Sunday, August 7, 2011

Great reception sites for cheap wedding in New York: Part 1, Brooklyn

Photo credit: Shaun Baker Photography

Intimacy = Low Cost Wedding

In my experience the key to a cheap wedding is intimacy. We knew that we wanted to spend time with each guest at our wedding. We knew we didn't want to be pulled from one person to another. We knew that we wanted to hang back, have fun and not work our own party.

60 guests or less = intimacy, low cost and more event space options

When it came down to developing a basic outline of our wedding day, the first thing we did was cap the guest list at 60 people. If I could have had my way, there would have been only 8 people at a friend's house. I can assure you we had some very unusual stresses in planning our nuptials. Every family makes a little bit of noise about the guest list. Please believe me that it is easy to set a limited guest list in NYC. The city resolves guest list arguments for you.

You see, it is very difficult to find a reasonably priced space in NYC where you can host more than 70 people. We both have large families. We have a large group of close friends. We had colleagues we would have liked to invite. It came down to how willing we were to be stressed out by the presence and provisions for over 100 people. We simply couldn't afford to drop $5K on the space alone.

A second consideration was that the food and drink bill are generally the biggest chunk of a couple's expenses. Since we could not find an accessible space where we could fully or partially self-cater (no parental backyards, or friends' apartments, or even campgrounds were found), we had to live with the limitations of NYC spaces and food/drink bills. Original iterations of our plan included dinner or brunch for 25, 40 or 60 people. Given our desire for something intimate, we were happy to host a maximum of 60 people.

Restaurant weddings = savings!!

I am big proponent of the restaurant-based wedding reception. Restaurants typically do not charge site fees. In NYC a lot of thought and effort goes into creating specific moods for restaurant interiors - so many restaurants have chic colour schemes, provide their own flowers and linens. Restaurants certainly provide their own tables, chairs, utensils, plates and glasses. They usually also have sounds systems, often partitioned by room, that guests may use. The restaurant industry here is do or die. By most other cities standards every restaurant with space for a celebration serves great food. If you want to go by NYC standards, every restaurant has been reviewed by critics harsher than yourself, more than once. It is easy to find great food and restaurant receptions can cut your wedding costs by 1000s and 1000s of dollars.

Brooklyn: land of tasty food and great spaces for small gatherings

We started our wedding restaurant search in Brooklyn. Before we settled on Bobo (in Manhattan), we had lined up quite a few restaurants that had beautiful spaces, tasty food and reasonable prices in the Borough of Trees. Many were locavore restaurants and all of them had separate spaces that could accomodate a gathering. When we started our search we started with very open minds - our only initial stipulation was that we did not want to buy out a restaurant (on a weekend night in NY that option can cost 10K+). That attitude opened up an entire world of restaurants with unique character and tasty food. Here is a list of places we fell for...starting with these three in Brooklyn.

70 Grand street, Brooklyn, NY

510 Broome st NYC, NY (Soho)

Photo credit: Aurora Ristorante

The Deets

Aurora specializes in rustic Italian and American cuisine. I've tried to put my finger on exactly what I love about this restaurant, and I think the best way to describe it is that the food and drink are inventive and homey, but still taste like you are in another country. Everything has homemade-by-an-Italian-chef-having-fun feel to it. There are two locations, one in Soho and one in Williamsburg. The atmosphere of the latter is divinely relaxing and rustic Italian. The garden is open year 'round to boot.

I had the pleasure of hammering out 4 or 5 reception scenarios with Aurora's extremely patient events coordinator. The coordinator and management were very flexible when it came to fulfilling our needs. We discussed everything from a weekday restaurant buy out, to a large dinner for 25 with other patrons permitted to wander in and out.

I really like Aurora Williamsburg for small affairs. When we priced a brunch with wine for 25, the cost fell to a fraction of what we actually spent on our wedding.

It is one of my favourite restaurants in the city and the price was incredible, so why didn't we hold our wedding there? Well, as I mentioned earlier we were really under the gun to hold a wedding in Manhattan and I really preferred the Williamsburg location of the restaurant.

This is a lovely and very special restaurant. I would recommend any couple look into holding an event at either Aurora location.


Divine rustic Italisn and inspired American food, romantic and yet farmhouse kitchen atmosphere, great outdoor space, very helpful events coordinator


We were strongly pressured to hold a wedding in Manhattan. I suppose that's okay. I'd rather save this place for our next special diner.

229 4th street,

Brooklyn, NY (South Williamsburg)

Photo credit: Traif

The Deets

Traif is a small, but powerful restaurant that specializes in breaking all the kosher rules. It was founded by two Jewish chefs who love all things unkosher. The menu is ripe with cheese and meat combinations, pork and shellfish. Bacon touches just about everything. It is singly the most joyful and deliciously devious restaurant I’ve been to in my many years in New York.

H is Jewish and especially loved the cream of bacon soup we had as an amuse bouche. The food is really divine and the restaurant has a very clean design with a very cute back garden. The GM discussed a few scenarios with us for guests. H and I sized the place up as being best suited to either canap├ęs and cocktails or a buffet for maybe 25 guests. That said, the GM outlined many other options. For our budget, this place really would have been perfect for a small gathering of friends and family after a Brooklyn wedding. I must confess, the restaurant had just opened when we visited. The specific requirements for parties are not clear to me - so I strongly recommend contacting the restaurant early in your search process.

Did I mention the staff is lovely and you can see the cooking in action?– all the more reason to visit. We had such a nice time at Traif I would recommend this restaurant for just about anything involving eating and socializing.


Great food, inventive menu, intimate setting, happy chefs


We didn’t know if some members of H’s family would be on board. Our loss.

246 Dekalb Ave Ste A

Brooklyn, NY

Photo credit: Ici

The Deets

Ici is locavore restaurant in Fort Greene with a reputation for very tasty food and a flair for beautiful events. We did not get out to the venue, but it is a beautiful, well reviewed and popular restaurant so I did not want to leave it off this list. The rooms and backyard of this restaurant can accommodate 40-120 people. Brunch and dinner pricing on the regular menu is beyond reasonable and the restaurant has a reputation for very reasonably priced and impeccably produced special events.


Well reviewed food (everyone raves about it), locavore, can accommodate small-larger parties, pricing. It is very popular. If you are interested in Ici, I’d recommend contacting the events coordinator early.


We were under the gun to hold a reception in Manhattan. This restaurant would be great for anyone without that restriction or with more of a backbone than I had at the time.

Happy searching.

1 comment:

caffi rein said...

Once I had visited NY wedding venue. It is really beautiful place to organize any event especially wedding because it’s spacious, so we can invite as much as guests that we want.