5 best U.S. cities for a destination wedding on a budget

Steve Terrill / Today
South Waterfront Park in Portland, Oregon. With no sales tax, your wedding budget can stretch a long way in this Northwest city.

A destination wedding doesn’t have to take place in a far-flung locale to feel magical. An urban setting closer to home can host a glamorous event that’s more affordable. has chosen five of the best cities for a cheap destination wedding. Our methodology included scouring various “cheap cities” lists, including rankings of the best vacation cities for those on a budget (which generally factor in hotels, food, and entertainment). We gave extra credit to cities with large, hub airports likely to have affordable incoming flights from around the country. We also looked at average transportation costs and state and local tax rates. We even considered the cities’ music scenes (who doesn’t love a live band?). If you have ties to one of these cites, or maybe a favorite memory there with your fiancé, consider putting together a cheap destination wedding.

5. Chicago

The Windy City holds the No. 9 spot on a U.S. News & World Report list of best affordable U.S. destinations and appears in other, similar rankings. Chicago’s best in the summer, as it’s a beautiful walking city with various parks and Lake Michigan alongside. Unfortunately the average hotel and transportation costs are a bit high compared with our other choices. Experts suggest looking to the North Side for less expensive venues and accommodation than downtown.

4. Austin, Texas

Food & Wine is one of many outlets with Austin on its list of best cheap cities. The write-up recommends Hotel San Jose for urban style, an appealing courtyard, and bike rentals. Other modes of transport are inexpensive and other good hotel options lie between the city and Texas Hill Country. The Knot has featured Villa St. Clair as one of Austin’s best wedding venues. From food to flowers, it has many amenities covered, making it an ideal choice for out-of-towners.

3. Philadelphia

This historical city is one of the biggest in the country, yet accommodation is positively cheap compared with other giants such as nearby New York. In placing Philly among the best U.S. cities for budget travel, Money Crashers points out free attractions such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Head to the famous Reading Terminal Market to scope out vendors — or the entire venue. A more budget-minded option is Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, an art space that accommodates about 75.

2. Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville has a long-standing reputation for excellent live music, but now other sides of the city have gained recognition. Travel & Leisure highlights the food scene in naming Nashville the No. 2 city for an affordable getaway. Transportation is also the cheapest among our choices. For a quiet wedding, look to the 200-year-old Buchanan Log House ($600 on weekends). Closer to downtown, the Timothy Demonbreun House is more expensive but provides alcohol at cost.

1. Portland, Oregon

Portland appears in myriad rankings of best cities for the budget-conscious. But what put this locale over the top is its 0 percent sales tax. In a survey by The Knot, Oregon emerged as the second-cheapest state in which to get married. The site has twice endorsed the West End Ballroom, a unique and relatively inexpensive venue. Within a 10-minute walk is the Ace Hotel, a Food & Wine favorite with rooms starting at $135 a night.

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