June 5, 2010

The Photobooth is only the beginning (a Rehearsal Dinner fable)

2E's has had this cloud hanging over her head for the past few months now. A small, oval-shaped thing. Dull grey. You may have seen it.

We call it the Photobooth cloud.

2E's has wanted an old-school photobooth at the reception since the moment she first jotted down a single detail about our (her) wedding ... since she storyboard-ed the event in her academic calendar ... since before Photobooths were the trend. (2E's is very before her time.) But the truth is that Photobooths are the "thing to have" these days, so rental fees are through the roof. It's nothing short of a small fortune to borrow a rectangular, walk-in closet with a built-in camera for the evening. Who would have thought?

A few months ago, we decided to put the idea to rest. We moved on. And then the cloud rolled in. And that was that.

But now the cloud's existence has been threatened with our recent booking (or near-booking) of our awesome Unnamed Rehearsal Dinner space.

We began hunting down rehearsal dinner venues as I imagine most couples do: thinking of our favorite restaurants, calling them and suffering extreme disappointment when the special events manager laughed and told us, pityingly, "Ohhh, we don't do that." Having no clue how much these things cost, or what restaurants' policies are with this sort of thing, it was too much like stabbing in the dark. And we've maimed a lot of strangers along the way.

Then 2E's Aunt Robin came along and helped us get on track. From her home in Boston, Robin was able to secure availability and pricing from several restaurants in the Cobble Hill area of BKLYN, places she'd never been to but could vouch for through previous event photos and Yelp ratings. This was do-able. There are over 18,000 "eating establishments" in New York. If we can't find one to accommodate us, then we're not working hard enough. Fine. Good. Great.

With Robin's awesome options organized in a GoogleDocs spreadsheet, 2E's and I thought we'd expand our search into Manhattan. Why the hell not? So from our living room in Los Angeles, she began hitting up restaurants with private rooms & special events rates -- not places that we'd have to "shut down" (most places in that category quoted us $10-15K to close ... or didn't offer to close at all).

So when 2E's came into town for the closing of The Irish Curse, we dined like royalty ... or at least the kind of royalty who for one reason or another have to pay for their meals. We ate here and there and this place and that place. We gained several pounds and hoarded to-go cartons and dreaded the next meal for fear of being completely and utterly stuffed. I never considered eating to be "work" until last weekend.

But what we ended up doing, unexpectedly, was falling head over heels for Kickass Unnamed Restaurant. From it's exterior on Third Avenue b/w 10th and 11th (near the Loews Theater there, near Webster Hall, a minute from Astor Place), the restaurant looks not unlike a dimly lit bar that happens to serve food; so we were pleasantly surprised to find that they has some of the best service we've encountered in Manhattan and, more importantly, a fantastic American bistro menu with some of the best "upscale bar food" we've ever had. Sure, the manager-on-duty swooned us and comped a few side dishes, but that's not what won us over in the end...

... what made the place truly exceptional was the above: the gem at the bottom of the stairs. The private room beneath our feet. Clean, faded black walls with antique photo collage trimmings and a parquet ceiling, wooden tables and simple decor (hardly any, really). Spacious -- able to accommodate 75 but perfect for 50-ish. Sliding doors that cut off the din from the raucous bar atmosphere above ground. iPod hook-up. And -- to top it off -- a photobooth in the adjacent hall.

Yes. Goodbye ominous cloud.

I took the Best Man over there last week for a beer (ooo...and great draft beers from local-owned breweries), and he agreed that "this is the place." Mom and Dad just adore it (in part because we can't stop talking about it), and they've helped us craft the perfect menu for our guests. We're just thrilled.

Between our rehearsal dinner & the honeymoon, we really feel like things are picking up. The biggest weekend of our lives is finally taking shape ... progress from the amorphous mess it appeared to be a month ago. And with yet another new ceremony option to investigate on Monday, we're optimistic. You know ... wedding optimistic. Which is kind of like sunny with a 40% chance of rain. But with no clouds overhead. Slightly humid.

Okay, weather metaphors aside, we're good. Today we're good.


  1. Suneel and I went on a date here when we first started seeing each other. :-D