I’ve always known that if I got married, I would certainly be a nontraditional bride.
I thought that once I found a venue and a dress, it would all be smooth sailing.
And for the most part, that's been true (thanks to some of these tips I found on Offbeat Bride).
But what I hadn't been prepared for was just how hard it would be to find a nontraditional wedding venue.
My issue with many of these traditional wedding venues was two-fold
The first issue was that if I looked at a venue’s rate for a party and then their rate for a wedding, the wedding rate was twice as high.
Now, this actually makes sense considering all the extra work a wedding usually is and the extra liability weddings come with. I have no issue with the idea of paying people a fair wage for the work they do. But I also knew that my wedding would be a lot less work than most others.
My second issue was that most traditional venues have wedding packages that only allowed you to choose one of three cookie-cutter wedding plans.
You weren't allowed to deviate from those packages, and if they did let you deviate, you’d have to pay a hefty fee. For example, here was one wedding venue package I encountered:
- The venue stated that they provided circle tables. If you wanted rectangle tables, it was an extra $10 per table.
- If you wanted them to bring in their lounge furniture, each piece was an additional $30-$300 dollars.
- To bring in an outside caterer, it was a $3000 fee.
- They only allowed one place where you could have your arbor set up, and to move it was an extra $100.
All in all, the venue would have cost an extra $7500 on top of their already (inflated for a wedding) venue fees.
I got so frustrated that I considered lying to venues about the kind of event I was planning! I didn't want to do that though, so I needed to figure out something else.
So, I was going to have to look at places where weddings don’t usually occur.
First, I took to Google. But when you google “unique” or nontraditional wedding venues” it mostly just gives you the opposite: places where weddings regularly occur, but wouldn’t initially come to mind like a barn or an art museum. Many of these “nontraditional” spaces had actually been made into event venues and therefore had the same rules as all the others. I knew I needed a venue that doesn’t regularly get requests to host weddings. It took a loooong time, but I finally found several great nontraditional wedding venue options.
Nontraditional Small Wedding Venue Ideas
A large hotel suite will accommodate 25 people or so, and there are really no rules as to how you set it up.
Restaurants don’t often host weddings, especially restaurants without party rooms. If you are interested in a restaurant buyout, restaurants are usually pretty flexible with decorations. An added bonus is that some restaurants often have outdoor spaces (plus, if it's your favorite restaurant, then you're basically getting your favorite food served at the wedding).
Much of what applies to restaurants applies for coffee shops too. However, you will likely have fewer in-house dining options. But that might be a welcome trade off if you’re doing a cute breakfast wedding.
Small Art Galleries
Large museums often host weddings, but small galleries? Not as much. For the owner of a gallery, hosting a wedding is a great way to get some new faces in the door.
Small Private Retailers
Think book stores or boutiques. If you are both able to be creative with the space, this is a great way for small business owners to get new customers in the door.
Studios can be fairly wide open spaces and are often available for rent. You’ll probably have to bring in furniture, but on the plus side this might be a great way for you to find a photographer, too!
Public Parks and Beaches
If you are looking to do a quick ceremony with an intimate group of guests, converging in a public place can work. This is known as a guerilla wedding, and as long as you keep the guest list very small and accept the risk of having your wedding interrupted, it can be a viable option.
Nontraditional Venues for Medium Sized Weddings
If you can find a nice pool hall, you’ll have a unique venue with reception entertainment built in.
Flex spaces are designed to be versatile. Many feel a little office-y, so you may have to get creative with decoration.
You might think coworking spaces would also feel corporate, but surprisingly, many don’t. They often have really modern cozy looks and/or try to appeal to a “hip” demographic.
We’ve all seen those strip malls where some storefronts sit empty for months or even years. Many building owners will not turn down your offer to rent the space for a day or two.
Nontraditional Large Venue Ideas
Not a rehabbed warehouse turned event venue. A safe but generally unused warehouse. You can think of it as industrial chic.
A baseball stadium
Baseball stadiums don’t often host weddings, but some will. Depending on the stadium, this can be pretty pricey, but fun if you like baseball!
Other sports venues
Fields, arenas, and courses. I'm not talking about using their event spaces (if they have them), but actually where the game is played.
A night club
Some night clubs are available to rent at pretty reasonable prices if you’re open to getting married Monday-Thursday.
Feeling overwhelmed by this list? Here are some tips on where you could start looking:
Websites like PeerSpace or The Storefront
These websites are full of spaces used for events, but not traditionally used for weddings and are relatively easy to navigate.
Your local caterers will often have venues that they regularly work with listed on their website. I found that oftentimes, there were venues on their sites I’d never heard of before.
Look for brand new businesses
A new business might not have an opinion yet on whether or not they would want to host a wedding or what weddings in their space might look like, so they might be interested in making a little side revenue.
I suggest being very upfront with venues. I began opening with “I’m looking for a non-traditional venue for a non-traditional wedding. I’m a navy blue dress, no dance floor kind of bride and I think your location might be a good fit for us.” I was surprised to find out how many venues were not only interested, but eager to try and give me the perfect wedding. Whatever location you choose, I’m sure you’ll have a beautiful wedding.
Oh, and if you're wondering which venue we chose? We’ve decided to get married in a co-working space.