Couples on a budget don’t have to break the bank on their wedding venue. Especially in an age of eco-consciousness, green space is the preferred choice for a bride and groom’s special ceremony.
Luckily, in New England there is plenty of that to go around — and with a little creativity you don’t have to sacrifice elegance to make beautiful memories. Whether you have a short or long guest list, there are several low-cost or free options to reserve for anywhere from an hour to an entire day — some don’t require reservations, including some venues managed by the City of Keene.
Ashuelot River Park on West Street is available from May to mid-October for gatherings of 25 or less. There is no charge to use the space, including the gazebo, but Parks and Recreation Director Andrew Bohannon, warns it is public space and can’t technically be reserved. Also, no tents or chairs can be brought into the park. Still, he said, small weddings are quite common there.
The same goes for the Central Square bandstand. The gazebo itself can be reserved year-round — there is a $50 fee charged only to use the facility’s electricity — but the square cannot.
“Most of the time people are respectful,” said Bohannon of members of the public.
On the flip side, the amphitheater at Keene’s Robin Hood Park can be reserved, as can the city’s Butterfly Park on Marlboro Street. The amphitheater does have electricity (and again, carries a $50 for use). The Butterfly Park does not, however, there is plenty of free parking at the public works department.
Many town recreational facilities are free or available at a discounted rental rate for those who live there.
Park pavilions are plentiful in the region and are not only low-cost (usually under $100) locations for the wedding ceremony but also for the reception afterward.
Surry Mountain Lake Beach, for instance, costs from $30-$85 depending on the size of the pavilion you want to rent, with peak season being late May through early September. The area includes picnic tables, grills and plenty of paved parking, not to mention a large sandy beach on the river and open grassy areas as well as plenty of shade and views of Surry Mountain for picture-taking.
Melissa Leete, owner of My Three Girls Photography in Hinsdale, has photographed several beautiful receptions in pavilions.
“Some you wouldn’t even know that they were not being held in a ballroom at a fancy hotel; other couples hosted receptions that had a more backyard barbecue vibe,” she said. “You can decorate them a lot or even just a little, it all depends on your budget and style.”
Photographer Lee Germeroth of Keene shot a wedding under the pavilion at the Keene State College Camp on Wilson Pond in Swanzey for which the couple decorated the ceiling with draped fabric for an elegant look.
“It made the outdoor pavilion look so much better,” said Germeroth. “They also put up a chandelier. The best thing to do is to focus on the details.”
Many town recreational facilities are free or available at a discounted rental rate for those who live there. Marlborough resident Alicia Drakiotes hosted her daughter’s wedding reception at no charge at the town pavilion.
Leete has shot weddings at the gazebo at Heritage Park in Hinsdale, which also has a small pavilion on the premises. The town parks and recreation department charges $10 for use of the gazebo for a wedding ceremony and $50 to residents for the pavilion.
The Peterborough Recreation Department charges a flat rate of $20 an hour for use of either of the two gazebos at Adams Park in town with a two-hour minimum — first-come, first-served. The added amenity of hosting your wedding at a park is there are usually restroom facilities on-site.
The best thing to do if considering any of these venues for your wedding is to call the town parks and recreation department to check for availability. Beyond these suggestions, Leete offers one more: If there a location that is meaningful to you, do some research and find out if you can host your wedding there.
A couple hired her to photograph their elopement and knew of a chapel in the woods at Living Memorial Park in Brattleboro that was available for free.
“It was especially memorable to me because of the intimacy of the ceremony,” she said. “The only attendants were the couple, the officiant and myself, quietly capturing a beautiful and one of the most important memories in the couple’s life.”
She more recently photographed a wedding at an apple orchard another couple used to frequent while dating. They simply asked the owners if they could have their wedding there and were permitted to have their ceremony in the middle of the orchard at no charge.
“The views were breathtaking, and a bride wouldn’t have even known about the location if they were searching online because it was not a wedding venue,” she said. “All you have to do is ask.”
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