Planning a wedding is one of the most stressful processes you can put yourself (and possibly everyone around you) through. Not only is it incredibly difficult to coordinate all the different products and services a wedding requires, costs can also spiral out of control in the blink of an eye. When it comes to your wedding venue, it is possible to save huge amounts of money. But, you have to be willing to be flexible. If you’re more concerned about the who, the what, and the why in regards to your wedding than you are about the where, there are massive savings to be had by considering free or low-cost venues.
Free Wedding Venues
Most weddings take place in the spring, summer, or early fall when the weather is generally pleasant. This makes moving your wedding outside to cut down on costs practically a no-brainer. Besides, if there does happen to be a little rain on the big day, that’s what tents and pavilions are for. If you’re open to the idea of an outdoor wedding, there may be free venue options available that you haven’t even thought of.
Do you have a decent sized backyard? How about your close friends or relatives? A backyard wedding may sound a bit hokey, but with the right touches, you can make your special day amazing. Getting married in your own backyard, or the one you grew up in may end up having more meaning to you and your guests than any fancy venue ever could. Plus, not paying for your venue means you’ll have a lot more money to put into decor, food, and drinks, hair and makeup, or whatever you prioritize the most about your wedding experience. Maybe you’d rather pocket the money and put it toward a down payment on a house or car for you and your spouse-to-be, or put it toward starting a family, traveling, or getting a degree.
Borrowed wedding venue
Does your uncle own the most charming alpaca farm, complete with a restored antique barn and a gazebo? Have you admired the private apple orchard down the road for years? If you know someone who happens to own a possible venue for your wedding, ask them to borrow it! Think about the services you could provide in exchange for using their property for your wedding venue. Are you great with kids? Offer a few weekends of free babysitting. Have a way with animals? Do free labor on the farm or walk the dogs for a month. The trading of goods and services isn’t as common as it used to be, but it can still be a great deal for everyone involved. Do be sure to show your gratitude by cleaning up after your event and leaving your borrowed venue in the same state it was in before you arrived.
Low-Cost Wedding Venues
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a large backyard or a farmer uncle at their disposal. That doesn’t mean that you’re stuck spending a fortune on a wedding venue. Check your area for local gems. Ask people you know who got married in the same area where they had their wedding. People love to tell the story of when and where they were married. Don’t be afraid or feel guilty about contacting more than one possible venue, either. These places understand that you’re shopping around and making an important decision about the biggest event of your life and that another place may work out better for you in the end. As intimate as their customer service may seem, it’s just business. They won’t take it personally if you won’t.
It seems to be a relatively unknown fact that nearly every park is available for rent for events. Most will cost you less than $100 for half the day. Some can even be reserved for free. If you’re down for an outdoor wedding, but don’t have a big enough (or presentable enough) space, a park makes for a great inexpensive wedding venue. Keep in mind, though, that many parks will only let you reserve one area, so there may be other patrons nearby. If that’s not okay with you, look for a small local park and see what kind of arrangements you can make there. You’ll never know if you don’t ask.
Here’s an idea: What if you were to skip the stuffy, expensive, ceremony altogether and get right to the party? That’s what all your guests are coming for anyway, right? It costs as little as $10 to be married by a judge or magistrate at your local courthouse. That leaves a ton of money in your budget for an epic reception. Set up a pizza bar, a taco bar, a weed bar (if that’s your thing), or a candy buffet and let your guests go wild to celebrate your union. Don’t forget the actual bar, of course. Most of them will be thrilled to go straight to the reception, and you likely will be too. A ceremony is stressful to plan, expensive, and nerve-wracking. A reception is all about letting loose, celebrating, and having fun.
Did you know that military veterans can rent American Legion banquet halls at a steeply discounted rate? Some can be reserved for as little as $70 and include a full bar and kitchen. If you or your spouse happen to be veterans, great. If not, it’s likely that one of your invited family members or friends is. Ask around and see if you can find one of your future guests who is willing to rent the legion and be reimbursed. The savings are worth it, and he or she will likely be more than happy to help you make your reception happen.
Does your town have a local recreation or community center? Most likely it does, even if you’ve never noticed it. Many of these buildings are converted into community centers after spending decades as schools or libraries. Community center venues can usually be reserved for $50-$200, depending on the room size (caution: the largest available space is usually a gymnasium or tennis court) and kitchen access. If you are interested in going the community center route, be sure that you check with the center about their alcohol policy before you commit. Some may prohibit smoking and/or alcohol on the premises, which could be a deal breaker if you don’t exactly plan to have a dry wedding celebration. They may even have restrictions on what type of decor you can use.
The most important thing to remember about your upcoming wedding is that it’s truly all about the marriage. Your wedding will last one day, but your marriage will hopefully survive a lifetime. Don’t get so caught up in finding the perfect wedding spot that you lose sight of what will really matter the day after the wedding. And the day after that, and the day after that. Besides, as it turns out, couples who spend more money on their weddings are also more likely to divorce. Tell that to the next overpriced wedding venue you come across.
A party with no theme compounds social worries and leaves guests unsure of themselves. A good party theme provides a built-in icebreaker and an automatic topic of conversation. A recipe for success.
Think back to the last party you hosted. How did it go? Were your guest relaxed and having fun, or did interactions seem forced and awkward? If you were one of your guests, would you want to attend your next party? The difference between a party and a great party comes down a good theme.
Thanks to the rise in popularity of online social media, more people than ever before are suffering from social anxiety. The problem is compounded in real-life interaction. What should they talk about? How will they fill the gaps in the chatter? Consider the following party themes to choose one that’s sure to be a hit.
The holidays are a time to gather together with one’s family and friends to eat, drink and be merry. What does that sound like? A party! Hosting holiday parties is an excellent way to get more comfortable with hosting gatherings. Holiday parties come with a built-in theme, which makes them the easiest to put together. Pick a holiday and think of all the traditional foods, drinks, and activities attached to it. Instant theme.
Winter Holiday Parties
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice, or something else entirely, there are wonderful parties to be had during the winter holiday season. Get out the decorations, turn on the holiday tunes, brew some hot cocoa, and consider the following themes:
Bake several batches of your best sugar cookie recipe. Whip up (or buy) some colored icing. You have yourself a cookie decorating party theme! You can go traditional with holiday shapes like angels, Christmas trees, or menorahs. Or, shake things up with ugly holiday sweater cookies. You know your audience, so choose what you think they would enjoy most. Don’t forget the eggnog!
If the climate in your area provides an abundance of snow during the holiday season, take advantage. Bundle up and head outside for some fun building snowmen or sledding down the nearest hill. Playing in the snow brings out the kid in even the staunchest of adults. Just be sure to let your guests know the theme in advance, so they know they’ll need their winter gear. Also, throw together a batch of hot chocolate in the slow cooker before you head out into the cold. Your party guests will thank you when they come in to thaw out.
We all want to give gifts to our friends and family during the holidays, and receiving a present or two doesn’t feel too bad, either. There are many different methods to organize a gift exchange party. You could have your guests draw names ahead of time, play a game like white elephant, or narrow down the theme by asking that all gifts be ornaments (or any particular item you think your guests would like to exchange with each other). If you’re not into consumerism, you can require that all gifts be handmade by the giver. If you’re an Eco-warrior, ask that all gifts be used/recycled. You can tailor every party theme to you and your specific guests’ interests.
Who doesn’t love an excuse to dress up, have a drink, and eat candy? Host a fabulous Halloween party by decking the place out in scary decorations, playing creepy music, putting out gruesome snacks and drinks, and holding a costume contest. You’ll be shocked at how much fun people have crafting the perfect getup, casting their votes, and taking advantage of all the spectacular photo ops.
Pro tip: Put out a pile of cheap masks for those who thought they could get away with showing up to your party without a costume. This keeps it festive without directly calling out the party poopers.
The king of all parties is most certainly the birthday party. Birthdays are a bit different than other holiday parties in that the occasion itself doesn’t provide much of a theme. The only thing all birthday parties seem to have in common is cake. If you want to throw a hit of a birthday party, you’ll need to dig deeper for a theme. Find out the birthday boy or girl’s interests. Are they obsessed with a certain show, band, or sport? Use it as their party’s theme. If you’re stumped on how to make a theme happen, it is now possible to purchase a birthday in a box kit and have the work done for you.
People love a blast from the past. A decade party is a fun, affordable theme that your guests can run wild with. Choose a decade, send out your invites, and watch how creative everyone gets. Vintage clothes and accessories are available at thrift shops and consignment stores for great prices, which makes this theme perfect for those who may not be rolling in extra money. Just be sure to choose a popular decade and maybe provide examples, so your guests know the vibe you’re going for.
The era of the gangster. Think pinstripe suits, suspenders, fedoras, pin curls, and silk or leather gloves. This theme pairs best with scotch in rock glasses or martinis, and jazz or old movies playing in the background. Bonus points for giving out cigars as party favors.
Everybody needs a chance to dress up like a hippie once in their lifetime. Bell bottoms, tie-dye, denim vests, patchwork, and peace signs. The best part about a ’70s party theme is the music. Put together a playlist of legendary artists of the time, like Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and you won’t be able to go wrong.
Bring on the neon, spandex, shoulder pads, and Aqua Net. An ’80s party is all about the absurdity of the decade’s fashion choices. Put on a Brat Pack movie and watch people reminisce about their own embarrassing memories. Or, get really creative, and build this giant Jenga game. From acid-washed jeans to mile-high bangs, the ’80s is a decade for revisiting, if only to remind ourselves never to repeat our fashion mistakes.
The best party theme for someone nervous about hosting is easily a movie or game party. Human beings love to be entertained. Choose a movie (preferably one with a sequel, or even a trilogy, to last the entire night) to show. Or choose a multi-player video game to play. Dig out the cards or board games (or even giant Jenga, like we mentioned above). Just make sure you have adequate seating and abundant snacks. Done. You don’t have to worry about whether people are getting along or facilitate conversations. Everyone will be busy watching or playing, and that takes the pressure off of you.
Are you passionate about cooking or baking? Wine? Margaritas? Food and drink pairings? If so, a food and drink party theme is definitely the one for you. You can go as big or small as you want with a food and drink party. Offer a simple DIY taco bar with margaritas from a jug. Go big and prepare a multi-course meal with a different wine pairing for each course. You can even make the cooking or baking part of the party. Give your guests aprons and bake different varieties of cookies or brownies together (possibly while sampling wines). There is really no messing up a party with good food and drinks.
Don’t let your next party be a dud. Your guests need a gentle push in the right direction when it comes to socializing and having a good time at your gathering. A good party theme provides that push by setting them up with fail-safe activities and conversation starters. Choose a theme, invite some guests, and become the successful party host you always knew you could be.