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Planning a wedding at a venue deemed “nontraditional” is becoming more and more common these days. In an effort to stand out, couples are hosting their “I dos” on waterfront beaches, on the peaks of mountains, and even on the historical grounds of national landmarks.

For tips on making sure your day runs smoothly—with the added feature of an unusual setting—we sought advice from industry experts who know a thing or about planning events at unforgettable locations.  To avoid any last-minute stress or unnecessary rushing on your big day, scoping out your desired venue before walking down the aisle is a must, as well as spotlighting architectural features that make your venue unique. Read on for more expert advice on seamlessly hosting your wedding at a site that’s as original as the day itself.

Create distinct areas

Photo by Jessica Burke

“Even though more and more couples are choosing wineries as the setting for their wedding, the terrain and landscape of this nontraditional venue can pose unique challenges,” says Alicia Falango, owner of Alicia K Designs. “For this wedding, setting up a structure that served as the reception area really helped to identify the space for seating and entertainment,” Falango adds. Embellishing the structure with greenery and white curtains lent a sophisticated style to the addition.

Scope out your space

Working with an unconventional venue (not your typical hotel or private residence) can mean limited space and rooms for you and your bridal party to get ready. “To avoid any last-minute stress or unnecessary rushing on your big day, we recommend scoping out the available space your venue provides for hair and makeup before your actual wedding day,” suggests Linsey Snyder Wachalter, owner ofFace Time Beauty Concierge. Allocate plenty of extra space for members of your wedding party to prepare pre-ceremony.

Evaluate your terrain

Photo by Gavin Farrington Photography

It’s important to consider the natural elements you and your guests might encounter when hosting an outdoor wedding,” says Christina Millikin, owner of Glow Events. “Make sure to walk the entire ceremony area to check for slopes or dips in the ground as this will affect the types of seating you can use and the location of the aisle,” Millikin adds. It’s also important to think about the sun and wind and if you need to have covered areas to keep your guests cool and protected.

Let your venue speak for itself

In an indoor venue already equipped with beautiful decor, make sure not to crowd the space with unnecessary items. “When you’re planning a wedding at an art museum, you never know what exhibits will be in place on your big day,” says Beth Bernstein, owner and event director at SQN Events.  “Keep your decor minimal and embrace a neutral color scheme—it will work with anything from Monet to Andy Warhol.”

Work with a tent

Photo by Paul Barnett Photography

You don’t have to rent a grand sailcloth tent to consider a tented area. “Some of the most standout tents are those that include elegant draping with open sides and semi-open covers,” suggests Merilee Hennings, owner of EverAfter Events. Tents are such a great way to adapt your unique venue to fit all of your hosting needs. Whether you want to completely cover your outdoor space or leave points of exposure, you can easily transform your tented area to fit any weather, decor, or spatial needs.

Choose Iconic City Venues

“Chicago is home to many of America’s earliest architectural innovations and accomplishments, which is why I love when couples choose to use one of our more storied buildings in the city, like the Chicago History Museum,” says Kent Drake, owner of Kent Drake Photography. “Whether it’s portraits or contemporary decor, the beauty of this Federal Style building does not begin or end at the face, showing off handmade American craftsmanship from a bygone era,” Drake adds. Depending on the time of your nuptials, capture photos that embrace the uniqueness of both the exterior and interior of your chosen venue.

Consider a Rooftop

Photo by Fred Marcus Studio

“For city nuptials, marrying in a venue high above street level is a unique way to showcase your chosen city and its breathtaking skyline,” recommends Leah Hoos, director of catering at Mandarin Oriental New York. “Not only does it provide a scenic backdrop to your day, but it also gives your guests a unique view and perspective.” Day or night, capturing the exclusive backdrop of your city will create a memorable moment for you and your spouse and generate stunning photos.

Incorporate Flooring

Photo by Hello Blue Photo

Having a beach wedding can make your special day that much more romantic and magical. That said, creating a comfortable atmosphere for you and your guests can sometimes be a challenge. “To make sure that your wedding day runs smoothly, we suggest having a flooring structure installed for the ceremony and reception to craft a seamless day of celebration,” says  Amy Marella, owner of The Hidden Garden, who installed breathtaking white flooring to flow effortlessly with this ceremony’s white color palette.  

Adapt Your Site

When catering at a location not usually furnished with an industrial kitchen, make sure you bring any equipment you may need to your venue prior to the day of. “Scouting out your venue for proper electrical requirements and other logistics will guarantee that your day runs smoothly,” advises Carla Ruben, president and creative director of Creative Edge Parties. Depending on the magnitude of your guest list, make sure to plan accordingly to accommodate all party sizes. Scoping out your venue in advance will guarantee there are no surprises (like a shortage of plugs, food, or equipment) on the day of.

Spotlight Standout Features

Photo by JSP Studio

“Hosting your wedding at a venue like the New York Public Library presents the opportunity for a one-of-a-kind event,” offers Kerri-Lynn Mulhearn, owner of Stella Day Events. Make sure to get the most out of your unique space by hosting elements of your day (cocktail hour, ceremony, reception) in areas that showcase your venue’s exclusive architectural features and distinct sites. For this couple, the nooks and crannies of this exclusive New York venue provided the perfect backdrop for their city nuptials.

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