Great Places to Get Married on a Budget in the Bay Area

Aug 04, 2017

Wedding venueAccording to a recent study from leading wedding brand and marketplace The Knot, the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. reached an all-time high of $35,329 in 2016, with couples in the Bay Area spending roughly 21 percent more at an average $42,716. As couples shell out to create a memorable experience for themselves and their guests, the wedding venue itself has become a focal point of the wedding budget – comprising roughly 45 percent of the total money spent. The good news is that you can create an amazing wedding at a fraction of what others are paying by thinking beyond the traditional “wedding venue.” Here are a few suggestions to help get you started:

Consider a community center: If you don’t think a community center would quite cut it as the ideal backdrop for a celebration of your nuptials, you may want to make an exception for city-owned facilities as lovely as Piedmont Community Hall. A stately Mediterranean structure in a beautifully landscaped park setting, the 200-person capacity building can be rented at reasonable weekend rates of $2,750-$4,250 (discounts available for residents) for an eight-hour block of time Friday-Sunday. For details, visit

Cruise the Bay: For an unconventional wedding experience featuring magnificent views of the Bay at an incredible price, it’s hard to beat charter yacht services like Hornblower CruisesThe hospitality company offers a great deal whether you’re planning to elope, want a small, intimate wedding or a large affair with hundreds of guests. Packages run the gamut from buffet-style three-hour lunch or brunch cruises to all-inclusive four-hour dinner cruises with a 30 minute dockside ceremony performed by the captain, hosted premium cocktail bar, hors d’oeuvres, seated dinner, DJ entertainment, wedding photographer, cake and more. Start exploring your options for a luxury yacht wedding at

Check out culturally-affiliated organizations: Often, facilities owned by cultural clubs or associations have wonderful potential as wedding venues but are underutilized because they tend to stay under the radar of those who are not affiliated with them. As nonprofits, many offer a beautiful event space at an excellent value.  As a case in point, the Santa Clara S.E.S Portugal Hall can be rented year-round for a very competitive rate and comes equipped with kitchen, tables and chairs, lighting, dance floor, cooling, restrooms, parking and more. Learn more at

Uncover historic landmarks: Love the idea of holding your wedding at an exquisite old church or an iconic estate without changing your religious affiliation or going into debt? Among the many beautiful, budget-friendly options that top wedding sites right now are Swedenborgian Church and Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate.

Located in the scenic Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco and open to same-sex couples and interfaith ceremonies, the famous Swedenborgian Church features a warm, rich interior with adjoining Garden, Fireside, and Dining Rooms that make up the reception area. For $2,200, you can have use of the Sanctuary, garden, two rooms for dressing, and a hostess for 2.5 hours Friday-Sundays and on holidays. If you want to book their officiant and/or musician, fees are $600 and $225 respectively.

Built in 1899, Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate is a 37-room Neoclassical Revival Mansion set on 50 acres of manicured grounds in Oakland. Rates vary depending on the day of the week, whether you are a resident of Oakland and the section you rent, but it’s easy to find an area suited to your budget and space needs. Find details and pricing at

Still looking for inspiration on how to find a spectacular wedding venue within a tight budget? A few more options to consider: veterans’ organizations with banquet halls, a bed and breakfast, museum, or public garden like the Shakespeare Garden at Golden Gate Park or the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. You can also shave off hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars off a popular venue by holding your wedding during the week, shortening the time of your reception, renting just part of a space or choosing an off-peak season for your wedding.  Lastly, keep in mind that you may benefit by putting your negotiating skills to use as you acquire offers from different venues. And if it can be avoided, don’t mention that you want to book the venue for a wedding until you are actually quoted a price.

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