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Love don't cost a thing? Behind the rise of nontraditional wedding venues

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Love don’t cost a thing? Behind the rise of nontraditional wedding venues

Old wooden barn decorated for wedding ceremony.

Weddings hold significant cultural and historical importance—steeped in tradition, but are those customs changing?

Wedding celebrations have evolved, with couples embracing unconventional trends that reflect their unique values and personalities, and wedding venues are no exception. According to 2023 research from The Knot, couples increasingly opt for nontraditional venues—moving away from religious establishments and banquet halls to more urban and rustic options.

To find out what’s driving this shift, Giggster analyzed reports and data on weddings to find out why nontraditional wedding venues are on the rise and whether or not these venues save couples money.

Beautifully breaking with tradition

Historically, wedding venues typically included traditional locations such as churches. Religious venues hold cultural significance and are often chosen based on family or religious traditions. However, as societal norms evolve and couples prioritize creativity and self-expression, nontraditional venues have gained popularity.

The trend signifies a desire for personalization and authenticity as couples seek to create memorable experiences that reflect their styles and interests, moving away from traditional religious establishments and banquet halls.

Couples are opting for rustic barns and picturesque ranches, becoming the #1 venue choice for wedding ceremonies and the #2 pick for receptions. Historical buildings and homes are also a popular choice.

In 2023, 62% of couples hosted their ceremony outdoors, only slightly down from the 2022 post-pandemic boom, where 72% of weddings were fully or partially outdoors. The rise of nontraditional wedding venues and the return to pre-pandemic norms meant more opportunities for couples to put their unique spin on the wedding.

“Nowadays, couples look for properties that impress upon arrival. Places like historic buildings, private estates, and ranches,” event planner and florist Araceli Barbosa of Victoria’s Garden told Stacker in partnership with Giggster.

Instagram and Pinterest have also played a big part in how couples envision their special day. “Social media plays a big role in introducing new, out-of-the-box ideas,” Barbosa said. Celebrity wedding planner Mindy Weiss told The Knot that social media can be a valuable tool for wedding planning. Its functionalities can aid everything from fine-tuning one’s vision to using a post’s location tags to discover potential vendors. About 3 out of 4 couples surveyed by The Knot followed a wedding vendor on social media while planning.

Age and change

According to industry reports, the shift toward nontraditional wedding venues began to gain momentum in the last decade, driven by various factors such as societal changes and economic considerations. The decade saw a growing number of U.S. adults identifying as religiously unaffiliated—28% of U.S. adults are religiously unaffiliated as of 2023, according to a Pew analysis—which has resulted in less emphasis on traditional religious ceremonies and the increasing acceptance of diverse cultural and secular beliefs.

Couples are also marrying later. In 2023, the median marrying age was 30.2 for men and 28.4 for women, up from 24.6 and 21.2 in 1920, according to the Census Bureau. It’s worth noting that Census data was originally collected using a binary understanding of sex and gender. It was only in 2019 that estimates for marriage rates included same-sex married couples.

Marriage later in life means couples are more likely to be financially independent and can choose to exert more of their preferences on wedding choices rather than defer to their families, who may be footing the bill on their behalf.

Additionally, the economic squeeze has made cost-efficiency a priority for many couples, leading them to explore alternative options that may be more affordable. The Knot found that about 6 out of 10 engaged couples reported the current economy impacted their wedding planning.

Newlywed Alejandrina Arellano, who had a civil ceremony at the Old Orange County Courthouse in Santa Ana, California, agrees. “Sadly these days you can’t have a nice, large lavish wedding, along with purchasing a first home,” Arellano told Stacker in partnership with Giggster. “We talked about it and realized a home is a priority for us rather than a big lavish wedding that is going to be over 50 grand—that’s the down payment to a home.”

True love’s cost?

While nontraditional venues can offer cost savings in some cases, it ultimately depends on factors such as location, size, and amenities. While rustic venues like barns or outdoor settings may seem more affordable initially, couples may incur additional expenses for rentals, decor, and logistics, depending on what the rental agreement includes.

According to the Knot, the average couple spends $1,800 on event rentals. The University of Redlands, Marin Campus, for instance, offers two ceremony venues ranging from $650 to $3,500 depending on the space reserved. For a wedding at the newly opened Blueberry Brook Farm Resort in Deansboro, New York, the cost of hosting a ceremony starts at $5,000 during the peak season, but an all-inclusive wedding package for 200 guests costs $14,900. At Briar and Bramble in central Illinois, the cost for a wedding ceremony and reception starts at $3,500 and goes up to $4,500 for a weekend rental.

In 2023, the average wedding cost combining ceremony and reception was $35,000, a $5,000 increase from 2022. No matter the cost, the overall trend toward nontraditional venues highlights a broader cultural shift towards individualism, creativity, and experiential celebrations.

“Couples are going away from cookie-cutter weddings wanting something unique that their guests will remember for a long time after,” Barbosa said. “I had a couple where the groom was a car enthusiast and chose a classic car museum as their reception venue.”

Besides investigating more affordable venues, couples are also exploring alternatives to reduce spending generally. More than half of couples surveyed by The Knot said they were more selective with upgrades and add-ons, and 2 in 5 couples trimmed their guest list. In 2024, couples are continuing to make changes: 3 in 5 couples are altering their decor, and 4 in 9 are reducing their guest count by an average of 29.

“Our wedding was small but full of love,” Arellano said, adding that a perk of having it at the courthouse was the 20-person limit. The cost for a wedding ceremony at the Old Orange County Courthouse is $28 and includes the use of the courthouse’s wedding room and commemorative marriage certificate.

“It made not going over budget and creating the guest list easier because we had to stick to that count. And because of that, it was just the closest people to us and made the day that much more special.”

Arellano’s reception took place at her sister-in-law’s small market and cafe (Alta Baja Market in Downtown Santa Ana)—the alternative venue made for a more intimate experience, she noted. “I saw firsthand with my older sister and friends how you’re just getting pulled around all over the place with larger weddings,” Arellano said. “It was nice to just enjoy our wedding and be in a smaller space.”

Story editing by Carren Jao. Copy editing by Kristen Wegrzyn.

This story originally appeared on Giggster and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

Article Topic Follows: stacker-News

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