1 REMEMBER DAYLIGHT SAVINGS
Decor can be more low-key during the day, says Melissa Rosenbloom, VP of Gourmet Advisory Services (212-535-0005, gourmetadvisory.com), an event planning company. For instance, go with minimalist centerpieces; she suggests “low arrangements with few flowers.” Food can also be less elaborate, with fewer courses and smaller portions.
2 PICK A HOTEL OR RESTAURANT
An adjunct professor in hospitality at New York University, Amira Gertz names a popular uptown museum as her favorite venue—but the space alone costs $10,000 to $20,000, not including food, tables, chairs, waitstaff or equipment. To get more for your money, book a hotel or eatery. At the Primehouse New York steakhouse (381 Park Ave South, 212-331-0328), the $15,000 to $20,000 fee covers all food and beverages, tables, chairs and, in some cases, decorations, for up to 150 guests; at the Hotel Giraffe (365 Park Ave South; 212-685-7700, hotelgiraffe.com), a similar party runs $15,000 to $17,000.
3 KEEP COCKTAIL HOUR SIMPLE
During the mingling hour, avoid made-to-order stations, in which four chefs whip up custom batches of, say, linguine, ziti, spaghetti and fusilli . Instead, hire one guy to serve a number of premade pastas. Retro hors d’oeuvres with a twist are also cost-conscious crowd-pleasers. “Serve pigs-in-a-blanket with three mustards: Dijon, spicy whole grain and honey,” Gertz says.
4 DRESS FOR LESS
Stalk the racks of designer discount stores for an on-trend getup that your daughter will want to wear again. “Century 21 gets new shipments in every day,” says fashion stylist Sarah Schussheim, who has dressed everyone from Fergie to her own teenage cousin. “Go first thing in the morning and for a few days in the same week to get a full idea of their inventory,” she says.
5 SCALE BACK ON STATIONERY
The invitation itself—not the RSVP card or envelope—is what’s going on your guests’ fridge, so it should command the majority of your paper budget. The other elements can be less embellished, says Jessica Paulen-Glick of Judy Paulen Designs (licensed stationer at Bloomingdale’s on 59th St, 212-705-2833). Choose thermography (raised ink) instead of engraving, and machine calligraphy (about $1.50 an envelope) in lieu of hand calligraphy (about $7 an envelope).
6 SEEK OUT INDEPENDENT PHOTOGRAPHERS
Lensmen who aren’t under contract with big agencies often deliver photos on a CD so clients can create their own albums (professionally assembled ones are leather-bound cash drains). Robbie Michaels (212-876-1424, robbiemichaelsphotography.com) and Gail Simring (914-421-1436, gailsimring.com) are two such pros.
7 SAY IT WITH PLANTS
And forget cut flowers. Kristine Guialdo, owner of floral and event design company the Color of Magic (212-967-5439, thecolorofmagic.com), likes to use inexpensive potted plants (available at the Wholesale Flower Market on 28th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves) instead of large floral arrangements. Objects can also be inexpensive. For a bibliophile’s recent bar mitzvah, Guialdo used books in the centerpieces; for a fashionista’s bat mitzvah, she added vintage shoes and hats to the displays.
8 BOOK A MUSICAL DUO
Forgoing a band doesn’t mean doing without live music. “Hire a trumpeter and a drummer to sit on either side of the DJ. Sometimes the kids get to play the drums,” says David Swirsky, DJ/owner of Expressway Music (212-953-9367, expresswaymusic.com).
9 GIFT WISELY
Ordering personalized yarmulkes for the ceremony is nice but unnecessary. All synagogues will supply plain ones for free. But if you’re set on commemorative kippot, head to Mazel Skull Cap in Brooklyn (888-547-7247, kippah.com) for its satin caps ($15 per dozen).
10 SING OUT
Karaoke is one of the most popular—and cheapest—entertainment additions. Swirsky’s company has offered it since 1992. “All you need is a screen and wireless microphones,” he says.
11 FIND WHOLESALE FAVORS
If your child insists on doling out cheap accessories and music makers, skip the middleman (i.e., the DJ) and go right to Paramount Party Supplies (52 W 29th St, 212-686-6746) for the best deals. Maracas are $1 each and boas go for $5.
12 LET THEM EAT SHEET CAKE
For guaranteed wows, order a presentation cake—but get a small one. Penny Stankiewicz, owner of Sugar Couture (917-992-4955, sugar-couture.com), once designed a confection shaped like a stew pot with a guitar handle as the spoon for a boy who loved music and cooking. After the candle lighting, take the fancy cake back to the kitchen to be cut, and your guests will never know they’re gobbling slices from a cheaper sheet cake (the combo is often half the price of a large decorated stunner).
13 JUST RELAX
When the day arrives, take deep breaths and appreciate the milestone. You just spent a heap of money, so be sure to fully enjoy every single thing you paid for.