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How To Plan The Perfect NYC Wedding

Kate Middleton
(credit: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images)

Just because you're not royalty doesn't mean you can't have a fairy tale wedding here in New York. Don't fret: There are plenty of ways to make your NYC wedding fabulous. By Nina Pajak.(Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)

Finding A Venue

In this city, your venue is likely to eat up so much of your budget that it will invariably determine how you are able to spend the remainder. So choose wisely. There are many different ways to go, and they will all cost you a pretty penny. It's just a matter of being smart.

RELATED: The Best Of The Classic NYC Wedding Venues

First, choose your aesthetic. New York will inform your look regardless, but there are so many lovely ways to go. There are venues at botanical gardens and in Central and Prospect Parks for those nature-lovers, mansions and private clubs for the Edith Wharton romantics in us all, elegant hotels for the classic New Yorkers, modern, spare rooms for the arty, urbanite bride, plus scores of restaurants, galleries, and rooftops.

A word of warning to those who dream of a loft space wedding or think the DIY approach will save money—don't eschew the full-service places so quickly. Just because a venue provides linens and a full bar does not mean they're going to take you for a ride. In fact, lofts can wind up running you way more with the cost of renting everything from tables and chairs to flatware and lighting. If you know you're a resourceful, intrepid person without a lot to do at the moment, dive right in. Otherwise, cut yourself a break.

Now you must decide which is most important to you: the food, the location, or the look of the space? Think hard, because there is almost no chance you will get all three. Remember the last time you looked for a new apartment? It's like that, though less soul sucking. Prepare to sacrifice #3, and possibly a little of #2 on your list. One way to get a little more of each? Get married in the off-season! Sure, you dreamed of your perfect autumn/spring wedding, and who doesn't? But getting married in the dead of stinky summer or the pits of brutal winter could mean getting the perfect venue without having to compromise anything but weather. Plus, the low season isn't just low for venues—consider all the other wedding professionals who have to make a living all year round. None of these people will ever starve in this city, but they are much more motivated to negotiate in February than in September.

Oh, and did I mention that you'll need to do all of this with relative speed? We live in a cutthroat world, and places book up faster than you can say "crazyfacebridezilla." I've heard of women who book their venues before they've even gotten engaged - seriously.

NYC For Not That Expensive

Now that you've got that sorted out, your guest list is probably starting to look awfully long. Do you really need to invite your mother-in-law's neighbor's entire extended family? Or your sister, for that matter? People can share entrees, right? Relax. You may think NYC is prohibitively expensive, but in many ways, it…well, yes, okay it totally is, but open your eyes and take advantage of the unparalleled resources around you! You wouldn't have them anywhere else, and they're invaluable.

Students: Our city is home to some of the best undergraduate and graduate arts programs in the country. Avoid the price tag that comes along with anyone who has the words "professional wedding ____" on their business cards and save tons by tapping struggling students to be your photographer, videographer, even string quartet. Sure, people do this all over the country, but do they have Julliard, the New School or Columbia around the corner? No, they do not.

Designers: You have some of the most talented designers at your fingertips. This amazing breadth of creativity and couture means that not only will you be able to find the gown of a lifetime, but also your bridesmaids are not relegated to the same rack of ten dresses everywhere you look. There are all sorts of boutiques filled with different options. Plus, many times, you can actually talk to these artistes and get them to help you on the side. Custom jewelry for your bridesmaid gifts IS within your power and your price range. All of this also means that there is really no reason to spend $12,000 on a piece of tulle attached to a plastic comb at some of the big name shops. Try Bridal Veil Falls in the East Village, or really any seamstress worth her salt can do this for you at close at cost.

445 E 9th St # 2
New York, NY 10009-4988
(212) 674-3900

Restaurants: Actually, finding the right rehearsal dinner restaurant is shockingly difficult in a city packed with outrageous food. The problem is this: a quality restaurant with reasonable prices and a private space that fits more than twenty and fewer than 250 people is like the white whale of the Hudson River. Troll message boards with an eagle eye (IndieBride, WeddingBee Yelp) and start early. Try to think along the lines of a neighborhood gem. Your wedding will be fabulous enough that you don't need to stun your guests the night before like you're Blair Waldorf. We are blessed with an abundance of moderately priced, mid-sized restaurants that are actually quite fantastic and make for a rollicking good time. This, friends, is nothing to sneeze at.

Bars: You know what comes after the party? The afterparty, of course. With bars lining the streets and a 4:00 a.m. closing time, there's no need to pay your venue extra or to sacrifice a hotel room to the party gods. Most couples don't have this option, and your friends will be thrilled. This city never sleeps, though you probably will want to at some point.

Florists: You know what? This is one that is best found outside the five boroughs. If you find a florist in a nearby suburb you'll save quite a bit on unnecessary markups. Seriously, it's well worth the cost of a Metro North ticket.

Determine your budget, venue and color scheme (do a Google search for pictures of different colors and ideas you like) before meeting with a florist. Here are some suggestions:

Diana Gould Ltd.
Elmsford, NY
(914) 347-7408

X-Quisite Flowers and Events
New Rochelle, NY
(914) 632-8700

Welcome To New York

Empire State Building Wedding
U.S. Army Spc. David Alonso, on leave from duty in Iraq, and his wife Natalie Malloy pose for pictures after getting married in a ceremony at the Empire State Building February 14, 2006. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

As we know, one of the best things about living here is never having to drive anywhere. And thus, throwing a giant party here is a recipe for a ridiculously good time. But remember, for all your guests who are from out of town, it's kind of a giant pain in the tuchus, what with the expensive hotels and the parking garages and the noise and what's that smell? So you need to do your best to be mindful of them and to show them why everyone should want to live here, and anyone who doesn't is, shall we say, "stoopit".

Welcome bags for out-of-towners are the perfect way to both properly arm your guests AND show them you care. Subway maps are a must (Note: do not attempt to visit every station from here to Canarsie. Just call the number here and thank me in your heart). This is New York, so hand sanitizer is not just thoughtful, it's mandatory. Candy, 100-calorie packs, Advil, mini water bottles, mini Tide sticks or Shout wipes—the idea is to provide your guests with the comforts of home in a place where Duane Reade employees publicly berate customers for moving too slowly. And without any big box stores here for bulk purchases, Amazon is about to become your new best friend. Lastly, you have to throw in a flagship treat. Try black & white cookies from Zabar's, chocolate from Dylan's, minis from Magnolia—the possibilities are endless! If you have a local favorite that's lesser known, don't feel the need to choose a known quantity. Your guests will love the insider tip and the personal touch. The same goes for your favors—make your loved ones feel like they were really part of something special and unique.

A Word To The Wise

This leads me to my final point, and that is: do not abuse the New York theme. This city speaks for itself, and that's why you're dragging 200 of your closest friends and relatives through JFK to see you get married. You don't need to give everyone apples or "I heart NY" t-shirts. And forget the Manhattan as your signature drink, unless you want people singing "My Way" before the salad course. You wouldn't send your guests to eat at Bubba Gump's and buy electronics in Times Square, so why would you even consider putting that Statue of Liberty keychain anywhere near your festivities? It's just bad branding is all. The key to doing this right is choosing things because they are GOOD, not because they are "iconic." The great thing about NY is how easy that should be to do.

You bravely fight the everyday battle of life in New York City, and now by planning a wedding here, you're upping the ante. Playing for keeps. Putting the pedal to the metal…swinging for the fences…the point is, this won't be easy. But it will be worth it, and by the way, it ought to be fun. Try not to forget that as you drag your fiancé through Bloomingdale's again, scrutinizing the soup bowls you maybe no longer like. No, you like them. Wait…nah…okay yeah, you like them.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side. (
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