How to Make the Most of a Plain Wedding Venue

Non-traditional wedding venues such as loft spaces, warehouses, even old airport hangars can be an affordable, unique option to say “I Do!” in, but knowing how to decorate such a raw space can often be overwhelming for couples. That’s where the experts come in!

We spoke with Tonia Adleta, Owner & Creative Director of Aribella Events in Philadelphia, PA about how she transforms unique, raw wedding venue spaces into something that will make you go “Wow!” As a wedding planner and florist with over 20 years experience, she’s definitely got a few tricks up her sleeves that will help save you time AND money. Read our Q&A with her, below!

SEE MORE: Find unique wedding venues and read our reviews for each one here!

What are some of the best (and most budget-friendly) ways to make a simple wedding venue space really pop?

Fewer things transform a space like the right lighting. It may seem like an optional item on the budget list because it doesn’t feed anyone or give them something to take home, but I guarantee it will make a huge difference in transforming a space, especially a raw one.

how to decorate a plain wedding venue

Photo by SY Photography

From there, I would work with your designer to create some “wow” elements. Linens, lighting and floral make a great trifecta for creating a “wow” statement. Depending on your space and your theme, you could also consider live entertainment. That may be the band, a trapeze artist or singing waiters – you’re only limited by your imagination and your budget.

Does having a wedding theme make designing raw spaces easier?

In my opinion, yes. But then again, I am a designer, and I tend to think in the themes and photo- or video-worthy vignettes. One of the most beneficial things about working with a theme is it helps provide a tool with which to make decisions. There are so many decisions that go into planning a wedding, especially when you are creating an ambience and experience in a raw space. Anything that helps to focus the attention and eliminate extraneous things will help the wedding planning process go more smoothly.

philadelphia wedding planner

Photo by Gary Nevitt Photography

philadelphia wedding planner

Photo by Gary Nevitt Photography

philadelphia wedding planner

Photo by Gary Nevitt Photography

Do any weddings you’ve planned in unique spaces come to mind?

I’d be torn between two of our favorites to date. The first is an upscale wedding hosted at a working equestrian farm. We had mismatched vintage wooden chairs and hanging chandeliers in the loft barn for the ceremony, and a lantern walkway under the stars to a sailcloth tent in the pasture for the reception. The second was an airport hangar which we brought to life with a vintage carnival theme, complete with a funnel cake wedding cake, gourmet popcorn selection, stilt walker, and fire juggler.

how to decorate a plain wedding venue

Photo by SY Photography

how to decorate a plain wedding venue

how to decorate a plain wedding venue

Photo by SY Photography

What advice do you have for brides currently touring venues? What should they be on the lookout for when inside the space?

Think about the experience as your guest would encounter each element. For example, when you’re sending the invitation, is the address clear, or do you need to add a map? What are the parking arrangements? Do you have handicap accessibility? Are the ramps clear of debris or clutter for a wheelchair-bound guest to easily maneuver? Are elevators available? How many stairs will be needed to get from Point A to B? How many restrooms are available? Is the plumbing adequate to handle your guest count? Do you need to consider bringing in an executive restroom trailer to offset the demands of plumbing? What kind of kitchen is available? Does your caterer need to come with everything completely prepared and ready to serve, or is there a prep kitchen or other staging area available for their crew? Do you have air conditioning and/or heat available?

The questions are endless, I know, but working with a professional to help you navigate a raw space will take a lot of the pressure off. You can ensure that you’ve asked all the right questions and have everything you need available to make this an amazing experience for you and your guests.

philadelphia wedding planner

Photo by SY Photography

Thanks so much to Tonia for her advice. And be sure to follow her on social for even more creative wedding planning tips!

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