Here is a list of mostly free wedding venues in and around the Columbia, SC metro area where you can have your marriage ceremony. Be aware that the term “Free”means a small group, not a big event. If you want to set up chairs, decorate, etc. then usually you will have to get an event permit or rent the facility. All of the links take you the location’s Google Maps page for easy navigation.
Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens in downtown Columbia, SC, is a great place to have a small ceremony. The gardens are free, with the following limitations. No decorations or items brought onsite, only during Garden open hours, and if there is no requirement for restrooms. They do have a special elopement rate of $100 per hour if you want access to the bathrooms and/or decorate. Call +18032527742 for particulars and to confirm pricing. Beautiful garden areas plus they have two gazebos that can be used in case of inclement weather. A perfect substitute for the Governors Mansion while it is closed. The outside garden hours are 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday | 1 – 4 p.m. Sunday . Also, the gardens are sometimes closed for special events so you need to call and make sure they will be open for the day and time you want.
South Carolina Statehouse (has very nice grounds and if inclement weather you can hold the ceremony at the top of the Capitol building steps under the large portico)
Pinewood Lake Park (nice little pond with a shelter by the pond if inclement weather; closes at 5pm, Oct to April)
Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park (Nice, secluded terrace down by the pump house over looking the river and a gazebo if inclement weather). There is also an ampitheatre.
The USC Horseshoe (several places to perform a nice ceremony) There are no restrooms or shelter.
Riverfront Park, Gist St. Location (Some nice spots down by the river but no shelter)
West Columbia Riverwalk Park (My least favorite venue. No privacy at all and no shelter if inclement weather. West Columbia does a poor job of keeping it clean. Parking can be a problem on weekends)
Cayce Riverwalk This is NOT the Riverwalk further down the river. Park at the shelter (bathrooms nearby) and walk down the path to a wonderful view overlooking the river. The shelter at the end of the path.
Saluda Riverwalk Nice park with bathrooms. Often very crowded. There is no shelter in case of inclement weather.
Irmo Town Park (one of my favorites, large gazebo, nice landscaping, HOWEVER, this is not a good location anytime after 3pm on any week day afternoon, especially Friday, because of the traffic congestion)
Southeast Park (nice lake setting and convenient to those from Sumter coming to Columbia)
Finley Park (some nice spots but not much privacy and many homeless present)
Memorial Park (nice downtown location but unfortunately it is usually populated by a large homeless presence)
Sesquicentennial State Park (small entry fee, $5 per adult)
Saluda Shoals Park (small entry fee)
Lake Murray Dam North Recreational Area (small entry fee in summer months)
Virginia Hylton Park in Lexington SC (has shelters and a nice garden area down by the creek)
Gibson Pond Park in Lexington, SC (has shelters if inclement weather) Lexington County has done a great deal to clean up this park. The dam has been repaired and the pond is full. Lovely place for a wedding down by the pond on some rocks.
Granby Gardens Park in Cayce, SC (has a gazebo if inclement weather)
Doko Manor in Blythewood, SC (has a dock on the pond and a covered ampitheatre if inclement weather)
Palmetto Trailhead near Peak, SC (beautiful old railroad bridge over the Broad River. Has a picnic shelter for inclement weather)
Governor’s Mansion Gardens The Gardens are officially closed as of February 21, 2023 for renovations until sometime in 2025. When they reopen we will update our listing. The Governors Mansion (the residence) is closed to the public. However, the gardens are open to the public M-F, 9am to 5pm excluding holidays (sometimes they have private events and the gardens are closed to the public, but Columbia Canal is just a few blocks away and is a good alternative). Caution: The gardens are free for only very small groups, not more than 8 total (couple plus 6 guests). If you want to decorate, set up chairs, etc. you will need to contact the Lace House (803-737-2235) about renting the venue. They do have an elopement package available. Free parking on Gadsden St and Richland St. on the west side of the mansion complex.