The Trend of Nontraditional Wedding Venues

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Not even 10 years ago, getting married in a hotel ballroom, church, or country club was considered the norm when it came to a wedding venue. These days, it seems like more and more couples are opting to say “I do” in picturesque vineyards, industrial gallery spaces, or rustic, decked-out barns. So, why are nontraditional venues edging out classic ones when it comes to booking weddings? Just ask millennials, who are leading the trend.

Engaged couples are favoring spaces that reflect their personalities and work with their smaller budgets. Nontraditional locations like barns, wineries, and even vacation rental homes, allow couples to give their friends and loved ones a night to remember while showcasing their unique vision.

We wanted to dive a little deeper into this emerging trend, so we gathered a few statistics and chatted with some of the people behind these nontraditional spaces to get their thoughts on why couples choose their venue to tie the knot. Read on to see what we found out.

BY THE NUMBERS:

  • Since 2009, formal and black-tie weddings have decreased from 20% to 16%, and ceremonies hosted in a religious institution have dropped significantly, from 41% in 2009 to 22% in 2017. (The Knot)
  • The average cost of a wedding venue in 2017 was $9,000. (Wedding Wire)
  • Outdoor wedding ceremonies increased from 39% in 2009 to 52% in 2017. (The Knot)
  • Wedding Spot has 26 different style filters to cater to those specifically searching for an unconventional wedding venue. (Wedding Spot)
  • As couples look for more unconventional places to host their weddings, farm, barn, and ranch reception venues increased from 2% in 2009 to 15% in 2017, and historic homes rose from 12% in 2009 to 14% in 2017. (The Knot)
  • Couples on Wedding Spot are using the barn/farm/ranch style venue filter 3 times more than the ballroom filter. (Wedding Spot)
  • Banquet hall weddings dropped (from 27% in 2009 to 17% in 2017), as did weddings at hotels and resorts (from 18% in 2009 to 12% in 2017) and country clubs (from 13% in 2009 to 10% in 2017). (The Knot)

POINT OF VIEW: Vacation Rental

We wanted to find out why vacation rentals, like those found on Airbnb and HomeAway, are increasing in popularity as ideal locations for couples to get married. So, we sat down with Kevin Russell, owner and operator of a private 120-acre chalet in Black Hawk, Colorado that regularly hosts weddings, about the rising trend of Airbnbs as wedding venues.

Q: How long has your Airbnb been hosting weddings?

A: We’ve been hosting weddings since 2014 when the inquiries we received jumped for events. It came naturally to us, because in our 20s, [my wife and I] were concert promoters and booked bands, and we were responsible for creating and implementing events. This industry is definitely not cut out for everyone.

Q: Do you feel like nontraditional spaces are becoming more popular as wedding venues?

A: The trend is now in high gear for booking nontraditional places for weddings. [Our Airbnb] is so astonishingly beautiful that we get at least 30 to 60 inquiries per year, and the amount seems to increase every year. During tours, millennials specifically will say that they’re looking for something inspired by mother nature and wilderness, with no concrete, and something that’s the polar opposite of where they typically live. They do their research and have toured halls and ballrooms, and they don’t like to be told how everything will happen. They like to create their own event on their own time, and in a vision of nature, that really can’t be reproduced at a traditional venue. Our Airbnb is secluded and private, with beautiful trails, outstanding mountain views, and diverse forest and meadow vistas.

Q: How many weddings do you host monthly or yearly?

A: We are limiting weddings right now to only six per year in the months of June, July, August, and September. However, we do have plans to build an event pavilion on our property with a max capacity of 100 guests [which will help host weddings during colder months]. Once we build the pavilion, we’ll increase the event fee because wedding parties won’t have to rent their own tent (for inclement weather), tables and chairs as they are required to do now. At that time, we may kick up the acceptance rate on those who want to get married here. The amount of proposals on this property has also gone through the roof as we offer special occasion packages to cater to those looking to do the ultimate proposal in the mountains.

Q: How do you market your venue for weddings?

A: We really don’t have to market [our Airbnb] as a wedding venue. We already have more inquiries coming in from our typical vacation rental sources than we can handle — 50% of those inquiries, however, automatically assume once they rent our Airbnb for lodging, they can have a wedding or an event at no charge, and that certainly is not the case. Once we build our outdoor old Western post and beam pavilion next year, the rates will be the same as any ballroom or hall. The difference will be that the engaged couple won’t be required to use certain vendors and they get the value of remarkable views, nature and secluded privacy.

Q: What venue feedback do you get from wedding clients?

A: The wedding couple always remarks on how many guests loved the place and want to book their vacation here after experiencing it for half a day. And wedding couples absolutely love their photographs taken on our property, because it’s so picturesque. We had one bride book [our Airbnb] based on just one of the photos that were taken on the property.

Q: What sets your venue apart from traditional venues when it comes to weddings?

A: With our Airbnb, we can offer guests a rural venue in nature, surrounded by the outdoors and wide open vistas of the mountain wilderness. Our location, which is just 60 miles from Denver International Airport, makes it an easy trip for out-of-state travelers. We’re also in close proximity to Black Hawk, a mini Vegas-style gambling mecca with tons of hotel rooms to accommodate the rest of the family not staying on our property.

We also offer activities of archery, horseshoes, cornhole, volleyball, hiking, and ATVing, as well as two private hot tubs and a gun range, all on our property. You couldn’t find this in a traditional setting.

POINT OF VIEW: Ranch

Whether it’s the miles of farmland or the secluded privacy that barns and ranches can provide couples getting married, one thing is for sure — these types of nontraditional venues are becoming more attractive as wedding venues. Gather chatted with Jake Hitchcock, owner of Santa Fe River Ranch, a 2,200-acre ranch located along the Santa Fe River in North Central Florida, to get his take on why ranches are becoming more popular with couples looking to tie the knot.

Q: How many weddings does your venue host?

A: We host about 30-35 weddings a year.

Q: What do you think about the trend of nontraditional spaces as wedding venues?

A: Current-day brides are looking for unique venues that are different from every wedding that they’ve ever attended such as [those in] country clubs, hotels, and botanical gardens. They want to set themselves apart from their friends and family. Weddings have become large parties and opportunities for brides to showcase their own unique styles and it’s [harder to] do that at traditional venues.

Q: How did you decide that your space would be an ideal spot for weddings?

A: We found out that our location and space was perfect for weddings after we hosted my sister’s wedding. We immediately started getting requests from people wanting to host events and their own weddings — it all blew up from there. We have been doing weddings for almost seven years now.

Q: What do couples saying “I do” love about your space?

A: The most frequent compliments we get are about our beautiful landscape sprawling over 2,200 acres, and about our “above-and-beyond” customer service that we provide to all of our clients.

Q: What sets your ranch apart from other similar venues when it comes to weddings?

A: We do only one wedding per week so that we can solely focus on one bride per weekend. We take the rustic, farm-style venue to the next level by doing all coordination in-house and having at least eight staff members at every wedding to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible, and people recognize and appreciate it. We also offer all-inclusive wedding packages which most barn-style venues do not offer. We believe that our facility sets us apart from the rest. It’s over 15,000 square feet and has the best indoor and outdoor options for couples getting married.

POINT OF VIEW: Barn & Winery

Wineries feature beautiful, lush vineyards and of course, great tasting wine. But, what is it about wineries that make them a popular choice for couples getting hitched? We chatted with Anne Pechacek, director of events at Cannon River Winery, a 40-acre winery nestled among the Sogn Valley in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, about what makes her winery an ideal place for nuptials.

Q: How long has your winery been hosting weddings, and how many weddings do you host a year?

A: We started hosting weddings in 2014. We host around 60 on a yearly basis.

Q: Why do you think some couples these days prefer nontraditional venues over classic venues to get married?

A: Couples are looking for something more unique with more flexibility for creating their space on their special day.

Q: What makes your winery a great spot for weddings?

A: We have the best of both worlds: The barn is unique, yet rustic, but most of all exclusive and very private. The winery has a fun, upbeat feel, with state-of-the-art finishings and a climate controlled environment. The feel, the privacy, the attention to detail, and most of all the wine, are super important. Couples can get as much help as they want and feel in total control of their day. I tell every couple, “Your day, your way.” We will shoot for the stars every single time, serving excellence all along the way.

Q: What advertising mediums do you use to market your space for weddings?

A: We advertise on The Knot, Minnesota Bride, and Wedding Wire, and we have a very user-friendly website where you can book an appointment to tour our space.

Q: What feedback do you hear from couples who get married at your winery?

A: They absolutely love it. Our reviews are fantastic. We strive for a Cannon River “Trifecta” — a happy couple, happy parents and happy guests.

Q: What makes your winery stand out from other venues when it comes to weddings?

A: The exclusivity and sheer privacy of our ceremony spot, and the flexibility in the planning and choices for couples getting married. We have two totally different venues (our historic event center, which was once the town dance hall and roller rink, and our 150-year-old timber barn which overlooks our vineyard) that both have some amazing features that are great for weddings. We are a unicorn, quite frankly.