Outdoor, destination, and backyard: how to find your match in wedding reception venues

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Your wedding venue match on @offbeatbride
Denver's Mile High Station

If you're searching for a fabulous and affordable offbeat venue unicorn, you'll encounter a whole slew of options. We're going to talk about all the general categories of venues and which could be your awesome venue BFF. Whether it's built-in service staff or naturally lovely decor, here are some of the reasons to choose (or NOT choose) different venue types.

Your wedding venue match on @offbeatbride
New York's FEAST at Round Hill

Outdoor wedding venues

  • Variable price: you'll encounter a huge range of prices with outdoor venues. From more affordable city and county parks and summer camp venues to large resorts, prices can be all over the board. For some more offbeat (and potentially cheaper) choices, consider fairgrounds, farms, ranches, public gardens, or even farmer's markets. For smaller weddings, try vacation rentals.
  • Natural decor: Ooh hey, built-in decor courtesy of Mother Nature. This is a big win in the price department.
  • Lots of space: If you're inviting a lot of people, outdoor venues can usually accommodate a lot more than indoor venues. You can rock out your huge festival-style wedding without worrying too much about seating.
  • Weather: Here's where things can get pretty dicey and limiting, depending on where you live. Be aware of weather conditions when booking an outdoor venue and have a backup plan for keeping guests dry and comfortable.
Your wedding venue match on @offbeatbride
Seattle's Urban Light Studios

Hotel and banquet wedding venues

  • Built-in event coordinators: Venue-mandated coordinators can be a mixed bag. But you're usually getting a little help from someone who knows the facility and can help you narrow down your choices. Just be careful not to let them steamroll you with their more factory-style wedding production.
  • Rentals: Hotels and banquet halls usually have rentals covered, which means you're not having to rent them externally. Just watch out for hidden costs when working out the details. This goes for all included elements: food, decor, sound systems, lighting, etc.
  • Ease of accommodations: Hotels especially are convenient if only for the built-in hotel rooms. Nobody needs to grab a cab if they over-drink, and after-parties are a breeze to coordinate.
  • Restrictive vendor lists: You may be stuck with a list of required vendors at a hotel or banquet hall. Be aware that you may end up not having a lot of lower-budget options. Alternately, if the venue is all-inclusive and has their own staff, you may save money just based on keeping it all in-house. Find out what your venue options offer before signing.
2weds 1066
Minnesota's Muffuletta at Shawn and Ani's wedding. Photo by Kelly Marie Trippler

Restaurant wedding venues

  • Food match: The best reason of all, choosing your own favorite cuisine! You know exactly what type of food you'll be getting, and it may have some sentimental connections if you dined there before.
  • Built-in service staff: No need to hire service staff when they already work there, right?
  • Space limitations: One big reason restaurants are iffy for larger weddings is that they are usually the smallest space option. Look for restaurants with an outdoor courtyard to expand your horizons.
  • Expense for renting out the place: Often restaurants will charge for the missing business, so if you don't fill the place up, you may end up paying for invisible people. For restaurant venues, it often makes sense to find a spot that matches your guest list pretty well, or consider renting out a special event room only.
Your wedding venue match on @offbeatbride
Mexico's Sueños Tulum eco-hotel

Destination wedding venues

  • It's a mini (or large) vacation: The obvious reason to have a destination wedding venue is the VACATION part. You'll have lots of time to spend with your guests, lots of fun activities to do, and you can spend a little time alone after everyone heads home.
  • Expensive for guests: And then we have the obvious downside. If your wedding is small or you're eloping, this problem is far less of a concern.
  • Planning a wedding weekend: Being in tour guide mode for a whole weekend can be a serious challenge. Here are some wedding weekend planning tips if you end up needing help.
  • Destination planning: Planning from afar is an added hurdle since you're not seeing everything in person. All-inclusives can help with this by providing an event coordinator to help you source everything.
South Florida Backyard Wedding
Simone and Andrew's backyard wedding. Photo by The Pink Ray Gun

At-home and backyard weddings

  • Cost savings: At-home weddings and backyard weddings are some of our favorites for this reason. You can spend your money on much more fun stuff like decor, fashion, and FOOD.
  • Fewer restrictions: You won't be beholden to mandatory vendor lists or decor limitations.
  • Space limitations: You will, however, be limited in space. Unless you know someone with a huge farm or something, your own home may just not hold that many people. But you can always rent a tent and party it up outside.
  • Rental expenses: Your home (or friend's/family's home) won't come with any built-in rentals, so you'll be on the hook to hire everything out including any kind of serving/cleaning services you want. It can get pricey, so budget for it if you go this route.
Your wedding venue match on @offbeatbride
Toronto's Little Log Wedding Chapel

Non-typical wedding venues

Here are some ideas of off-the-beaten track venues to consider:

  • Schools: not just universities, but junior highs and high schools, vocational, music schools, dance studios, culinary schools, etc.
  • Museums and art galleries
  • Concert venues
  • Dance studios and ballrooms
  • Community centers
  • Theaters and playhouses
  • Libraries or city halls
  • Renaissance fairgrounds, county fairgrounds, and other public event spaces
  • Local attractions like caves, wildlife refuges, and awesomely weirder event venues
Your wedding venue match on @offbeatbride
Texas' Scarborough Renaissance Festival


: Niagara's Little Log Wedding Chapel
: Urban Light Studios
: Mile High Station
: Sueños Tulum eco-hotel
: Scarborough Renaissance Festival
: FEAST at Round Hill

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Comments on Outdoor, destination, and backyard: how to find your match in wedding reception venues

  1. We loved getting married at a restaurant for all the reasons listed above!

    As soon as we started planning the wedding, my husband said he only cared about two details: having great music and AMAZING FOOD! So we settled on the Hyeholde in Pittsburgh, PA, a restaurant that looks like a castle.

    It made a lot of sense for us because I didn’t have to rent a single thing. This saved me so much money and so much sanity. Throughout the planning process, I felt like a guest at the venue instead of a frazzled worker bee! So many things, like valet, linens, bathrooms, pretty lighting, etc., were already taken care of.

    Also, the service staff was AMAZING. They delivered drinks right to the dance floor! My guests were totally taken pampered all night.

    Here is our wedding if you want to see the place! http://offbeatwed.com/2015/07/rock-n-roll-wedding-pa

  2. We’re on the hunt for a venue, so this is a great resource. Thank you! I never even considered a restaurant as a wedding location…now I’ll have to do some digging! I’d love to have outdoor wedding photos, although the brunch indoors, but knowing the unpredictable nature of Seattle weather, probably an indoor venue is safer.

  3. Have you tried The Hitch? I found my venue in Portland last year on that website. The user interface was really easy to use and they seem to have a great selection of venues. https://thehitch.com

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