Are any of you planning a wedding on a budget? Not just a budget but a "can't budge, less-than-the-cost-of-a-nice-washer-and-dryer" budget? You don't want to have your reception in a VFW and you don't want to have it in a fire hall. Here's a tip that I haven't seen discussed. I discovered it while planning my own wedding- four letters. VRBO. I'll explain.
A lot of times you can find a great venue for a good price but you can't bring your own caterer or your own DJ or your own cake and then all of a sudden your perfect venue's "preferred vendor" list has blown the savings you originally thought you had scored with your venue. VRBO can help.
Now, I won't say that this solution is easy. It's going to take some work on your part. But like all good money saving tips, it usually requires some extra work otherwise everyone would do it. VRBO is short for Vacation Rental by Owner. Most of the properties listed are not commercial (though some are) they are just houses, condos and apartments that owners are renting out by the day, week or month. Go to the area where you want to have your wedding and look at the listings there. Find one that is in a scenic location, has a large yard and several bathrooms (though you can rent portable bathrooms if you can afford it). VRBO isn't the only owner-operated property site. Also check out homeaway.com and flipkey.com.
Now here's the tricky part. Write to the owner and ask if they allow weddings on the property. You're going to find that many do not. There are liability issues. There's the possibility of damage to the property. There are parking issues. You're going to learn to have a thick skin. Ask around but be prepared for rejection. If you're planning a destination wedding a lot of properties in exotic areas specifically say that they allow for weddings and have photos of previous weddings on their property. This is always nice. Usually these are the larger properties that have 5+ bedrooms and 3+ acres of land.
I would write a proposal letter. Mention such things as liability insurance. You can buy liability insurance for weddings. It protects against property damage, bodily harm and alcohol-related accidents. Perhaps offer an additional security deposit in case of property damage. I know if you're looking at VRBO for your wedding you probably won't want to also pay a security deposit. Since it's refundable it might be something you could convince your relatives to help with if they were unable to help with costs in the beginning. It can help to sway an owner who might be on the fence.
Here are some properties in my area (Lancaster, PA) that looked great for having a wedding. Now, I don't know if any of these properties would allow for a wedding. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if none of them did. But it gives you an idea of what's out there and what the possibilities could be.
Also, the nice thing about renting a property is that if you find one with many bedrooms it gives you and your bridal party a place to stay before and after the wedding. You may even want to consider having your party pay for their stay at the house which would go towards the cost of the property. This is a good idea if you are having a destination wedding and they were going to pay for their stay anyway. This property (pictured below) in central Pennsylvania has seven bedrooms, seven bathrooms and allows weddings. It can be rented for $950 per night. That may seem like a lot for someone on a very tight budget but remember you're getting bedrooms, a venue and the convenience of using your own vendors.
Many places have a minimum stay requirement. Be sure you're clear about that. If you're having a summer wedding some places require 7 nights! If you're having an autumn wedding some only require 2 days. It depends on the listing.
I hope that might inspire some of you who felt hopeless about their budget. Congratulations and good luck!