When throwing a wedding for less than $10,000, one place where you can get totally thrown off your budget is with the rehearsal dinner. We had 24 guests, same as my sister, who's prix fixe dinner in Brooklyn, that was supposedly a deal, cost about $2,000. $2,000 is 1/5 of my budget.
I thought I could out smart the whole rehearsal dinner deal. I thought I had a great idea one night while dining at a local family style Italian restaurant. Once we had tallied out the bill it had accounted to about $15 each including tip and tax (but no drinks). I thought, this is it! So I walked in one day a few weeks later and started talking prices with the manager. First of all, she took out a menu for about $65 pp without tip and tax. Tip and tax by the way, if you don't know is going to increase your price per head by about 30% and take a somewhat reasonable price and make it ridiculous. I said I couldn't do that price and as if by magic Lady McManager takes out another pricing menu. This exchange happens about 4 more times until she finally brings out the cheapest menu which is still about $30 pp and not including alcohol which is another $20 pp.
I kept researching but every restaurant I looked at was not going to be less than $50 pp which with 24 people amounted to $1,200. This price still looks better than the original numbers, but would not include a private room. I'm going to save you the story of how many restaurants I called. But eventually I came down to two options:
1) Non-traditional: A friend of mine took me to see the Story Pirates at the Drama Book Store. Tickets are $15 and they provide free wine before and after the show. The show itself is hysterical. For an hour you look at sometime irreverent, always hysterical riffs on stories actual elementry school children write. They are used to hosting events and will even let you order in food. I thought I could order pizza (cheap I know, but most of our guests are from out of town/out of the country and love the idea of NY pizza), pay for the tickets and Story Pirates could handle the alcohol. Ultimately that would bring prices down to at most $25 per person. The cons to this scenario would be the limited seating and cheap food.
2) Traditional: I spoke to my priest about renting a room at the church. We got the "music room" for nothing. Just had to pay a teenager to help us with the set up. I was generous and when he showed up with a friend paid them both $40 for the night. It ended up being well worth it. They set up, paid the caterer, lit candles, timed the right music playlist and even asked me if I wanted my napkins folded "fancy-style." Yes, thank you!
The room itself had 3 large arched windows, mahogany paneling and wall shelving. The overhead lighting was soft enough to forget you were in a school and we set up the tables to form a U-shape, covered them in linen and took the 24 cut glass rocks glasses I got from fishs eddy for $1 each and used them as wine glasses (for the wedding the next day they would be turned into votive holders. We used the vintage gold etched bar glasses I got at Scavengers up in Inwood for the tea lights (reused those the next day too). Buster's Cafe catered with fancy chafing dishes and all for a total of $550.00. That included delivery, tax, salad, two main courses of Salmon and Pork Loin with roasted vegetables and rice, fruit, plates, napkins, cookies and the piece de resistance: Guava Pastelitos. They were located just a couple blocks away on Amsterdam and W 103rd so it was so easy. We ordered wine by the case which meant 20% off and free delivery so we were able to have really good wine for $12-16 a bottle. I think we served about 12-14 bottles or so, which totalled to about $175. The white wine bottles we later stripped of their labels and reused as centerpieces filled with ferns and tropical folliage or candles for the reception the next day. We brought over my iPod dock for music.
We had the room for as long as we wanted, we just walked up from the rehearsal itself in the church. It was an absolutely fantastic time and because we saved so much on the space and tips, we were able to get AMAZING food for $23 pp and really great wine. All in all the night cost us about $800 and we were able to reuse so many things for the wedding. (We even reused the plates and napkins for the morning after breakfast).