Help, my Google-fu is busted: How to turn Google into your wedding venue search engine

September 18 | offbeatbride
MakingTheMoment_DG_136
Sara got married at a vintage movie theater!
I know there are already lots of suggestions on Offbeat Bride for unique venue ideas. What I really want to know is HOW DO YOU FIND THEM?!

Be sure to check our Vendor Guide for unique venues in your area…
Be sure to check our Vendor Guide for unique venues in your area…
I'm convinced I could save some money if I could find a venue not typically used for weddings. I started on Google, of course, but gave up after several hours. I can't get a search engine to pull up any options like that because they aren't typically considered a wedding venue, and if I search for anything that includes the word venue, I just get the places I can't afford. It's like I need a special wedding venue search engine!

I tried talking to family and friends. Then I went to Craigslist. Both were dead ends.

Does anyone have any creative suggestions for finding that perfect secluded park, hidden gallery, or plot of land? I can be completely flexible about the TYPE of venue as long as it fits our budget. I just don't know how to search or where to look for spaces that don't market themselves as a wedding venue!
-cdhsarah

We totally hear you on this. While we feature some of our very favorite affordable venues in the Offbeat Bride Vendor Guide, we don't have every region covered. It's hard to know what to search for, and the word "venue" will immediately get you results that are mostly spaces focused on weddings that can therefore be more expensive.

A few ideas to get your Google-fu juices flowing… we can help you turn Google into your own wedding venue search engine

Indoor options

  • Schools: not just universities, but junior highs and high schools, vocational, music schools, dance studios, culinary schools, etc.
  • Museums and art galleries
  • Concert venues
  • Vintage or antique shops in small towns
  • Dance studios and ballrooms
  • Community centers
  • Theaters and playhouses
  • Libraries or city halls

Outdoor options

We'd love to hear from y'all: how'd you find your unusual wedding venue?

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  1. I am having the same problem.. but mine differs slightly. I am in Las Vegas, so looking for anything out here on google is either a super ritzy expensive place or club that I couldn't afford in a million years, or a really cheesy chapel that isn't our style. You would think the wedding capitol would be an easy place to find a unique cheap spot, but it's near IMPOSSIBLE!!

    5 agree
  2. My trick was to search for other *kinds* of venues. I did searches for things like, "birthday party venues," "best places to have a bar mitzvah," "graduation party locations," etc. Search for places used for other types of events, and you'll probably track down some smaller, less mainstream, more affordable venues. I found my (very reasonable, Los Angeles-area) venue after doing a search for wrap party locations. πŸ˜‰ Good luck!!!

    21 agree
  3. I got married at the bar where my husband and I met. They have a great outdoor yard with fencing and picnic tables that I fancied up with pom-poms, balloons, and checkered table cloths. I only paid the bar for a $750 limited open tab and they closed the place off to the public until 8pm. That more than made up for what they would have made on any other happy hour. Our original venue was going to be a picturesque vacation home. Another couple I know married at a different bar in town that had a great outdoor patio with vines and lights, etc. My friend's sister got married at the city zoo. I also looked at lake houses, cabins, ranches, etc. There's a historic firehouse with neighboring park and gazebo that seems to host quite a few weddings here, too.

    • The firehouse/park makes me wonder if you're in Houston, by any chance. Mind revealing where you got married?

      2 agree
      • I am! πŸ™‚

        I got married at Big Star Bar. The other bar I mentioned was Avant Garden. I also know a few couples who got married at the Gardens of Bammel Lane, and that place looked lovely. Wish I had known about it before I went through the stress of DIY-ing our bar wedding.

        1 agrees
  4. I drove around my town, and wrote down anything that looked interesting, or big enough for the amount of people I was planning for. Then I just started calling, asking if they had parties or events there (don't say "wedding" at first). If they said yes, then I asked if anyone had ever had a wedding there. I was pleasantly surprised at the willingness from almost everyone to work with me, the parks dept was actually very helpful. I also googled "places in interest" in my area for ideas, that helped too.

    Writer Boy and I wound up using a church, for cost and convenience factors, so I did not use any of the options I researched. Good luck, I'm sure you'll find something amazing!

    3 agree
    • This is what we ended up doing. Our planner had some great (and not so great) ideas, but driving around the city and looking for what we wanted worked out way better. I had an "ah ha!" Moment on the way to work one day. Gr aviation museum where everything went down is a place I drive past every day, a place I love, but I'd never thought about it for our wedding until we were getting frustrated and fed up.

      2 agree
  5. We booked a room at our old student union for the ceremony for $200 or something, the only catch being that we had to be out by 2pm. After that, there was an INSANE minimum catering order for Saturdays. We're holding the reception elsewhere to save $ and have more control.

    We also looked at two breweries/beer gardens that were really reasonable. And I'll add another vote for city parks! Crazy cheap, at least where I'm from.

  6. I found our venue on something like page 5 of Google's responses to 'Unique wedding venue Bristol' – but if I had been thinking outside the box, I would have found it by looking up 'bar restaurant Bristol', which makes a lot more sense!
    We needed somewhere that would be flexible with catering but also let us have a serious party, and all the normal wedding venues were really uptight about midnight curfews and wanted us to only choose from their very limited and expensive food menu. A bar restaurant was the perfect answer.

    1 agrees
    • Hi, I saw your post and I'm searching for the exact same thing! Where did you get married in Bristol?

      Thanks
      Angela

  7. I found my venue (a restaurant with an event space that could hold up to 50 people) on OpenTable.com, searching for private dining options. The place had done a couple weddings but not many and was incredibly affordable for downtown DC!

    8 agree
    • I did the same thing! I found a beautiful brick restaurant in an old part of town that had a nice patio area large enough for a ceremony. They let us take over the entire restaurant and staff for only the cost of food and gratuity. We live in Denver which is not a cheap place to get married and it worked perfectly.

      • Oooh, where at? We've already got our venue in mind, but I love seeing what other CO brides are doing. πŸ™‚

  8. I found my unique wedding venue by searching just the word "wedding" in Yelp.com for my city. Someone had written a review of my venue and the review was about a wedding they had attended there. My venue is the Historic Fifth Street School in Las Vegas. It used to be a grammer school but is now just a cultural affairs venue for the city. I had been to both a jazz and book festival there but didn't know you could book it for your wedding until I "accidentally" found out on Yelp. Good luck!

    http://www.lasvegasnevada.gov/government/10131.htm

  9. Ask your landlord (if you privately rent) if he has any vacant lots. I know it's a longshot, but C's and my landlord practically cried "You can have your reception in the lot next door to you!!" when we told him we were engaged. The lot next door is pretty shady with oaks and there's plenty of room for everyone to hang around.

    On the same page, maybe it could be a block party if your neighborhood is close like that. I've attended weddings in Mexican-Catholic neighborhoods where the entire street for about three blocks is shut off from traffic.

    For the most part, look around the places you like or think look neat, then start asking – it's how friends of mine were able to get married at a fish camp, a garden center, and the local comic book shop.

    1 agrees
  10. I found several "Aw, MAN; why didn't we think of that!" venues while looking at photography sites for a friend's wedding. Even just checking out local photographers and seeing where they've photographed their couples at can help give you a few ideas you might not have thought of. Hopefully they will have blogged about the wedding and given the basics; but if you see a photo that catches your eye, I bet if you asked nicely the photog will let you know what the venue is, even if you don't use their services. (Well, the photogs I know would, but maybe that's not a appropriate thing to doβ€”would this be a professional faux pas?)

    7 agree
    • Yes! This! That's how I found my venue. It's an old historical fort down by the river, and I would never have thought of doing a wedding there until I saw it on a photography blog (they actually do lots of weddings & events there!). For that matter, I probably wouldn't have been able to envision how cool a wedding there could be if I hadn't seen the pictures.

    • I used this method, too, in searching. Not how I found mine specifically, but it's a great way to browse for venues by "look."

  11. I never thought of our county park venue as being unusual but I guess it is (seems to me the lodge we've rented is usually used for things like snowmobile club meetings and whatnot). The lodge we rented has a 150 person capacity and cost us $350 total to rent it for two days. πŸ™‚

    • Hi, I know this is suuuuper late and you probably won't answer, but if by some miracle you see this, would you mind sharing details of where this was? My dream is to marry in a lodge, I just think it's so cozy, and this price is just amazing.

  12. I suggest hitting the phone book. I realize that using white pages is out of date when there's this awesome thing called google, but my internet searches left me totally depressed. We wanted to get married in a vineyard. While that's a completely easy thing to do, it's also ridiculously expensive and requires months of notice to secure the venue. I gave up on websites and just started calling my favorite wineries. We ended up getting married in the barrel cave of our favorite winery FOR FREE. All we had to do was buy a bottle of wine. They even set up candles and rose petals. We ended up buying 6 bottles of wine. I say when in doubt, hit the white pages, make some calls, follow up on voicemails, and stroke some egos.

    4 agree
  13. I found our venue by looking for a small resort or B&B that would hold a good chunk of our guests that also had a nice great room or grounds where we could have the ceremony. It worked out awesome as it's a destination wedding and so not only did the costs cover the ceremony location, it also covered the rooms and breakfast for everyone staying there (about 25 people). I paid to rent the entire place out for Friday and Saturday nights, and it cost waaaaaaaay less than just the rental fee for the halls that some of our friends used for their weddings. Look for Mom & Pop places, they are way less expensive and usually want to do everything they can to help.

    1 agrees
  14. It helps to be a long-time local. Fiance and I have both lived in Virginia Beach our entire lives, so I tried to get us thinking about places we love here. We came up with the Aquarium, which we both enjoyed it as kids, long before we met, and we still enjoy it now, together! Not so much a Google-fu technique, but if you think of places like that, you can then Google them to find out all the important details (size, price, hours, contact info…)

  15. Don't forget about State Parks! Public parks often rent out their facilities. YMMV at how well these are organized. Washington State's is pretty good, provided you're looking at the South East side of the State. Illinois' leaves something to be desired with notable expections like Starved Rock.

    2 agree
    • National Parks as well! I work at a National Monument, and folks get married on our property all the time.

  16. Mine is a small historic site run by the local historical society. I knew about it because its a few blocks from my house, but theoretically, tapping into your neighbourhood historical society could lead to some nice, old venues. In my experience, because the place is run by a non-profit they are cheaper and much more flexible about what you want to do, no required vendors, etc.

    2 agree
  17. Where is your wedding? If its in California I have a couple of suggestions. My sister found her INCREDIBLE park venue in Sarasota for $300. She found it by looking at California photographer blogs and following up on venues that matched her style. The only catch was we had to be out by sunset, which made sense because breaking down in pitch black would have been a nightmare. Anyone who wanted to keep the party going joined the bride and groom at a bar. I found my venue in my hometown of Benicia, CA, which was an incredible find because I knew of two wedding venues there that I already knew didn't fit my style and I didn't even know this one existed. I took a chance and googled "Benicia CA venues" and came up with this historical museum that had a gorgeous garden and archway-filled ballroom on the lower level. If there are any smaller towns that you know of and love, they'll likely have some hidden gems for much cheaper than the popular inner-city venues. I would have loved to have gotten married in San Francisco but there was no way any of those places would fit my budget.

    1 agrees
    • Can I ask where your sister was married? I am feeling so uninspired looking in Sarasota right now.

  18. I found our venue by spending many, many hours on Google and Yelp. I would bookmark venues that I liked, and continue searching. I think I eventually found the one we went with by typing in "unique midwestern wedding" and there was a page with a giant list of them. Ours is a renovated barn that just began hosting weddings early last year, so it wasn't very expensive at all.

  19. This is the 2nd wedding for both of us, and money is an issue. I'm getting married in 3 weeks (yipes) at a local community's senior center. We're not seniors, but for non-residents (of this municipality) and non-members of the senior center, the fee is an unbelievable $250 for a 5 hour rental. Extra hourly rate for an off-duty cop because we're serving alcohol. The facility is lovely – sprung wooden dance floor, glass atrium, sandstone fireplace, catering kitchen, parking lot, all surrounded by a beautiful well-kept park. If it didn't have "senior" in the name, it would be booked every weekend. I happened upon it when we were bumped by our first venue, at a local college, when its president trumped our date, and a friend who directs the senior center suggested we come look at it. It's perfect!

    1 agrees
  20. My daughter used the ballroom attached to a local firehall. I know, I groaned when she said firehall but they had designed this specifically for parties so it was as nice as some of the wedding venues I looked at. They had their whole wedding for under 5000. and that included dresses, tuxes, wedding rings (not engagement ring tho), food and beer and wine. The venue had silk centerpieces that worked well and in the low lighting looked just fine (tho I am not a silk fan). It took a lot of looking around but… (oh also they got married valentine's day weekend so it was a winter wedding so less expensive and on a friday night.) You might try historical societies, art galleries, colleges (tho they've gone up in price unless you are an alum), local churches with a party room, and call your park commission or the local tourist bureau who sometimes have interesting but relatively unknown small museums who would work w/u. Good luck!

    1 agrees
  21. My fiance and I ended up finding our venue through friends of ours who got married there. But I did almost all of my searching through Pinterest. I knew the look and the feel of what I wanted and so I searched for images by using terms like "San Juan Washington State" or "Whidbey Island wedding" or even "Washington outdoor wedding". I would then follow the images I liked through to the originating websites, which was often a wedding blog or photographer. From there I was usually able figure out where it was. Once I narrowed down the specific area I wanted I used their Chamber of Commerce website a ton. I'm still using it for guest accommodations and rentals. It's super helpful.

    1 agrees
  22. I had a lot of success searching these ideas:
    – Places that can host family reunions (many already rank for weddings, but there may be some gems in there)
    – It sounds weird, but RV parks (usually associated with campgrounds) and cabin rentals – a lot of them have meeting halls and/or awesome outdoor pavilions!
    – These are some places I found in my city that happened to do some weddings – the Y, my friend found a beautiful place at a local Mormon tabernacle, the local Masons lodge, historic buildings
    – If you live in a larger town or metroplex area, try searching for venues in the small suburbs and little tiny towns around the main city
    – Already saw several people suggest searching Pinterest or Photog sites for wedding shoots, and then investigating where those weddings were. I found plenty that way too!
    – Smaller wineries if you live in a wine area! A lot of the larger ones usually do events, but smaller ones in surrounding areas will probably work with you on costs
    Good luck!

    1 agrees
  23. Try the subreddit for your city, too. Locals will likely have lots of great suggestions and cost info!

  24. I've heard that you can claim some park venues on your taxes as a charitable donation? I haven't tried, but certainly worth looking into with so many recommending parks.

  25. I guess in this case you are out of luck with google. Better start driving around town looking for places that appear big enough and then go inside and ask.

    (My sister rented a community gathering hall and did all the decorations inside and outside herself. We had a blast.)

    In the end, your location does not matter.

  26. How about NOT using google?

    We rented an entire small island with a community centre on it for $290. For serious. We DIDN'T find it online because it was not made really searchable. Really affordable places aren't plastered all over the internet.

    So we used 1) a place outside of a big city 2) a place we had to use the phone book to find. We called a bunch of places (good ol' phone) like city halls, museums, theatres that did not have websites, but were in the phone book and received many reasonable prices. Worked for us!

    1 agrees
  27. Oh! I almost forgot – not only wineries and breweries, but other places like orchards and such that are really beautiful. I looked at several lavender farms during my search. Holy crap, those were gorgeous! That works especially well if you haven't chosen your date yet – you can pick the right season when everything is in bloom.

    1 agrees
  28. VRBO.com is where we found our vacation rental venue- which is perfect for us to have a wedding weekend, rather than just a day. Plus it's the same price for 3 days/2nights as it is for 4-6 hours at a traditional hall. When we went to see it before we committed, we found out that several couples have had their weddings at this location-in fact the owners whole family has been on married on the property at different times throughout the years- all their wedding photos are displayed throughout the house!

    2 agree
  29. Thumbtack.com is a GREAT site to use, especially if you're near a big city (it's US only, though, I think.)

    Check your local city's official website. They should link to properties own by the CITY that you can rent, usually for lower costs. If you live in a large city (like NY), check the smaller cities just outside of the large ones. Or the county websites.

    Think non-profit. I'm getting married at the library (free) and having the reception at a reception hall owned by the fire station. The caterer is the catering company from a nearby university, so the costs are much lower than anywhere else I've found.

    Look for parks & barns too.

    Also, talk to local non-profits in the area. My dad worked for the SPCA and recommended the hall to me. He had worked with them when he was looking for a low-cost place to do an event for the SPCA. Chances are, non-profits know more than a few places that are less than expensive.

    Good luck!

  30. i can't even imagine getting married in an antique store. every.single.one. i have ever been in was filled to the brim with antiques and "collectibles," so much so that turning around with a tote bag on your shoulder could be hazardous.

    2 agree
  31. I asked family and friends where they've ever been for gatherings. I came out with a location that used to host family reunions, it's a national park, the lodge is RIGHT on the lake, and it's a gorgeous stone and long cabin. I suggest googling "lodges" or national parks. Also, I live on a river and there are several floating businesses that have group lodges for events and one even rents out two houses, so by searching anything that might hold any kind of group could provide results.

    A few other options:
    – Facebook: if you are a member of the "yardsale" pages/groups for your area, you can ask for ideas for venues, that's how my friend found a wedding shower venue that I had no idea about!
    -Town Websites: some town websites will list venues that they publicly rent out
    -Real estate: I don't know how many agents would be willing to do this, but I've heard of agents renting out vacant houses/buildings/lots for weddings (and I guess it's advertisement for them)

  32. I found my venue from a random tweet. We're in New Orleans, so errrrthang is way out of our budget. We ended up finding a deconsecrated church that was built in the 1850s, ruined in Katrina, and is now being renovated. It's not *quite* ready yet, so the guy hasn't been seeking publicity, which is part of why we're gonna be able to get it for such a good price.
    My suggestion? Ask friends, ask friends of friends, ask on twitter, and think outside of the box. Even driving around town may yield good results as, such as in my case, some places either don't want publicity or are bad about advertising.

    1 agrees
  33. I'm a bit late to the party, but you could always look into county fairgrounds–some that I've been to have beautiful old exhibition halls that would be perfect for a wedding.

  34. I'm a bit late to this, but I was having a pretty frustrating time finding a venue. The ones I liked were either booked two years in advance or they were waaaaay out of our budget (usually because they had a "preferred" caterer).

    What I ended up doing was using image search. I'm from Vancouver, so I searched for Vancouver/Lower Mainland wedding venue, adding in terms as required, and scrolled through the images until I found spaces that appealed to me. Once I saw a venue I liked, I checked the link for more info. It led me to our venue which is almost exactly what we were looking for.

    It also let me see the kinds of things people do with the space, and how flexible the venue is with less-traditional set ups. I tried to paste a search link but it was super long, so If you're interested in seeing what it looks like, do an image search for Cammidge House Wedding πŸ™‚

  35. We initially heard about our venue via word of mouth, BUT…

    Living on Long Island (ancestral homeland of wedding vampirism) the only place I made any headway at all searching by myself was to find a list of registered historic sites and googling each of those looking for what kind of events popped up. My venue *was* one of the ones that came up and the search provided a couple of good comparison places that allowed us to be secure in our choice in the long run.

    1 agrees
  36. I started off by searching for pavilions and lodges in CO. Found it in google images, actually, while perusing pics of another venue. "Oh, what's this? Let's google this place. OOOH."

  37. try searching with the words: event, event space, event rental, party, birthday parties, fundraising events, community events

  38. Here's my two cents: Find a caterer in your area and ask them. Not a hotel or restaurant-type caterer, but a real off-site do-it-all caterer. If they're awesome like they should be, they'll have suggestions for you. And you don't have to actually USE this caterer… they want your business, so they'll try to be as helpful as humanly possible, whether you end up booking them or not.

    (I am an event planner for an Ann Arbor caterer and we have documents of recommended sites that we can cater to. It consists of less "traditional" venues, because those are the ones that you can bring in outside caterers to instead of using in-house services only!)

    1 agrees
    • Kara,
      Do you mean Ann Arbor, Michigan by chance? If so, would you mind providing me with that awesome list of venues!? And what catering company do you work with? Thank you!

  39. I couldn't find anything for MONTHS in north / central NJ that wasn't super Real Housewives of NJ-esque, so I tried narrowing it down to what I knew I wanted- we needed an inn or hotel for our guests from Italy, so I started with "historic inns" and went from there. I guess my years in grad school helped hone my internet research skills. A friend of mine was just married in an old one room school house in a little town in NJ and then we walked to a near by pub for the reception – so maybe consider two places instead of trying to fit everything into one?

    One thing I did find that was super helpful was that all the outdoor seemingly "cheap" places – vineyards, sculpture grounds, our college campus etc became MUCH costlier when factoring in renting the tent, tables, chairs, linens, etc. So there's that.

  40. I had three wedding…but the story how I found my SF venue is pretty good.
    I only had a day to look, I was sick, and at the first stop a bird attacked my head! So I started walking home and got so woozy I stopped in Pier 23 to have some juice. The day manager loves weddings, there was a permanent tent in place, done.
    So my advice is get out and look. I had to find three so I have pretty good venue radar now. We joke how I am always finding spots for my 4th wedding. Oh and in Vegas we were happy with the Flamingo. Super nice planners and very good about helping us stay within budget.

  41. We got married in the Chapel of Love at the Mall of America on a Thursday ($100) and then had a reception the following Saturday at an enclosed park pavilion (actually really nice looking) for $350. Since then the price has gone up a little because it's gotten so popular with couples searching for inexpensive venues!

  42. I used airbandb.com – normally they book rooms in homes for out of town guests/visitors, but some of the larger ones are willing to rent out the entire location for a fee, and will usually even give you the option to rent out rooms in the home for visiting guests. I ended up finding a huge mansion in the hills with tons of cool interior areas, Victorian furniture, a bank vault, unique outdoors and a huge kitchen, and it was way less expensive than anywhere else we looked, although there were a few expensive choices on AirBNB too. I live in Los Angeles, so there were a lot of filming locations, vintage homes, castles, etc.

  43. Ah I always think its so lucky/great that you can get married anywhere in america, from a library to a cemetery to your backyard. Its only legal on the UK if the place has bern liscenced as a wedding venue by the council. Of course the way to get around it here is have your Wedding and even a marraige style ceremony wherever you please and then just quickly run down to the registery office after πŸ˜‰

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