1. Have a food truck instead of a caterer.
All Kate Artibee, owner of Sanctuary Pilates, wanted on the menu at her Brooklyn wedding reception was her favorite food: chorizo tacos and grilled corn from the Margarita Taco truck of Red Hook soccer field fame. So she asked them—and they agreed. Their kitchen, after all, is already mobile. The recent explosion of haute food trucks in the city means there are plenty of other roving, tasty options. The Rickshaw Dumpling Truck can bring three types of dumplings your way—including its famous Peking duck version—along with salads and soups (minimum $1,200, includes location fee and food for 100; 212-924-9225; rickshawdumplings.com). Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream is a terrific supplement for dessert (from $600; 718-701-1630; vanleeuwenicecream.com). Check out the Vendy Awards website (streetvendor.org/vendys), which highlights some of the city’s best.
2. Have awesome karaoke, on purpose.
The truth is, if the party gets wild enough, there will be spontaneous (read: drunken) singing with the band. Better to control that inevitability from the get-go. The three-piece Human Karaoke Experience (humankaraoke.com) plays a regular karaoke night at O’Flanagan’s on the Upper East Side and has an impressive 562-song repertoire. Want something with a bit more attitude? Try Arlene’s World Famous Live Rock ’n’ Roll Karaoke Band, the group that’s headed up the renowned Rock ’n’ Roll Karaoke night at Arlene’s Grocery for five years ($500 an hour; 212-358-1633; firstname.lastname@example.org), or Rock Star Karaoke NYC, the in-house band at Hank’s Saloon in Boerum Hill, which has played both Saturday Night Live after-parties and Bonnaroo (from $3,000; rockstarkaraokenyc.com). Or go to Karaoke Champ on Lafayette and rent one of its machines (each loaded with more than 17,000 songs), plus an amp, a speaker, a monitor, and three microphones, for the after-party ($395 for the weekend; karaokechamp.com).
3. Ride a bike to the reception.
If guests are athletically inclined and it doesn’t conflict with the dress code, Central Park Bike Tours has a fleet of 140 bicycles at your disposal ($10 per bike for transport to location; 212-541-8759; centralparkbiketour.com). Or start the party early with the Queen Maria, a 44-seat bus that has a wet bar, disco lights, a smoke machine, and a hostess (you provide music and liquor; from $1,100 for three hours; 866-275-5466; thepartyride.com). Designer Limousines has an 80-passenger double-decker (although you’re recommended to keep the crowd to 65; from $3,240 for three hours; 800-540-3374; designerlimo.com). Don’t want to stay land-based? New York Water Taxi can take your wedding party on a cruise around Manhattan (212-742-1969; nywatertaxi.com).
4. Dress as the Bride of Frankenstein.
Really. Manhattan schoolteacher Molly Lippman recently attended a costume wedding and came away from the experience a big fan. “It was really fun! And there was something special about how everyone, from the youngest kids to the 80-year-old grandparents, were dressed up,” she says. Lippman found her own costume (a fairy) at a vintage shop on 23rd Street. The couple went as Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein. The Creative Costume Company (242 W. 36th St., 8th fl., nr. Eighth Ave.; 212-564-5552) has a wide selection of elaborate getups (Lady Godiva! Carmen Miranda!) available for rental; alterations are included in the price.
5. Book a circus performer.
Not that your wedding isn’t already entertaining, but enlisting professionals can give a reception a fantastically sophisticated vibe. Anna “Jubilee” Chazelle uses fire and light-up LED hoops in her routine, which she performs both individually and with her troupe, the Gyronauts (starting at $150 an hour; thegyronauts.com). A circus hula-hooper like Jenny “Miss Saturn” McGowan ($250–$1000; 718-501-7968; misssaturn.com) does jaw-dropping routines with as many as 75 hoops at once. If your venue has high ceilings (30-plus feet), New York Circus Arts has a number of seasoned instructors specializing in Cirque du Soleil–style silk aerial contortions ($1,000 minimum for the space, $500 minimum for performers; 212-751-2174; nycircusarts.com). Have them bring the show to you, or rent out their new 8,800-square-foot teaching facility, which comes with impressive transformative lighting and all manner of circus snacks (cotton candy, peanuts, and popcorn!). They’ll even throw in a little instruction if guests want to get on the silks. Want adult entertainment? The Box rents out its performers but, as usual, is secretive about which ones (email@example.com).
6. Build a big fire.
A bonfire is a romantic, dramatic focal point for an outdoor wedding. Bring marshmallows from City Bakery for gourmet s’mores ($12 for a pack of 12; 3 W. 18th St., between Fifth and Sixth Aves.; 212-366-1414). Or have a clambake dinner: The Lobster Place in Chelsea Market will deliver raw supplies, including pots, properly layered (436 W. 16th St., at Ninth Ave.; 212-255-5672; lobsterplace.com). If that sounds too labor-intensive, let the professionals take over. The Hampton Clam Bake and Catering Company (631-324-8620; hamptonclambake.com) and East End Clambakes (from $100 per head; 631-726-6351; clambake.hamptons.com) will build the bonfire and supply the meal.
7. Borrow from other traditions.
Filipinos and Armenians release doves at the reception for good luck (Kaila’s Love Doves offers safe white-dove release for weddings in New York and New Jersey; 732-634-4471). The Dutch use a wishing tree instead of a guest book: Guests write notes to the couple on leaf-shaped paper and tie them with ribbon to branches. At Japanese weddings, the bride and groom decorate the room with 1,001 origami cranes for good fortune (check out origami-usa.org for helpful diagrams if you are DIY-folding, or information about how to hire an artist to help; cost is about $4-$5 per crane). The Chinese use firecrackers to ward off evil spirits (all manner of fireworks are illegal in New York State, so try tossing shiny confetti instead; PartyParty by ConfettiSystem, $14 per bag; available at Urban Outfitters, 526 Sixth Ave., at 14th St.; 646-638-1646). Estonians have a bouquet-toss custom for the groom: He is blindfolded and spun around, and then tries to put a top hat on one of the bachelors in the crowd (who will be the next one to marry). Finally, the Irish drink heavily of honey mead both at the reception and for the month after the wedding because the syrupy tipple is meant to increase fertility; if that’s not your goal, perhaps this tradition should be avoided.
8. Give guests a cool piece of art.
Now this is an awesome memento: Hire caricature artist Philip Herman of Party Art Productions to come to your reception, and he’ll draw “personality portraits” for guests who want to sit for them. He’ll also bring video equipment to broadcast so everyone can watch ($150–$175 per hour; 845-357-3318; firstname.lastname@example.org). Photographer Jay Sullivan, meanwhile, has perfected the art of the photo booth, minus the actual booth. He shows up with an assistant, a backdrop, a computer, and a printer, so he can hand out shots minutes after they’ve been taken. BYO wigs and props (the bride and groom get a CD of all the images after the event; from $1,000; 917-868-1632; email@example.com).