Dear PoPville – Wedding Venues for Less than $20,000?

Photo by PoPville flickr user sciascia

Dear PoPville,

My fiancee and I are planning to get married in August 2013. We saw that you posted about this last year but it was more tailored to a smaller wedding. We were just wondering if anyone in the forum could let us know about venues in the area that would be good for about 150 people and a budget of no more than $20,000 for the entire wedding (dress, venue, food, etc.). We’re particularly interested in places that could allow us to have an outdoor wedding.

We looked at some outdoor ideas back in June 2009. We also looked at some reasonable priced venues back in Aug. 2010. Def. time for an update!

77 Comment

    • I had mine here! It was a great deal because 1) we had it in Feb, when the rates and cheaper, 2) it’s a historic venue so it already has a lot of character and didn’t need a ton of decoration, and 3) they’ve got a ton of stuff that comes with the rental – tables, chairs, plates, glassware, etc. Saved us a bundle!

  • there are not many places. The best way to keep the budget down is to do your own flowers, buy a once-worn gown, do your own invitations etc. My friend had a gorgeous outdoor wedding at River Farm in Alexandria on a great budget – but not that low. The venue is beautiful, right on the water. Also, consider sizing down your guest list.

  • The headline and the question are asking for two very different things: 20K for venues vs 20k for entire wedding.

  • My wife and I got married last year at the Bumper Car Pavilion at Glen Echo Park. It was an awesome venue that had the outdoor vibe but was also covered in case of bad weather. We had the ceremony and reception in the pavilion and you can even rent out the carousel. We rented the place for the whole day under $3,000 (we also got off peak rates for August because most people don’t want to deal with the heat!). Definitely the most reasonably priced and fun venue ever! Best day of my life!

    • Great call! I got married in upstate NY, but our entire wedding ran less than $2,000. The key was not serving food, and finding a venue (a dance studio; gorgeous, old fashioned, and willing to let us serve booze to our friends without a license). That was a similar size – about 180 guests. Friends made cookies, another friend bought $300 worth of beer, wine, and punch and tended bar.

    • anonymouse_dianne

      I have said to myself if I ever get married again it will be at Glen Echo Bumper cars for the symbolism of marriage.

  • Did my wedding for $14k back in 2005 at Woodend at the Audubon Society in Chevy Chase. Venue was about $5k… back then, the entire amount was tax-deductible but seems the laws changed as only $1.5k is now tax-deductible. Still a great venue… we did the ipod DJ route. The caterer we used is no longer on their list it seems but that was about $6k for 100 guests I want to say and the food is still talked about by our guests to this day. Also did our own open bar while the caterers provided the bar/bartender… went through Ace Liquors on New Mexico, that cost about $4k and they set you up with enough liquor/wine/beer for 100 guests… we returned whatever we didn’t use and got about $1.2k credited back to us. Good luck!

    • It’s a great venue for an outdoor wedding. I went to a friend’s wedding there a few years ago and really liked it.

    • austindc

      We also got married at Woodend at the Audubon Naturalist Society:

      Depending on how much you spend on music, dress, and flowers, you can definitely do it all under 20k. We used Occasions catering, and they let us buy the beer and wine on our own, which saved some money. They also provided the cake at a cheaper price than other places we looked at.

      We were married in the grove at sunset, and it was absolutely beautiful. Deer wandered by in the meadow, and there were birds everywhere. Best day of my life.

  • We went to a wedding out at Glen Echo Park. It was fabulous and I’m pretty sure waaay under $20K

  • My husband and I got married at River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Bethesda for less than that. It’s reasonably priced, the facility is beautiful, and the staff are great. They’re very flexible and not looking to make extra money off of you, so you have more options for to to spend or save your money. We saved a lot by plugging an ipod in to their sound system instead of using a DJ, buying our own beer and wine, and finding a good reasonably priced caterer.

  • On a separate note–my wife and I got our wedding dresses through Brides Against Breast Cancer; they were both designer labels & both were $500. The organization has dress sales in different cities every weekend, and has dresses at price points below that as well. The dresses are donated, mostly from designers (models from previous years), and the proceeds go to their charity, making memories, which I think is similar to make a wish foundation, except for people with terminal breast cancer.

    I would also highly recommend our florist, who will knock 20% off the cost of the flowers if you choose flowers that are in season at the time of your wedding that she grows herself. Her company name is LynnVale Studios, and she sells flowers at a bunch of local farmers markets in addition to doing flowers for events.

    • +1 for Brides Against Breast Cancer. I paid to attend on the first night. It wasn’t crazy or overly crowded and I didn’t feel like people were rushing and just grabbing everything off the racks. I brought two girlfriends and everyone had a great time. As a side note, if you happen to be looking for a size 4, very simple strapless fitted (i.e., not a lot of room for error) gown that would be great for an outdoor or beach wedding, I have one to sell!

  • The biggest chunk of change for a wedding is for the venue and food. I never looked into this, but I wonder if you can rent someone’s house who has a nice backyard? I know on Craigslist people rent out their houses for a week in the summer; I wonder if you can search for/post a request to rent a house with a great backyard for a weekend? I think the only major problem would be street parking with 150 guests.

    I also remember that PG county owns GORGEOUS properties that can be rented out fairly inexpensively because they are owned by the county/city:

    For food, I wouldn’t use a traditional catering company, which will really crank up the prices because its a wedding. Maybe consider asking a local restaurant to cater the event instead. You can also seriously cut down on costs by buying your own liquor at a liquor store rather than having the caterer bring it.

    Ann Taylor and JCrew have great wedding dresses and would be amazing for a summer wedding. I don’t know if its included in their sales, but I would wait for a great 40% off (Ann Taylor) or 25% off (Jcrew which unfortunately just ended). You may also want to check out Bloomingdales, as I feel like they may have wedding dresses (I know Nordstroms does), and Bloomingdales is having their Friends and Family event going on this weekend.

    • I almost bought my dress at Nordstrom in Tyson’s Corner. Both Bloomie’s and Nordstrom had great dresses at reasonable prices (on sale) compared to David’s Bridal and some of the other shops in VA/DC. I ended up actually finding an off-white prom dress for around $300 and took it to a seamstress for alterations. Ended up running about $425 and no one ever knew that it wasn’t a wedding dress!

    • Yes! I got married at Newton White Mansion in PG County – outdoor ceremony in October and it was gorgeous AND affordable! Also, we did the wedding on a Friday evening instead of Sat and it made everything much cheaper (venue, florist, caterer, car rental – everything is cheaper on a Fri or Sun).

    • Keep in mind that a backyard wedding also means you have to rent your own tent, tables, chairs, linens, and even bathrooms! That can get quite pricey. We had initially intended to go with that plan until we saw tent prices and nearly fainted (and with my luck, I couldn’t just wish for good weather and not have a rain plan). Another thing to remember is that the good, cheap places book early. We booked for June 2014 in November 2012, and the week after we signed, someone else asked for our date. Extending your timeline can open up some options – and give you more time to save. I also enjoy for budget tips/staying grounded. A friend did it all for $15k, also while supporting DC food trucks!

  • We got a “good” deal at the W – we got the ballroom at the top of the W hotel for free by agreeing to do it on a Sunday night. We had to spend $12,500 on catering through them. For 75 people it turned out to be a really great party, because the food was great and plentiful, and we had an open bar all night long, as well as a portion of the POV outside bar reserved for our guests, which looks over the White House. They let us choose our own florist, etc. so we saved a *tiny* bit that way.

    • i did the same thing 9 years ago, back when it was the Hotel Washington. We did it before the balcony opened for the season and were lucky to have great weather. the people that came always mention to us what a great time and place it was. it’s probably even nicer now.

  • Last year my wife and I got married at the Artisphere in Rosslyn (the old Newseum space) for well under $20,000 total (not just the cost of the venue, which for an 8 hour rental was under $5,000, including staffing). It was an incredible venue — close to the metro, plenty of cheap hotels nearby on the weekends (we got rates at the Hyatt and Holiday Inn for ~$100-$130/night), and the staff were great and easy to work with. They also have some outdoor space. We had about 120 people at our wedding and there was easily enough space for another 100. It took us a while to get a date reserved, but it was totally worth it. Can’t recommend it highly enough.

  • There are a couple of less-expensive venues in DC, but they all have trade-offs.

    The Josephine Butler Parks Center is beautiful, right on Meridian Hill Park, and includes tables and chairs in their fee– plenty of venues don’t. However, it’s not handicap accessible.

    St. Francis Hall is also really nice, but it’s not open to LGBT couples and you can’t do your ceremony there.

    I didn’t visit Hill Center, but it might be a squeeze for 150 people unless you do a cocktail-style reception (great way to save money, btw).

    • Another downside to the Josephine Butler Parks Center is it doesn’t have A/C, so not a great place if you want to get married in the summer.

      • I believe the first $1500 you pay to josephine is also tax deductible

      • When I was there last year they had a large AC unit behind the building cranking cool air in through ducts in several of the 2nd floor windows. I don’t know how well this works in the grinding heat of summer but there is (or was) some form of AC nonetheless.

        • it does not work well — Went to a summer wedding there and it was sweltering with the AC blasting.

  • sunsquashed

    I think 20K for a 150 person wedding will be very difficult to pull off. In addition to food/booze/venue, you have to factor in the photographer (not cheap), invites, flowers/decorations, etc…. It will add up. We tried to keep our 50-65 person wedding down to <10k, and our expenses are now close to 17-18k. If the 20k cap is something that you can't afford to go over, start cutting people off the guest-list. Also, many of the lower priced venues will have already been booked over a year in advance, so you might want to think about a spring 2014 wedding.

    • 100% agree with this. Spring 2014 is “off-season” so you’ll get a lower venue rental rate. We’re getting married at The Winery at Bull Run in March 2014, and the rental was $4900 (with two event coordinators, tables and chairs, discount on wine). On season, their rental costs are $5900 I believe.

    • Isn’t the point of a wedding to have the people who are close to you take part in a joyous celebration of life? Why would you cut people rather than cut expenses? Skip the professional photographer, the band or DJ. You don’t need fancy invites. Get less expensive food and buy the wine yourself.

      A party should always start with the PEOPLE! Then work backward to make the money fit. Would you rather have 50 family/friends you love eating egg salad or 20 people eating steak?

  • Honestly? Go outside the area. My fiancee and I are getting married in rural Pennsylvania (where she’s from) and sticking to a budget of about $20,000. Considering the venue cost $6,000, it isn’t too hard in a rural area.

    Other recommendations to save money within your parameters: public parks, try a day other than Saturday, shop around for every vendor, buy a used dress and see if you can bring your own alcohol.

    • Agree with this – we’re going outside of the area too. We picked a hotel in Winchester, just because I wanted a historic hotel wedding without the DC price tag.

  • Check out Hill Center on Capitol Hill. Affordable, unique venue.

  • I’m planning a wedding at the Josephine Butler Parks Center this fall, and so far we’re on target for well under $20k. We’re saving by having small bridal parties (just maid of honor/best man), limiting it to a cocktail hour reception, and DIY-ing some things.

    One word of caution to those advising that folks use alternatives to catering – someone still needs to be responsible for cleaning the venue after the event at most places. For us, it’s worth paying a catering staff to set up and to haul out the trash, and make sure the venue is returned to like-new condition, so we’re not charged with any damages.

  • We did ours for 150 people, including church fees, music, food, and reception for about $18,000. Reception was at Lincoln’s cottage, and was awesome

    • Should note, that included flowers, DJ, Mariachi at the ceremony, buffet dinner, open bar, tables, chairs, linens, and basically everything (except photographer, who was a friend). Sahand at Lincoln’s cottage was great to work with. Caterer was Windows.

  • I had my entire mid-afternoon wedding and reception planned (including, beverage, food, service, tents, tables, chairs, setup/breakdown and venue fee) for under $13K for about 100 people at The Hendry House in Arlington. This place was fantastic!

    • Forgot to mention The Hendry House has built in surround sound that hooks up to an iPod and there are volume controls in every room! Saves a ton of money on a DJ/band!

  • We had our reception last year at the McLean Gardens Ballroom. Did a lot of looking and cost comparisons and it was literally half the price of the hotels we were looking at. That said, I echo the statements here–it will be very difficult if not impossible to have that large of a crowd for $20K in DC proper. Farther out in VA you will get more for your buck, but even so, not that much. Trimming the guest list–while full of family drama and crap–really IS the way to save the most money (see: $200/head, often).

  • Brookside Gardens is a great place for a wedding. I can’t remember the pricing, but it was very reasonable. The outdoor space is beautiful too. If I remember correctly, you need special permission to have booze (because it’s a public park?), which we were able to obtain by asking politely. We provided our own alcohol and had the caterer provide a bar and bartender, which saved us a bunch.

    By the way, an outdoor wedding in DC in August will be hot hot hot.

  • We got married last summer at the AIA headquarters ( They have a beautiful facility, plus the Octagon House is onsite. We would have been married in the courtyard, but my grandmother attended and we didn’t want her out in the heat. The best part about working with them (and Well Dunn catering) is that because they are an office, the interactions were much more professional, prompt and friendly than other “venues”. The pricing structure was also much more reasonable.

    We were the first wedding they held, but I believe they’ve had several since then. Their Events Manager, Amy Medawar, is FABULOUS to work with.

  • Had my outdoor wedding at Woodlawn Manor in 2011 for less than $20k. Beautiful venue and the folks who run it are awesome!

  • we used Lisa at Sweet Teas Photography. She was amazing, reasonably priced and she brought a 2nd photographer for free. Her site is:

  • I don’t know how local you are trying to stay but my wife and I rented one of those ridiculous beach front homes in the outer banks to have our wedding. It cost us $10k plus $1,000 in “event fees”. This was the way to go because we had 7 bedrooms to rent to friends and entire week at the beach right on the ocean. It was soo much better than having a one night event then everything was just over. I think that all together we spent about 17k on the entire wedding and had a blast. Everyone else dug the mini vacation as well!! The only downside is that we had to get married on a Friday since we had to be out of our house by 9am on Sunday.

  • We got married at the Carnegie Institute of Science, which was under $5K on a Sunday. We chose to go inside to avoid paying prime $$$ for outdoor space and a tent in case it rained.

  • Oh man, these posts about wedding costs give me hives. Maybe I will just never get married. Yikes.

  • Arts club of Washington.
    They have raised their rates, but it is an all-inclusive venue and they will work with you to develop a menu that suits your budget. The venue is so beautiful; we got endless compliments and did almost no decorating. Our total wedding budget was $30,000, and I believe the venue with food and alcohol for 120 was about $18,000 total if I remember correctly. You can adjust your event to suit your budget by not serving dinner, having friends bake dessert (as we did)

    I feel you on the budget wedding in DC but it can be done! I just read of one done at Stroga for $15k:

    I highly recommend if you’re not already there. Sanity in a world gone wedding mad.

    • I second the Arts Club of Washington – we got married there in 2009, with 115 guests and spent a total of about $26,000. Just to add to the previous post – the food was terrific and the space is so nice (historic house and art gallery) that we spent very little on decorations. They have a beautiful courtyard as well as great inside space so you are safe in case the weather is lousy (we had a cold, rainy October wedding indoors). I believe our total $ spent at the Arts Club was $17K and about $7K of that was our open bar. My only $0.02 about the venue is that it’s a historic house without central AC (just portable/window units) so definitely better for fall/spring weddings. Other than that, it’s a perfect venue and an amazing value for being in downtown DC. We loved it.

    • Haha, that’s my wedding!

      Just a note: Working with Stroga was the toughest part of our wedding planning. Beautiful location, but not set up for events.

  • If you’re willing to skimp other place (and travel a bit), we are getting married at Bull Run Golf Club in Haymarket, VA. Gorgeous outdoor site for ceremony and big ballroom for reception. Rental is $3000 and there are different reception packages (We are paying $60/person for buffet dinner and open bar). For 100 people we’re looking at $10,650. $60/person is the cheapest option, though. I think we’ll end up spending a bit over $20k total, but we’re trying to keep it in that ballpark. Photographer prices will about give you a heart attack.

  • I know this isn’t in the DC vicinity, but we rented a house in Nags Head for our wedding and loved it. Many of our guests stayed at the house, allowing us to really spend time with friends and family (rather than quick conversations on the big day). We were married off-season in early April, and paid about $12k for a 12+ bedroom house. BBQ buffet plus tables and chairs cost another $3k or so, had prosecco and beer as only booze options (self-serve bar) and a lot of help from friends.

  • A brunch wedding will save you lots of $$$ because venues may charge less and the catering costs will be lower (I used Mr. Omelette and it was a LOT of food for about $50 a person). Also, people will drink much less and you’ll need fewer bartenders…we just did mimosas but you could do bloody marys too.

    Montgomery County, PG County, and Arlington all have nice sites through their park departments.

    • em

      Brunch wedding is the way to go. People rave (still) about the food at our wedding. We bought our own bubbly for the mimosas at Calvert Woodley – the wine guy was able to provide a great recommendation for inexpensive but very tasty cava. With ~110 guests, we used ~ 2 cases and spent ~$150 total on the wine – and fresh squeezed OJ was included as a part of the brunch food order.

  • If you choose not to use a traditional caterer, make sure you include all the things that a caterer will make sure you include like plates, silverware, glasses, napkins, etc.

    I know you are already planning for August 2013, but having your wedding off season (especially January or February) and on a Sunday afternoon can really help your budget. I am a wedding photographer and I know those months are particularly slow in this area.

    I think one of the most beautiful ceremony spots in DC is the DC War Memorial.

  • We had our wedding in the City View Room on the GW campus. It is a hidden gem that not many people know about as a wedding venue. It accommodated our 120 guests with an indoor room and an attached outdoor terrace that overlooks the Washington Monument. The views at night were spectacular and our guests absolutely loved it. The rates were totally reasonable at $3500 for the space, tables, chairs, etc. We used our own caterer and DJ.

  • We did our wedding at Rockwood Manor near Potomac md, catering by Rocklands BBQ, and were super happy. Venue was beautiful (if a little diy) and food was great.

  • We had our wedding at the Phoenix Park hotel a few months ago. For 110 people, we had heavy hors d’oeuvres, pasta station, and open bar and paid the venue a little over $10k. The onsite event coordinator, Tracy, was terrific. No outdoor space, but charming. It would probably be too small for 150, however (as would Tabard – our wedding was too big for there). The $10k included: food, staff, open bar, linens, tables & chairs, and champagne toast. They had iPod hook-ups, so we didn’t use a DJ.

  • Wife and I got married at a fairfax co park location, they have a few nice options:

    We booked a food truck (BBQ Bus) to do all the food and non-alcoholic drinks, bought our own beer and wine. Came in under 10k, about 90 ppl. We went minimal on the flowers, but it was outdoors in the fall, so nature provided the color.

    We skipped the cake and did gourmet s’mores over a fire pit instead. The food truck guys set that up too. People really loved that. Had vigilante do pour over coffee, was also a big hit.

  • We got married at the Carnegie Institute for Science on 16 & P in 2010. It’s a great spot – very affordable, gorgeous, and the staff is very helpful. I agree with the other commenters’ money saving measures. Weddings are such a money drain … ugh!

  • For pictures, I can’t recommend Laura at Exclamation Imagery strongly enough. She’s an amazing photographer, very easy to work with and quite reasonably priced.

  • We got married at Oxon Hill Manor: Beautiful outdoor gardens and nice interior. I can’t remember the cost, but it’s very reasonable, and there is a discount if you or a relative is MD resident. Also bought my dress for $500 at I Do I Do in Gaithersberg They have a great selection of dresses- many unworn.

  • Sunset Crest Manor in Manassas. Had our wedding there and loved it.

  • We did Top of the Town – apx 125 actual attendees for around 20k, including dinner/drinks/etc. Best view of DC, hands down. Has outdoor space, but not enough for the whole ceremony.

  • Holy hell. Forget it, honey, we’re going to the courthouse. Or having a BBQ.

  • We got married last June in the garden of the Old Stone House and it was beautiful. We only had fifteen people and ceremony was short. You are not allowed to place chairs etc and it is still open to the public but it was the perfect location for what we wanted. I think it was $200 and it is part of the Park Service.

  • My husband and I just got married at the DC WW1 Memorial in March. The permit from NPS cost $50. We had about 100 guests standing around us for our short ceremony, so we saved on chair rental. We then had a reception (more of a party, maybe) at Breadsoda in Glover Park – one of our favorite places to eat and drink. They didn’t charge a venue rental, closed to the public, and we got out of there spending about $3500 on food and limited open bar. We had a great day and put the rest of the money we were going to spend on a more grandiose affair toward our honeymoon.

  • Happy to share what I’ve learned!

    Here is my list of cool places I collected during our search (with an eye on budget):

    If you’re getting married in Borderstan:

    And some of the vendors/locations we used for our wedding:

  • My husband and I got married last May at Smokey Glen Farm in Gaithersburg, MD.

    It’s much more of an informal setting, but you can certainly dress it up a bit, and it was just what we wanted. I cannot recommend the staff there enough – there were so accommodating and amazing on the day of the wedding. They do all of the food on-site (barbeque fare but they have fancier menu options too), and you don’t pay separately for the venue. The outdoor setting is also very pretty – we had our ceremony there as well. We had 100 guests and the total wedding cost – everything including photographer, DJ, flowers, cake, dress, etc. – came in under $9000.

  • Weare having a reception for 110 people at biergardenhaus on h st ne, including food and bev for 12,000 we have to rent a tent in case of rain but the staff is great and so was our tasting

  • Saved on location by using my church. Second runners up for location would have been the University of Maryland (because I wanted something metro-able with parking) or a historic home in PG County. Beware of extra charges your location might impose. You may have to hire that location’s manager or security or perferred caterers. Then there is insurance and licenses you might have to deal with.
    Don’t go too cheap on the photographer who might be your second or 3rd highest expense. I found mine on Craigslist. Looked at his portfolio and loved the service.

  • I got married in the garden and had the reception in the restaurant. It wasn’t costly because I didn’t have to rent tables, chairs, linens etc.

  • Stroga in Adams Morgan is a spectacular venue and very very affordable.

  • Prince George’s County baby!
    here’s a list of pg parks and rec spaces

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