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Creative pay-your-own-way wedding eve drinks/dinner venue for 25

My dad and his partner are getting married to celebrate their 25th anniversary on Sat, May 17, at 11 a.m. on the upper east side. There will be a luncheon at the 21 club, hosted by the couple, following the ceremony. My brother and I are hosting the Sunday brunch, I think at Brasserie 8 1/2 but we haven't called to lock that in yet.

The couple and guests are all coming in from out of town for the weekend. (Most of the guests are at least somewhat familiar with NYC.) My brother and I, who both live here, have to find a place for the Friday night dinner, which is where I seek your collective wisdom.

Unlike other weddings in which we have participated in the planning, the guests will need to pay for their own meal. My dad's brother is treating the group to the bar bill. How do we plan this to minimize awkwardness surrounding the tab?

We feel like we'd like to avoid a traditional sit-down meal and instead come up with a playful non-traditional format. We've tossed around ideas like scouting for good food trucks near the high line so we can enjoy a sunset picnic on the high line; a boat tour where people just buy their ticket and whatever food they want; busing everyone out to the shuffleboard place in Brooklyn; a pizza tour.

Most promising may be to find an place that offers informal seating and small plates so everyone can mill around, put down their card and order what they will throughout the evening. The couple are in their seventies and get around fine but we need to be mindful of finding a comfortable solution.

I much appreciate your thoughts!
Sarah
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  1. So you're not paying for the friday night meal? or all the meals during the celebration? I think it has to be as casual as "we're gathering at Joe Shmoe's on Friday night for an informal cocktail and snacks, join us if you can!" "open bar, no host meal" (is there such a thing as a no host meal???) sort of invite. once it becomes a rehearsal dinner/sit down type of thing then I think people will expect that someone else is footing the bill. At least all the weddings i've been to (including my own) if the dinner the night before is formal then someone else paid.

    1 Reply
    1. re: trolley

      I know, that's what is so weird about this! No one has stepped up to host the Friday night meal but we want to find a way for everyone to be together and hang out and eat. Dad's hosting the Saturday luncheon, we're doing by word of mouth the kind of thing you suggest for Saturday night dinner (and several guests are going to shows so it's definitely going to be loose that night). My brother and I are hosting Sunday brunch but can't afford to host both Sunday and Friday. Thanks for your feedback - you're confirming that we aren't the only ones who think this is awkward!

    2. The only thing I can think of that would be something like a Chelsea Market or Gotham West Market where everyone goes off to buy what they want and you congregate somewhere to eat together. I'm not sure if you're allowed to BYOB in the markets and you also might not be able to drink on the high line but I could be wrong about that.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Barcelonian

        Yes, it sounds like what you want is akin to a food court. Otherwise it will be chaos. You can't BYOB at GWM but what uncle can do is open a tab for beer at The Cannibal and one for wine at El Colmado. Another option is the Frying Pan.

        1. re: thegforceny

          Ooh, really cool ideas!! Checking these out right now!

        2. re: Barcelonian

          I love the GWM idea. They have a fun marketing video on their home page (http://gothamwestmarket.com/#home). I left a message for their events person to see how they handle seating for groups of our size. For those of you who have been there, are there areas where we can congregate and mingle as people come and go and get their plates and drinks?

          1. re: bklynbird

            There are several communal tables at least on the Ivan Ramen side. Should be large enough for 25 people, or very close. If they reserve that area for you it might be possibility. But not sure if it'll cost you. Wasn't very crowded the times I went (in the afternoon), but I'm assuming Friday dinner time might be a little different.

        3. I would skip dinner and just do drinks Friday night. Have it start at 9pm-ish so guests know they need to do their own thing beforehand. I've actually been to a wedding where that happened - the immediate family had dinner together before and then everyone met up at the bar.

          1 Reply
          1. re: EBT

            I agree with the only drinks thing. it seems to me that there's no creative/untacky way to say we pay for drinks and you're on your own for food. Drinks are fine. I find that the older I get, the less people offer to pay for things even with big life events.

          2. What about a beer garden? You could stake out a communal table, get pitchers of beer, and people could just order their own snacks? Here's a list:

            http://www.timeout.com/newyork/bars/2...

            1. The only thing i can think of is that madison square eats is happening in may. You could set up a designated party "area" in madison square park and discreetly drink homemade "punch" and such that you pack up cute in mason jars. Everyone can find what they like at MSQ eats (or shake shack) and gather in the park across the street.
              Rain or poor weather would be a dealbreaker though....

              I would strongly suggest just doing a "cocktail hour" on friday- early evening drinks and then guests can make their own plans for dinner, which they may appreciate if many used to live here vs a we're choosing where to go but buy your own meal situation. Which is awkward.