By WEDDING SPOT BLOG Historic estates. Traditional banquet halls. Beach pavilions. Industrial lofts. The number of types of wedding venues available today is dizzying. How do you choose the perfect setting for your big day?
Some venues won’t feel like your style from the get-go. (If you’re a laidback pair, skip the banquet halls with crystal chandeliers.) Other venues go on the ‘maybe’ list. And a few will give you that ‘just right’ vibe.
To narrow things down before wasting too much time and energy, explore our rundown of traditional, new, and unusual wedding venue types, then find out how many venues you should visit in person.
Traditional wedding venue types
1. Stand-alone banquet hall
Designed to host large-scale or intimate celebrations, banquet hall venues are at-the-ready with elegant interiors and fully equipped kitchens. Most banquet halls have an in-house catering team with set menus, though some allow the option of an outside caterer. Stand-alone banquet halls are great choices for the experience of their staff and their convenience.
2. Bed & breakfast or inn
Whether you choose an inn by the sea or a small boutique hotel in a big city, your choices are endless with a bed & breakfast wedding venue. Inns and B&Bs are known for their intimate charm, which extends to weddings as well. Look for package deals that include overnight rooms for both the wedding party and your out-of-town guests.
Find the perfect wedding venue type!
3. Hotel or resort
These venues are known for their polished staff and facilities, and often beautiful surroundings — particularly when the venue is within a vacation resort. But one of the primary draws of hotel and resort venues is their unmatched convenience. You can host the ceremony, reception, and out-of-town guests in one place, and eliminate the logistical headache of getting people to and from events at different locales.
4. House of worship
If you’re planning a traditional religious wedding ceremony, this is an affordable option. Keep in mind, not all houses of worship have the space or equipment for receptions. If they do, the onsite kitchen may be fully equipped or bare-bones; your only option maybe outside catering and a buffet set up. Make sure you know what you’re dealing with before you book.
5. Country club
Country clubs sit on picturesque private or public golf courses, often with panoramic views for spectacular photos. These facilities typically offer elegant interiors and white-glove service from an experienced staff. However, some private clubs require membership or sponsorship by a member to book events — find out the requirements before falling in love with a private facility.
6. Historic site, home, or mansion
You’ll love the hint of the past that comes alive with a wedding at a historic venue. Think rich architectural styles, such as Victorian, Colonial, or Romantic, and distinctive interiors. Homes on the historic registry often feature impressive grounds and gardens that are perfect for an outdoor ceremony and pictures. The San Francisco Mint — opened in 1974 — makes a striking wedding backdrop with its Greek Revival facade, sleek granite interior courtyard, and bridal suite in the Coiner’s Office. 7. Vacation rental
Consider independent vacation rentals, or search AirBnB or Vrbo, for your small, intimate wedding location. This is a great choice for a DIY wedding — you can rent out the entire property and hold the ceremony outside and the reception inside. Vacation rentals also make for the perfect destination wedding venue (think Cape Cod beach house or a Santa Fe ranch). Be upfront about your reason for renting, the size of your party, and plan for cleaning up after the event. The owner or rental agency may say no, or they may ask for pictures they can add to their websites and post to social media.
There is something distinctive about getting married in a museum. From the stunning Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington to the whimsical Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, museum wedding venues offer stunning backdrops and one-of-a-kind decor. Find out if your favorite museum hosts weddings, or research museum venues that match your wedding style, whether that is sophisticated, vibrant, modern, or quirky.
Do you and your beloved have a favorite place for laid-back meals or romantic dinners? Consider renting a private room for your small-scale wedding and reception. You may even be able to book the entire restaurant during the day if they are only open in the evenings. Depending on the restaurant, this can be a budget saver because many don’t charge a separate facility or service fee.
10. Urban loft
Urban loft venues offer large, open-concept spaces that infuse your celebration with vibrant energy and city-chic style. They can be small and intimate or expansive, and many offer floor-to-ceiling windows, balconies, or rooftop access for stunning skyline views. Outdoor wedding venue types
1. Beach or waterfront
Whether you overlook an ocean, lake, or river, there’s something undeniably romantic and peaceful about a wedding venue near a body of water. For the ceremony, many waterside venues offer dedicated setups with arches or gazebos you can decorate to your liking. The reception space may be a pavilion, a large tent, an indoor space with glass French doors, or an outdoor platform beneath the stars.
2. Winery or vineyard
Choose a destination wedding in wine country among rolling hills while dining on exceptional food — often prepared by award-winning chefs. Wineries may have an elegant ambiance or a decidedly rustic edge, but there will always be exceptional wine on hand. Top wine regions in the US include Napa Valley, Sonoma, and Paso Robles in California, the Willamette Valley in Oregon, Texas Hill Country in Texas, and the Finger Lakes region of New York State.
3. Barn or farm
Verdant fields, vaulted timber ceilings, wood-plank floors perfect for dancing — rustic style is built right in when you book a barn or farm venue. With fairy lights, mismatched vintage china, and blanket-covered hay bales for seating range, these venues have a homespun charm. With chandeliers, velvet accents, and white-washed furnishings, barn and farm venues offer sophistication with a rustic twist.
4. Mountain lodge
Ski lodges and mountainside resorts, such as The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, offer dramatic ridgeline backdrops for wedding celebrations year round. They’re perfect for adventurous couples who enjoy snow sports or hiking. Extend your stay and transition seamlessly to your honeymoon after bidding your guests farewell.
5. Botanical garden
Most botanical gardens offer multiple spaces for weddings, from outdoor pavilions to secret rose gardens to greenhouses. A floral wedding theme is a natural fit, but any style wedding fits within a garden setting — including old-world elegance, country chic, and contemporary. For a lower-cost garden option, seek local gardens run by local municipalities or community groups.
6. Local, state, or national park
Choose a favorite local park for your relaxed barbecue wedding; it’s as easy as reserving a picnic area and getting a permit. Or, enjoy a glamorous wedding on the outdoor terrace at The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park. Depending on your choice, park weddings can be an affordable option that lets you save money for a spectacular honeymoon.
Rustic and whimsical meet with a charming wedding in the trees. For tiny weddings and elopements, the ceremony itself can take place within a treehouse. For medium weddings, the ceremony may be earthbound in a pavilion or decorated clearing in the woods. Earthjoy Treehouse Village in Kentucky offers a rustic outdoor kitchen and log cabin for the reception. Keep in mind, large scale weddings aren’t a great fit for treehouse venues.
8. Boat or yacht
Host your wedding and reception on the deck of a private charter boat, sailboat or luxury yacht and enjoy a day or night on the water. The perks of choosing a boat wedding include all-inclusive packages and spectacular views that change throughout the event. Elite Private Yachts in New York City takes you past the Statue of Liberty and a stunning perspective on the famed skyline. Larger yachts may even have room for you and your guests to spend the night. Unique wedding venue types
1. Antique or vintage store
If you and your spouse-to-be share a love of vintage decor or a kitschy retro environment, consider holding your wedding in a vintage shop or antique warehouse. Reach out to your regular haunts when you go antiquing to see if they’ll host, and make it clear you will be respectful of their merchandise and have full-coverage wedding insurance.
2. Art (or craft) gallery
Galleries that display the work of independent or up-and-coming artists make beautiful wedding locales. Surround yourself with the artwork you love, whether that’s bold, large-scale contemporary sculptures, American folk art creations, or black-and-white photography. The Whitebox Art Center is a non-profit art space in New York City that hosts weddings in two gallery spaces.
3. Craft brewery or distillery
A welcome twist on vineyard weddings for couples who prefer beer or spirits over wine. Many have on-site restaurants to cater your affair, or you can hire local food trucks to pull up next to an outside courtyard. These venues often deliver a hip industrial and rustic vibe like the one found at the Westland Distillery, where your feast takes place at a banquet table between stacks of wooden casks.
4. Gym or sports facility
Sporty types may consider a wedding on a basketball court or large yoga studio. Create a sense of intimacy with decorations and gauzy drapes that section off the space. You’ll have to hire a caterer and other vendors, but you’re assured plenty of floor space for dancing — or even a game of pick-up.
5. Planetarium or zoo
Get married under the Hayden Planetarium in the American Museum of Natural History or at the Bronx Zoo — both in New York City. At the zoo, guests can enjoy cocktail hour inside the Madagascar exhibit or outside by the cavorting California sea lions. A planetarium wedding can include a tour of the universe between the ceremony and reception.
6. Chateau or castle
Weave fairytale romance into your day with a chateau wedding. Ballrooms, wood-panelled walls, chandeliers, and grand marble staircases lend a regal elegance to your day. Outside, manicured lawns, terraces, tower parapets, and rose gardens offer endless lovely backdrops for wedding party photos.
Warehouse weddings are growing in popularity for city dwellers — think of them as the urban barn wedding. These converted spaces offer an industrial-chic vibe with high ceilings and exposed brick walls — which adapt beautifully to a range of wedding styles.
8. Sports stadium
Make your favorite sports team part of your celebration and get an insider's view of stadium zones usually closed to the public. You can even take your wedding photos on the field.
9. Theme park
Are you both thrill-seekers? Consider a wedding at an amusement park wedding with roller coaster rides for you and your guests before or after the wedding. These venues typically offer packages that include venue space and theme park admission. (Consider fast-pass tickets for the wedding party.) Choose a destination like Disney World or Universal Studios and extend your extend your stay for a honeymoon in Florida.
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Cheap wedding venue types
1. Community center
Local community centers, or sites like the Lions Club, Kiwanis Club, or Junior League, offer affordable spaces for DIY weddings. Get clear on any decor limitations and their offerings because this will vary widely between spaces. Many clubs will have advanced A/V equipment and fully equipped kitchens, where others offer ample space but few amenities.
2. Government or civic building
These can range from city hall weddings that include only a 10-minute ceremony to receptions in the grand entrance hall of a civic building. Expect strict parameters for decor and vendors in historic government buildings such as the landmark Minneapolis City Hall and Hennepin County Courthouse, which is still home to city, county, and court offices.
The ultimate DIY wedding venue location is your backyard, or the backyard of a close friend or family member. For small weddings, you and a team of helpers can manage the food and decor. But for larger weddings, you’ll have to rent tents, tables, and chairs and bring in outside catering. Some neighborhood associations even have community clubhouses that can host your ultra-local wedding.
4. Neighborhood block party
Remember those block parties of your youth? It’s delightfully festive and affordable to section off a portion of your street for a block party wedding. Your house (or the house of a parent or friend) can be the staging ground for a lovely, down-home celebration. Keep it simple and have the neighbors fire up their grills, book several food trucks, or hire an upscale caterer for a fun mix of laid-back and sophisticated.
Library venues are welcome settings for bibliophiles. You can book a landmark library (such as the Boston Public Library or the New York City Public Library) for a grand affair surrounded by sweeping staircases and towering bookshelves. Or, go smaller-scale with an event at a local library with a charming courtyard.
6. College or university
Your alma mater may offer neo-classical or contemporary spaces for beautiful weddings. These venues may be all-inclusive or require outside vendors; low-cost or expensive. Even if you aren’t a graduate, Toccoa Falls College in the northeast Georgia mountains is an affordable choice—and you can get married at the base of the school’s 186-foot-tall namesake waterfall.
7. Nightclub or lounge
Nightclubs and lounges feature chic elements — think oversized comfy couches, romantic lighting, and modern gas fireplaces — that are perfect for intimate weddings. These are often affordable venue options, especially if you hold your wedding during a typically slow time. Lily Bar & Lounge is worth a look for a small-scale Las Vegas wedding.
Say “I do” with sea turtles, sharks, and exotic fish swimming by (or even overhead). This is a natural for an aquatic wedding theme, but you can usually design the reception space to match your style. Depending on the size of the aquarium, you can rent a private room for 20 of your closest friends, or the entire aquarium for 500 or more guests.
9. Cafe and bar
Think small restaurants, bars, coffee shops, or even your favorite diner. More affordable than renting out a large, upscale restaurant, this is a great way to save money while hosting your wedding in a unique venue.
How many wedding venues should you visit?
Visit between five and seven venues in person before deciding on a site for your wedding. Start with two or three in one weekend. This will help refine your preferences and may even alter the next few venues you check out.
Of course, visiting five or more venues depends upon geography — you can probably only swing it if they are local, or an hour or two away by car. How do you handle in-person visits when the venue is across the state, out of state, or overseas. Consider road trips and weekend getaways where feasible. If not, explore the galleries and details on Wedding Spot to become familiar with the distinctive offerings and overall style of your favorites. Then communicate with the venue managers for further information: ask them for a videoconference tour of the facility from the kitchens to the bridal suite, and any photos of recent weddings they are allowed to share. Watch for responsiveness from the manager during these conversations; this a good indication they’ll work closely with you to create a beautiful day.
Now that you’re up to speed on the many types of wedding venues, learn how to pick a wedding venue that matches your style. This will help you narrow your choices even further, so choosing your venue is low on stress and big on fun.