How One Bride Found Her Dream (Sophisticated, Cozy, But Not Stuffy!) New York City Wedding Venue

Real Weddings
Carolyn Hsu Wedding Photos Christian Oth

Photo: Christian Oth

What do real brides have to say about the wedding planning experience? Well, it's not all happy tears at the bridal boutique and indulgent cake tastings. Over the next two months, guest blogger Carolyn Hsu, Founder of The Hsu Closet and Managing Editor at Makeup.com, will share the ins and outs of planning a New York City wedding, picking the perfect venue, crafting a day-of beauty look and finding inspiration in the strangest of places.

Choosing the right venue that reflects the couple's personality and taste is a daunting task for any bride (or groom) and it was no exception for me. My ideal was a backyard wedding followed by an intimate reception for our closest friends and family at a tastefully appointed house...in the middle of New York City. I wanted our wedding to be a sophisticated city affair but still have a cozy, personal, at-home feel. No grand ballrooms for this bride!

Sound difficult? Well, as they say, in New York you can find anything, and that included my dream venue and more. With my set of initial requirements in hand, I started the search. First, I considered renting a private home, but finding a house that could accommodate a large number of people and an owner who was cool with renting out his townhouse for essentially an eight hour party complete with a lot of alcohol, proved to be difficult. Next, I moved on to restaurants—cute ones with carriage houses in the West Village—but soon discovered that very few private dining rooms could seat upwards of 50 guests in one space. Then one day over dessert as I was lamenting the lack of wedding venues that felt like me, a friend asked if I had looked into some of the private arts and social clubs in the city, which commonly rents out spaces for events.

Norwood Wedding Venue, New York City

Photo: Christian Oth

These social clubs, it turns out, was exactly what I was looking for. Most clubs in New York (and other cities as well) usually have their own house that are, as expected, already beautifully furnished. This was really important because I did not want to have to deal with the added stress of designing and transforming the venue space (this seemed like the most daunting part of the planning process). Club houses also usually have different rooms and floors which would allow me to host different parts of the evening in different spaces, thus adding variety to the overall experience. Another huge bonus was that clubs also function as bars, restaurants, and lounges so that made the catering part really easy.

After just a bit of research, it quickly became apparent that the Norwood stood out among them all as the one. Unlike some of the centuries old clubs in the city, Norwood was distinguished but not stuffy. The staff was fun, laid-back, and professionals with incredible attention to detail and service. As an arts club situated in a downtown landmarked townhouse, the walls were filled with amazing pieces from notable names such as Damien Hirst and Gregory Crewdson and the interior was designed in luxurious Victorian style with a slightly boho, contemporary, and very creative feel. I completely dug it—from the light minty walls of the spacious first floor lounge (cocktail hour) to the rich, luxe, burgundy and gold dragon wallpaper that set the third floor salon ambiance (late night dancing) and everything in between. The house even featured a garden, complete with string lights and paper lanterns that completely transported me out of the city to the backyard wedding of my Pinterest dreams. The entire space was just incredibly photogenic—plus, every floor had a functioning full bar—guaranteeing this would be the best party ever.

If you're still searching for your venue, rest assured that you'll find something that speaks to you. Make sure your venue hits your most important must-haves (for me that was not needing excessive additional design and working with a staff that was experienced and understood my vision) and the rest will fall into place. And definitely don't forget to check out some less common options such as restaurants, inns, gardens, clubs, and other private spaces for something totally unique and memorable.

Carolyn Hsu

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