I Found the Cheapest Venue in Brooklyn So You Don't Have To

Photo courtesy of Lindsay Hackney

I should probably start this series off by saying that my #1 piece of advice before doing anything on the planning front is to know what you're capable of and where your priorities are. If I'm being honest here, Greg and I differ on on both our capabilities and our priorities. My priorities are cost and design. His priorities are guest experience and the overall ease of the day. I tend to focus my energy on the design details and aesthetics of the day, where Greg is focused on the logistics and ensuring we have adequate coverage for the day of details.

I'd also say under the priorities discussion falls sub-bullet #1a: what about a wedding is important to you as a couple? Greg and I are the worlds worst dancers, but invite us to your wedding and we are the first couple on the dance floor fist pumping and flailing about without a care in the world. When we go to a wedding, we focus on the appetizers, the bar and the photo booth. When we consider other things commonly found at weddings, we realized that we've collectively been to very few weddings, if any, where we've left the night raving about the dinner, the DJ, the cake or the party favors. For us as a couple, we're all about the memories made reuniting with friends and having a fun night. We realized that our ideal wedding is basically a formal house party.

As I'm sure I've mentioned repeatedly at this point, we are not interested in spending a small fortune on this day if it can be helped. When we started our Bachelor like search for the "perfect venue", we had very few requirements for the space. Clearly number one was the cost, but the second to that was the size of the space. We made a preliminary guest list prior to visiting any venues and saw that we have over 120 "priority" guests we wanted to include in the day. Would we be able to cut that down to 75 to get a cheaper venue space? Yes. Would we disappointed if we had to do that? Hell yea we would. And as every bride (or groom) in the history of romantic comedies has said, "its my day!" If we were going to commit to having a reception, we wanted it to include everyone important to us.

In an effort to keep costs down, it was really important to me that we be able to choose our own vendors. Most venues have a list of vendors they require or recommend. If you have to use a required list of vendors, that's a huge consideration. To put it in perspective, our venue's cost was $3,500 for the day. We are able to use any vendor we wanted, which meant that if we wanted to use a food truck, we'd be looking at $2,000-$3,000 for catering costs. If we had to use a vendor the venue required, we'd be looking at a minimum of $5,000-$10,000 for catering. And that's just food. If we had to use their required bar menu or lighting company or table linens, the cost of our wedding would spiral quicker than my hopes and dreams the day I graduated college and entered this bullshit existence known as "adulthood". Our venue is letting us hang up our own lights (that you can bet your ass will be unplugged from our backyard and relocated for the day), bring our own alcohol, use whatever tables or linens or chairs we're able to carry through the front door (although we do have the option to rent table and chairs from the venue for a steal). All we're responsible for is setting up and breaking down everything we bring into the space and restoring it to its bare bones by the end of the night. Well that and insurance (which is only about $250).

While is a huge bonus that we can use whatever vendors we want and have complete control over the venue, there is a downside. We need to set-up and break down the event ourselves, both of which require time. I've had a couple friends plan and execute their own weddings outside the city and they were fortunate enough to get a day before or a day after to setup and cleanup their event. Unfortunately this is NYC and everything is of course more difficult. Venues in this area churn out events 7 days a week and most rentals are priced hourly or only allow you 12 hours for your event. Now, we could hire help to setup or breakdown the event, but that's another fee that has to be considered upfront. Greg and I agreed that we would setup the event ourselves, but would hire out the cleanup (which is a post in an of itself). The venue we choose had the largest window of time of any we reached out to. We are able to enter the space by 10am and have until 2pm to vacate.

Lastly, and this is a just a personal preference for us, is that we wanted the venue to be indoors. Greg and I are not what I would call "lucky" people. Yes we found each other on app with a reputation of being the Hugh Hefner of dating apps and some would call that luck, but when it comes to forces controlled by mother nature, there is a 100% chance it will be hurricane level rain if we chose to have an outdoor ceremony or wedding. If you're going to have an event with any portion taking place in the outside elements, you'll need to consider if you should rent a tent. And if you're sensing a pattern here, tent = $$$.

Now, if you've made it to this portion of the post, I'm going to go ahead and assume you internet browsing history includes sites like The Knot and Wedding Wire and you're knees deep in the wedding planning process. I went ahead and linked out to a few venues we reached out to, as well as their estimated cost, size and hourly rental average, in case you want to make some moves. Keep in mind, as much as I would have loved to have entertain the idea of renting the Greenpoint Loft or 501 Union, we tried to keep our search hyper-focused in an effort to keep sticker shock to a minimum.

Studio Arte ($3,400) - Up to 150 guests, 8 hr rental (additional time $350/hr)
Old Stone House, Entire House + Tent ($1000 + $100/hr) - Up to 175 guests with tent rental
The 1896 ($6,800) - Up to 500 guests, 14 hr rental
Bathaus ($4,125) - Up to 80 guests, noon-midnight rental
Diety ($17,550+) - Up to 150 (min. 100) guests, no outside vendors allowed
Marcy North ($5,200) - Up to 100 guests, 12 hour rental (additional time $180/hr)
The Dumbo Loft ($3,500) - Up to 140 guests, 16 hr rental

And in case you haven't heard, we ultimately booked our #1 choice, and really my only choice when I agreed to forego my dream of eloping and commit to a big wedding, the Dumbo Loft. Even before getting engaged, Greg and I had talked about this venue. Greg had attended a wedding here a few years ago and knew it was affordable. Obviously the price was the most important factor in our decision, but the overall look and feel of the space was a HUGE added bonus. If Greg and I could dream up our ideal apartment, if would be a version of the Dumbo Loft. It has hardwood floors, wood beans, loft windows and exposed brick. I mean, COME ON! We don't anticipate needing as much in terms of decor because the space is really nice on its own, which in turn should help to keep overall costs down. Plus, it's within a stones throw of one of our favorite areas in the city: Brooklyn Bridge Park. So far working with them has been a dream and I could not recommend this space enough for anyone looking to get married in the NYC area.

How did your wedding venue "shopping" go? What was important for you when committing to a non-refundable deposit on a venue? I'd love to read about your experiences, whether they were in the NYC area or not, so please leave a comment below!


Photo Courtesy of Lindsay Hackney
Photo Courtesy of the Dumbo Loft

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