Vol.1, No.11

How to find a free wedding location locally

It can be tricky, but it is possible to find free and cheap wedding sites, no matter where you live.

Park wedding location
Photo Credit: Nikki Ward
When planning your wedding, it is easy to rack up expenses very quickly. Between the dress, tuxedos, flowers, cake, food and drinks, minister's fees, music, photography and all the other charges big and small, your wedding can quickly turn from a joyous affair to an even that leaves your riddled with guilt over all the money you spent and saddled with all sorts of debt.

But it doesn't have to be this way. There are some simple ways to cut expenses as you plan your wedding, and one of the most basic is to seek out a wedding site that doesn't cost you anything.

It will require some leg work and creativity on your part to find a free ceremony and reception site, and not all of these suggestions may be available in your town or they may actually come with a small fee, but here are some ideas to get you started on the road to a cheaper wedding.

A Backyard Wedding: The first free place most people think of to have a wedding or reception is someone's backyard. If you have a lovely, flat back yard or know someone who does, this can be a great plan for a small, casual wedding (and most weddings on the cheap end up being small and casual, so that shouldn't be a deterrent). Inviting people to your home to share an important moment in your life is a really beautiful gesture.

You don't even have to have a large yard if you keep the crowd small, just make sure you plan for bad weather. Backyards are adaptable to themes such as a wedding barbecue, a beach theme (with tiki torches and seashells on the tables), garden party and many more.

Wedding in the Park: Many city parks allow private gatherings for free (though you might have to pay to reserve a pavilion). A park wedding is great because you have natural beauty surrounding you and do not have to pay for decorations.

Again you'll have to plan for the weather and you won't have a lot of privacy, but a park setting for a wedding can be very cute (how about a "Barefoot in the Park" theme? you wouldn't even have to buy shoes!) and get your guests into the spirit.

Church Ceremony: If you belong to a church, you may be able to have a ceremony and reception on the church grounds for free (or for a donation to the church instead of a set fee). This is the best option if you go to a big church and want to invite a lot of people. It helps if both families are of the same or similar religious backgrounds.

Consider also if you're inviting people from very divers backgrounds who might not be comfortable with a fancy church wedding. This is not a reason not to have a church wedding; it's just something to think about and be aware of (and maybe to warn such guests if the ceremony is going to be deeply religious, you should tell them they are welcome to attend just the reception).

Churches are excellent choices because they know how to do weddings, they may even have altar decorations, candles and other equipment you can use, so there's even less you have to spend money on if you go this route. It's traditional, but there's really nothing wrong with that.

Unusual Locations: If you opt to have your wedding in a strange location, like the Wal-Mart where you met your beloved, you'll probably be allowed to have the wedding for free if you allow the company to alert the media. If you want to have a wedding like this, you'll have to contact the store manager and probably go through some wrangling as to the time, place and circumstances of your nuptials. But it's likely to be a wedding no one will ever forget. The sky is really the limit when you start thinking about off-the-wall places to have your wedding.

Other options: If you have a friend or relative who owns a business, consider having your ceremony there. While restaurants with reception halls are the most easily adapted to weddings, also consider florists, garden centers, even an antiques shop could be an interesting backdrop to your big day.

It can be difficult to find a free place to have your wedding, but if you do a little hunting and are creative about it, a few options will make themselves known. The most important thing is to pick a space that will function for the kind of ceremony you want and that you will be happy with.

For more help finding free and cheap wedding sites in your hometown, contact your local visitors' bureau or chamber of commerce. Some cities even put out wedding guides that can give you more information about venues and other ways to save money on your big day.