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Five alternative wedding venues that won't cost a fortune

Weddings are already really expensive, but you can find a location to exchange vows that is romantic and affordable. Which of these wedding venues can you picture yourself saying "I do"?

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    A couple pose for their wedding photo in front of Do Son casino in Vietnam's northern Hai Phong port city February 10, 2014. Weddings are already really expensive, but you can find a location to exchange vows that is romantic and affordable.
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The venue: It's usually the first and biggest hurdle in wedding planning, and it's very common to experience mega sticker shock at quotes from the first few beautiful venues you contact. Check out these five romantic wedding locations that won't cost a fortune.

1. County and State Parks

I'm not talking about the same neighborhood park where you had your fifth birthday. Many counties have a few gorgeous parks (and visitor centers) that are well manicured and intended for events. If you're in California, you're in luck — there are tons of them. The larger ones even include furniture, or have a recommended rental service. If you're looking for a more rustic experience, you'll be surprised how affordable an entire campground can be. For a smaller, more intimate wedding, a state park will provide a secluded nature backdrop.

Look up your local county's Parks and Recreation website to search for venues and parks you had no idea were available to rent.

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Examples

2. Women's Clubs

Women's clubs, or Thursday clubs, were founded across the U.S. in the early 20th century for the enhancement of women's lives, including suffrage and enrolling young women in universities. While many of these clubs still operate with those goals, they also rent their beautiful, historical spaces for weddings on the weekends. These venues tend to come with a kitchen, a large ballroom, a stage, and many times, free parking. I had my wedding in one, and people still rave about the venue.

Examples

3. Local Restaurants

What is a traditional wedding other than a ceremony with a pop-up restaurant? Consider all the major expenses of a wedding — the venue, catering, servers, rentals, decor, etc. — which can all add up to thousands on their own. A great restaurant has all those rolled into one space, which results in a better value and less time spent vetting a dozen different catering and rental vendors. Look for the more mid-range (or $$ on Yelp) restaurants in your area as opposed to the fanciest spots in town.

Examples

4. Community and Cultural Centers

Cultural centers are similar to women's clubs in that they are usually big, attractive, and have lots of built-in amenities like kitchens, stages, and parking. They also tend to be non-profit organizations, which means no "wedding-mill" markups. If you are a member of that culture's community, even better, because they might cut you a deal.

If your area lacks a cultural center, local community centers are also great. These include armories, senior centers, and city-run gymnasiums. These tend to be more bare bones in terms of looks, but with lots of decoration can be fun places to host a micro-budget wedding.

Examples

5. Loved One's Home (or Vacation Rental)

The home wedding is definitely back in style. For this generation of young couples, a house can have everything they need: It's cheap, it's intimate, and it's got built-in spaces for cooking, decorating, and with a big enough yard, dancing. You also don't need to comply to someone else's alcohol policies or "shut-down" times.

Don't know someone with a big enough home for your wedding? Airbnb and VRBO are great places to find event-friendly vacation rentals. Another perk: you and key family members visiting for the wedding can stay in the vacation home, saving on hotel costs. Or, instead: after guests leave the wedding, you and your new spouse could enjoy the rental for few extra days as a mini-moon!

Examples

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