If you’re newly engaged, your mind is probably full of ideas and dreams for your big day.
The key to successfully planning any wedding — big or small — is to set a realistic budget. But how much do you need to spend on the location where you’ll say I do?
The truth is, there’s no easy answer to that question. While the average cost of a wedding venue in the United States hovers between $12,000 and $14,000, your bill could be significantly more or less depending upon your personal wants and needs.
Wedding venue cost is always contingent on three main factors: the location, the size of your celebration and the date you choose to exchange your vows.
If you’re ready to dive into your wedding venue hunt, this helpful guide will help you figure out how much you can expect to spend to make your wedding day dreams a reality.
Breaking down wedding venue costs
Wedding venue costs vary from couple to couple. If you want to know what you can expect — and how to keep your costs down — these are the most important factors to consider:
1. Location, location, location
Where you choose to get married will have a huge impact on what you have to shell out to book a wedding venue. If you plan to wed in a major urban center like New York City or Los Angeles, you can expect to pay significantly more than if you opt for a small-town or country wedding.
Even destination weddings will vary in cost depending on the locale. The swankier the location, the higher the rental fee and associated costs will be.
2. Size of guest list
Before you and your spouse-to-be even think about looking at venues, it’s important to put together a rough guest list. While it doesn’t need to be exact, it’s important to know approximately how many people you want to invite. Why? The number of guests directly impacts the cost of a wedding venue.
Many venues, particularly those with in-house caterers, will enforce a food and beverage minimum. Either a minimum number of guests must be paid for at a set dollar amount per plate or a minimum sum must be spent on food and drink. Either way, this can have a major impact on your venue rental fee, so keep this in mind when deciding how many people to invite.
3. Your wedding date
The day and even the month you choose for your nuptials will have a significant impact on the cost of your wedding venue. Booking a Saturday, the most popular day of the week for weddings, will put a bigger dent in your budget than if you choose to wed on a Friday or a Sunday.
Even the month you choose can make a difference. If you choose to get married during ‘wedding season,’ you can expect to pay a premium for your venue. Most couples choose to marry between late spring and early fall when the weather is fair. Even December and February typically cost more because of Christmas and Valentine’s day.
If your goal is to get a great venue as cheaply as possible, you may want to consider an off-season wedding day when venue prices are significantly lower. Booking in January, March, April or November can save you a lot of money and give you more room in your wedding budget for other things from inviting more guests to splurging on new jewelry to compliment your wedding dress.
Wedding venue types: how it will effect your budget
The style of venue you choose can also have a pretty significant impact on your budget. While country clubs, banquet halls and hotels have been traditional wedding celebration choices, historic homesteads and remodelled barns have surged in popularity in the past decade. More offbeat locations like gardens, parks and museums are also possibilities.
So how do you choose which venue type to pick and how much will it cost? To help you decide which type will best suit both your style and finances, we’ve compiled the average cost for each type of venue in the U.S. as well as the minimum and maximum you can expect to pay during the official ‘wedding season.’
One important thing to keep in mind is that the average wedding venue cost will vary from state-to-state and even city-to-city. The figures listed are an across-the-board average of all 50 states.
• Community or event center — Average cost: $11,000. Minimum: $2,000. Maximum:$24,000.
• Country or private club: — Average cost: $10,000. Minimum: $2,000. Maximum: $18,000.
• Banquet hall — Average cost: $10,500. Minimum: $2,000. Maximum: $23,000.
• Town building — Average cost: $13,500. Minimum: $4,000. Maximum: $23,000.
• Museum or art gallery — Average cost: $7,500. Minimum: $4,000. Maximum: $11,000.
• Brewery or winery — Average cost: $7,500. Minimum: $5,000. Maximum: $10,000.
• Hotel or resort — Average cost: $25,500. Minimum: $5,000. Maximum: $74,000.
• Barn — Average cost: $9,500. Minimum: $6,000. Maximum: $13,000.
• National or city park — Average cost: $10,750. Minimum: $7,600. Maximum: $14,000.
Two venue rentals or one?
While wedding venues that can accommodate both the ceremony and the reception are gaining in popularity, some couples still prefer to host the ceremony and after-party in separate locations.
Why? Some brides like the idea of being married in a chapel for either religious or sentimental reasons. Some couples want to be married in a garden or park that holds special memories for them, even though the site can’t accommodate the reception.
There are pros and cons to both scenarios and, in most cases, the decision to opt for two venue rentals will come down to personal preference and budget.
• While you may think paying for two rentals will jack up the price, that’s not always true. Booking an hour for your ceremony can actually be quite reasonable. While you will need to shell out for a wedding in a park or public garden, if you choose to get married in your home church, for example, the church may waive the fee. Beach ceremonies can be had for the cost of a permit and range in price from a paltry $20 all the way up to $500. If you can find a beach at the lower end of the spectrum, you can book a ceremony for less than your weekly grocery bill.
• Two venues typically allow the bridal party more time for photos. Your guests travel time between the two locations in addition to the typical cocktail hour will give your photographer lots of time to snap plenty of pictures.
• There’s no getting around it, having separate venues for your ceremony and reception is less convenient for both you and your guests. Preparing two different locations for your special day is definitely more labor intensive than looking after one. So, unless you have a wedding planner to handle the details, having two venues can be much more stressful.
• If you want to say ‘I do,’ in a location that charges a more substantial fee, having to shell out for two rentals can be hard on your bottom line and may mean skimping on other items like flowers and decorations to make it work. You could also be faced with the costs of chair setup and tear down at the ceremony site as well as transportation for the entire bridal party to two locations.
• Two venues definitely increases the chances of something going wrong. While all-inclusive venues always have a back up plan for bad weather, you won’t have that safety net if you opt for a beach or public park wedding. There’s also the chance of getting stuck in traffic causing a longer delay between ceremony and reception.
Is an all-inclusive venue worth the money?
There are two main types of wedding venues: all-inclusive and those that give you the option to customize your marriage celebration. An all-inclusive venue specializes in planning weddings and a number of in-house services will be included in the price. Unlike dealing with multiple vendors, this route allows couples to spend less time on the planning process and more time relaxing and enjoying their time together.
Let’s examine the two different venue types, what’s likely to be included and what couples typically need to budget for both options.
While an all-inclusive wedding venue usually comes with a higher rental fee, it may not be more expensive in the long run. With catering, your cake, decor, sound and lighting included in the package, you won’t have to shell out for multiple outside vendors and rentals. All-in-one venues typically offer a choice of two to three sites for your ceremony and reception and come complete with all of the tables, chairs, linens and place settings you’ll need. All-inclusive weddings may include a bridal suite for dressing as well as bar service and a wedding toast for the couple.
If you do opt for all-inclusive, you can expect the catering, wedding cake included, to comprise roughly half of the wedding venue cost. Most venues will have a food and beverage minimum. Either a minimum amount must be spent on food and drink or you’ll need to pay a specific dollar amount per person for all of your guests.
Even if you don’t save money with an all-inclusive event site, many couples happily pay the price for the convenience of having the site’s wedding planner oversee all of the details for the ceremony and reception. Having the help of a professional who’s an expert in weddings and event planning can truly be worth its weight in gold. He or she is not only in charge of the planning, but will be there on the big day to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Vendors like photographers, entertainment like a DJ or band, and flowers are usually the only remaining details for the couple to take care of.
A wedding venue that doesn’t include in-house services for your ceremony and reception, will likely come at a much lower price point, but the money you save will need to be spent on vendors. Hiring an outside caterer can be pricey, taking up one-quarter of your wedding budget. You may also need to rent tables and chairs if the venue doesn’t provide them as well as sound equipment and lighting.
Many of these types of venues will require you to choose from a list of pre-approved vendors, as well. Wedding venues often prefer to deal with vendors that are known to them to eliminate the chances of damage or unprofessional behavior. While this will ensure you receive good service, it could end up costing more than if you were free to hire anyone you wished.
Additional wedding venue costs to plan for
Your rental often comes with a number of unexpected charges and expenses that have you shelling out more money than expected. If you don’t want to be left short on funds, it’s wise to save money for the fees that may pop up.
When crafting your budget, set aside some extra money for:
- Taxes: While it’s no surprise that you’ll need to pay tax, it’s an easy thing to forget to budget for.
- Liability insurance: While not all venues require couples to purchase their own insurance, some do, especially if you’re providing your own alcohol.
- Service charges: Most event sites tack a service fee for food and drink onto the bill. An average wedding venue will typically charge 18-24%, which can have a huge impact on the final price.
- Hidden fees: Cake cutting fees and corkage costs can also add up to give you a higher bill than expected. Ask the venue manager what additional fees you can expect to be included on your bill so the final price doesn’t come as a shock.
- Parking: Some wedding event spaces provide valet parking — for a fee. Make sure to ask if parking is included in the price of the venue.
- Tips: Don’t forget that you’ll need to tip the wait staff, bartenders and coatcheck attendants. Not all venues will include gratuities in the final price, so you may need to tip them individually.
How to put together your wedding venue budget
Now that you know all there is to know about venues — and what services are included with each type — it’s time to do some financial planning.
Most couples spend roughly $30,000 on their wedding with 45-50% of that cost allocated to the event site and catering. If your wedding venue doesn’t include catering in its rental fee, you can expect to set aside 25% for use of the site.
If you have $30,000 to spend on your wedding and opt for an all-inclusive site with catering, wedding cake, tables, chairs, linens and decor included in the price, you could expect the total wedding venue cost to be between $13,500 and $15,000.
To break the prices down further, take the total amount you plan to spend on the venue and divide it by one plus the percentage allocated to tax and service fees. While taxes are different from state-to-state and venues all have different service fees, the total percentage usually comes in at between 26% and 32%. So, if you were planning to spend $15,000 for the venue and the tax and fees came to 30% (15,000 ÷ 1.30), you could expect to spend $11,538 on the venue, catering and incidentals while the remaining $3,462 would go toward taxes and fees.
If you’re like most couples and invite 130 people, that would equate to an $88 charge per guest. Once you know how much you can spend per person, that will help you to plan the menu with your caterer and make choices that fall within your budget.
Starting your venue search
With a firm financial plan in place, it’s time to find your wedding venue. Hit up the Internet for a list of wedding venues in your area and see which ones match up with your needs and price range. If the sites you find don’t include a price, ask for a digital information packet that details all of the rental and service prices.
Once you have a short list of event sites that appear to meet your needs, let the tours begin! Don’t be afraid to ask the venue manager pointed questions about hidden fees and service costs. You should also find out if gratuities will be included on your final bill. If he or she isn’t completely transparent with you about every venue cost and service charge, then it’s not a good place to do business.
After the tours are complete and you and your fiancé have picked out the perfect site, ask for a contract. If you fully understand the document and are satisfied with the agreement, go ahead and sign on the dotted line.
Factoring in all the costs that come with an average wedding can be stressful when planning your nuptials. No matter what style of wedding you want or what venue you choose, don’t forget to enjoy the process. And remember, all the effort and money you put into it will be worth it when you’re enjoying your dream wedding with the one you love most.