How to choose a wedding ceremony site

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Outdoor weddings: waterfronts, forests, country fields, cliffs, river banks, ocean views

Outdoor ceremonies are a great option for romantics, nature lovers (especially when they take place on a beautiful summer day), and those who would like to make their ceremony more creative than a traditional ceremony. For example, we at have been to a few outdoor ceremonies where the groom, the bride or in some cases both would ride in on a horse and/or, once the ceremony was over, ride into the sunset (literally) in a carriage.

Places like Kirkland, WA are famous for their waterfront weddings. Imagine the ceremony taking place on a lake shore with the bride and groom getting into a motor boat parked by the ceremony site and riding away in it after the reception ends at the end of the night. Outdoors is definitely a great place to get creative and have a memorable, unique wedding ceremony. In addition, outdoor ceremonies make for some great wedding photos.

The cost of an outdoor wedding depends on several factors:

  1. An officiant performing the ceremony

    If your officiant is a judge/justice that needs to travel to your ceremony site and, if your wedding is held on a weekend, then you are looking at an officiant fee of $250+ (the exact amount would depend on where and when the ceremony is held). If your officiant is a priest/minister from your local church, you would be expected to provide a donation to the church. Also, depending on the religion and the church, the priest/minister may refuse to perform the ceremony outdoors (in some religions, wedding ceremonies may only performed in churches).

    Finally, if one of your friends is an ordained minister or can become one to perform your wedding ceremony (see article on how to get your friend ordained and have a friend be an officiant at your wedding), your officiant fee may drop to zero.

  2. Ceremony site ownership

    If the place you have chosen for your outdoor ceremony is a private property, the price would depend on how well you negotiate with the property owner (see article on How to negotiate with wedding vendors for tips and tricks) and what other than the use of the location is included in your rental fee.

    In our experience here at, the ceremony site's rental fees vary wildly between $50 and $6,000. The $50 fee was paid to the owner for the use of the location only for one hour. $6,000 got some couples everything they needed.

    However, a few lucky brides, were able to pay a $500 (!) fee for the use of the location, arbor, chairs and tables rental, extensive decorations (flowers, ribbons, etc. provided by the owner) and the use of the owner's horses (the bride and groom both chose to ride in on horses), plus the carriage to take them away after the ceremony. See our article about negotiations to be able to negotiate so well with wedding vendors as they did!

    If the place you have chosen for your outdoor ceremony is a public property, you would generally need to apply for a permit to use the place and the fees would be non-negotiable and vary depending on the location.

One other thing to be aware of when planning to have an outdoor ceremony is that outdoor ceremonies generally require more logistics and planning than other types of ceremonies. The more creative and unique you make your ceremony, the more planning and practice would be needed. After all, this is why these ceremonies are so unique and memorable: they do not follow a standard script of traditional ceremonies.

Summary: outdoor weddings

Pros: romantic, creative and memorable ceremonies, fits large numbers of people, great photos.

Cons: logistics, religious ceremony may not be possible.

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