Finding a Wedding Venue in New York City

Melissa Haines writes about her experience of finding a wedding venue on a budget in New York City.

Even though I love romantic evening cocktail parties and could picture rose petals and candles clustered in bell jars, I just kept envisioning a sunny, outdoor ceremony.  Matt is more of a morning person anyway, and I can’t resist brunch and good coffee, so we agreed on a morning wedding and a brunch reception.

Out of curiosity, I started with my dream wedding venue—the Orensantz—in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.  I thought maybe no one else had thought of this gem—a Catholic church turned Jewish synagogue turned abolitionist movement turned events space—until a Google search re-educated me.

It was the 4th most popular wedding site in NYC!  Sarah Jessica Parker got married there and the venue fees ran $15,000 for the big day!  So, unless we wanted to stand around and look at each other in a beautiful space, that wasn’t going to work on my budget.  Back to the drawing board.

I typed “reasonable garden reception” into Yelp’s search engine, and came up with a bunch of interesting choices.  I emailed everyone from the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and the Faculty House at Columbia University to venues in Staten Island’s Snug Harbor.  What I discovered is that most venue spaces also provide exclusive catering, so while venue fees were $450 to $3,000 for ceremony and reception, their brunch quotes floated between $120 and $150 a head.   What were they going to feed us, Iranian beluga, matsutake mushrooms and Vieille Bon Secours Ale?  I felt certain I could do better.

I started looking for venues that do not provide catering, figuring we could shop around for more reasonable food.  The good thing about planning a wedding on super short notice is that most places are taken, so if you find and like an available venue, your decision is already made.

The Brooklyn Society of Ethical Culture was free that day and reasonably priced and couldn’t have been friendlier.  I scheduled a tour and they showed me the Grand Parlor where we could seat 80 people or so, the outdoor patio where another 60 could sit, a lovely spot on the lawn where we could have the wedding ceremony and a quaint ring of stone benches surrounded by flowering bushes where people take their pictures.

Prospect Park was across the street and the area is dotted with adorable brownstones and quaint, quiet shops.  What really put it over the top was the sun-drenched, paneled library where the bridal party could prepare for the ceremony.  I love libraries and decided then and there I needed to be surrounded by books before saying “I do.”

Ironically, the Sweet Melissa Patisserie is just a few blocks away, so I went there afterward to have a scone and send my confirmation email.  A Brooklyn wedding it is!

My previous articles

The Shanghai Proposal

Planning a Wedding in Hundred days

Picking a Wedding Date and City

A Wedding on a Budget

About the Author

Melissa Haines is a relationship counselor in New York City and writes a blog ( on the science of dating, mating and breaking up.


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About the author: Melissa Haines

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