Where you have your wedding ceremony and reception sets the tone for the entire event. Whether you’re going for the glitz and the glam of a grand ballroom wedding, a beach ceremony with the surf whipping at your hair, an evening candlelit dinner in a loft or a backyard wedding filled with wildflowers and seriously good craft brew, every type of wedding venue has its own logistics for you to consider.
Take time with your partner to put the pens and paper away and just get dreamy. Close your eyes if you’d like. Imagine what your perfect ceremony looks like. Is it in a church? A ranch with dusty trails, horses and a majestic oak tree? Or a rooftop on the top of a big hotel with city lights twinkling around you? Just imagine what you want by yourself. Have your partner do the same. Then compare notes.
Questions to ask yourself and each other:
- What city would you like to marry in? Where you live now or either of your hometowns?
- Are you dreaming of a destination wedding?
- Do you want a small, medium or large wedding?
- No matter your budget, what percentage of it are you open to spending on a venue? Is it one of the top priorities or just the backdrop?
- Do you want a venue that provides every service so you can sit back and relax, or are you more interested in piecing the wedding elements together with your vendors?
- Are you open to an off-site wedding, where you’ll be renting a considerable amount of items, such as tents, chairs, tables, linens and even portable restrooms to have your wedding in a nontraditional setting? Or would you rather marry and celebrate at a venue where those items are already there?
- Do you want a small ceremony with no guests and then a large wedding reception?
All of this is achievable and so much more—on any budget. It’s not so much what you can afford and then plan from there—as the wedding industry would have you believe. What’s important is determining what your top priorities are and bringing that vision to life. Throughout this book, you’ll find tips and tricks to circumnavigating budget worries.
Wedding venues are traditionally looked upon as where the reception is going to happen, but for many LGBTQ+ couples, the ceremony and reception take place in the same venue.
TYPES OF VENUES
Almost any space can be transformed into a wedding venue. If you can dream it (and afford it), it can (probably) happen.
Hotels have almost everything couples wish for, all within reach: onsite catering staff, professional-grade kitchens, stocked bars, ample rooms to get ready in, rooms for your guests, in-house wedding planning staff, and quite often, access to some of your city’s premium wedding vendors who know what works best in the venue and how to best achieve your vision.
They’re not inexpensive by any means, with their minimums for food and beverage, and base cost per guest. However, if you add up every single item you’d have to cart in for your own DIY wedding, such as chairs, tables, tents, linens, glasses, flatware, portable bathrooms, you might save more at a hotel. Hotels sometimes need more outside assistance in transforming the space to your vision—some ballrooms double as convention and meeting spaces. But the right event designer can turn any room into your wildest dream (for a price). If you’re considering a hotel wedding, find out if you can bring in your own vendors. Many hotels only require that you go through them for food and beverage. But some might insist that you use their florist or other vendors.
House of worship
Now that the United States offers marriage equality in every state, more houses of worship are allowing same-sex wedding ceremonies. If you opt to have your wedding in a holy space, your venue cost might be lowered significantly.
Unfortunately, there are more churches and synagogues that do not condone same-sex marriage—and actually forbid it. However, if you and your partner are part of a supportive congregation, you already know if your wedding ceremony is going to be allowed in your house of worship. Though do ask, because I’ve met quite a few couples who have been stunned and hurt when asking if they could have their wedding ceremony in the church they have attended as a couple for multiple years and then turned down because of that religion’s particular stance on same-sex relationships.
If you opt for a wedding ceremony in your house of worship, you’ll still likely select another venue for your reception, depending on what your house of worship offers in the way of entertaining space.
Restaurant weddings boast delightful ambiance, delicious food and built-in décor. Though not considered a true full-service wedding venue, most come equipped with a variety of necessities, from linens, tables and flatware to bathrooms, a parking plan (even valet), a bar and a coat check room. However, the downside of a restaurant wedding can be the monster expense if you want your wedding to occur during its normal business hours. In order to get them to close service to their clientele, the restaurant manager will want you to guarantee that you’ll be spending what they could make in a night in food and beverage. Also, it might be harder to bring in your own food vendors for something special, but you could also try to have the chef custom make a dish you want served, such as your Great Aunt Edna’s chicken potpie recipe.
Home / backyard
Home wedding receptions used to be a staple before the wedding industry became the behemoth that it is today. A simple church wedding and then back to the house for a modest cake and punch. Many couples are returning to this tradition and making it their own in a variety of sizes—and including the ceremony. What’s great about home weddings is that you’re not paying for a venue, there’s no time limit (though check your city’s sound ordinance for late-night music), and there’s an innate sense of familiarity whether it’s your home or a loved one’s.
Keep in mind that you’ll still have to rent a great deal of items to outfit your house wedding, especially if the guest list is larger than 30 people. Expect to outsource linens, tables, chairs, possibly a tent and at least one posh portable bathroom.
Chic and memorable, destination weddings are the modern couple’s way of eloping—with guests. Presumably there’s a great deal of less fuss over a destination wedding, but ask anyone who’s planned a destination wedding and they’ll tell you how much work it is, only add long-distance calls with wedding vendors, a few trips to your location to do walk-throughs, the expense of shipping any items from home, wedding attire insurance, additional travel expenses for the wedding trip and possible guilt of asking family and friends to spend money to use vacation time from work and their money to travel to your destination wedding. However, all of this aside, it’s a fabulous party and many couples don’t mind the extra work for the opportunity to exchange vows in an exotic locale.
Whether you’re having a backyard wedding or something out in the middle of nowhere, most everything will need to be brought in. But the photos with all that gorgeous lighting and natural elements are worth it! If you are working with an unlimited budget or are willing to pull up your shirtsleeves and work hard, this could be the route for you.
New-fashioned wedding venues offer add an offbeat, fun alternative, including auction house, unconventional city attractions (the zoo, the aquarium, a museum), an art gallery or studio, a nature park, your college campus or somewhere completely different.
Next, choose a season in which you’d like to tie the knot. Your venue’s calendar and availability will most likely dictate your specific wedding date. Of course, if you have a special month and day you’re going for (say, your grandparent’s wedding anniversary or the anniversary of your first date or even, as is the case for many LGBTQ+ couples, the date of your first non-legal wedding ceremony), don’t be afraid to ask the venue for that date. It all depends on how far out you’re planning your wedding. The longer your planning period is, the better your chances for booking the venue and vendors of your choice.
If you’re getting married in an unconventional spot, the chances are much better that your venue will be available on the day you wish.
Once you have narrowed your venue choices down to your top three, find out several date options that they have open. Then consider those dates before signing any paperwork. Look over last year’s calendar in your phone. Is that your best friend’s birthday weekend? A special holiday? A time period which might deter important wedding guests from showing up? If you have family heavily involved in your wedding planning, discuss the options with them to make sure everyone will be equally excited about the chosen date.
This article is excerpted from Equally Wed: The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your LGBTQ+ Wedding by Kirsten Palladino, published by Seal Press and available wherever books are sold.
Kirsten Ott Palladino
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