Want to think be­yond the ball­room? Choos­ing an un­ex­pected spot for your venue can mean a wed­ding that’s truly, fan­tas­ti­cally your own—if you plan well. Here are some details to keep in mind be­fore you sign.

Martha Stewart Weddings - - THE PLANNER - TEXT BY SA­MAN­THA LE F AVE


Al­ways ask about these first, says An­to­nia Chris­tian­son, owner of An­to­nia Chris­tian­son Events in Vir­ginia and Cal­i­for­nia. They can af­fect ev­ery­thing from tim­ing to the num­ber of guests to whether al­co­hol is al­lowed. Some busy public spots al­low cer­e­monies but no re­cep­tions. In that case, “look for a party site no more than 30 min­utes away, with a sim­i­lar am­bi­ence, so the wed­ding feels co­he­sive,” sug­gests Chris­tian­son.

And keep in mind that even public spa­ces aren’t al­ways free to use. In­quire re­gard­ing any fees, sug­gested do­na­tions, and mem­ber­ship re­quire­ments.


“One myth is that non­tra­di­tional venues save you money,” says Sara Fried, founder of lux­ury wed­ding-plan­ning and events com­pany Fête Nashville. There’s no guar­an­tee, since “you have to bring in ev­ery­thing—not just ta­bles and chairs but details down to the salt and pep­per shak­ers.”

Out­doors, you’ll need to pro­vide ba­sic in­fra­struc­ture: power gen­er­a­tors, wa­ter sources, heat or air con­di­tion­ing, park­ing, and re­strooms (see fol­low­ing page). The right land­scape is im­por­tant, too: If it isn’t flat, you’ll need a plat­form for tents and equip­ment.

A wed­ding plan­ner can help you cre­ate a line-item bud­get be­fore you com­mit.


To be pre­pared for rain, snow, tem­per­a­ture changes, even a ma­jor storm, you’ll need a plan B, such as re­serv­ing a tent or a party space in a nearby build­ing. Start early, and “make sure it’s as pretty as the rest of the wed­ding, so it doesn’t feel like an af­ter­thought,” says Ma­rina Birch, founder of Birch De­sign Stu­dio, in Chicago.


Can ven­dors get equip­ment in? Is there ad­e­quate park­ing? Are nearby events sched­uled that might im­pede ac­cess? “You have to do your home­work,” says Fried. If park­ing is lack­ing, plan for al­ter­na­tive guest trans­porta­tion. The up­side? It can add to the at­mos­phere. “A trol­ley ride or ferry boat can spur a feel­ing of won­der,” says Chris­tian­son.


Re­mem­ber that public set­tings are just that: public—and passersby may gather. Your plan­ner’s staff can act as se­cu­rity guards, put up bar­ri­ers, or sim­ply ask peo­ple to leave. But you might do bet­ter to just re­lax; the crowds can be fun. “When it’s time for the first kiss, you might get a huge cheer,” says Chris­tian­son.

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