Some Fresh Air

Brooklyn Botanic GardenPhoto: Dave Robbins

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 Photo: Courtesy of New York Restoration Project

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.

Central Park BoathousePhoto: Belathee

For a Party on the WaterCentral Park Boathouse
Cost: From $195 per person (not including a 20 percent service charge or tax)
Includes: Open bar, tableside wine service, six hors d’oeuvre, four courses
Party size: 165 min., 225 max.
Ceremonies usually take place inside, overlooking the lake; cocktail hour is hosted in the adjacent garden. (If it’s raining, it’s in the Lakeside dining room, famous for its views but less preferable because of its proximity to the restaurant’s dinner guests.) Before dinner, offer guests gondola rides on the lake ($150 per hour). Then move back into the private dining room for dinner and dancing. Here’s the catch: “Being dead center in Central Park can be a nightmare,” warns West Duffey. “You have to get permits for all vendor vehicles in advance.” As for guests, the boathouse provides a trolley to take large groups in and out of the park before and after your event—a plus for Granddad.

Prospect Park Boathouse
Cost: From $193 per person (based on a 120-person reception, not including a 10 percent service charge or tax)
Includes: Open bar, eight hors d’oeuvre, two cocktail-hour stations, three courses, cake or dessert, free parking, five guards
Party size: 60 min., 150 max. with partial tent ($2,500), 200 with full tent ($5,000)
“Make a grand entrance on their wooden motorboat [$300 for one hour]. Guests can take rides on the lake during cocktails,” says David Stark. Have the ceremony and cocktails on the lakeside patio, and dinner and dancing inside the vaulted-ceiling boathouse. A few cons: You really should tent if rain’s a possibility. Also, it’s open to the public until 5 p.m., which doesn’t leave much time to set up, and ceremonies start at 7 p.m. or later. The silver lining? You can view the space and do vendor walk-throughs anytime. Another plus: The nearest subway stop is just two blocks away, so your guests won’t be fighting for taxis at the end of the night.

Battery Gardens
Cost: From $180 per person (not including a 21 percent service charge or tax; plus fees for coat check, $125, and maître d’, $250)
Includes: Open bar and Champagne toast, eight passed hors d’oeuvre, two cocktail stations, four courses
Party size: 125 min., 220 max.
Have an outdoor ceremony with panoramic river views. Continue into the garden for open-air cocktails, and have dinner and dancing upstairs in a room with wraparound windows and views of the harbor. In inclement weather, get married in the reception area, sectioned off with dividers, and host cocktail hour under a tent ($2,000). “The dance floor is usually placed in the back of the room,” says West Duffey. “It makes the dancing a bit disjointed from the dining, but it’s the only place it fits.” Caveats: “The food’s gone down in quality,” advises Duffey. Also, their elevator situation isn’t ideal—there are no freight elevators; the one they do have, for guests, is teeny.

Cost: From $175 per person (not including a 20 percent service charge or tax)
Includes: Five-hour open bar and Champagne toast, six hors d’oeuvre, three courses plus wedding cake
Party size (Bridgewaters): 175 min., 350 max.
(Museum Club): 125 min., 300 max.
“Book Bridgewaters or the Museum Club—the latter has a ballroom with a terrace, and is the better option,” says Jennifer Gilbert. The club’s ceremony room leads onto a roofed patio overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge. The reception room is large enough—some call it loftlike—for a twelve-piece band and to have dinner and dancing in one space. Their in-house wedding cake is obligatory, but, says Gilbert, their food is excellent. The downsides? “They do two weddings at a time. But brides don’t see each other because they stagger event times and the elevators open in different areas,” she says. “Also, hailing a cab near South Street Seaport can be tricky, so arrange for guest transportation.”

SequoiaPhoto: Courtesy of Sequoia

Cost: From $100 per person (not including a 20 percent service charge or tax)
Includes: Five-hour open bar, six hors d’oeuvre, three courses
Party size: 100 min., 175 max.
“It’s within South Street Seaport’s shopping center, but there’s an outside staircase that leads right into the restaurant, so you don’t have to enter the mall,” says Gilbert. “And once you’re there it’s an oasis.” Have cocktails on the roofed patio right at the water’s edge. The restaurant’s three private rooms connect through French doors; each is ceremony- and reception-ready. One snag: Dinner and dancing must take place in separate rooms. Host dancing in the Platform Room, named after the elevated platform that sits center. Transform the room’s smaller bar into a D.J. booth—the massive fish tank above it makes for a cool backdrop. Gilbert adds: “The service and food are good. This is really a steal.”

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Pricing is based on a Saturday night in 2010 peak season.

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