BOUND FOR MARRIAGE
A destination wedding needn't cost a fortune or involve a flight halfway around the globe. Plenty of U.S. cities provide memorable, budget-friendly wedding settings, from beaches to historic mansions. To come up with 15 top choices, we scoured multiple lists of cheap cities to visit and cross-referenced them with destinations recommended by wedding publications. All these cities have key attributes such as affordable accommodations, easy accessibility, and abundant, inexpensive entertainment.
Vegas certainly has plenty of drive-through wedding chapels. But it also has many elegant ballrooms and inexpensive hotel rooms (if you time it right). Avoid holiday weekends and big sporting events to get the biggest bargains. For reception space, the blog Here Comes the Guide identifies the Hampton Inn Tropicana, just off the Strip, as one of the most affordable options. Reception packages start at $28 a person.
NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND
Bargain isn't the first word that springs to mind to describe Newport, once home to wealthy titans of industry, but economical wedding venues are available. Avoid the peak summer season to keep expenses in check. In a city filled with opulent mansions (which make for great wedding photos), Here Comes the Guide says OceanCliff is one of the more-affordable venues. Wedding-planning website The Knot identifies the Landing Restaurant as another budget-friendly and picturesque option.
KEY WEST, FLORIDA
Looking for a cheaper, less-crowded version of the Caribbean for a dream wedding? Key West may be the answer. A colorful island with pastel conch-style houses, ample nightlife, and tremendous walkability, Key West certainly provides guests with plenty to do. U.S. News & World Report touts it as both a bargain wedding location and an inexpensive place to visit no matter what the occasion. Reception packages at the Sheraton Suites Key West start at $679.
Related: The Best of Florida on a Budget
Austin's nightlife, outdoor attractions, and affordability draw millions of visitors each year and also make the city an excellent wedding destination. For budget accommodations, Travel + Leisure recommends the hip Austin Motel, which offers a pool and an easy walk to downtown. Rates for some rooms, depending on date, start around $145. The Knot features Villa St. Clair as one of Austin's best and most-affordable wedding venues.
Nashville has a long-standing reputation for excellent live music, but other features of the city have also gained recognition. Travel + Leisure notes the food scene (particularly the burgers, cafés, and microbrews) and named Nashville its No. 2 city for an affordable getaway. For a uniquely rustic and affordable wedding venue, The Knot recommends Loveless Barn, a classic yet chic space that can accommodate hundreds of guests.
Portland appears in more than one ranking of best cities for the budget-conscious. But what puts this locale over the top is sales tax of 0 percent. Oregon is also listed on a survey by The Knot as one of the cheapest states in which to get married. The Knot cites the West End Ballroom as a unique and relatively inexpensive wedding venue. Within a 15-minute walk is the Hotel Lucia, where rooms start at $166 a night.
New Orleans is practically built for celebrations and appears on multiple lists for cheap travel. The city has much to offer in terms of inexpensive food, cheap live music and entertainment, and affordable hotels. Food & Wine magazine recommends the Hotel Modern, which regularly runs specials. The Federal Ballroom, which was built in 1923 as a Federal Reserve bank, is one of The Knot's top reception venues. It is rated "affordable" and sits just one block from the French Quarter.
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
In Charleston, couples can tie the knot under a moss-draped oak on a historic plantation or inside an elegant mansion. Generally the cheapest time to hold an event here is winter, when it's not the height of tourist season. The Knot highlights the Charleston Yacht Club Flag Room for a budget-friendly reception with a nautical twist. Located on the Ashley River, the venue offers views of passing boats, and guests can enjoy sunset cruises.
Another Southern charmer, Savannah oozes history and elegance while offering inexpensive accommodations and plenty of fun options for foodies. It comes in at No. 6 on U.S. News & World Report's list of budget destinations. The city's historic parks and squares offer many inexpensive places to hold a wedding. Top choices include Forsyth Park and Orleans Square. For couples who prefer the Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop, Tybee Island is 20 minutes away and charges only $25 for a beach ceremony permit.
San Antonio, recognized by Travel + Leisure and U.S. News & World Report as a top choice for budget travelers, offers an abundance of free attractions. For affordable accommodations, avoid the heart of the city. Instead look to the King William and Alamo Heights neighborhoods. One unique wedding venue is Historic Sunset Station, an authentic train depot that The Knot ranks as one of the city's more budget-friendly options. Just north of the city, couples can have an elegant Southern wedding at Kendall Plantation.
Pittsburgh, one of Food & Wine's best cheap cities, offers a picturesque downtown and fashionable neighborhoods. There's also plenty for wedding guests to do during downtime, from the Duquesne Incline, which ferries people up Mount Washington in an old cable car, to the colorful Strip district with its fishmongers and ethnic food stores. If you want to hold your reception in the fashionable South Side, The Knot recommends the Terrace at Hyatt House, which is rated "affordable" and offers outstanding views of the Monongahela River.
MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA
Myrtle Beach is a budget-friendly option for those with their hearts set on a beach-themed wedding. The city is known for beautiful and inexpensive motels, and it's home to many affordable attractions to entertain visiting guests. The Knot recommends Grande Dunes as an affordable wedding venue. It can accommodate beachside ceremonies and offers reception spaces with outstanding views of the Atlantic Ocean.
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI
Kansas City's location works in its favor as a wedding destination. Being in the middle of the country, it doesn't take too long to reach, no matter where guests are coming from. The city is also known for a variety of free attractions, like the visitors center at greeting-card giant Hallmark. According to Travel + Leisure, Kansas City has the rare distinction of accommodation prices that haven't increased on average. Kayak lists many hotels for around $100 a night (or less).
Seattle was the focus of a budget-wedding challenge sponsored by The Knot and has proved to be a place where it's entirely possible to create a memorable yet affordable event. The Golden Gardens Bathhouse provides a picturesque venue for $175 an hour. Hotels can be likewise inexpensive. A variety of 3-star accommodations are available for less than $200 a night, according to Kayak. In naming Seattle one of the best affordable destinations in the country, U.S. News & World Report gives the city high marks for culture, art offerings, and outdoor activities.
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO
Albuquerque, recognized by Forbes as one of the most affordable cities in the U.S. for family travel, also provides a picturesque backdrop for a wedding. Old Town Albuquerque is filled with historic adobe buildings that date back to when the city was founded as a Spanish colony in 1706. A short drive from downtown, the Albuquerque Balloon Museum is a unique and affordable wedding venue with eye-catching architecture and sweeping views of the Sandia Mountains.