Home is Where the Heart is Getting Married in Your Condo's Common Room

 While some affianced New York City couples insist on holding their weddings in  churches, synagogues or the Central Park boathouse, others opt to keep the  nuptials much closer to home—in some cases right down the hall, in the courtyard, common room, or on the roof  deck of their co-op or condo building.  

 Using common rooms and amenity spaces for celebrations and other gatherings is  nothing new—that’s what they’re for—but holding weddings, receptions, bridal showers and rehearsal dinners in them  is something of a recent trend.  

 The costs of these spaces, which are usually rented by the hour, or in many  cases free, are significantly less expensive than the traditional event spaces  used for New York City weddings. Amenity spaces and common rooms like sprawling  landscaped courtyards or stunning open air terraces in luxury condominium  buildings can translate into great wedding venues and it doesn’t come with a $375, plus tax and 23 percent service, per person price tag that  The Plaza on Fifth Avenue charges.  

 Not Your Typical ‘I Do!’

 Last year when Mark Hoornstra and Rebecca Stewart were planning their August  nuptials—their sights were set on the High Line park on Manhattan’s West Side—but were turned off by the bureaucratic red tape, time restraints and space  limitations imposed on them by the City of New York.  

 “We had an apartment in Chelsea and thought the High Line would be the perfect  place to get married,” says Hoornstra, who works as the director of emergency medicine at St. Francis  Hospital in Roslyn, Long Island. “But the city didn’t want us to have more than 20 people, and it was a lot of choreography.”  

 “If we were going to get married on the High Line it would have had to be really,  really early in the morning before it got crowded,” says Stewart. “You can only have a certain amount of people on the High Line and if you went  over that number, guests would have to pretend to just be walking around and  stumble onto the wedding. So we decided against it.”  

 In addition to the 20-person rule, the High Line is reserved for a limited  number of special events each year, and park administrators were not keen on  hosting a wedding reception.  

 The couple had just moved from Chelsea into The Griffin, a new luxury  condominium development on West 54th Street, when they realized that the  8,700-square-foot, meticulously landscaped courtyard in their new home was the  perfect setting for their wedding.  

 “The first time we looked at the courtyard we knew right away this is the place  where we had to get married,” says Stewart. “It was just the most beautifully-landscaped common space that I have ever seen.  It’s absolutely beautiful. The lighting landscape is beautiful. I love the lighting  in the trees. It was amazing.”  

 Less Stress, More Bliss

 The preparation involved with planning a wedding is universally acknowledged as  being extremely stressful, from the color of the flowers, to the guest list to  the location of the actual ceremony—but it doesn’t have to be.  

 “The planning was so simple, we didn’t have to order flowers,” says Stewart. “We didn’t even need chairs—there were chairs all over the place and the management company moved them for  us then moved them back—they were so helpful. All I had to do was walk a few steps out of our apartment  into the courtyard, and that was it.”  

 “Technically it’s a common space so we shouldn’t even need to get permission to get married there, but we felt like we should  at least tell everyone we wanted to do this to make sure it was okay, we didn’t want any problems on our wedding day,” adds Stewart. “So we went to a board meeting and told everyone there about it, and that they  were welcome and if they wanted to join us that would be great. I also told all  of our neighbors.”  

 “What was super spectacular is that we have a first floor apartment that has a  private outdoor space that opens directly onto the courtyard, so I was able to  use my apartment as a staging area” says Hoornstra. “People were invited to my apartment and given a little champagne and they were  able to mingle, walk around and then they were able to walk directly out of the  apartment into the common space where we were married. I couldn’t have designed it better if it were for that purpose.”  

 There’s No Place Like Home

 Experts agree that it is becoming more and more common for co-op and condo  buildings to host weddings, receptions, rehearsal dinners and bridal showers,  especially in the luxury market when common spaces are not so common.  

 “It’s common in the newer buildings, especially the condo buildings that are  luxurious and have the space,” says Dorothy Somekh, an associate broker with Halstead Property in New York  City. “In a lot of these buildings, the common rooms are nicer than rentable event  spaces.”  

 “I just got engaged, and I’m considering getting married in my building’s courtyard,” says Ellen Metzler, a resident of The Griffin and a real estate broker with  Blue Realty in New York City. “It’s absolutely stunning, especially in the summer because it gets really filled up  with greenery. If I were married in our courtyard, I wouldn’t have to pay for a venue. You have to consider those things because New York  City is very expensive.”  

 When Erin Dana Lichy, a handbag designer from New York City and her fiancée Abe Lichy were searching for a venue for their June rehearsal dinner last year  they considered Meelos—a Greek restaurant in Midtown—and a few hotspots farther downtown. But things came together when her mother  Somekh suggested the rooftop party room at the Sheffield on West 57th Street,  where Somekh is a former board member.  

 “The Sheffield is absolutely stunning. And the views are amazing—you can see Central Park,” says Erin. “I was having my wedding in the summer and I really wanted an outdoor space. So I  figured, what better place to have a rehearsal dinner than my mom’s roof, where first of all you can get ready in the apartment, have hair and  makeup done there, and then come right up?”  

 The cost of renting the space was $800 for six hours, a relative steal for the  price of a New York City party space that overlooks Central Park, so Lichy  immediately booked the room for her April bridal shower as well.  

 “I don’t remember the exact cost of what the restaurants wanted for a rehearsal dinner  and a bridal shower but it was a lot—especially when you figure in catering and alcohol,” says Lichy. “In the party room, there was a kitchen and an oven where you could heat things  up. Not only did I get to have my bridal shower and rehearsal dinner in an  amazing space, I saved so much money.”  

 The Sheffield party spaces, which include the Sky Club, two social lounges, a  children’s playroom and a private enclosed swimming pool with an outdoor sun deck, have  become so popular that the condominium only allows one booked event per  weekend. The building’s pedestrian- and driver-friendly location (surrounded by subways, cabs, and an  indoor parking garage) is an added plus for guests from both the city and the  suburbs.  

 “The rehearsal dinner was so intimate—I loved it,” says Lichy. “When we were getting ready, we were all drinking champagne in the comfort of my  mom’s apartment. About halfway through the dinner my feet started to kill me and my  mom was like ‘You came over in flats this morning so just wear those,’ so I had one of my girlfriends run down to my mom’s and get my flats. It was heaven.”  

 Minor Drawbacks

 Co-op and condo weddings, however, are not all champagne and rose petals.  Convenience is not always without its challenges.  

 “There was a fifty percent chance of rain on our wedding day and we didn’t have a backup plan so we went to Costco and bought a bunch of umbrellas,” says Stewart. “At around twelve o’clock, I was getting my hair done and all of a sudden the sun came out and  started shining. We ended up returning the umbrellas to Costco without a  problem.”  

 “The only thing that was an issue was to get to the roof you had to take the  stairs or the service elevator,” says Lichy, “My grandmother and some of her friends had to have people bring them up, which  was a little bit annoying because we had the elevator reserved for food. There  was also a tight time frame and we had to arrange a specific time for the food  and the flowers to arrive, because we had people coming and we wanted to make  sure everything would run smoothly.”  

 Apart from a minor hiccup here or there, a wedding, bridal shower or rehearsal  dinner in a common room of a co-op or a condominium building is a win-win  situation for all parties involved. “It’s such a nice memory to walk through a common area and remember ‘I was married here,’ ” says Stewart. “I would absolutely recommend it to other couples.”  

 But if you are planning your upcoming nuptials in a common area, just don’t forget to invite the president of the board.   

 Christy Smith-Sloman is a staff writer at The Cooperator.  

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