Things to Consider When Choosing the Best NYC Event Venue
New York is one of the world’s most dazzling cities, with fantastic venues to match. While pulling off a memorable event always requires proactive planning, the city that never sleeps requires you to be especially alert when it comes to considering all the angles.
There’s no place like New York City to plan an event that makes a statement. From fairy tale weddings and galas to milestone birthday celebrations, like bar and bat mitzvahs, and even corporate cocktail parties, there’s a unique venue perfect for your event to set the stage for an unforgettable gathering.
The trick is to be even more buttoned down in your planning than perhaps you’d be elsewhere. World-class hotels like The Plaza, The Beekman Hotel or the Peninsula (among many others), as well as major event halls, tend to book up at least a year, and sometimes as much as two years, in advance. And other kinds of spaces — be it outdoors in Central Park or inside the Brooklyn Museum — have other considerations like special permits or limited availability to keep in mind.
To help ensure you cover all your bases, here are 10 items to consider when choosing a venue for your event in New York City. And keep in mind for a large event or a particularly hot venue, you should start planning a year and a half to two years in advance:
1. Know your audience
Any great event isn’t just about the occasion — although that certainly sets the tone — it’s also about the people who will be attending the event. If you’re catering to business executives who are accustomed to five star accomodations, you’ll want to deliver the wow factor with a fabulous space and equally fantastic decor, food and beverages. Ditto on a major personal life-cycle event. Consider the age of those invited, as accessibility may also affect the direction you go in for your venue, as well as your drapery and decor.
2. Hone in on your location
The old expression, “location, location, location!” is totally applicable when choosing your venue in NYC. If you’re hosting mainly an in-town crowd, things like rush hour traffic, parking and convenience all factor in. If out-of-town guests are on the list, consider how easy (or not) it is to get to your venue from area airports, what the nearby hotels are, the public transportation situation, whether or not it’s easy to catch a taxi or get an Uber or Lyft ride, and so on. The goal is to make sure it’s simple and stress-free for your guests to attend your event.
3. Consider the atmosphere
NYC has something for everyone, with some venues that have been around for nearly a century. Before you dress up a space with fabulous decorations, consider the architecture and its general style and vibe. It’s a plus if it lends excitement and/or supports your vision for the event. But, you may not want the same sensibility for a corporate event as you would a private event.
That said, all you really need is “good bones” when it comes to choosing the right space to create the perfect atmosphere for your event. Luxurious rental drapery, like satin, velvet or sheer voile come in a vast array of colors to match your theme and are an easy, affordable and effective way to transform a room to dramatic effect. Modular elements, like vector HD tiles, framed circles or glitzy customized backdrops can elevate a simple stage into an unforgettable showcase. And beyond aesthetics, strategic use of drapery is a simple yet practical way to create a private space within a larger room, block unwanted sound and light, and mask unsightly areas that would ruin the effect you’re going for.
4. Do your digital diligence
It’s a big commitment to plan an event in New York City, so start as soon as possible by conducting online research for possible venues. While pictures are lovely and tell some of the story, you’ll want to take a deeper dive into the specifics of a given location, from room capacity to amenities, parking (a major consideration in NYC) and what’s going on in surrounding areas.
Many venues have downloadable floor plans and offer virtual tours, so you can get a solid idea of what would be best for your event, and at least a ballpark estimate of what you’re looking at pricing-wise. This information will come in handy later on when you’re ordering rental drapery, deciding where to put backdrops or other pipe and drape features, mapping out tables, considering where to place a DJ or dance floor, designing lighting and otherwise devising your room layout and decor.
5. Set your venue budget
With an idea of the size of your guest list and the venues you’re considering, you can begin to build out your budget. This may entail preliminary phone calls to your top choices to get a basic idea of the per-head cost of food, beverages and basic room decor including linens and table/chair rentals (if necessary). Make sure you include line items on your budget for more room decor that isn’t normally included in venue pricing such as flower arrangements, drapery rentals (i.e. pipe and drape, velvet curtains, swagged ceilings, etc.) and lighting.
6. Visit your venue in person
Once you’re set on the right place to hold your event and have done the legwork to ensure the date you want is available, an in-person visit before making a commitment is a must. Schedule this visit at least a year in advance, just in case your desired location doesn’t work out to be the best fit for you event. Be sure to come with a list of items to cover, including:
- If the venue doesn’t provide food/beverages, do they have preferred caterers to recommend?
- Suggested room set ups, so you know if you need to rent pipe & drape set-ups to cordon off areas or mask anything from your attendees’ view.
- Determine if the venue is ADA compliant for guests with disabilities.
- Ask about any other compliance issues you should be aware of, including whether or not you need to rent fire-retardant drapery.
- Ask if the venue will provide any labor for load in/load out or build out: in most NYC venues, union rules are applicable. Make sure you understand the requirements and factor in any associated expenses in accordingly.
- If you’re planning on using any media for things like a wedding video or a corporate presentation, you’ll want to be sure you inquire about the venue’s A/V capabilities.
- If you are booking an outdoor space, or an unusual indoor space, ask about any necessary permits.
7. Take photos of the venue
While you’re visiting the venue, remember to take copious amounts of pictures and videos. That way when it comes time to start planning the final layout of the room, selecting fabrics for your pipe and drape rentals, deciding on eye-catching modular elements like metallic tiles or LED walls, nailing down your lighting and ordering flowers and other decor, you’ll have a visual of the actual space — shot with your preliminary plan in mind.
8. Book the space - 1-2 years out
Because the New York City market can be so competitive, as soon as you’re sure of your venue, book it with a signed contract and deposit, ideally at least a year in advance. If your venue does not include catering services, you should consider finding and booking your caterer around the same time. If you are going to have live music, a year in advance is a good lead time as well.
9. Design your space & begin to order decor - 6-9 months out
Your venue dictates so much about your event, so once you have it nailed down, it’s time to start thinking about how you want the space designed. If you work with an event planner or event production company, they should be able to help you plan accordingly. If you are putting your NYC event together by yourself, consider starting to spec out the room according to the pictures and video from the site visit. The vendors you should begin speaking to about 9 months out include:
- Fabric drapery rentals for backdrops, ceiling draping, photo booths, masking areas, controlling sound and light, etc. NYC pipe & drape rental orders can be placed closer to the event, however it can be helpful to talk to an expert as early as possible for help imagining and creating your space.
- DJ or other music
10. Final venue walkthrough
While you have a million things to do in the days leading up to your event, the final walkthrough is perhaps the most important. Now’s the time to be sure you’re confirmed with all details, including what time your vendors can arrive for set up, your timeline for guests to arrive, all details about tear down, and any other last-minute details that you can think of. Be sure to bring all of your vendor contracts to double check that you have everyone scheduled at the exact right times, to avoid any mishaps or overage charges.
Most importantly, enjoy your event!
It goes without saying that you should be able to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor… and we’re here to help you with that. As event experts with nearly two centuries(!) setting the stage for unforgettable events, we’re here to help you get creative with stunning decor that transforms any venue into a custom, show-stopping space. Contact us for a quote on your NYC pipe and drape rental today!
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