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Have Your Cake and Eat it Too: Pt. 2 - The Venue

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Tiffany Nicole

If you had a chance to read part one of this series, you’ll quickly see that there is no area that Keith and I are not willing get creative with.  The most budget consuming portions of the wedding – venue, photography, and catering – are not exceptions.  These big ticket areas are actually where I had to get the most creative.  Here is how Keith and found an amazing venue at an amazing cost.

The Venue

I must admit that I had a head start on finding a venue.  As soon as Keith and I started ring shopping (November 2013), I started venue shopping.  I began an endless exploration for DC venues that were affordable and that fit our wedding vision.  Pinterest and I formed an impenetrable relationship as a I came across various mansions, estates, bed & breakfasts, and art galleries for rent that I needed to save for further exploration.  To find venues that I’d be interested in, I leaned on several DC/Maryland/Virginia (DMV) event planning and wedding blogs, but I found that many of the more popular venues were out of my price range. Since my dream wedding took place place on some estate or mansion, I also looked outside of the box and searched for venues on home rental sites like Home Away, Airbnb, and VRBO.  (Click here to search VRBO for unique wedding locations.)

I found some beautiful venues using this strategy, but many of the homes were better suited for guest counts under 100 and renting a home also often meant supplementing with a lot of event rentals (ceremony chairs, reception tables, buffet and serving equipment, etc) which add up quickly.  I hit the jackpot when I finally started sifting through parks and public historic site rentals.

All of my surrounding counties (Prince George’s, Montgomery, Arlington, & DC) offered historic sites and estates that they rent to the public for a fee.  The fees usually include all of the basic amenities (tables, chairs, etc), and county residents receive a discount off of the already budget-friendly price.

Keith and I were extremely lucky in finding our amazing venue Josephine Butler Parks Center through Washington Parks and People.  The pictures were beautiful, but upon visiting the venue, I was hooked.  It was everything that I wanted – an old embassy building in the heart of DC with ornate charm and detail (grand staircases, chandelier’s, formal foyer, balconies, and decorative crown molding), upgraded standard amenities (gold chiavari chairs, assorted tables, furnished sitting rooms, sound system, speakers, etc), and a beautiful view of Meridian Park – perfect for wedding pictures.

Meridian Park Photo Credit: www.washingtonparks.net

With a wedding date in October, Keith and I were looking at peak rental times in the DMV area, so we were open to a weekday wedding on Thursday or Friday to keep the cost manageable.  Although a Saturday rental was $6200, a Friday rental dropped to $4200.  I called to request a Thursday rental fee and was told that it would only be $3000 – less than half of what a Saturday rental costs.  Keith and I were all set on a Thursday evening wedding date when my father agreed to pay $2100 toward our venue – allowing us to finalize a Friday evening wedding within our budget: $4200 – 2100 (gift) = $2100.

My Top Budget Savvy Bride Venue Tips:

  • Already have an idea of what you are looking for before you start exploring; there are so many options and it can get overwhelming
  • Narrow your list of optional venue spaces (no more than 9) before you start venue visits
  • Consider off-peak months, as well as weekdays, for cheaper rates to maximize your budget; off-peak months, usually July, August, and November-March often come with cheaper rates
  • Look into public and historic sites for rent
  • Create a spreadsheet comparing all venue costs and standard amenities so that you can compare venues effectively (I’ve linked a copy of mine)

How has the venue shopping process gone for you?  What tools helped you the most?  What would you do differently?  Please, please, please share some creative things ways to have your cake and eat it too and feel free to ask questions.


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Tiffany Nicole

is a bride blogger who got married in 2015. You can read her wedding planning posts here.