The first thing that we started looking into (pre-engagement ring hunting) was the perfect venue. Traditional catering halls just don't do it for us. We weren't completely certain as to what we wanted, we just knew that we wanted it to be different. I believe I may have spent the better part of an entire weekend tunneling through the internet. Continuously clicking my mouse as I viewed and scrutinized every raw event space website in Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn. Why a raw space you ask – well, because I thought that perhaps it would be a touch cheaper. Boy was I incorrect.
Now don’t get me wrong, a blank slate of a space is a fantastic concept if you have the means to set it up inexpensively, but after I reviewed the cost of the space (most of which fell into the $7k – $11k range!) then factor in food, beverage, tables, linens, staff, etc. – I discovered that I would have a minimum of a $25k wedding on our hands and that just does not seem reasonable.
I decided to take a step back for a few days and brainstorm with Japh about the best course of action. I have a tendency of being a little neurotic when it comes to planning (neurotic in the nicest sense. It’s quaint to have check-lists and to basically give yourself an anxiety attack while you rack your brain to make sure that you’ve covered every last detail, right?). Due to this condition I just could not stay away from continuing to seek out the most fabulous and budget friendly venue in NYC.
Then one day in January I came across an interesting filter on The Knot; an option to select only “unusual / alternative” venues. I chose “Manhattan” and a short list appeared on my screen. The first one I noticed was called “Housing Works Bookstore Café”, I was already in love. Japh and I have a bit of a familiarity with the Housing Works charity; we stumbled across one of their thrift shops during a day-date in the summer of 2010. It’s a wonderful organization and their mission is something that we certainly get behind:
Housing Works is a healing community of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Our mission is to end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy, the provision of lifesaving services, and entrepreneurial businesses that sustain our efforts.
Outside of the fact that all the proceeds for the wedding will go towards the charity, the space is a bookstore! I’m a big reader and collector of first editions—Japh is also incredibly well read and has been working for a bookstore for a number of years now. And the pictures of the space…
(Source: Housing Works)
So yea, this is our unusual venue. It's the first one we took the time to check out physically and it's just damn near perfect! Also, the price-point suits our budget. Here's a quick breakdown for a minimum of 60 guests:
- Space Rental (2-hours for prep & 4-hours for ceremony & reception): $2,680.00
- Equipment Rental (tables, linens, flatware, etc,): $1,080.00
- Cocktail Hour Hors d'œuvre: $603.00
- Open Wine & Beer Bar (3.5-hours): $1,935.00
- Organic / Locally Grown Buffet Dinner: $1,350.00
- Cupcakes (assorted): $360.00
- Staff (3-chefs, 1-floor captain, 2-bartenders & 3-servers): $1,799.00
Tentative total for 60 guests = $9,807.00. Everyone after 60 will cost $115.00 person. We're thinking that we'll probably fall into about the 65 guest category, so our final invoice will probably be closer to $10,382.00. Yes, that is an astounding amount of money and just about 70% of our total budget BUT it's all inclusive which means we don't have to worry about an outside caterer or staffing or table rentals. We already have some great DIY projects for the centerpieces, bouquets, photobooth and stationery which will (hopefully) be at minimal costs. Fingers cross that we can do the rest for under $4k!
Editor's note: Due to the pandemic, some of the general wedding planning advice we share may not be applicable or possible due to restrictions on events. Please adhere to all current regulations and stay safe and healthy! Get more resources for planning a pandemic wedding here.