Some Outstanding & Affordable New York Restaurants for Stylish, Original Wedding Receptions

February 22, 2012

Many clients we've worked with have told us they wanted to use a favorite restaurant for their receptions, but they often find that they aren't able to do it because the restaurant doesn't have the resources to handle wedding receptions, or the price to rent the restaurant is too expensive. Thus, many clients end up going with their second choice - a reception hall with in-house staff. We've been DJ-ing in and around New York City for a long time, and our experience has taught us not every reception hall offers a rushed, generic or "cheesy" feel, but let's just say the image of the reception hall as having "cookie-cutter" services is at times based in reality.

The reception halls often will say they can make your celebration special and one-of-a-kind, but since these venues are designed to pack in many events they usually need to run them with an assembly-line mentality, and we've seen it's not very easy for these halls to pull off a feel of originality. At a restaurant, it's often easier for a couple (or a couple along with their DJ and other vendors) to craft a structure and feel for an event with a more personal style - since venues that don't do weddings every weekend often are more open to being flexible with the elements they recommend including in a reception and how to "flow" them. But, when thinking of choosing a restaurant for their reception, couples ask: can restaurants run weddings smoothly? Is there enough space to dance after dinner? And is it affordable? Well, just like every hall doesn't hold ten wedding receptions at once, we've found through working all over the city for many years that there are many excellent restaurants in and around the city able pull off wedding receptions that satisfy all these criteria - and the best thing is, there's an impressive diversity in styles (and unexpectedly great locations) out there.

In this post, as well as more posts soon to follow, we'll spotlight a few restaurants in and around New York City that are some of the best we've seen over the years for having a wedding reception. We've co-ordinated closely with these establishments and their accomodating staffs, observed guests raving about their food, used their layouts to provide a comfortable space for dancing, and know that the couples we've worked for who've booked these restaurants aren't millionaires. In short, these establishments give couples the whole package if they're looking to hold a reception at a restaurant and do it with style.

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Thalassa - This Tribeca restaurant (pictured left), serving Greek and Mediterranean, is sleek and modern in its decor but has just enough exposed brick walls and mahogany wine cabinets to give it earthiness and warmth. The guests always remark how the food is excellent; the staff effortlessly knows how to handle the increased pace, coordination, and larger scale of a wedding; the managers are flexible with timelines and structuring the special moments of the reception like entrances, first dances, etc.; and after dinner, the space is just the right size to accommodate a decent-sized dancing area along with a portable bar nearby. For bigger parties, or simply for added flexibility in planning, there is also a downstairs wine cellar big enough to be used for either a lounge, dining room, or a dancing area. Go here for a sample of events we’ve DJ-ed at Thalassa over the years. Their website is www.thalassanyc.com

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Golden Unicorn - Just south of Thalassa, in Chinatown, is the Golden Unicorn (pictured right), a gourmet Chinese restaurant that offers some of the best Chinese food in the city. This isn’t your typical food you may know from the corner Chinese place either. This is much more upscale and attractively-prepared. Dinners here for receptions feature an over 10 course meal of what essentially are small plates for each guest of more exotic and eclectic Chinese food. Its taste is always extremely delicious and accessible to even conservative palates - we know, as we've been there before watching hundreds of people of all cultures really enjoying the food. The courses come not too fast or not too slow, but just right - a clear sign that the restaurant is very used to handling wedding receptions. The venue’s atmosphere is in places grand and traditional, with plenty of red and, well, golden, creatures like unicorns and dragons present. But because most of this decor is centered around the dancing area, it makes the vibe feel very festive and fun, as the lights go down and people pack this part of the space. Of course, the restaurant is a great venue for Chinese weddings or multi-cultural weddings with a Chinese side, but it's a credit to the atmosphere and quality of the food that we've been here not just for Chinese weddings. For its slight grandiose atmosphere, the restaurant is so down-to-earth and friendly in terms of the staff's attitude. The managers we’ve worked at the Golden Unicorn also are able to help with Cantonese and/or Mandarin translations along with MC's if extensive translations are needed throughout the event, as some of the events we've done here have gone beyond the basic Chinese announcements that we often use in our MC-ing at Chinese weddings. Go here for a sample of events we've DJ-ed at the Golden Unicorn. Their website is www.goldenunicornrestaurant.com.

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Riverview - This cozy but slyly chic restaurant (pictured left), located on the waterfront on the border of the Astoria and Long Island City neighborhoods of Queens, is a true hidden gem. It's located in a quiet, pretty area that day or night gives you spectacular views of the midtown Manhattan skyline; there's a broad-ranging, eclectic menu of food that always tastes fresh, a breezy, ethereal atmosphere that mingles angular modern decor with organic touches like a variety of flower and small tree branch arrangements; a stylish circular lounge/bar area; and a dining room that is both elegant and casual. Also, there's a room off to the side of the dining room where wedding ceremonies can be held. We and our clients have worked with the staff here and the managers are extremely flexible at planning a reception structure that fits any style, from "indie" or eclectic to more traditional or formal. The openness of the dining room also makes the transition from dinner to dancing very easy for guests. Go here for a sample of events we've DJ-ed at Riverview. Their website is www.riverviewny.com.
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