A Penny Saved
There is one thing that will affect your rehearsal-dinner costs more drastically than anything else: alcohol. Even serving a moderate amount of Cabernet with your meal can easily double your food bill, thanks to outrageous restaurant markups. So find a place that’s BYOB, and if possible, head to a store such as Price Club, where they have a surprisingly good selection, to stock up. Many restaurants open before they’ve got their liquor license, so keep an eye out for new places that may not have one yet.
If you’re working with a tight budget, why not skip dinner—that overpriced and frequently unmemorable wedding tradition—in favor of a delectable array of passed hors d’oeuvre? As long as the trays keep coming and you don’t skimp on the menu, your guests won’t miss the sit-down meal, and you can put the extra money into an area where you really can’t afford to be stingy: the booze. To cut costs even further, serve only wine and beer plus a “signature cocktail,” such as a fresh-mint mojito or apple martini, which reduces cost (and waste) by allowing you to purchase only a few key ingredients.
There are a number of great venues in the city where holding an event is free, or significantly less expensive, if you happen to be a member—such as the American Museum of Natural History and the Explorer’s Club. Although the cost of joining can be steep, when compared with the price of renting a similar-size venue in Manhattan, the numbers look a lot more reasonable. It’s also a good idea to ring up your alma mater: If you went to high school or college in the city, you may be entitled to a special rate on renting out their auditoriums and event spaces. The same holds true for university clubs.
It may be all the rage among modern brides, but the sleek, rolled fondant that covers many wedding cakes doesn't come cheap. Fondant is famously difficult to work with and takes a lot longer to apply than traditional buttercream, so it can increase the price of your cake significantly. Unless you're set on having an elaborate, architecturally complex confection at your wedding, skip fondant-many styles look just as good finished in buttercream, and you'll save your guests the hassle of having to peel off the fondant to get to the good stuff beneath.