Everything You Need to Know About Wedding Venue Cost
The average couple spends about half of their budget on the wedding venue — and with good reason! The style and logistics of your big day are largely tied to the venue you choose. Many wedding venues offer much more than just a space to say your “I do’s.” But how do you know if you’re getting a fair price? What factors go into pricing a venue? And how do you save money on or negotiate your wedding venue package? We’ll tackle all these questions and more.
What does an average wedding venue cost?
The average American wedding will set you back about $38,700, as of 2019. This statistic includes both the rings and the honeymoon; the ceremony/reception costs run about $29,000). And, according to this same survey, the average budget for the venue came in at $9,000. Keep in mind that extremely lavish weddings are included in this data, which pulls the average up above what you might expect.
What does my wedding venue budget cover?
While offerings can vary per venue, there are some things you can expect to see bundled into most venue pricing:
1. Wedding date
Venue prices can vary dramatically depending on the time of year you decide to tie the knot. Picking a prime weekend wedding date during high season is fantastic for the beautiful weather (in most regions), but it also comes with more demand for space and a higher price tag.
Many all-inclusive venues offer their own on-site catering services and beverage packages, which can be one of the largest expenses you’ll encounter when planning your big day. Having food and drink provided by the venue itself will dramatically increase the overall price of your venue, but hiring an outside vendor may not necessarily be cheaper and it saves you the extra work of finding a caterer!
Venues that bundle catering services into their wedding packages may include a 15 to 20% gratuity in your venue pricing to ensure that the servers and other staff are taken care of after the big day is over.
4. Table decorations
Many venues provide their own beautiful tables, chairs, linens, and glassware for you and your guests to enjoy on the big day. Not only does this save you the stress of outsourcing this from another vendor, but it also ensures that these items will likely match the overall ambiance of the venue itself. No mixing and matching here!
5. Wedding coordination services
Many venues that regularly host events like hotels, banquet halls, and event centers have experienced wedding or event coordinators on their staff. These services can be lifesaving during the planning process, but they usually add some extra dollars to your quote if they are bundled in with the venue.
6. Security staff
While the idea of having security may seem funny to some, having a discreet security service can be a great addition to any venue’s wedding package. With all of the free booze and expensive gifts laying around, you never know who might try to crash the party.
Ready to start searching for wedding venues within your budget? Spot estimates can help you wrap your head around venue pricing before your site visit and allow you to compare.
Other factors that impact wedding venue cost
Whether or not you opt for a venue that has all the bells and whistles, there are other factors to consider before you make your final decision. And the good news is, they’re all pretty much within your control.
1. Time of day
Most wedding ceremonies (regardless of religious affiliation) take place between 11am and 1pm. That means you might be able to save a little bit by going before or after other events at the venue.
2. Venue demand
Venues that book out years in advance charge a premium for scarcity. Which is why you should consider a venue off the beaten path.
3. Guest list size
Larger wedding venues sometimes have a minimum spending requirement so being strict with your invitations can be helpful.
4. Reception site
The wedding venue may be able to give you a discount for hosting both wedding day events at their location. And because a lot of venues offer both indoor and outdoor spaces, it will still feel like two completely unique experiences.
5. Liquor license
If you want to bring your own alcohol to the wedding, the venue must give you permission and have the proper license to do so. Although they might make you work with their bartenders and liquor supplier it’s always good to explore the option.
6. Ceremony fee
If your ceremony involves any kind of set up and takedown, the venue might add this cost to the final bill. Ask about it ahead of time so there are no surprises.
You need furniture for both the ceremony and reception. If the venue has some onsite, you might be able to bundle it in with your package.
8. Dance flooring
Will they ask you to pay for cleaning or damages to the original flooring if you don’t provide a cover for it? If so, do they have temporary dance flooring available for rent?
9. Parking lot attendants and/or valet
They might have their own. Check to see if gratuity is included and different price points by party size. More guests equal more attendants, which is yet another reason to consider minimizing your invites.
10. Transportation between venues
Large estates, golf courses, and campuses that host weddings might provide separate ceremony and reception spaces in two different areas of the property.
11. Wedding venue insurance
Some require you to buy your own liability insurance which can really drive the cost up even though it’s a pretty good thing to have, even if just for peace of mind.
12. Set up and clean up time
Don’t just assume that your ceremony and reception rental automatically includes extra time for this! And if decide you want to keep the party going at the last minute, find out how much it would be to stay a little later before packing it all up.
How to save money on wedding venues
Now that you know what to look out for when you budget the price of your wedding venue, here are some secret hacks that can save you a little dough.
Rent an unconventional space. Historic homes, aquariums, antique shops, science centers, recording studios, or boats can double as reception venues or even lodging in some cases.
Borrow furniture from your church or local community center. You’ll have to pay for transport but it will save you the rental cost.
Divide large spaces with tasteful curtains. Host the ceremony on one side and immediately transition to the reception by moving guests to the other. You’ll save on the reception space cost and transportation.
Choose a venue that doesn’t need decor. If the architecture is interesting enough, you might only need to add flowers and some draped fabrics to complete the look.
Choose a date during the offseason. Or on a Friday or Sunday when venues are little hungrier for business.
See if you can bring your own cleanup crew. You’ll save on extra venue staff and hopefully avoid some fees.
Question upgrades. Sometimes the venue will offer upgrades on things like furniture, cutlery, vendors, etc. Their first offer might be the premium option so double check to see if they have something slightly less expensive on the “secret menu”.
Ask them to define what makes a vendor “preferred”. If the venue requires you to use their staff or wedding vendors, see if they’re getting a sales commission from the booking. Vendors are more likely to raise their prices than take a loss in profits so it’s you who will be bearing that burden in the end.
How to tell if your wedding venue gave you a good quote
If you’ve never planned a wedding before, it can be hard to tell what’s fair and what’s simply outrageous. Luckily there are ways to get a good perspective on the whole thing.
Always use a tool like Wedding Spot to compare prices and packages near your chosen location.
Ask for referrals from other couples who have had their weddings at the venue. Then, reach out to them on social media to see if they’re still satisfied with their choice after the fact. Just don’t expect everyone to respond, be respectful of their time, and limit yourself to one or two super quick questions.
Cross-reference the venue on the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints, especially when it comes to prices or refunds.
The best ways to negotiate wedding venue cost
Once you’ve reviewed all the details and completed your tour, it’s time to haggle! Here are a few ways to do it without coming off as cheap or tacky.
1. Let the representative know your budget upfront.
In this case, honesty is helpful for everyone. They genuinely want your business and, unless they’re in high demand, turning away weddings isn’t the smartest move on their part. They might even be able to come back to you with a new or slimmed-down package idea to fit your needs.
2. Ask if adding on additional guests, partner vendors, or services will bring the venue rental price down.
They get a bigger payday and you’ll still save on overall expenses.
3. Comb through the list of fees and highlight ones you’d like to specifically remove or alter, if possible.
You might find some that aren’t relevant for your wedding or others that you’d rather handle yourself if given the option.
4. Offer them the rights to use your videos and photography in their venue marketing.
You’ll have to guarantee a certain level of quality, editing turnaround time, and other logistics. But if they need more content for their various media channels it might be worth it for them to grab the free advertising in exchange for a small discount. Word these requests very carefully - it can sometimes be insulting to assume they need the help in the first place and social media Influencer culture has made some businesses wary of these types of exchanges. Another thing to keep in mind: your photographer or videographer will need a say in this as well.