You are two unique individuals who have a special bond. And you don’t want to feel like a cookie-cutter couple, especially on your wedding day!
If you think your only options are ballrooms and meeting halls, think again! Many businesses and public locations are available for your event. But be prepared. Some may need individual planning.
If you are having second thoughts on that traditional wedding venue for your non-traditional wedding, look no further!
- Why choose a non-traditional wedding venue?
- Alternative reception venues may need to be made event-ready.
Unique Non-Traditional Wedding Venue Ideas
- Locations with unique meaning to you and your partner.
- Private residences can double as wedding venues.
- Non-traditional venues that reflect your hobbies.
- Unique non-traditional wedding venue ideas that reflect your personality.
- State or government-owned property as venues.
- Wedding venues that honor those in uniform.
- Other ideas for non-traditional wedding reception venues
Here is a list of location ideas, meant to inspire you to find your own unique non-traditional wedding venue. I have also included information on other considerations. But first:
Why choose a non-traditional wedding venue?
Scheduling. “Traditional” wedding venues book up to years in advance. That can make it challenging to get the date you want on short notice. Unconventional venues often have more availability and flexibility when it comes to scheduling.
Photographic Potential. Most unexpected wedding venues provide unique settings for your photos. A skilled photographer will be able to make the most of such a site.
Cost. Traditional weddings come with the usual expenses. And I’ll give you a hint–it isn’t cheap! Choosing a non-traditional venue allows you sometimes to save thousands. Even the ones that are comparable in cost could end up giving you much more for your money.
Alternative reception venues may need to be made event-ready.
Some locations may be prepared to handle an all-inclusive wedding. Others may need you to arrange vendors and decor yourself. It’s essential to include all expenses when comparing costs between venues.
You may need equipment, furnishings, etc., to make these event-ready. Consider if you will need any of the following:
- Furnishings: Tables, Chairs, etc.
- Shelter: Tents, Canopies, etc.
- Electricity: Portable Generators or Access to Electricity
- Lighting, & Sound System: Lights and a Sound System (Including Microphones, Speakers, etc.)
- Insurance: You may need specific insurance. Coverage could be for you, your guests, or your vendors and equipment.
- Permits: Some locations may need a license for the event to be held. There might also be special considerations or restrictions on music/noise, lighting, etc.
- Security: This will depend on the size of your wedding and the number of guests. Smaller weddings that are away from the public might not need much or any particular security. Larger weddings may need more protection to keep everyone safe.
- Extra Vendor Fees: Vendors may charge additional fees for travel and set-up. Check with the caterer, photographer, and DJ, for example.
Some locations may not usually host catered events. In that case, request an informal walk-through as part of the planning process.
Before visiting the location, first read The Complete ‘100 Questions to Ask Your Wedding Venue’ Guide. Ask the venue those questions to make sure you’ll have everything you need.
During your walk-through, mentally go through the steps of setting up. Try to focus on the services you will need for each stage. Check for adequate access to electricity, water, refrigeration, etc.
Unique Non-Traditional Wedding Venue Ideas
Now that you know about what to expect, here are some ideas for your alternative wedding venue.
Locations with unique meaning to you and your partner.
Your wedding is one of the most personal events in your life as a couple. Give it more meaning by choosing a location with special significance.
- Special Restaurant. Casual, or formal and intimate. It doesn’t matter. What does is that you get warm fuzzies there.
- The place where you first met. Go back to where it all began. In certain situations, it can highlight that it was “love at first sight.”
Private residences can double as wedding venues.
Your own house, or that of a family member or a friend, may be the perfect solution for your wedding. There’s little or no rental cost! With the money you save, you can give extra detail to the décor and rest of the wedding.
- Your own (or someone else’s) backyard. Try for a beautiful clean, open space with lots of potential for décor. The right set-up can make it magical!
- Barn. Authentic barns have become the go-to icon for rustic weddings. Such as Up the Creek Farms located in Malabar, Florida. This non-traditional venue “offers a unique setting for wedding ceremonies and receptions. Classic white post and rail fencing line the property.” Plus, there’s a historic, 140-year-old house.
- Field or Meadow. It might sound boring, but much like a backyard, décor is everything! Imagine having your wedding in a field of flowers or lavender.
- Houseboat. Some rental agencies can even link together more boats for larger receptions.
- A Vacation Home or Second Home. Or one belonging to a family member or friend.
- A Rental Property Through AirBNB. First, search your location for spaces accommodating 16 guests or more. (The max number Airbnb lists).Then refine the search by choosing “Suitable for Events.” AirBNB currently lists this option under “More Filters, House Rules.” Each host explains their arrangements in the listing.
Some categories to search under include:
- Loft or Apartment. Perfect for that intimate upscale atmosphere.
- Mansion or Estate. Some can provide a large amount of luxury space for a fraction of what a typical venue might cost.
- The rooftop of a Large Building. Aim for one with a good view. A sunset or a skyline of lights can provide a memorable backdrop.
- Private Yacht. Take your wedding out to sea in style! Some experienced hosts will go the extra mile to help your day be perfect.
Non-traditional venues that reflect your hobbies.
Art Studio or Gallery. Such as Chicago Truborn Art Gallery located in Chicago, Illinois.
“The gallery showcases local artists from the Chicago area, creating a funky, colorful, and eclectic atmosphere with ever-changing decor.” Their murals are unique backgrounds for wedding pictures.
- Casino. Casinos have all the amenities you could want: Rooms for rent, a spa, dining, and more.
- Campground. Love nature but don’t want to venture too far into the wild? This is an excellent choice for you. Campgrounds typically have local services and parking. And space for a large number of people. Don’t forget your tents! Some grounds might even have a clubhouse or cabins for rent.
- Clubhouse. If you are a member of the club or other organization you may even get a discount.
- Library. Unexpected for sure. But you may be surprised. Check out the George Peabody Library located in Baltimore, Maryland. “Six tiers of stately cast-iron columns and ornate railings embellished with gold leaf encircle the Reading Room, creating an ambiance that is both enchanting and scholarly. Filled with over 300,000 volumes of books, the Library creates a stunning backdrop for ceremonies and receptions.”
- Horse Stables. The cowboy equivalent to a farm, ranches can provide an unconventional wedding reception atmosphere. One example: River Ranch Texas Horse Park in Dallas, Texas. “The brand new, state of the art activities and event facility offers beautiful floor to ceiling windows with rustic touches and views of the gorgeous surrounding forest areas.”
- Hunting Cabin. Especially one with excellent scenery and a great view! Cabins can be beautiful and cost-effective.
- Motorcycle Dealership. Harley fans, this one’s for you! Some locations include wedding space. Plus, you can even be wed at the national H-D museum.
- Photography Studio. Weddings and photographs go together like PB&J. No wonder some offer the two at a single site.
- Pool Hall. The beer’s already on-site. And reception activities are built-in. What’s not to love?
- Racetrack. Be it cars, horses, or dogs; your wedding reception will have a unique atmosphere.
- Rock Climbing. This non-traditional wedding reception would be unexpected to some guests. And unreachable by others. But your rock-climbing event is perfect as an intimate affair with like-minded friends.
- Skydiving. If skydiving is more your idea of an unconventional wedding, check out GoJump Las Vegas. “Say your vows on the desert breeze. An All-Inclusive Las Vegas Wedding experience giving you the opportunity to jump into matrimony. “
- Ski Lodge. You may have must-invite family that enjoys neither of the previous two ideas. Still want an activity-themed reception venue? A ski lodge is just the location for a mixed crowd.
Unexpected wedding and reception venues related to a sport you enjoy.
- Baseball Stadium. My local MLB team, the St. Louis Cardinals, offers a range of wedding packages at Busch Stadium. Talk about unique! This non-traditional wedding venue package can include the ceremony at home plate.
- Bowling Alley. Check out Punch Bowl Social located in Chicago, Illinois. “Punch Bowl Social welcomes events of all types and sizes, with arrangements for groups of 15 up to 1200. Features include 8 bowling lanes, 3 virtual reality parlors, darts, 80s arcade, billiards, bocce, ping pong, backyard games, 2 karaoke rooms, and giant wall scrabble.”
- Football Field or Stadium. You won’t run out of space at these large venues. And nearly every team looks for ways to make money from their places in the offseason.
- Golf Course. Probably you can even rent the carts. Guests can shuttle between the greens and imbibements!
- Tennis Court. Here’s another naturally open area for an event.
Alternative wedding venue ideas for those who love natural surroundings.
- Beach. It’s likely one of the first non-traditional wedding reception venue ideas you thought of. And for a good reason. You cannot beat the location for the atmosphere and view.
- Canyon or Valley. The dips between mountains rival beaches for beauty. And offer ample scenery for gorgeous wedding photos.
- Cave. These locations are near the top of the alternative wedding venue ideas list. Check out Lost River Cave located in Bowling Green, Kentucky. “Imagine walking down the aisle under a canopy of trees, surrounded by nature, your friends and family … Your guests will be wonder-struck as they make their way to your reception at the historic Cavern Nite Club in one of the largest cave entrances in the United States.”
- Forest Preserve. Forests are especially-appropriate settings for boho weddings. Lush greenery all around perfectly sets the stage.
- Hot Springs. Beautiful surroundings nearly always arrive hand-in-hand with a hot spring. These non-traditional wedding venues may also include water-related activities for guests.
- Lake or River Shore. Lakes and rivers are everywhere. If your budget does not include the more exotic natural venues, explore closer to home. You may find an unexpected local gem to use as your wedding reception venue.
- The Mountains. The scenery is always to die for. Check out, for example, Adventure Wedding located in Atlanta, Georgia. And Kate will help you make your alternative wedding venue is both unique and unexpected. It doesn’t matter if you prefer mountain tops or elsewhere. “Keep what traditions you love, and ditch the rest! If you want to hike a mountain, opt for beauty closer to the trailhead, or an adventure somewhere in between, it’s all perfect! Let Kate help you make a wedding plan with your perfect mix of adventurous + traditional elements.”
- Orchard. These provide a great place to take beautiful photos. For best results, aim for when the trees are in bloom.
- Natural Landmarks. Consider Crater Lake, the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, or another unique landmark. All make for an unforgettable experience.
- Underwater. If your definition of “alternative wedding” includes under the water, check out Underwater Wedding in Deerfield Beach, Florida. “Take your vows underwater! Imagine taking your vows with the one you love in a serene, colorful marine environment! The water is always warm and perfect for LOVE.”
Unique non-traditional wedding venue ideas that reflect your personality.
- Airplane Hangar. Are you a pilot or aviation enthusiast? A hangar also has the advantage of having much space and great lighting.
- Amusement Park. All of us has a kid inside. Bring out the enthusiasm with an amusement park wedding.
- Antique Store. Add vintage light bulbs to fixtures for even more character.
- Arcade. Perfect for the gamers at heart.
- Aquarium. Remember that alternative wedding venue idea of being underwater? Here’s the tamer (and safer!) version. Aquariums come equipped with beautiful ambiance.
- Botanical Garden. Flowers at your wedding venue? You’ll be covered.
- Brewery. The beer lovers will love you. You won’t have to worry about your bartender running out!
- Castle. Check out Boldt Castle in Alexandria Bay, New York for inspiration. “Surrounding the 19th century home are numerous gardens containing thousands of flowers as well as several stone structures of the same era, including the Gazebo, Alster Tower, Dove Cote and the Powerhouse.”
- Company Office. Any space is fair game for your unique non-traditional wedding venue.
- Concert Hall. Large music venues are blessed with superior acoustics. Your guests will love the sounds and your musicians will thank you.
- Opera House. These big sisters to the concert hall are built for largesse and drama. If this will be your wedding’s personality, look into renting an opera house.
- Live Theater. Theater houses amplify dramatic effect. Your non-traditional wedding will no doubt have on some level!
- Movie Theater. Or perhaps films are more your preference. Then check out the Granada Theater in Dallas, Texas. “The Theater’s state-of-the-art lighting system and renowned sound production team create a truly unique background for private events. The Granada Theater has an open-tiered, multi-level floor plan that is customizable to your preferred style and guest count.”
- Festival. Each festival comes with its unique theme. Whether your alternative leans toward film or farming, there will be a nearby venue to nurture the idea.
- Historic Site. Chances are there are several historic sites near you available as wedding reception venues.
- Lighthouse. Lighthouses are on the shortlist of unexpected wedding venues. You must, of course, climb to the top for the ultimate photo op.
- Museum (Art, History, Science, etc.). The setting will make your wedding one the guests will never forget. Choose a museum that resonates with you for the most memorable and unique wedding.
- Resort. Whether public or private, resorts often offer all-inclusive wedding packages. Perfect for a tropical or beach getaway for everyone.
- Retreat Center. Locations that host spiritual or corporate retreats also often accommodate weddings as well.
- Spa. Not all spas are created equal. Check out Salt Cave Santa Barbara for a unique experience. This non-traditional wedding venue literally surrounds your wedding party in salt. The large cave holds 25 people. It’s appropriate for small weddings. Or a bridesmaids’ retreat.
- Treehouse. The connection to childhood memories make these perfect venues for childhood sweethearts. And the photo opportunities are unique as well.
- Vineyard. Beautiful scenery. And wine. Two critical components to many weddings. Gloria Ferrer Vineyards in Sonoma, California, is one example. “Imagine exchanging vows beneath a grapevine covered arbor and dancing the night away under the star-studded sky overlooking the vineyards.”
- Winery. Vineyard grapes are made into wine at the winery. Many give tours as well as host events.
- Warehouse. These spaces are very cost-effective. And provide a blank canvas for your wedding decor.
- Zoo. Larger zoos may also rent space for events. The St. Louis Zoo wedding packages, for example, include scenic ceremony locations throughout the park. As well as “meet and greets” with some of the animals.
State or government-owned property as venues.
- City Hall. You may think of City Hall as the place for a quick, practical wedding by a judge. But some rent out event space! It’s worth a look into when considering different reception venues.
- Community Center. If you are the type to keep it simple, a community center could be an ideal choice. Check your community’s facilities. Often, residents enjoy a lower rate than non-residents.
- State or National Park. The United States park system includes many gems. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park in Three Rivers, California is one example. “What could be a better backdrop for your wedding day than the giant sequoias of the Big Trees Trail, the quiet, peaceful Crescent Meadow, the soaring granite walls of Kings Canyon as seen from Zumwalt Meadow, or the wide foothills view from Beetle Rock?”
Wedding venues that honor those in uniform.
Our military and public servants are essential parts of our culture. Those who serve often reflect that connection via the ceremony or reception location.
- Fire Station. If your town has a historic station, they may routinely rent the facilities. You may even find your working fire station has banquet facilities!
- Military Base. Military bases have chapels, the same as civilian communities. If you are active military, contact the Chaplain of your base for details about a ceremony and reception.
- Police Station. While you aren’t likely to find rental space at working police stations, former police stations may be an option. These buildings can be unique as non-traditional wedding venues.
- Veterans Hall. Nearly every American Legion and VFW post have a hall to rent for wedding receptions.
Other ideas for non-traditional wedding reception venues
Every contact you have with a group or organization represents a potential venue.
- University. College campuses are chock full of impressive buildings. Talk to your university about which you may use for your event.
- Fraternity or Sorority House. Many Greek sororities and fraternities have their wedding traditions. Why not take it a step further? And see about having yours at the house.
- Union Hall. Large memberships mean large meeting spaces that may sit empty for long periods. It cannot hurt to ask about renting.