An affordable venue is not impossible to find (look to Brooklyn, Queens, and even Jersey for bargains). A few rules of thumb: Book a space with an in-house caterer and a low per-person rate (shoot for $150, including rentals). It’s still a chunk of change—at least $22,500 for a 150-person wedding, and that’s before tax and tip, and assuming you’re not charged overtime fees. Space-rental fees for lofts and raw spaces rarely include catering and rentals (tables, chairs, etc.), so don’t get overly excited by a four-digit number when you first see it (and read the fine print!). Here, a short list of places to start (or end) your search.
Loew’s Jersey Theatre
54 Journal Sq., nr. JFK Blvd., Jersey City, N.J.; 201-798-6055
Fleeing the island is the best way to save a few, but go too far and risk dealing with pricey transportation rentals and grumpy guests. A great nearby option is the Loew’s Jersey Theatre. Built in 1929, it has vintage Hollywood panache. A fee of $2,500 gets you a whopping twelve hours in the bi-level space for 180 guests (seated). As far as wedding venues go, having one for twelve hours is a lifetime.
Brooklyn Historical Society
128 Pierrepont St., nr. Clinton St., Brooklyn Heights; 718-222-4111
For $3,500 you get eight hours on the first floor of this nineteenth-century building (seats 120). In-house catering (Cleaver Company, Movable Feast, Naturally Delicious, or Steven Brown Caterers) is not cheap, but the fee includes an on-site facility manager, security, and a fair share of your rentals, which is a budgetary bonus.
42-38 Ninth St., nr. Queens Plaza S., Long Island City; 718-786-7776
Off-peak prices drop to $4,500 Monday through Thursday, and even regular-season rates are below market value. The Foundry seats 125, but if your guest list is up to 170 expand into the sun-drenched courtyard for an extra $1,800 to $2,300. (In which case, factor in the cost of a tent too.)
20 Jay St., nr. Water St., Dumbo, Brooklyn; 718-237-1332
Pochron offers longer setup and breakdown hours than most venues (which means stress-free, unhurried vendors and fewer overtime fees for you). The 1,900-square-foot space, with a 1,200-square-foot deck overlooking the Manhattan Bridge, seats up to 150 and rents for $2,500 on a weekday, from $3,000 on a Saturday.
Union Square Ballroom
27 Union Sq. W., nr. 16th St.; 212-645-1802
This 4,000-square-foot venue seats 150 at $150 or $165 per person (snag lower fees during slow weeks). The fee includes rentals, a seated dinner (courtesy of their in-house caterer), a premium open bar or wine and beer. The catch? Said fee only buys you five hours in the space. Extra time is $10 per hour, per head, which still isn’t too bad.
80 Fifth Ave., at 14th St.; 212-727-8437
The penthouse stacks a per-head fee on top of room-rental costs, but with low starting prices (from $1,500 for the space; from $95 per person for rentals, equipment, and in-house catering) thrifty couples can still make it work, and with a seating capacity of 225 (with dancing!), bigger parties will be hard-pressed to find a better value.
The National Academy Museum
1083 Fifth Ave., at 89th St.; 212-369-4880
If you want a museum wedding—marble floors, vaulted ceilings, the occasional chiseled nude—this place offers it at a fraction of the price. The Huntington Room accommodates 140 for dinner for a flat charge of $3,500. Watch the clock, though; the price guarantees exactly eight hours of celebrating (from $450 for each additional hour).