My big, fat, bargain wedding: First, finding a venue

This is the first part of a series on wedding planning on a reasonable budget. I hope you will join me on this journey of orchestrating the ideal wedding — without overspending.


I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect setting for my boyfriend to propose. I will never forget overlooking the ocean in Greece with thousands of tiny lights dotting other islands in the distance.

We spent the rest of our vacation savoring incredible food and enjoying the natural beauty of the country. But once we returned to the States, I switched to planning mode.

First things first: we had to find a venue. I never dreamed how difficult it would be to find a space that fit our needs. Once we narrowed down Atlanta-area spots based on size, price, dance floors, and other specifications, there were only about three to consider.

We also learned that the prices for most venue catering packages are astronomical. I can understand requiring a $100 per person package at an iconic venue like, say, the Fox Theatre. I can’t understand operations the size of my house that dictate a $12,000 food and beverage minimum.

This prompted us to choose a venue that will allow us to bring in our own vendors, which could save us thousands of dollars, according to friends who have already planned weddings.

It means more work for me, but it also means I’ll have more control over the budget — a big plus for this Bargain Hunter.

Percent of budget spent: 10

I never knew how stressful it can be to choose a reception spot. Are you in the process of searching for a reception venue? What are your criteria?

Coming next month: Choosing a caterer

Bridal discount: Get 75 percent off admission to the Bridal Extravaganza of Atlanta this month! I went to one of these a few months ago, and it really helped inspire me. Plus, you’ll get a bunch of free swag.

Venue websites: Perfect wedding guide | Atlanta Bridal | The Knot

More: Wes Moss: The cost of the royal wedding — and yours Say ‘less!’ to the dress | Clark Howard: Don’t go into debt for your wedding | Best wedding budget calculator

– By Lauren Davidson, Atlanta Bargain Hunter

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12 comments Add your comment


January 20th, 2012
3:46 pm

Lauren… is engaged?


[...] More: Planning a wedding? Me, too! Join me on my journey at My big, fat, bargain wedding. [...]


January 20th, 2012
4:36 pm

Hey Lauren, congrats on your engagement! I would definitely second bringing in aboslutely anything that you possibly can yourself (especially booze). I don’t work for Tower or anything, but we were able to bring in our own wine at our wedding and this page on their site helped us to establish how much we needed. Also, they had the best prices (with discounts by the case on top of a cash discount) of anyone else, and we shopped around the wines we wanted at a few different discount stores (Total Wine, Costco, etc.)


January 20th, 2012
4:37 pm

I’m a certified wedding coordinator and I specialize in budget weddings. I also just finished planning my own wedding. The venue I found that met my criteria which is similiar to your’s was Shamrock Community Center in Jonesboro. Google it. Bring in your own food, full kitchen, beautiful lake surrounding the area. My website is


January 20th, 2012
4:40 pm

When my (now) sister in law was planning her wedding (married two years), she went to every bridal show in town and says she won a ton of stuff such as her veil, shoes, the groom’s tux rental, save-the-date cards, etc. Her good friend is a hairdresser who was having financial problems at the time and couldn’t afford to buy a gift so she did her hair and makeup as her wedding gift. They served a small but delicious meal at the reception and chose not to serve alcohol in order to cut down on expenses. Since both the bride and groom were over 35 and had established household’s already, they asked people to contribute to their honeymoon in lieu of gift. She said most of the contributions came from out of town friends and relatives who were unable to attend the wedding.

Elizabeth Harper

January 21st, 2012
10:12 am

I can’t tell what you’re thinking of yet regarding your wedding dress, but if you’d like a vintage real satin wedding gown from the 1940s, I have a gorgeous one you can see on my blog. Best wishes to you both.


January 21st, 2012
11:29 am

I second not having alcohol to save money. We had a champange toast and everyone loved it. Also try having it before dinner so that you are not having to feed everyone a full meal.

[...] My big, fat, bargain wedding: First, finding a venueAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)I will never forget overlooking the ocean in Greece with thousands of tiny lights dotting other islands in the distance. We spent the rest of our vacation savoring incredible food and enjoying the natural beauty of the country. …and more » [...]

The Columns of GA

January 23rd, 2012
4:34 pm

Weddings in Atlanta are outrageous! My brother paid $20,000 in Norcross for my niece…with these kind of pricing the couple can’t afford their first house. Check out my venue 2 hrs south of Atlanta for around $5,000 you still can afford to charter buses to the site! or the columns of ga on facebook


January 23rd, 2012
4:53 pm

Wow…. A wedding can be expensive. It’s important to stay on a budget. If you’re looking for a good wedding videographer or a DJ. Check out They have some affordable wedding packages that won’t drain your wallet.

Wise Woman

January 23rd, 2012
5:01 pm

That Guy

January 23rd, 2012
5:06 pm

If you don’t mind going out of town, check out Gin Creek Plantation and RoseMott Vineyards in Moultrie, GA. They have reasonable rates for the wedding sites, rentals, and catering. They can accommodate dozens of people on the property for overnight stays as well as coordinate with local hotels. Their staff is on property and on call 24 hours a day. Give the DeMott brothers a call.