Wedding venue-wise, you may find the local VFW Hall as appealing as a bottle of Budweiser. You want something cool and unique — a place that resonates with you and your fiance, is within your budget, can host all your guests, provides essential features (dance floor, seating, and areas for a ceremony, bar, and food prep), and, most importantly, is not at all humdrum. Keep all that in mind, and use these tips on how to unearth a gem of a spot:
First and foremost, think about the places in New York that you truly love — or even the specific spot where the two of you fell in love.
“To find your ideal wedding setting, allow yourself to think outside the box,” says Denyse Galiothe, founder and owner of Events With Intention, a boutique New York City-based event-planning company. “Consider non-traditional spaces, like a favorite restaurant, park, or perhaps the museum or art gallery where you had your first date.”
If nothing comes to mind, Galiothe suggests asking yourself the following questions: “What is the most meaningful setting you can imagine exchanging your vows? Is there a beach club, farm, broad tree canopy, or perhaps a distinct view that must be the backdrop for your vows?”
Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for, prioritize.
“Try to identify what features are a ‘must’ versus what can be sacrificed,” says Galiothe. “Perhaps you would prefer to exchange vows during a certain season of the year or you wish to have specific outdoor elements in your wedding ceremony photographs.”
Write down the three most important aspects your venue needs to have and then stick to those key factors. And if you are having difficulty pinning down exactly what these factors should be, try distinguishing what kind of vibe or style you would like your wedding to have — casual, traditional, grandiose, quirky, rustic, modern, bohemian, classic, or personalized? This can help you identity what details a venue needs to have.
For instance, if you want something casual and bohemian, you may want to get married barefoot — and if you want to get married barefoot, you need to find a location where it will be comfortable to forgo the Manolo Blahniks.
“Identifying non-negotiables, taste-wise can be invaluable during your entire wedding planning process,” Galiothe points out.
It is also wise to talk to friends and colleagues who entertain regularly — especially ones who have gotten married recently or are active in business, charitable, or social organizations. These are people who are the most likely out of your social circle to be familiar with local event spaces and what each has to offer.
“One of the most useful resources might be wedding industry professionals,” adds Galiothe. This includes local event planners, florists, bakers, caterers, even the staff at the shop where you just bought your wedding dress.
Basically, once you’ve found one wedding professional you like, she will most likely be part of a well-connected professional web of other knowledgeable wedding vendors that are often great sources for insider information.
“A florist can be your key to finding a unique venue,” confirms Alexander Balikas Fell of New York City’s Sterling Fell Florist and Special Events. “Not only do florists do events, but they have clients in all sorts of interesting corners of the city. And a florist often has a vast clientele that they can use to make you, and themselves, look good!”
For instance, Fell once connected two clients who were from completely different walks of life.
“I had a client who wanted a truly unique, yet elegant and sophisticated New York wedding venue. I told her about [one of my clients] the Ukrainian Institute of America,” says Fell. “After a few calls and texts, my client had an appointment to preview this iconic New York mansion, a venue that holds one wedding a month at the most — and is not advertised in any traditional wedding collateral.”
Photographers are another excellent resource for information about lesser-known venues.
“I see all kinds of spaces,” says Sofia Negron, who has been shooting weddings and events professionally for 10 years. “I get to see places that may be perfect for a runway fashion show but aren’t your typical wedding venue.”
The casual observer may overlook spots like photo studios, lofts, restaurants, nightclubs, ballrooms, and rooftops, but an established local photographer will know about them — and can help you visualize their potential.
Don’t be afraid to create a bond with your wedding vendors.
“I build a strong relationship with my clients, so I know and understand what they really like,” says Negron. “I can suggest things they may not have thought about because I know their personalities, and what’s out there.”
For instance, Negron was able to recommend a few options to a couple who wanted a non-traditional wedding venue that could support lots of dancing, cocktails, and their own caterer.
“I sent them several suggestions before they settled on a dance studio with gorgeous brick walls, high ceilings, and the freedom to bring in whatever they wanted,” says Negron.
Keep in mind that photographers also go to various networking events, where they meet all kinds of venue owners.
“We learn about new spaces that may not be on the radar yet,” says Negron.
Professionals you become close to, like photographers and florists, may also know about venues that can pose problems for couples. Clients talk about their experiences, and wedding professionals are more likely to be aware of sites where service or facilities are less than stellar — and they’re happy to share their knowledge with you.
So, even if you want to get married on a boat, in a moat, with a goat — you can have whatever you like just so long as you’re savvy about your search.
“Trust that your ideal wedding venue exists,” says Galiothe. “And we can locate it together!” n
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