Finding your Raleigh, Durham, Cary or Chapel Hill NC Wedding Venue
If you’re getting married in North Carolina, picking a wedding venue might be tough. But, that’s only because of the endless possibilities! You will be amazed by the wide range of event spaces available for NC weddings.
Our state has something for every couple – historic mansions, rustic barns, restored industrial warehouses, fairy-tale castles, resorts overlooking the ocean, and modern art museums. All of these event locations are high quality event spaces and are staffed by professionals.
On this page, we’re talking about how much to budget, when to book, and some of the most important considerations when you’re on the hunt for the perfect event space for your NC wedding!
How Much does a Wedding Venue Cost in NC?
Planning Your Budget
Plan your budget along with your venue research, since this is the foundation of your wedding day and the core of your wedding costs. You may have no idea where to begin and be surprised by the cost of some of your favorite event spaces. The type of NC wedding venue you choose should not be based on your budget. Instead, shift your perspective to seek a venue that’s worth what you’re spending.
Expect to spend about 60% of their reception budget on the venue and meal. We cluster this together because some locations include food and/or drinks – so it’s important to factor this in when you are touring. But note, your wedding venue might include other items that could be taken into account too. In other words, they might package in certain items that would otherwise need to be rented, sound equipment, or sometimes even a valet!
The cost of event venues in the Triangle and throughout NC vary based on popularity, in-house inclusions, location, day of week, and time of year. For example, a facility that is located in the heart of downtown may charge a higher rate than a farm venue that’s an hour outside of the area. On average, event space rentals cost about $7,500. However, costs for wedding venues in Raleigh vary between $3,000 and $12,000.
Planning Your Guest Count
Be prepared to provide your guest count to your venue when you tour. Food, drink, and most rentals can only be chosen and calculated with a solidified count. Likewise, the guest count is the single best way to predict wedding cost. So consider, is it important for you (or your mama) to have every friend, family member and co-worker at your wedding? Or, is an intimate occasion with quality time with each guest more appealing to you? We recommend planning out an A, B, and possibly a C list too. Use your A list to budget, and your B/C list as your reserves.
When Should I Book my Wedding Venue?
The wedding location is the base of your event, and it sets the stage for your overall wedding theme. Many top venues are booking one year to 18 months out. Of course, this is especially true in peak seasons of spring and fall. Therefore, touring your favorite event spaces should be at the top of your wedding checklist.
But don’t fret if you are hoping to get married soon. Many NC wedding venues offer elopement or micro wedding specials. Plus, there are countless new wedding venues opening up in Raleigh, Durham, Cary and throughout the Heart of NC. Contact these locations and ask if they have quick-turnaround availablity.
Also, the pandemic changed the way people do weddings. There are more Friday and Sunday, and even weekday weddings than ever before. Since so many people now work from home, hosting a wedding on a Monday is a great option! We encourage you to remain flexible on dates and locations as you consider options – especially if you want to save money or plan a quicker turnaround event.
How to Find the Right Wedding Venue for You
Now that you know your budget and desired timeline, it’s time to start picturing the location. To begin, consider your preferences. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Do you want to have a ceremony at an outdoor garden, house of worship, or at the same location as the reception?
- Similarly, do you want to be able to get ready at the same location where the wedding is taking place? What about hair and makeup styling? If so, you’ll want to ask venues you tour about getting ready spaces.
- What’s your priority – dance party, or multi-course meal?
- Is outdoor space for the ceremony or any part of the reception important to you?
- Do you have guests traveling from afar, and if so, how close is your venue to the airport and overnight accommodations?
- Do you have any guests with special needs such as dietary restrictions or handicap accessibility to consider?
- Is it going to be a problem for you to select (and budget for) all of your vendors and rentals a la carte, or does an inclusive venue sound more convenient?
- What venue style draws you in – edgy industrial, rooftop views, minimalistic, rustic barn, or classic club?
Researching Wedding Venues in Raleigh, Durham, Cary and Chapel Hill NC
Perhaps you’ve already been following your favorite wedding venues on Instagram for months. Or, maybe you have a place in mind because you attended an event there. Still, we encourage you to do a good bit more research before you start touring. We guarantee there are dozens of venues that you don’t know about yet. Plus, one of them might just be even a better fit than anything you’ve seen so far!
Website & Social Media Research
We have so many tools at our fingertips to figure out what different styles of weddings might look like at locations you’re considering. Just remember, over the top weddings are the norm on Instagram and Pinterest. Make sure you love the look of your venue with any level of decor, and every time of day!
Consider Reviews – with a Grain of Salt
Most wedding-specific websites only publish positive reviews, and vendors can take down negative ones.
The best place to look up reviews is Google, but take them with a grain of salt. Many of the reviews on Google are unfair due to cranky pandemic couples. We believe you should evaluate a venue on the basis of your interaction with them. Venue coordinators who are friendly and responsive during pre-sale are likely to be the same during planning, too.
Styles to Consider
Outdoor Wedding Venues in NC
If you’re looking for an outdoor wedding, you’re in luck. North Carolina has plenty of outdoor wedding venues to choose from. From gardens, parks, and river fronts to the beautiful mountains of western NC. The first thing you should do is make a list of what you’re hoping to get out of your outdoor wedding.
- Do you want an open-air ceremony under twinkle lights?
- Do you want a coastal beach reception?
- Are you hoping to have a reception in a blooming meadow?
- Is the ambiance of waterfront views what you imagine?
If you are planning an outdoor wedding, you must pick a location that has a backup space indoors, or book a tent. Be forewarned, tented weddings are not more affordable than renting a venue. You’ll need to construct an entire venue – that means flooring, temperature control, and even bathrooms if they are not on-site. But, tented weddings are incredibly beautiful, and our local experts can provide all of the above!
Dozens of the wedding venues on our website have outdoor features that can be used for ceremony or cocktail hour. Yes, that includes our downtown recommendations! So be sure to dig deep when you’re searching our guide.
NC Beach Wedding Venues
Beach weddings come with their own set of rules. Permitting varies by beach. The ideal option is to rent a house or book a wedding venue that has a portion of beach it can authorize for your ceremony. Obviously, weather is a huge factor for these events. We strongly advise an interior backup plan.
Hotels and clubs are still a go-to when it comes to venues that have great all-inclusive packages. These locations already have tables, chairs, flatware, food and beverage in-house. So, when they quote you they typically package it all together. Keep in mind, they typically add gratuity.
That being said, many event spaces include a variety of items. For example, some might take care of your bar package. Others might have tables and chairs.
Downtown Wedding Venues
Having a downtown wedding in Raleigh, Charlotte or Durham is loads of fun! There is plenty of entertainment built in for the wedding weekend.
The most typical style of downtown venues in North Carolina are restored warehouse locations – which make amazing event spaces. But there are also chic hotels, museums, restaurants, courtyards and even historic homes!
Offer room blocks within walking distance to the event. But, don’t forget about your locals. Parking is one obstacle to consider in downtown. Another thing to keep in mind is you might have to be more flexible on your date of choice if you want a downtown wedding. These venues tend to book up quickly!
Outer-City Wedding Venues
Smaller towns across NC such as New Bern, Lexington, Apex and Hillsborough are growing. Along with them, wedding venues are popping up! What could be more charming than a small town destination?
Additionally, there are many remote areas in NC that have wedding venues that you don’t want to nix from your radar.
The biggest advantage to getting out of the city is the scenery. NC has stunning landscapes from farmlands to meadows to mountains. These locations typically have fewer restrictions than downtown venues in terms of sound ordinances. The biggest drawback is simply distance. You’ll want to recommend nearby accommodations, and consider booking a party bus from the hotel.
Research Your Options
Heart of NC Weddings Tips: How to Win at Your Venue Tour
Our Heart of NC Weddings team has been in this industry for a LONG TIME – to the tune of three and a half decades! Therefore, we’ve seen countless picture perfect NC weddings. But we’ve also heard from many couples who have one or two regrets. Or, we’ve heard from wedding vendor teams who cringe at the way certain choices affected their big day. We don’t want that for you, so here’s our final few tips.
- The most common “mistake” we see is couples blowing their entire wedding budget on the venue. For example, if your reception budget is $20,000, and you tour a venue that’s $10,000 for the space, you cannot afford this venue. Alternatively, if you tour a venue that costs $12,000 for the event space plus food and drink, that is actually within your budget. When couples make this mistake, they end up having to skimp on things such as food, drinks, decor and entertainment – and they regret it. And typically, they still have to go way over budget, which is also a common regret!
- When you are considering whether your event will fit into a particular event space, make sure to heed the venue manager’s advice on capacity. There is almost always a maximum capacity and that does NOT take tables, buffet or dance floor into consideration. After the maximum capacity, the venue will share the “optimal” capacity. This is the number you should go with. Trust us, trying to squeeze 150 into a room that is better suited to 100 is not going to be your ideal experience.
- Think about your venue coordinator as the expert on your event space. The advice they give – from vendor recommendations to floor plan advice – comes from real life experience. They have your best interest in mind, as well as the best interest of the vendor team and the event itself.