Your second most important decision (after you’ve said “YES!!”)  is WHERE you’re going to say it. Your budget, the size of your guest list, and seasonal and local availability will all be factors in the selection of venues appropriate for your wedding, but New Jersey has a wealth of great ceremony venues.

I have yet to have a couple  ask me  how to find an outrageously expensive venue, so I’d like to provide a few ideas for locating good value venues based upon my experience officiating over 500 weddings in New Jersey and New York.

1. Civic Centers, Park Pavilions, and other public facilities: Check with your municipal, county and state Parks & Recreation department. Gorgeous historical mansions can be found for a song! (This beautiful photo is from Brian Friedman, in Central Park’s Cop Cot.)

2. Fraternal Lodges: Elk, Moose, VFW, Knights of Columbus, etc.: Look on their national websites to find a location near you.

3. Community Clubhouses (apartment, condo, neighborhood): Ask friends and family who live in communities with clubhouses to sponsor you.

4. Public Gardens: Check your local listings (on-line and yellow pages)

5. Performing Arts Centers: Check your local listings (on-line and yellow pages)

6. Private Homes: Home weddings can be absolutely lovely, but do come with their own set of challenges because they are not created to be event venues. Here are some ideas for making a home a suitable wedding venue.

7. Museums and Art Galleries: You might be surprised at how reasonable a museum or gallery can be, especially if they are not known for being a wedding venue and would appreciate the incremental income. Check your local listings (on-line and yellow pages)

8. Business Meeting Space: Ask friends or family if they work at or know of a business in town that has hall space and might be willing to rent it after hours. For example, my town clerk’s office  has a fabulous meeting area they rent out for weddings at a phenomenally inexpensive rate, but they don’t advertise. You have to know they are there.

9. Unitarian Universalist congregations are often willing to rent their space to non-members at reasonable rates.

10. Unusual Venues: Be creative and think about places you have been that might make a nice wedding and/or reception venue. These can be especially meaningful if they are associated with your relationship. For example, I have officiated weddings at a local nursery where the groom shopped frequently (the plants made a naturally gorgeous background), a bowling alley where the bride and groom met and played in several leagues, a zoo where the couple volunteered, and a marina where the couple fished regularly. In a few of these instances, the bride and groom didn’t have to pay a dime because the venue wanted the publicity. It never hurts to ask.

and a BONUS!  11. Colleges, Universities and Independent Schools; many schools (Including NJ’s own Rutgers University) have galleries, chapels and libraries that are magnificent, and very often they are available to the general public.