Held: Two to four months after the proposal
Hosted by: Bride’s/Groom’s parents or bridal party
No Gifts RequiredFancy Garden Party
Amid all the mayhem of the meatpacking district is a private garden inside the flower shop L’Olivier Floral Atelier (213 W. 14th St., nr. Seventh Ave.; 212-255-2828). Book their 1,500-square-foot grassy space for an open-air cocktail party of 150 or a seated dinner for 40 ($4,500 for six hours after 6 p.m.; $650 per additional hour). Relish, a caterer in the neighborhood, will put together anything from an hors d’oeuvre party to a swank four-course dinner (from $120 per person including rentals and alcohol; 212-228-1672;
Low-Key, Family-Style, Early-Bird Dinner
Palma, a lovely Italian restaurant in the West Village, is a perfect place to celebrate with a small, quiet party (28 Cornelia St., nr. Sixth Ave.; 212-691-2223). If it’s spring, book a table for fifteen in the quaint outdoor garden ($90 per person). In the cold months, spend the night with a dozen of your nearest and dearest inside the cozy and super-authentic Tuscan farmhouse ($90 per person). Dinner is served at a rustic table, family-style, inside a snug, candlelit room. The house and garden are fantastically transporting—far more Siena than Sixth Avenue. Linger at your private table over vino-fueled conversation until 1 a.m., after which it’s time to say buona notte (there’s a neighbor-imposed curfew). For a similar scene in Brooklyn, reserve the Stable at Frankies 457 Spuntino (457 Court St., nr. Fourth Pl.; 718-403-0033). Once a turn-of-the-century blacksmith’s stable, it’s now a dining room (pictured above). Plug in your iPod, and if the weather’s nice, take over the two gardens for a larger party of up to 80 (minimum is $2,000). The curfew here is 11 p.m., so roll into nearby dive Brooklyn Inn (148 Hoyt St., at Bergen St.; 718-625-9741) to continue the party—there’s a quality jukebox and a pool table. For a cool, old-world-style scene and an outdoor garden, try Brooklyn Social (335 Smith St., nr. Carroll St.; 718-858-7758), also in walking distance from Frankies.
The Water Taxi Beach in Long Island City is great for a large, casual summer party (though it’s only open twenty weeks out of the year, weather permitting). Get your family and pals together at one of the city’s Water Taxi stops. If you want to party on the boat, you can (74-person capacity; from $2,000 for two-hour minimum; 212-742-1969, ext. 217; nywatertaxi.com/charters). Cruise around the East River, drink (they’ll provide the liquor if you don’t want to BYOB), blast your music, and dance on the roof deck of your own little yellow yacht. Arrive at Hunters Point and it’s just a five-minute walk to the famed fake beach for cheap beer, burgers, hot dogs, D.J. tunes (there’s usually someone spinning under the tent), and a spectacular backdrop of glittering Manhattan. The beach is a sprawling 20,000 square feet, so call ahead to square off some private space for your people, and share the beach with regulars (2-03 Borden Ave., nr. 2nd St., Long Island City). Call a car service to pick you all up at the end of the night (the water taxi stops running at 8 p.m.) to take you to Spiegelworld’s cabanas for the last leg of your roaming party. Reserve one cabana (holds fourteen people) or more—pull the dividers to create one large, private area. There’ll be a D.J. spinning Afro-Brazilian, funky soul, or house music (from $200 to rent a cabana; Pier 17, Fulton Fish Market, nr. the Brooklyn Bridge; spiegelworld.com; 646-536-8130; open in summer only).
Held:Four to six weeks before the wedding
Hosted by:Maid of honor
If the idea of a super-girlie shower feels about as outdated as a whalebone corset, then ask for an at-home, coed party instead (just don’t be hokey and call it a Jack-and-Jill). Hire a caterer; A Casa is a company whose mission is to help Manhattan hostesses throw parties in cramped quarters (from $26 per person; 136 E. 36th St., nr. Third Ave.; 212-683-3064; acasafoods.com). Keep the party to two hours; serve eight passed hors d’oeuvre like mini empanadas or risotto croquettes with Serrano ham; offer beer (one case for twenty guests), wine (one case), and a signature drink served from pitchers (mojitos or sangria works well). For the sheen of real glassware, factor in an extra $150 or so (calculate two glasses per guest), and if you need to bring in any tables and chairs, that’s another $125 (try Party Rentals; 201-727-4700; partyrentalltd.com). A Casa provides a cooking-and-serving crew (from $25 an hour per server; for a party of twenty, budget for five hours of help). Dispense with the drawn-out gift-opening routine, but do provide guests with some gift-getting guidance. Have a gender-neutral gift theme, like “our bar” (presents could be wine, barware, stemware) or “our honeymoon” (snorkel gear and wetsuits for a beach honeymoon; binoculars and a digital camera for a safari). It’s far more interesting, and less fifties, than getting a bunch of mixing bowls and cooking mitts.
Girls’ Beach Getaway
Go to Montauk for the weekend with your bridesmaids and girlfriends (the ideal group size is no more than ten). Book adjoining rooms at the seaside Gurney’s Inn and Spa (from $437 per double room; 290 Old Montauk Highway; 631-668-3365; gurneysinn.com). Take lessons from local surfing legend Tony Caramanico, who provides wetsuits and boards ($100 per person per hour; 631-668-9371; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org). After sufficient swimming and sunbathing, take the party to Estia Cantina in nearby Amagansett, walking distance from the hotel (177 Main St.; 631-267-6320). A Mexican joint with an adjacent bar space ideal for a private dinner, it has amazing organic salmon mole, seviche, and tacos, and a list of 130 tequilas (the key to any successful party, for sure). Next day, once you’ve had enough of the sunbathe-swim cycle on repeat, do dinner at the outdoor Clam Bar (2025 Montauk Highway, Amagansett; 631-267-6348). Later, go to Cyril’s Fish House, where you can pair frozen drinks with oysters on the half shell (1474 Montauk Highway, Amagansett; 631-267-7993). Depending on how many banana coladas you consume, on day three have a hangover brunch of homemade bisque and fries at Lobster Roll, or “Lunch” to the initiated (1980 Montauk Highway, Amagansett; 631-267-3740), or go on a morning sail around Sag Harbor and Shelter Island aboard the 50-foot Gulfstar ($700 for four hours; 631-901-8928; geocities.com/probabar/dove).
Go to Cornelia Day Spa for an afternoon of beauty treatments (663 Fifth Ave., nr. 52nd St., eighth fl.; 212-871-3050; private rooms for groups of five available, but pricing is all à la carte). Lunch in the open-air rooftop garden and hang out between treatments in matching terry cloth. Get facials, foot baths, and full-body massages—they even have prenatal massages for pregnant bridesmaids. Alternately, request a nocturnal spa party. Meet for dinner at the detail-perfect Belgian boîte B Cafe (240 E. 75th St., nr. Second Ave.; 212-249-3300) for moules frites. Then head to the spa in the Fresh store for cupcakes, bubbly, and massages ($50 per person; 1367 Third Ave., at 78th St.; 212-585-3400). Customized makeup bags from Bergdorf Goodman’s Leontine Linens (from $100) make ideal favors. Expensive, yes, but everyone can fill theirs with Fresh products, as the $50-per-head cost is redeemable in goods from the store. Once you have your collective spa-buzz on, float over to a bar nearby: American Trash (1471 First Ave., nr. 77th St.; 212-988-9008) has all the cheap beer, raucous music, and fun clientele you’d expect from the name, while the quieter, more intimate Auction House (300 E. 89th St., at Second Ave.; 212-427-4458) is a neighborhood favorite known for not attracting the postcollegiate hordes.
Reserve the Wine Room at Freemans for a group of thirteen (end of Freeman Alley, nr. Rivington St.; 212-420-0012). Get the $50-a-head prix fixe for buckwheat pancakes and at least one game item (wild-boar terrine, anyone?). Drinks are pay as you go, and the house specials include a delish Yankee mint julep and zesty New York Sour, a twist on the Tom Collins, just the ticket for speeding along the gift-opening ritual. For a larger party, book the Cacoa Bar, the Parisian-style pâtisserie in the back of Soho’s MarieBelle chocolate shop. Reserve the private room for up to 35 ladies, for a sweet breakfast of espresso, hot chocolate, fruit, and pastries (from $48 per person, plus an additional $100 per hour; 484 Broome St., nr. Wooster St.; 212-925-6999). If a sentimental slideshow of your single life is what you’ve always wanted on display for your shower, borrow their projector and have a viewing party (MarieBelle often shows old silent movies for ambience). Drop hints to your bridesmaids: StillMotionCreations.com is a cheap DIY option; Milk and Honey Productions will put a professional photomontage together (from $1,500; milkandhoneyproductions.com ).
Held: Two weeks before the wedding
Hosted by: Bridesmaids
Gag Gifts Encouraged
Overnight Vegas Vacation … in Jersey
Ditch New York in favor of the trash and glitz of Atlantic City. Reserve connected ocean-view suites at the Borgata (the Fiore junior suites, from $519 per night; One Borgata Way; 609-317-1000; theborgata.com). To cut pre-party costs, stock your suite with your own wine or liquor, then kick things off with dinner at Buddakan, a quick walk from the hotel (the Pier Shops at Caesars, One Atlantic Ocean; 609-674-0100; buddakanac.com). After dinner, head back to your suite for the requisite naughty-gift exchange. If you play white-elephant style, then everyone goes home with a favor. (Here’s how that works: Each girl picks from the bag to which everyone has contributed an item, and she’s allowed to steal others’ gifts or take a chance with her own grab. What to put in the bag? Lingerie and sex-shop wares, natch.) Then take it back to the Borgata casino for decidedly unladylike behavior—gambling, stiff drinks, and showing off to bachelor-party counterparts.
Road Trip For Oenophiles
If your party falls in the cold months (and you have five bridesmaids or fewer), plan an overnight jaunt to the North Fork. Rent a car—the three-hour L.I.E. trip then is far less excruciating than in the summer. Check into adjoining rooms at the Village Latch Inn Hotel, and ask for one with a fireplace (from $250 a night; 101 Hill St., Southhampton, N.Y.; 631-283-2160). Next day, go wine-tasting at the North Fork’s vineyards (Jamesport, Pellegrini, and Shinn Estate are particularly good). At night, call a car to whisk the group to Southampton Publick House (40 Bowden Square, nr. North Sea Rd.; 631-283-2800; publick.com), a microbrewery and restaurant. Later, sip salty margaritas at Red/Bar Brasserie (210 Hampton Rd., nr. Lewis St.; 631-283-0704).
Unabashedly Cheesy Girls’ Night
If you want a delightfully trashy public celebration of your pending plunge into married life, complete with madcap dashes from bar to bar and at least one beefcake gyrating in a thong onstage, then stock up on phallic fixings and pile into a party bus (from $250 an hour, six-hour minimum, for 20 to 44 people; thepartyride.com). Or, for a smaller group, rent a white limo with neon lights (from $340 for four hours, $85 per each additional hour; 718-251-2525; newyorkluxurylimo.com). After driving around the city shamelessly pumping “SexyBack,” get dropped off at Waikiki Wally’s Pacific Catch (99 E. 2nd St., nr First Ave.; 212-673-8908; waikikiwallys.com; group reservations available). Have your fill of rum-soaked bowls of booze and Hawaiian fare, then head to the basement for karaoke with the gender-bending waitresses from Lucky Cheng’s next door. Once everyone’s good and liquored up, go to bachelorette-party mainstay HunkOMania (Friday and Saturday nights at the Culture Club; 179 Varick St., nr. Charlton St.; 888-486-5662; hunkomania.com). For a surprise private show at home instead, call in advance to reserve a stripper (917-921-8476). Surf hunk-o-mania.com (no relation) to select five to ten choice specimens, and one of them will show up on your doorstep (from $200 per “dancer”).