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Alternative less expensive kosher wedding ideas

A friend is trying to make a wedding on a VERY tight budget and I am finding nothing online to help her. She can make the wedding in any NYC borough and NJ close to NY. She is super frum but absolutely kosher so the hashgocha has to be good.
People have been telling me to talk to caterers but which caterers? Who is not expensive? She needs 350 people (no, can't cut it down, big, big family) at maximum $10,000 for the whole shebang.
Possible? She's open to alternative ideas.
Thanks for your help.

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  1. 1. Buffet
    2. Midweek (which will cut down on attendees)

    There are 2 halls in Williamburg that I recall from other discussions on this board that are pretty cheap.

    1 Reply
    1. re: vallevin

      I had always been told buffets are cheaper too but caterers I've spoken too explained that it's harder to gauge how much people will eat and they still need staff to create and refresh the buffets.

    2. Here we go...from 2008:

      Found this on one of the blogs ->

      Williamsburg's halls go like this:

      1. Brucha Sima - very cheap. Very ugly. The rebbishe, very frum, and very poor go there.
      2. Bais Rochel - affordable. But it's small so only smallish families go there.
      3. VaYoel Moshe - the most sought after hall. It's gorgeous, but price wise it's just about at the edge of affordability. The people who take it either can afford it or are usually the ones who are embarrassed to go to a cheaper hall... (I got married there for the record.)
      4. Concorde Plaza - I think it's about the VaYoel Moshe range but for some reason people shy away from booking it - I don't know why. But people do go there. Maybe cuz it's about out of the central area.
      5. Continental - very gorgeous, but only for negidim. Expensive.
      6. Rose Castle - only for super negidim and rich non chasidim
      7. Ateres Avraham - for the filthy rich and all non chasidim!
      8. Eden Palace - no one uses.


      For the record, I used Eden Palace for my daughter's wedding.

      To this list I would add the Viznitz Hall in Boro Park as well as Ateres Chayil and Ateres Chinka. I know there are more in Brooklyn, If you are interested I can do more research. I went to some modest weddings of friends of mine, I just can't rember their names - the halls, not the friends. I think one was on McDonald Ave in Brooklyn and another one on New Utrich Ave, and now that I think about it another one was off Ft Hamilton Parkway. Maybe some ChowHounders can fill in the blanks.

      New Posts | Permalink | Report | Reply

      By MartyB on May 16, 2007 10:47AM

      2 Replies
      1. re: vallevin

        I made my son's wedding at Ateres Chynka and it was very low key (no flowers, small band) but still the minimum requirement was 550 people-we had 450 and took home leftovers. It was nice but still cost us $20,000, a cost that we were able to split between the two families. My friend does not have that option.
        Are the Brooklyn ones all separate seating? We don't need that. I'm thinking stay away from Williamsburg?

        1. re: vallevin

          Too frum, I think. They'll require separate seating and my friend will just feel weird dealing with them. Is Brooklyn then out of the question?

        2. There's an alternative wedding hall in Boro park - Tiferes Rivka - with special pricing - it's on 38th between 12 and 13

          1. There is a new place on Coney Island Ave. in Brooklyn, Midwood area, that goes by the name of "Sisu Vsimcha". They should be in your range.

            1 Reply
            1. re: aaronsja

              Thank you! I will give these to my friend.
              How about on Long Island? My mother heard that there was a hall in Huntington that does subsidized weddings but I can't find anything. Is Long Island out of the question? Maybe Westchester?
              Oh and anybody have any caterer friends who are willing to go outside the box and make an alternative type wedding somewhere new? When I made my son's Bar Mitzva, we got very lucky and found a guy who was just starting out-ours was his second affair-so we took a chance and he gave us a great party for very little because he wanted to get his name out there.

            2. I have absolutely no suggestions for you/your friend, but I'm just surprised, from all these suggestions, that no one thinks it's an impossible task you are asking. I wouldn't have thought there was a place where one could have a wedding for a total of less than $30 pp, which has to include the flowers, music, invitations, pictures, video, etc., as well as the food. I suppose you could do without flowers and do email invitations, but it's hard to imagine no photography or music at a frum wedding. So to have those costs, and then keep the food costs to $15-$20 per person just seems impossible to me. These days, one can hardly get out of a fast food place for less than $15!

              I feel my wedding was beautiful, and we had all that stuff, and only spent about $17,000, but it was over 10 years ago and we only had about 150 people. And I thought we had economized pretty well. To have more than double that guest list, for about half the cost, ten years later, just seems undoable to me. I guess I am truly not thinking out of the box.

              3 Replies
              1. re: queenscook

                The question is what you're willing to cut out. Do you need a sit-down dinner, or is bread & spreads, vegetable platters, cake, fruit, and soda sufficient? Do you need a band, or are you willing to use recorded music, or perhaps a one-man band? Is it OK if you ask all your friends to bring cameras and take lots of pictures, or do you need a professional photographer? If so, is a photography student good enough? Are formal invitations necessary? What about flowers and centerpieces?

                Even economizing like crazy, I can't see having 350 people that cheaply if you're insisting on serving them a full meal. That probably has to go. You'll need to figure out an alternative wedding venue, rather than a catering hall that's mostly designed to sell food. I don't know of a shul big enough to have 350 people at a sit-down meal, but if people will be standing around, eating from a small buffet, perhaps a shul kiddush room might be good enough? My own shul (Mt. Sinai, in Washington Heights) just renovated its kiddush room, and while 350 people is fairly tight even while standing, it's probably technically doable; there's even a dance floor :) Anshei Chesed in Linden, NJ, also has a fairly big kiddush room that you can rent out for simchas, so you might want to look into that.

                1. re: GilaB

                  Weren't there guidlines posted in the Jewish press a few years ago about this? I think one of the proposals was that a buffet or passed hors deuvers be done, then a big dance set and then only immediate family is invited for the seudah.

                  1. re: GilaB

                    I've been to weddings that were dessert only. There were small deli sandwiches and some appetizers passed around, but the invitations specified that the food served would be dessert.

                    It's an interesting way to cut costs if it's possible.

                2. I really think you need to revisit the guest list. Cutting 50-100 people begins to make the numbers close to doable. You've mentioned a "big, big family", but how big are we talking about? Using Queenscook's 150 as a non-family number that means you are talking about 200 family members. Split evenly that is 100/side. Do you really need to invite every cousin/niece/nephew? I can't imagine your friend is particularly close to every family member when there are so many of them. Just because you're related a couple generations back doesn't mean you need to invite them. If you have nothing to do with the extended family leave them off the list. If you stick with siblings, parents, grandparents and a few of the closer uncles/cousins I have a hard time seeing the numbers even approach 50. So cut each family to 50, and another 50 off the non-family list and now you're at 200 people.

                  At 200 people, your budget is now $50/person instead of $28/person and you may have a shot at finding a caterer who can work with you.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: avitrek

                    Thank you for the good suggestions and I will relay them to my friend-I especially like the kiddush room idea with a simple buffet...why not?
                    I just wanted to explain the number of people. Jewish families are HUGE. I have 28 nieces and nephews, half of whom are married; an equal amount of FIRST cousins, all of whom are married; assorted aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters. My immediate family tops 100 at this point and that's without a single friend.
                    My friend, however, has a large family and her deceased husband's family is also very large and she is adamant about including them because they are his family. I agree that she should cut but I don;t think it's that simple. With any luck 50-75 people won't show up and that will be good. She is also footing the entire bill for this wedding (we've all seen this happen, not necessary to explain it). So if she wants both sides of her family, plus the kallah's friends, plus his family and his friends...well it's tough.
                    Still I agree she should cut or be a bit more reasonable and maybe that will happen. I just wish there was a way to do this without spending tons of money for a few hours.

                  2. The rabbi of my shul made a wedding that I truly though made sense, mind you he was wealthy and did not do it to save money, but to avoid the problems of who to invite. He had an elaborate buffet for all AFTER the chuppa. They had the dancing and after that everyone left except the family for the dinner. Can't have any fights since you are either family or not and if not you were at the chuppa and buffet like everyone else.

                    I thoroughly enjoyed it since I just love buffets and was able to go home at a reasonable hour.

                    It has got to be cheaper than a traditional wedding since they had a very small sit down dinner and that is where they charge the most.

                    1. I definitely think that Rose Castle in Brooklyn should be able to accommodate your friend. I looked at it last year for my wedding and the food was absolutely AMAZING. It doesn't look great, but they are very nice and accommodating and again the food is really good and is beautifully presented. I believe that they originally quoted us at $30 per person (for 350 people), but I'm sure you can negotiate. Good luck!

                      1. I would look into a kiddush room and a buffet. Anshei Chesed's in Linden is relatively large and inexpensive. I have been to events there and they have been very nice, its not a beautiful hotel but it is large, you can decorate as needed and there is a nice feeling of intimacy. The beit midrash is very beautiful too. add a simple buffet and make the centerpieces yourself from fake flowers or other dollar/craft store items and it should work out beautifully.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: azna29

                          I hate to be mercenary....but the distance should cut down on people coming as well.

                          1. re: vallevin

                            that is a way to cut down the list:) but actually Linden is pretty close to Brooklyn, you cut through staten island and its a pretty short drive.

                            1. re: azna29

                              I take it Linden is in NJ? I will google and pass on the suggestion. Also-didn't know that Rose Castle was so reasonable. I wonder if they would be amenable to something simple?

                              1. re: surellabaer

                                I would be shocked if you could make a wedding at Rose Castle for 350 for $10,000.

                                1. re: surellabaer

                                  http://www.anshechesed.org/events/ - even though it says upto 300 call them anyway since it is a really nice hall, VERY inexpensive and they can make extra room if necessary...

                                  1. re: marissaj

                                    UPDATE! My friend went to the Hewlett/East Rockaway Jewish Center and found the caterer to be really nice, eager to please and willing to work with her! I hope this works out. Plus, it's great to have a new place to make a wedding in the 5 towns!

                                    1. re: surellabaer

                                      I was just reading this thread and I am so glad you found your way to Hewlett East Rockaway too! I am getting married there in 13 days and could not be happier about the place, the caterer, the food, and most all the man I get to marry that day.

                          2. on the theme of Alternative less expensive kosher wedding ideas

                            we've been trying to get an affordable a place for affordable simchas in the 5 towns/Far Rockaway area for the last 3 years. this is part of an email I just received

                            Congregation Bais Ruchama would be not only a synagogue BUT A COMMUNITY GATHERING PLACE FOR AFFORDABLE SIMCHOS for our community and for the new Jewish community that is sprouting in Inwood.
                            The new and beautiful facility will clean up the unsightly Redfern Avenue for all residents; yet, there is serious opposition to the proposal from the Inwood Civic Association and from a commercial laundry down the block. Both say they are concerned about "traffic" despite the fact that there are two public lots with over 225 spaces next to the facility (mostly empty during Tefilah times and evenings,


                            Please be sure to sign in when you come and stay as long as you can – there is a large theatre for seating

                            Address of 3PM Meeting:
                            Town of Hempstead Office
                            Theatre for Zoning Cases
                            1 Washington Street
                            Hempstead, NY 11550
                            Phone (516) 489-5000

                            the meeting is today October 27, 2010

                            11 Replies
                            1. re: berel

                              hi , im new to this site and didnt know how to start a new discussion, but Im from toronto and engaged, me and my finace are looking to get married in monsey mid nov 2011..in either the atrium or charna...does anyone have any idea what the prices are like? if there are any packages? if the venues are nice? thanks in advance!

                              1. re: chavzie

                                Mazel tov!

                                I don't know particulars of prices or packages, but I've been to many family weddings in Monsey. A relative made clear to me earlier this year that Ateres Charna was cheaper, although he didn't go into numbers. AC is essentially one large room, divided off into sections by moveable screens, so when you first get there, there's a whole lot of set tables for the coming meal pushed off to one side and screened off, an area where the shmorg and kabbalas panim is, and a screened-off area where the chuppa will be. This means that during the chuppa, you can hear the workers as the shmorg is cleaned up, and that after the chuppa, the guests need to wait while the chairs are stacked up and the dinner tables for the men's side are positioned where the chuppa area used to be. There's an openable skylight above the chuppa spot. There's mandatory separate seating. AC is newer, with more modern decor. There's no attractive area outside it, but it stands alone, with its parking lot next to it.

                                In contrast, the Atrium is located in a strip mall, with the parking area in front. (This has never bothered me, perhaps because I've been attending multiple weddings per year there since early childhood.) Inside, it's more elaborately decorated than AC, but it hasn't been redone since perhaps the mid-eighties, and it shows; the color scheme is mint green and peachy-pink. There are separate rooms for each part of the wedding: shmorg/kabbalas panim, chuppah, and dinner, although the chuppah room is only separated from the dinner area by a floor-to-ceiling accordion wall, which is not as soundproof as you might like it to be. The chuppa has a non-openable skylight above it. There are acres of dance floor; AC doesn't have a small, skimpy one, but to me, the best thing about the Atrium is that the dance floor is big enough that the kallah, her mother, and her mother-in-law each have enough room for their own circles. (The men's side doesn't seem to break into separate circles as much.) I know that the Atrium offers several different levels of catering at different prices, and that one can bring in an outside caterer. They have a small bit of trees and grass on the side of the building where couple tend to take pictures that look pretty and park-like, which is funny if you see where they're done. Mixed seating is permitted.

                                1. re: GilaB

                                  my cousins who have very large families invite everyone to the chuppa and to dancing
                                  after the meal. The meal is only for immediate family and close friends

                                  1. re: koshergourmetmart

                                    I know this is becoming popular, especially in Israel, but I don't understand it from a practical/workable point of view. If I have to travel at all to a wedding, I'm certainly not going to make the trip twice. What do people do--go for the chuppah, then kill a couple of hours during the meal, and then go back? Do they eat at all? (I presume they do at the shmorg, but even that I'm not sure of.) Unless I was very close to the family, I likely wouldn't bother to go at all with this set up.

                                    1. re: queenscook

                                      Agreed. I think a more practical arrangement would be shmorg, chuppah, dancing, then people leave and only inner circle stays for meal.

                                      1. re: avitrek

                                        From my long ago exsperience in the kosher catering business, this plan would only work in a catering hall. Synagogue rabbis always forbade it, as they didn't want guests who had been drinking during the shmorg, coming into the santuary for the chuppah...........

                                        Worst experience we had when a synagogue rabbi backed down on this policy because the kallah's father wrote large checks, mother of the kallah fell down drunk at chuppah during the ceremony.

                                        1. re: bagelman01

                                          Except the shmorg has happened before the chuppah at 99% of the weddings I have been to. And I'm sure most people have similar experiences. Also, moving the shmorg after the chuppah makes the plan even easier. Chuppah, Shmorg, Dancing, then people filter out and the family stays for dinner.

                                          1. re: bagelman01

                                            What are you saying that the rabbis forbade? All weddings in synagogues are (generally) preceded by the shmorg where alcohol is usually available; how is that any different than every wedding? The main issue here is where the guests invited for parts A & C (shmorg/chuppa and post-meal dancing) will spend part B (the meal).

                                            1. re: queenscook

                                              "All weddings in synagogues are (generally) preceded by the shmorg where alcohol is usually available"

                                              The word ALL is a problem. Maybe all the synagogue weddings you have attended, or all the NY synagogue weddings you know about, BUT outside NY where the kosher consumer is often restricted to having the wedding in the synagogue, the rabbis have more power/control.

                                              I live less than 50 miles from Manhattan and it's a world of difference. If you get the kosher caterer to do the wedding at a country club or hotel, then you can have the shmorg with booze before the Chuppah. If you are doing everything in a synagogue with a large social hall for the shmorg, sanctuary for the Chuppah and Auditorium for the seudah, the chances are the rabbi will not allow booze before the chuppah (outside the bottle of schnapps at the chasson's tisch.

                                              I haven't been in the kosher catering business for more than 25 years, but I am in the process of planning/booking/paying for my daughter's 2012 wedding. It will be in a large synagogue and the rabbi will not allow a shmorg with booze before the chuppah. I agree with that rule.

                                    2. re: GilaB

                                      thank you!
                                      im going to look into it!

                                    3. re: chavzie

                                      My son got married at Charna-it was lovely. The price was very right and I wasn't expecting much, but the food was amazing (and they send us home with tons of leftovers-chicken cutlets, etc-for Sheva Brochus), and the people there were very nice.
                                      My daughter got married at the uber fancy Temple Hillel and it was a terrible experience. Charna was terrific!
                                      Mazel Tov!

                                  2. Split it up. Have a very modest chuppa, perhaps in your parents living room or back yard followed by a family dinner.

                                    Then have a series of home-cooked shava brachot. Each in a private home with your nieces, nephews, siblings and friends setting up the chairs, bringing covered dishes and helping the host family wash up afterward.

                                    Put the $10,000 or $80,000 you save toward a down payment on your first home. Or toward finishing your education loan-free.

                                    Building a home in Israel is far more important than paying a caterer.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: AdinaA

                                      We used to do this for every family sheva brochos! It was always the best one, very homey and warm. But now as my 28 nieces and nephews are half married, the guest list of just immediate family is starting to top 50 people and none of us have a house big enough.
                                      We're dreading moving the party to a catering hall or restaurant or shul-it won't be the same at all.
                                      LOVE your idea!

                                      1. re: surellabaer

                                        With so many families in our community out of work these last few years and on very tight budgets, we have been doing a lot more pot-luck or "planned" pot-luck simchas. It actually works out very nicely if you trust the kashrut of the homes where the food is prepared. The host provide the venue, decorations, disposable utensils, disposable chafing dishes, beverages and music. All of the food and the quantities required and who you would like to the cooking (decided upon in advance and coordinated by a family member or friend) is brought room temperature or ready to heat on the chafing dishes. We collect the recipes from the simcha, bind them on Shutterly using the cook book template, and present them to the couple or Bar/Bat Mitzvah. The key is finding a simple community center that allows you to bring in your own food. Ask a friend or family member to be your photographer/videographer.

                                    2. Elope.

                                      Think seriously about this alternative. buy two round trip tickets to Israel. Set up your chuppah in a public park and have a picnic afterward with a few friends. Or a home-cooked dinner in the home of a relative or friend in Israel.

                                      When you get home, have a mazal tov reception in your parents home or in his parents home. You will have the beautiful memory of being a kallah in Jerusalem.

                                      1. Just FYI, there is a deal in Baltimore to have a full kosher wedding, everything included for $10,000 at Shomrei Emunah synagogue on Greenspring in Pikesville/Baltimore. I'm just starting to look into it, but it seems like a good idea. I think they call it Simchas Bayis Neeman.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: Bicycle410

                                          Thanks! Good to know. This has turned into a really helpful thread!

                                          1. re: surellabaer

                                            Anyone else planning a less expensive kosher wedding now and want to compare notes? The one synagogue I spoke with was reasonable --- $2000 Sunday, $1000 M-Th. They said it was possible to get O'Fishel's catering for $24 per person.

                                            My chatan also called Umami Bistro because they have terrific food, and they said that you can just order off the menu in multiples of four, but the food needs to be picked up from their restaurant. Still very tempting and definitely different.

                                            I'm not sure what the alcohol deal is, whether it's possible to just order a few cases of wine from online, to avoid needing to go through a caterer for that.

                                            I am also tempted to do fish and have ice cream for dessert since it's a summer wedding, but logistics might be hard for that.

                                            I am also tempted to try to rent a community room so that I could bake my own wedding cake, but I'm not sure whether it would be worth all the other hassles.

                                            1. re: Bicycle410

                                              I know in NYC it's fine usually to bring your own wine-I did it for my son's wedding (we didn't want a bar just a few bottles for a l'chaim). I think it's up to the caterer/hall.

                                              Fish is a pricey way to go-although who isn't sick of chicken?

                                              If you can get decent help for the community room, it's not a bad idea. My sister does her parties in one and she caters from one place and gets neighborhood guys to set up, serve and clear. It's doable.

                                              And the cake can be made ahead of time, frozen and then decorated with the icing etc. a day or two before (don't freeze it iced).

                                              Good Luck!

                                              1. re: surellabaer

                                                My friend had her wedding 10 years ago in Riverdale, and it was $7000 all inclusive, and she served salmon steaks. I'm not sure who she used, but it was very classy. Another friend self-catered for 250 people (with the help of friends) with salmon steaks.

                                          2. re: Bicycle410

                                            Turns out that this deal is limited to weekday weddings. O'Fishel was not nice to speak with --- they told me that they couldn't do for less than $40 per person, then they said maybe they could make a "special deal" and offer 150 people for $7000 (so that's more than $40 per person), and then they kept calling me to pressure me into making decisions and promising to send me a menu with proposal but never did.

                                            Right now we're working with a synagogue in the Washington DC area (same prices as in Baltimore), and some of the caterers listed on the Capitol K website even have menus online with prices listed. Very useful to be able to see the options like that, and to be able to make an informed decision. We did find a restaurant under Capitol K that will deliver food for $17 per person, and the food is quite good. It has been really hard to get in touch to nail down what is included.