Some Fresh Air
The city’s top planners pick the best venues for a party under the sun—from splurges within reach to total steals.
For a Party on the Lawn
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Cost: From $186 per person (based on a 300-person reception, not including a 20 percent service charge or tax)
Includes: Open bar, eight hors d’oeuvre, one cocktail station, four courses plus cake
Party size: 150 min., 300 max.
“Have your ceremony in the garden, then cocktail hour by the fountain,” suggests Elizabeth West Duffey. (NB: The Washington Avenue entrance is three blocks from the ceremony site, so consider offering valet—$850 for the night.) Dinner and dancing happens inside the Palmhouse, which accommodates up to a twenty-piece band. There’s no tenting at BBG, so if it rains, have the ceremony inside the Palmhouse and cocktails in the Steinhardt Conservatory, which, sadly, has a musty seventies feel, according to Xochitl Gonzalez. Other caveats? “They only have two tastings annually, and the food is predictable. But that’s fine. You’re booking it for the view,” says Gonzalez.
Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture
Cost: From $180 per person (based on an 85-person reception, plus $140 per person for off-premises catering)
Includes: Tables and chairs
Party size: No min., 85 max.
“Rent this venue for at least four hours and you’ll have access to a gorgeous room to get ready in, and three hours for setup and breakdown at no extra charge,” says Gonzalez. Have your ceremony in the back courtyard, then open up into the front yard for cocktails. Serve a dinner buffet inside, with tables outside. They have a large kitchen downstairs, which minimizes the equipment your caterer will need to bring in. A lot of rentals are already included, and they allow you to cook your own food—which is pretty unheard of. For dancing, set up a D.J. booth inside. A big pro: Your money goes to a good cause. The cons: There’s a noise ordinance at 11 p.m., and if the weather’s bad, you need a tent ($1,300).
Bryant Park Grill
Cost: From $165 per person (not including a 20 percent service charge or tax)
Includes: Open bar and Champagne toast, tableside wine service, six hors d’oeuvre, three courses
Party size: 125 min., 225 max.
Get married on the roof with views of the park—if it’s going to rain, tent it ($7,000). (NB: The views aren’t predictable—they can’t control what’s happening in the park.) You can also use the roof through October—just bring in heat lamps. Host cocktails on the patio downstairs; afterward, do dinner and dancing in their big indoor space. “The service is excellent. You get almost the entire day to set up, so there’s time to put something elaborate together,” says Gonzalez. Just don’t party too late: BPG has an hourly overtime charge of $25 per head based on the amount of guests you guaranteed (not the number still dancing). Marry elsewhere if you fear going overtime, or pre-plan an after-party at a nearby midtown pub.
Tavern on the Green
Cost: From $150 per person (not including a 21 percent service charge or tax)
Includes: Open bar and Champagne toast, eight hors d’oeuvre, three courses
Party size (Crystal Room): 265 min., 350 max.
“The good news? You save on décor; it’s already so over-the-top. The bad news? The food isn’t good, though their cocktail fare is better than the meal. And your cake can’t be from an outside vendor,” says Gonzalez. “Book the Crystal Room for the ceremony, which overlooks the park—other rooms look onto the street,” suggests West Duffey. Cocktail hour usually takes place on the garden patio (during which time the staff converts the ceremony space for dinner and dancing). If the weather’s wet, host cocktails in the wood-paneled Rafter Room. You can make the decision to use the room—for no additional fee—the day of the wedding, as opposed to a tent, where you must give rental companies a heads-up days before.
New Leaf Café
Cost: From $130 per person (not including a 20 percent service charge or tax); minimum $15,000
Includes: Open bar, three courses
Party size: 55 min. (dining room), 150 max. with tented patio (extras: chair rentals; $4,000 tent fee)
“This feels so out-of-the-city, you forget you’re nearly in the Bronx,” says Cheryl Fielding-LoPalo. Have your ceremony in the garden overlooking the George Washington Bridge, and cocktails on their patio. “Line the path from the ceremony spot to the restaurant with candles,” suggests Bridget Vizoso. For parties of more than 55, or if it looks like rain, have the ceremony inside and tent the patio for dinner and dancing. “Getting married in the restaurant gives the tented reception area an element of surprise,” says Gonzalez. For all its perks (food and service is lauded, proceeds support a nonprofit), there is a drawback—shuttling guests up to 190th Street is an added expense.
From the Summer 2009 New York Wedding Guide