Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Venue Shopping- The Vineyard Edition

Wineries are popular spots for weddings. You’ve got the booze angle, beautiful flowering grounds, and a romantic, relaxed vibe. Now, New Jersey and New York City aren’t exactly known as wine regions- NYC is more famous for breweries and distilleries if anything, although NY State does have the Finger Lakes and parts of Long Island. And you may be surprised to learn that NJ actually has over 40 wineries.

I investigated three different venues, which I’ll share here:

Laurita Winery is in the western-most part of Monmouth County. The vineyard is lovely, and the space itself is striking- there’s a dining area, a cool bar and a loft for cocktails. The patio is also available in nice weather. They’re exclusive with one caterer, who has a variety of options. They serve their own wines exclusively, but also can bring in all other liquors.

Downsides- a little pricey; yet another location with a ‘no-shots’ policy (neither Mike and I are big shot takers, nor are the majority of my guests, but I hate the idea of being told ‘no’ to something like this when I’m shelling out tens of thousands of dollars!); and being out in ‘the country’, the hotels are limited and all a good 15+ minutes away. Not a big deal, but I’d prefer to give people closer options. (For us, too!)

Brooklyn Winery- yup, you read that right. They are the first winemaking center in Brooklyn. This place is very new and very cool. There are several options for renting, from one small room to the entire facility. Currently they do not have a hard liquor license, so you would buy one of their wine packages and bring in your own liquor- although by the time our wedding rolls around, that may have changed. You’d also bring in your own caterer- being a new place, they’re pretty flexible. The event coordinator is really sweet and I think I would love working with her.

Of course this place, being NYC, is a little expensive (for us) for what it is- the wine package, extra alcohol, and catering adds up quickly; but the space is so cool you wouldn’t need a ton of decorations. And it’s right in our own (sort of) neighborhood, Williamsburg. I love that.

Silver Decoy Winery, in Mercer county and less than 45 minutes form our hometowns, is a little smaller and doesn’t have a reception hall. Weddings are held under rented tents on the beautiful grounds. I believe they are open to several caterers- I found them through Falco’s Caterers, who also work with the Berkeley Hotel and many others.

I have to admit, this one has been on my mind for months- I just adore the picture with the luminaria walkway, and I loooove the idea of stringing paper lanterns across the ceiling, and decorating simply with vases of lavender. It looks so sweet and laidback and romantic. From the beginning I was hesitant to consider outdoor venues, because I didn’t want to spend the week before the wedding obsessively checking Weather.com. But when I imagine a rainstorm happening during our wedding, it doesn’t even faze me. Michael and I both love the rain (as long as we aren’t commuting in it!) and I think it could be kind of cool. Not my ideal situation, sure, but not a dealbreaker worst-case-scenario, at least.

So, this is definitely one of my ‘back up’ venues- if right now I’m investigating another location that I haven’t shared on the blog yet, and while I’m really excited about it, pulling it off would require a lot of work. So this is my ‘in case I lose my shit and realize I have no DIY skills, nor patience to deal with 10 different vendors’ Plan B.

Aren't the wineries so pretty? I'm hoping to head out for a tasting this spring. I promise to report back- after the buzz has worn off.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I Put a Ring on It

On Friday, Michael and I made our first marriage-related purchase- his ring!

We went to Jean’s Silversmith in the diamond district. A relative of my boss owns it and we needed someone reputable to appraise my rings. While we were there, we checked out some of the bands. I didn’t find anything that suited me, but we found the perfect ring for Michael.

It’s a high grade platinum band with a beveled edge. Mike tried on a few and really liked this one, and so did I. They also gave us a great price- we’d been prepared to pay hundreds more for lower quality than what we got.

One of my new Brooklyn bride friends was also shopping this weekend and had a similar result- a ring for her fiancĂ©, but not for her. We have inspired each other to ‘buck up’- there’s still time, and it’s worth it for us to keep looking to find something we love.

I don’t want anything fancy, although I do want platinum to match my engagement ring, and Mike wanted platinum as well- seeing as it’s the only piece of jewelry he’ll ever own, he wanted to ‘go big’. He definitely deserves it!

Monday, April 4, 2011


Here’s something important to both of us at our wedding- the drinks. We’re not lushes (shut up! I’m NOT!) but we definitely like to drink when we celebrate- as does the bulk of our friends and family and, oh yeah, the rest of the world.

Several of the venues we’re investigating would require us to provide our own bar. We’d be hiring bartenders and renting glassware and equipment, but we’d be responsible for bringing our own liquor- and I’m actually excited about that! I love trying new cocktails, wines, and beers. Over the last few years, NYC has seen an abundance of old fashioned cocktails come back on to the scene, as well some amazing artisanal cocktails. I love Trophy Bar, Cornelius, Death & Co, and so many other places for their amazing drinks.

Despite its reputation as an extraneous wedding detail, I love the idea of serving signature drinks at our wedding bar. I’d love to highlight a few of our favorites, but I’ll also serve all the standards. So the signature cocktails would be a way to share a part of our lives at our wedding. Michael has a very Brooklyn-centric favorite drink, and I’d love to feature some of my favorite cocktails from around the neighborhood as well.

What I’m trying to figure out, is how many other drinks should I be prepared to serve??

I’ll surely have the standards- all different types of liquor with accompanying sodas, tonics, juices and liqueurs to make ‘standards’- rum&coke, vodka cranberry, martinis, etc.

Even if we don’t end up stocking our own bar, many venues require you to choose a liquor package- generally, a low-budget, no-name brand ‘House’ option, a premium, or Ultra premium. Which leaves you wondering… is Absolut ‘good enough’ for my guests? Do I need to spend the extra $1500 (or up to $3000 in many cases) so that they can opt for Grey Goose? Oy.

For self-catering, many liquor stores will allow you to return unopened bottles if you’re buying in bulk and arrange it with them ahead of time, so I’m not too concerned with overspending. BUT I also don’t want to end up with 20 different liqueurs and bitters that were opened to make a single drink, so I can’t go to town and buy absolutely EVERYTHING. The easy solution is to just have the standards, but this actually is an important detail to me- I want my guests to have lots of options, and to drink things that they like, and that are of a good quality.

I don't think these will be on the menu

I’ve found several resources for stocking a bar online so I know what the minimum I need is, and god knows I’ve done enough independent research ;), but for the hell of it, I’d love it if you would weigh in!

[Keep in mind this will be spring/summer- not the dead of summer, but definitely warm weather.]

● What’s your favorite drink?
● What’s your favorite drink at weddings or parties?
● What have you noticed as being very popular at large events?
● Any random favorite you’d like to give a shout out to? (For instance, I know my cousin loves Stoli Raspberry, and my brother’s been on a Southern Comfort kick.)
● I’m hesitant to have blender drinks because I think they might be too loud- would you be sad if you couldn’t have a frozen daiquiri or margarita?
● Do you think some ‘custom made’ drinks like sangria and/or rum punch would be popular?
● Beer or wine preferences? How large of a selection do you think there should be?
● Would you be likely to try a local beer or wine if it was on offer, or a new cocktail if you liked the ingredients, or would you be more likely to stick with your favorites?
● Non-alcoholic options- on a warm evening, is there anything you’d like to see offered besides soda, water and juice? Sparkling water, lemonade, etc?
● What do you think of ‘beer and wine only’ receptions? (Not our preference but one venue we looked at did have this restriction)
● What do you think of ‘dry’ receptions?
● What do you think of cash bars?
● What do you think of the bar closing for an hour during dinner?
(Neither of the three above are options we are really considering, but they’re hot topics over at the Offbeat Bride Tribe, so I’m just curious what my friends and blog readers think.)
● What do you think is necessary as far as the quality of drinks? Would you be okay with the ‘middle’ range, that includes brands like Absolut, Bacardi, and Jim Beam, or do you think top shelf should be made available to your guests?

If you just want to answer one or two questions, or just tell me what you like to drink, any feedback would be great! I know everyone will have different opinions, and I’d love to hear any and all. (All I ask is that you try to stay positive and be nice, please!) Thanks and happy drinking!