in an emergency. The kitchen can be used by the caterers (or cook your own meal, if you’re ambitious). Parking could be a problem, and there may be city permits to obtain. Be sure to inform your neighbors what’s going on.
A Public Park
Parks of all kinds—city, state, and national parks—often have facilities or spaces for weddings. Many parks will have indoor sites, including public conservatories or greenhouses, where weddings can be held, but the biggest advantage will be the beautiful natural views outdoors.
With any outdoor wedding, it’s necessary to rent seats, tables, chairs, and tents, if you want them. You’ll have to account for the possibility of unfavorable weather and insects, but a fresh-air wedding can be an enjoyable time for all. Some parks have limitations on hours or alcohol.
If you’re looking for an unusual but family-friendly venue, think about getting married at your local zoo. It’s a more popular choice than you might think; most zoos have designated sites, both indoors and outdoors, and are well equipped for setting up a wedding. Many zoos will arrange for animal encounters or set up photo opportunities with the giraffes or other gentle animals.
For extra fun, plan a jungle or safari theme with a bouquet of tropical flowers or a post-wedding ride in an open-air jeep.
Museums can be great venues for weddings because the exhibits become part of the décor and part of the fun. They’re especially suitable for people who are fans of what the museum has to offer—art, natural history, science and technology, or even something more specialized.
Most larger museums offer wedding packages that often include the exhibits as part of the backdrop. Imagine posing for wedding photos in front of a dinosaur skeleton or a famous work of art. Some will also have outdoor patios or pavilions.
Historic mansions, train depots, theaters, and other buildings make beautiful and romantic venues for weddings. These buildings often offer unique architecture, inside and outdoors, for stunning photo opportunities. Many historic sites specialize in weddings, banquets, and other special events, so they are well prepared to work with you in planning your special day. Many couples like to coordinate their décor theme and wedding outfits to match the time period of the site.
Keep in mind historic buildings may not have the technology you are used to. They were also built before disabled accessibility rules, though almost all used for public events have been retrofitted with ramps and other accommodations.
You may already have a good idea for the type of setting you want for your wedding, or you may be looking around for something to inspire you. Whatever you decide on, you can have the traditional wedding of your dreams or an unusual ceremony and reception that fits your own unique personality.
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