Types of Wedding Venues—From the Expected to Nontraditional

September 23, 2022

Destination Wedding Photographer | Types of Wedding Venues Around the World | Creative Wedding Photographer New York

Looking for ideas on where to get married? This extensive list of different types of wedding venues ranges from classic wedding venues to the unexpected: Think alpaca farms, Ferris wheel pods, bookstores, and more

Types of Wedding Venues: Which is Right for You?

Gone are the days when everyone gets married in a church and then celebrates in a banquet hall. While standard celebrations may work for most of the world population, couples everywhere are shunning tradition and making their own rules.

So, scroll on to see wedding venue ideas you likely never even considered!

Why a Non Traditional Wedding Venue?

I’m a nontraditional wedding photographer and elopement photographer, and as you can imagine, the clients who hire me are not your average couple. They’re fun, diverse, creative, and unique, and they definitely don’t want the same ol’ cookie-cutter wedding. As a destination wedding photographer based in New York and California–and who has captured couples on every continent except Antarctica–I wanted to give couples idea for all the different types of wedding venues out there.

My images reflect a very non traditional style, and besides–how much purple uplighting with mediocre food can your guests take?? My clients have gotten married on private islands, at sculpture parks, on underwater adventure shoots, riding ski lifts up mountaintops, and so much more.

If you’re starting the wedding planning process and want to look at every type of wedding venue out there, this comprehensive list has it all.

A Mystic Seaport wedding at the Brant Point Lighthouse, Connecticut. Below, L to R: Downtown Los Angeles; Garden of the Gods, Colorado; Sand Dollar Estate, U.S. Virgin Islands

All this to say: Of all the days, your wedding is the day to be totally you! Let this list of the coolest types of wedding venues inspire you to do things your way.

There’s no need to settle for what your parents and grandparents did when there are festivals, castles, amusement parks, and mountaintops all available for your celebration. Right? Right.

So, without further ado, this is your ultimate types of wedding venues listing: nearly all the types of wedding venues you could possible imagine, starting with the MOST traditional wedding venues, and ending with very quirky, one-of-a-kind wedding venues (updated as needed):

Types of Wedding Venues
(from the most traditional to the most non-traditional)

Church/Temple/Mosque – People typically get married in the churches they grew up going to, but there’s such a range of places of worship to say your vows. Some are tiny and built of stone, some are sparse and minimal—no shoes allows—others are massive with sunlight streaming through stained glass, and still others are ornately decorated with gold-gilded bits. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s a place that means a lot to you (and not just to your parents).

Banquet Hall – One .”of the easier places to get married, a banquet hall has all the chairs, linens, and food you could need. They’re used to pumping out the goods. Beware that hot pink uplighting, though, and don’t be surprised if they rush you through the motions because they’ve hosted so many celebrations. Still, some are lovely!

Hotel – For convenience, there’s no place like a hotel to party and then stay, which means your party is not only safe (no drunk driving risks), but you can go as late as you want! And before you say no, don’t just think about a Motel 8. There are incredible hotels all around the world, and many offer weddings for free if you stay there—like this Sandals Jamaica wedding venue, or Hotel Andeluz in New Mexico—wow! 

Resort – Want to give your guests the option to spend time together or do actual activities? Get a room block at a resort, and they’ll take care of most of your wedding planning, too. The Sagamore on Lake George, NY is a beautiful place for wedding photos (especially in fall—I love it here!), or try Rock Creek Resort in Montana, or a childhood favorite of mine: Smuggler’s Notch in Vermont.

Winery/Vineyard – While so many dream of a Napa or Sonoma wedding (which I’ve photographed quite a bit!), there are also vineyards all over the country and world. Get married at a vineyard in rural France, say your vows in the Chilean desert at a winery, or look for a local spot where the grape vines will make for a perfect backdrop and drinking.

Barn – The number of barn wedding venues in New York State alone is staggering, and when you count barns within wedding venues in Washington, Colorado, Ohio, or basically any state, you’ll get into the hundreds. With so many choices and such a range of personality, you’re bound to feel cozy at such a venue.

Country Club/Golf Course – With tons of space and guaranteed green, a country club/golf course wedding venue can be found almost anywhere. If you love to golf, it’s also a great way to get in a round the morning of your vows!

Beach – If you’ve always loved the beach, why not get married on it? There are 22 U.S. states with beaches, and nearly all of them have good weather and beautiful beaches to celebrate on (at least part of the year). Plus, there are U.S. regions that don’t count as states with the BEST beaches (Puerto Rico and
the U.S. Virgin Islands), and plenty of locations around the world with mind-blowing beaches. Haiti, Bermuda, Sint Maarten, or the Caymen Islands are just a short plane ride away, while Tahiti wedding venues, vows in the Seychelles, and ceremonies in South Africa are calling as well.

Backyard – For $0 and no reservations needed, backyards were the most popular place to get married during ‘Rona. Even now with people out and about again, more and more couples are staying home and having everyone join them. And while your backyard may be tiny or massive, there’s nothing an arch and some local flowers can’t make better!

Mansion – Is grandeur and upscale architecture your thing? A mansion wedding venue like Wadsworth Mansion in Connecticut or Cairnwood Estate in Pennsylvania is a great match.

Restaurant/Pizza Shop – If you care about good food and want a more intimate wedding, consider renting out a restaurant. The food will be SO much better than catered food, with lots more choice and higher quality since it’s made right there. Plus, the overall cost will be a lot more affordable. Many places offer backyards or decks, and watching your own pizza get made is *kisses*

Museum – Science museums. Art museums. Outdoor museums. Whatever you fancy, you can probably get married in one—and use everything around you to take some unique wedding photos. Heck, you could even get married at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Alabama, and that is a darn cool place. 

Farm – While many barn wedding venues are on farms, many are more venue than farm, with no animals nor gardens. With a farm wedding venue, you actually get to see the animals, equipment, gardens, and more while enjoying the wide-open space

Garden – It’s hard to beat a botanical garden for beautiful wedding venues settings, and I can’t think of prettier, manicured locations than the New York Botanical Garden, Portland Japanese Garden, Atlanta Botanical Garden, or Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. 

Park Pavilion – Have a local park you love? For probably $200, you can rent a pavilion and save thousands on site fees and chair rentals. Low-key and DIY—what’s not to love?

AirBnB – Check the legalities of having your wedding at an AirBnB (it’s allowed in some places and not in others; just email the host to find out right away), and if it’s a yes, you can save tons of money and stress by just renting an awesome place for the weekend. It’s a choose-your-own adventure with all the DIY you could ever want!

Castle – So many dream of getting married in a castle, and now it’s easy to—and you don’t even have to go to Europe or England! There are exquisite historical castles all over the world, but if you want it in the USA, pretty much every state has one—especially Texas, New York, and Connecticut. Don’t ask me why, but there are dozens of fantastic castles in these three states alone, including Bill Miller’s Castle, Saint Clement’s Castle, and Oheka Castle with their gardens that I love shooting in. Be warned that most castle wedding venues come at a steep price. Then again, it ain’t your typical wedding venue. Live a little!

AquariumNot all aquariums are evil, and some actually do incredible research to keep our oceans clean and thriving. If you find one you trust, having an aquarium wedding like those at the Mystic
Aquarium in Connecticut is a great way to celebrate at an incredibly unique venue. Hey baby beluga!

Brewery/bar – In 2022, brewery weddings took off, as couples decided to have more laid-back weddings
where beer was the rule, not the exception. One of my brides I photographed this year literally said, when asked why they picked Arrowood Farms & Brewery for their wedding, “Uh, I…really like beer. And I wanted something relaxed and easy!” That about sums it up. I have several beer wedding days to photograph this year, and the couples are…well, chill.

Cruise – Whether you get married on the ship or off the ship, it’s a great way to celebrate the
entire week—and at unique ports of call.

Zoo – The fun and quirkiness of a zoo for your wedding is doable in many places! If you support your local zoo or animal center, you can probably get married there. Reptacular Ranch in LA is a great place for rehabilitated animals, while a Bronx Zoo wedding is popular here in New York City.

Courthouse – In recent years, what used to be the only way to elope has become a full-on upscale location. Courthouse wedding venues in Miami, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, San Francisco, and Denver all top the list for gorgeous settings with the registrar right there. Darn you, my home state of California, for having too many pretty ones to list! Courthouse weddings = efficient with an officiant. Sorry.

Summer Camp – Did you know you can actually rent out summer camps for weddings? Not only is it nostalgic, but it’s a great way to have activities like archery and boating right at your fingertips—not to mention housing for very little. Bring the blankets and s’mores.

Sculpture Park – Those with a taste for the weird and wonderful will love sculpture parks and their zaniness. Typically all outdoors and full of personality, a sculpture park wedding like Storm King Arts Center will give your guests tons to look at throughout your wedding.

Greenhouse – Beauty and simplicity are brought to life with a wedding in a greenhouse. Even if it’s raining outside, you’ll get plenty of natural light along with an interior full of [plant] life. I love Audrey’s Farmhouse Greenhouse wedding venue in New York; the magnificent Madison Hotel wedding venue in New Jersey with their two-story greenhouse for ceremonies, and the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago.

Campground – Gather around and camp/RV it for a long weekend, and it will be amazing. My last campground wedding was a delightful 4-day fest with fishing, boating, potlucks, a portable pizza oven, hiking, and more—including a ceremony in the forest. If you love camping, this is an affordable and super-fun way to wed. Or go for upscale glamping, renting out the entire Open Sky Zion in Utah, and stare at the stars in cozy cabins. 

Safari – A safari wedding venue is not always easy to find—and pretty much only exists in Africa—but boy will it be unforgettable! If you say your vows at a lodge like Lake Serena Lodge in Uganda, South Africa, or Tanzania, you’re actually likely to spot elephants, giraffes, or warthogs during the ceremony. Plus, with armed guards at your side, you can get once-in-a-lifetime shots of you with wild animals right behind you. Talk about unique!

Mission – These old stone houses of worship, primarily in California, are some of the most popular places to get married these days. Stunning architecture in a semi-sacred space, surrounded by lush gardens—well, it’s no wonder mission wedding venues—all 21 of them in California and more from Arizona to Florida, plus Central America—are incredibly popular.

National Park – Gaining in popularity since 2000 and too popular in Covid times, nation park weddings
and elopements are so common, parks have had to put in crazy permit restrictions to limit weddings in their parks. All to say, the U.S. National Parks are part of what makes this country so beautiful, and if you’re able to apply early and snag a permit (I love photographing national parks weddings in Acadia
National Park, Yosemite National Park, Arches National Park, Haleakala National Park, and more), enjoy your AMAZING location and treat the place with respect (Leave No Trace). You’ll have photos that will make everyone jealous, and your guests will get to explore a majestic place.

Boat/Yacht – Why not rent out your own boat for your vows? Dinner cruises are affordable to buy out,
and you don’t have to worry about timing, logistics, chairs, or catering since it’s all included.

Woods – go for free woods (in your backyard or down the street), an affordable woodsy wedding
venue (Redwoods wedding venues like Roberts Regional Park in Oakland, California are just a few hundred dollars), or a high-end private wedding venue with manicured grounds and gorgeous woods, like the sought-after Nestldown in NorCal.

Llama Farm – Alpacas, llamas, and miniature horses grew incredibly popular in the late 2010s, and now you can have these furry animals at your wedding.

Orchard – Yes, you can get married in an orchard. Think almond blossoms, apple trees, and pick-your-own peaches. The setting is always beautiful in season, and you can get a very affordable and DIY orchard venue!

Helicopter to Island/Glacier/Mountain Location – Helicopter weddings are incredible, so to celebrate
in a location that’s only accessible via heli is one way to have a unique wedding no one will forget! While you’re doing portraits with your photographer, the helicopter can take off and bring your guests on over for a microwedding. Yes, I really photograph helicopter weddings and do this!

Historical Home – From Charleston, South Carolina to Penang, Malaysia, historical homes abound with restored features, old-growth trees, and beautiful grounds and architecture.

Shed/Garage – Converted buildings are perfect for couples into the industrial look. Check out the Senate Garage wedding venue in Putnam, New York, with grunge and a cool vibe.

Nuclear Bunker – Yup, you can actually rent out some darn unusual places for your wedding. If you embrace the eerie lighting, well hey—you don’t have to worry about bad weather.

Airplane Hangar – Not only will your photo ops be awesome, your guests will love walking around and
exploring airplanes and aviation history. Try Helicopters, Inc in St. Louis, Missouri, or Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in Oregon.

Animal Sanctuary – How about celebrating your wedding and helping animals at the same time? Though it will be a bit smelly, an animal sanctuary wedding with the option to help take care of furry friends is affordable, unique, and helpful to all.

Arboretum/Audobon Society – Be surrounded by nature in an unconventional wedding venue: An
arboretum! Try the Dallas Arboretum for the stuff of fairy tales: Intertwined branches forming a green space all around you, like getting married in a nature tunnel. 

Yacht Club – Like boats but not really one for a boat wedding? Rent out a yacht club space and
get an upscale maritime setting without ever getting wet. Riverside Yacht Club in Greenwich, Connecticut lets you say your vows just steps from the water.

Cave/Cavern – Popular in Mexico and Peru, you can say your vows under the guidance of a shaman—complete with offerings, cleansing, and blessings. Simply magical, though much better for very intimate weddings or elopements.

Amusement park – For the kids in everyone, it’s hard to think of something more fun than a wedding with roller coaster rides! Get married at Disney like so many do, or gather your loved ones at a local fair like The Big E in Massachusetts.

Old bank – In many older cities like Troy/Albany, NY sit old banks that are converted wedding venues and event spacesPlaces aren’t built like this anymore, which is a shame–you’ll love the ornate ceilings and history, as well as the old bank vaults you can still want into!

Treehouse – If you’re like me, you love treehouses and the quirkiness of swinging bridges and hidden
rooms. Why not get married in one and then honeymoon in the trees? There are incredible ones that you can find on AirBnB, like the one I stayed at in North Carolina with beds, multiple ladders, and a 2-story treehouse in multiple trees.

Lighthouse – Whether in Nantucket, Mystic Seaport, or the unique coral lighthouse in Jupiter,
Florida, you can celebrate at some lovely lighthouses all around the world. New Zealand, Scotland, Greece, Argentina, and even India all have incredible lighthouses that make for stunning and historical photos.

Merry-Go-Round – Whimsy is wonderful when you have old-school carousels to ride! Imagine getting
married at a carousel wedding venue and hopping on in your dress, jumpsuit, or suit? Super fun, and very nostalgic—so you might as well hire a cotton candy vendor or Good Humor ice cream truck to complete the vibe (and sugar intake). The Bear Mountain Merry-Go-Round in New York is often rented as a carousel wedding venue, as is Jane’s Carousel in Brooklyn, or Glen Echo Park in Maryland. There are far more venues with merry-go-rounds than you’d suspect, so keep your eyes peeled for them.

Festival/Fair – You’ve heard of Burning Man and Renaissance fairs, but in the UK especially, festival weddings are quite the rage, with great music, sparklers, confetti, sequins, glitter…you get the idea. The colors are wild and the vibe is such fun.

Covered Bridge – The Artist’s Covered Bridge in Maine is owned by the state of Maine—yet they kindly
allow you to reserve this piece of hanging history and actually rent out the bridge for your wedding and/or reception! Talk about a different type of wedding venues…

Library – Whether a book nerd or not, libraries can be works of art in their own right. Certain historical libraries can be rented out after hours for celebrations and functions of all types, so if a Library wedding venue piques your interest, check out the famous and outstanding Peabody Library in Maryland.

Theater – With theaters (both movie and stage) closing in large numbers, leases are often happy to rent out for events. Look at it this way: No one will have to crane their necks to see you since you’ll be right up on stage!

Ice Cream Joint – If you love it, they’ll probably rent it. Many gelato/water ice/frozen custard joints are already decorated (think retro, cute, or modern), so all you have to do is not be lactose intolerant and say your vows! But seriously, an ice cream wedding venue sounds right up my alley (I’m kind of known on Instagram as posting more ice cream stories than anyone, and I even have my own pro ice cream machine).

Ballparks (Red Sox & 49ers) – Sports fans can rent some pretty darn famous arenas for their celebrations. I’ve photographed private events in the swanky upper bar areas of the 49ers stadium, and you can rent lots of fields all around the country—even for a proposal!

Mountains – It could be a local hike, a rocky outcropping, or a state park. Wherever it is, it’s likely a.) affordable, and b.) minimalist. A hiking wedding can be beautiful, and really about the people you’ve invited and the views. Summertime, winter snowshoeing, or fall foliage—you’ll get to bring a handful of guests to a place you love.

Bull Arena – Common in parts of Europe, you can actually rent a few incredible arenas and have a massive space to yourself, complete with underground tunnels and walkways. Perfect for the very nontraditional wedding and mysterious couple.

Bookstore – If you have an independent bookstore you absolutely love, why not ask the owner for permission to celebrate there? Best of all, your wedding favors will actually be used. Let your guests pick a free book, and put it on your book tab.

Taco Stop/Burger Joint – In-N-Out Burger weddings and Taco Bell elopements are definitely a thing these days. For foodies who want to say “I do” and then scarf down some grub, what could possibly be more convenient?

Ferris Wheel – Go to Vegas and take 40 guests with you to get married IN a ferris wheel vestibule. The giant The Linq in Las Vegas gives you an incredible unique wedding experience while you say your vows on solid ground—but in the sky. And the views! 

Cenote – Yup, you can get married at a cenote (tropical blue-green sinkholes in Mexico that were formed when caves collapsed, and now used for swimming, snorkeling, cliff jumping, and more) like Cenote Zacil-Ha in Quintana-Roo, Mexico. Most cenotes are located in the Yucatan, which is Mexico’s Caribbean-side land. I love, love, love swimming in cenotes whenever I’m in Mexico, and can’t think of a more unique Tulum wedding location that at a cenote, where you can jump in right after. Okay, most won’t, but you could.

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The Ultimate Resource for all the Different Types of Wedding Venues

I hope this ultimate resource for all the wacky, zany, unique, and different types of wedding venues has been helpful for you, but the buck doesn’t stop here. Reach out to wedding vendors, research using Google Maps, and look up non-wedding events to really think out of the box.

Of course, where you’ll be getting married can be either your starting point (e.g. I must have my grandma there, and so my wedding venue must be within a 1-hour drive of where she currently resides), or your end point (I love the unknown and no crowds, so I’m going to elope in a helicopter on an Alaskan glacier). What’s important is that you do what you want, and not what some relative desires, or what you think you’re “supposed” to do. Beauty is all in the eye of the beholder, and if you feel like having a 20-person wedding on a boat or a 350-person wedding on your family farm, I hope you make it happen.

Because I’ve photographed hundreds of unique weddings and events around the world, this is just a smattering of the wedding venues I’m familiar with. Feel free to contact me to ask me specifics about the different types of wedding venues that are possible, or about specifics if you have a season/location/want and I might have ideas.

If you’re stuck on the right type of wedding venue for your and your partner, consider the types of activities, events, or even vacations you’ve loved in the past. Was it low-key? Was it formal? Traditional? Completely random? Polarizing? Funky and fun? Writing down a list of the moments that have been incredibly memorable to you may be the best way to think up the right wedding venue.

Instead of typing in “unique wedding venues” or “non traditional wedding vnues, go scour the internet for non-wedding venues, activities you enjoy, and festivals. You may just find the location of your dreams~

Kathryn Cooper Weddings: Nontraditional wedding photographer | Unique wedding venues | Wedding venues around the world | Different types of wedding venues

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Pretty extensive list going on here! I would love to see some blogs as sub categories of this though, like break it down into smaller chunks, and you can redirect people there. For example, if I love lakeside private properties, I could go through to a dedicated page about lakeside private properties, suggested timelines etc, that would be epic! Thanks so much for the amazing info, and the mazing piccies!

So many interesting places to have a wedding. And some I would never have thought of–like a nuclear bunker!!

OKAY I am absolutely obsessed with your work– especially the international ones!! Cheers to venues besides barns! 🙂

It would never occur to me to think of an elopement in a nuclear bunker or a museum – so many cool and refreshing ideas here, super inspiring!

I did not know there are so many options for venues! There are locations I’ve never considered as wedding venues! This is so helpful for couples who are looking for a wedding venue that reflects their unique personality!

What a great list!! There are so many ideas here that many people may not have even thought of. Great for anyone getting started on planning their wedding!

So many amazing options for a wedding venue. Love how you included traditional options as well as unique ones that couples might never think of. So helpful!

I absolutely love this list! So many awesome ideas, you literally could not ask for a more comprehensive list of ideas!


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