How to Plan a New York City (Or Any Urban) Wedding

Garden party receptions and rustic barnyard weddings aren’t for everyone - some couples just can’t get enough of the hustle and bustle in New York City. Urban weddings are cool, sophisticated and promise the best of the best - but they can also be very difficult to plan, and not just because of the outrageous prices. Even if you have a seemingly bottomless budget, you’ll be shocked at how expensive it can be to have a New York City wedding. The key is to start your planning as early as possible - prices will rise if you have less time to secure your venue, book your photographer and order flowers. All of these wedding planning tips are great if you’re getting married in New York City, but many of them will also be applicable if you’re getting married in any other urban area.

Setting

One of the very first planning steps you should take is finding a venue. In the city, such a huge portion of your budget is going to be eaten up by the location that this is a good way to figure out how much you have left over to spend on everything else. Plenty of venues in the city, even the more offbeat locations, offer full service plans that include everything from the linens to a full bar. If you’d prefer to have a DIY wedding, you can, but it’s definitely not necessary.

The good news is that the city offers several different experiences to suit any couples’ style. If you want to spend your wedding day in nature, consider one of the area’s several botanical gardens. Or get married in Central Park or Prospect park. For a truly romantic day, consider getting married at a mansion or private club. To get a bonafide New York experience, plan to have your wedding at one of the many elegant hotels in the city (The Plaza Hotel is the epitome of NYC chic). You can also choose a restaurant, art gallery or even a beautiful rooftop for the ceremony and reception.

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Photo courtesy of Flickr

When choosing a venue, you have to figure out what your number one priority is: food, location or style. The odds of you being able to find a venue with all three characteristics to fit your exact specifications is slim to none. You have the best chance of booking a venue with your top choice menu and very little chance of finding a venue that perfectly suits your style. How happy you’ll be with your location is a toss up. There is an exception, though - if you want a shot at finding every single thing you’ve been dreaming of, plan to get married during the off season. Fewer brides means a greater selection of venues.

The last - and possibly most important - tip for booking a venue is to really be on the ball about it. The city is cutthroat and busy, which means that if you don’t take advantage of the opportunity to secure your number one choice, you could lose out on it forever. Wedding venues in New York City book up extremely fast - some women even put down a deposit before they get engaged… seriously. 

Rehearsal Dinner and After Party

Two additional venues you’ll have to seek out ahead of time are the rehearsal dinner restaurant and the wedding’s after party spot. Finding a place to have a rehearsal dinner is kind of tricky in the city - it’s difficult to find a quality restaurant that has a private space for more than twenty people. If a restaurant does have a private room, they may not be willing to reserve it for a “small” part of 30 or 40 people. Don’t give up hope, though - check out message boards on bridal websites to find out what other metropolitan brides did for their rehearsal dinner. There are venues available, they’re just a little hard to find. Again, you may have to remain flexible when it comes to the food, location or style - or all three.

Luckily, finding a place to move your guests after the wedding isn’t going to be nearly as difficult. New York City isn’t dubbed “the city that never sleeps” for nothing - most bars are open until 4 a.m. and late night places are all over the place. Sure, you could ask your maitre d’ for an extra hour or two, but why bother when the city has so many amazing places that are perfect for your wedding party and guests.

Vendors

It’s not always easy to find a photographer, videographer, DJ or band that you inherently trust to deliver the best on your wedding day. Sometimes you just can’t seem to find vendors who really understand what it is you’re looking for. If you’re struggling with finding the perfect vendors, tap into New York City’s best resources: its schools. Juilliard, Columbia and the New School turns out some of the most talented and creative 20-somethings in the world. Most of these students or fresh faced college graduates would love the opportunity to showcase their skills at a wedding. Don’t overlook the opportunity to work with a truly talented vendor just because they’re a little younger than you expected. (They probably won’t charge an arm and a leg, either.)

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Photo courtesy of Simply Bloom Photography

Designers

Some of the most skilled designers in the country live and work in New York City. Not only can you visit shop after shop to find the wedding gown and bridesmaids dresses that you’ve always wanted, but you’ll have so many options that are far from the five basic styles you’re used to seeing in catalogues. Instead of only visiting the big name stores, visit small, intimate boutiques to shop for everything from dresses to hair accessories and custom jewelry. The best part about tapping into the city’s design industry is that you’ll be able to talk to the designers face-to-face. That means that if you have a specific request, there’s a good chance that you’ll be accommodated. 

Goodies for Guests

Unless every single one of your family members and friends lives in the city, you’re likely to have some guests who feel very out of place when they arrive. Provide them with welcome bags that supply all the comforts of home, plus a couple of must have items for the time they’ll spend in the big city. Keep in mind that out-of-towners may not be able to locate a Duane Reede easily. Include the following items in their goodie bags. 

  • Advil, because New Yorkers can be pretty loud!
  • Chocolate from Dylan’s Candy Bar, the ultimate “Welcome to New York!” gesture.
  • Hand sanitizer, since it’s not always easy to find a restroom when you’re rushing down city blocks. 
  • Subway maps so your guests can get around somewhat easily.
  • Tide stick
  • Water bottle
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Photo courtesy of My Export Docs

A Final Word

Some people who plan a city wedding run a bit too far with the theme. You don’t have to have a full blown New York City motif just because that’s the location of your big day. The Empire State Building and line of yellow cabs are waiting for you outside, so there’s no reason to bring them indoors. Skip “I Love NY” t-shirts in your guests’ goodie bags, don’t dole out Statue of Liberty keychains as take-home favors and resist the urge to ask the bartenders to push Manhattans as the night’s specialty drink. As anyone who’s ever been to The Big Apple knows, New York speaks for itself.